Copenhagen – Day 1

It’s here. Copenhagen 2009. Day 1 has arrived with much anticipation, as over 15,000 experts and 100 world leaders gather for 12 days to discuss one of the greatest challenges ever faced by humanity.

“If the whole world comes to Copenhagen and leaves without making the needed political agreement, then I think it’s a failure that is not just about climate. Then it’s the whole global democratic system not being able to deliver results in one of the defining challenges of our century. And that is and should not be a possibility. It’s not an option,” says Connie Hedegaard, incoming COP15 president.

But the science behind climate change has been called into question over the past weeks, as stolen emails from the University of East Anglia were plastered around the internet in attempts to discredit work done by IPCC authors.

“It (the incident) has created confusion and confusion never helps scientific discussions,” said Nicholas Stern, British economist and Chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

It’s clear this attempt to muddle the debate has come at a critical moment. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, condemns the hacking of the emails, reports The Environment Blog from The Guardian.

“Some will go to the extent of carrying out illegal acts, perhaps in an attempt discredit the IPCC,” he says. He says the IPCC has a record of ‘objective assessment’ by tens of thousands of dedicated scientists.

“The science is incredibly robust,” responds Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Deputy US Negotiator at official level meetings at the Copenhagen talks, to recent allegations that question the legitimacy of climate science.

The talks at Copenhagen highlight the need for a two-pronged approach to battle climate change: emissions reduction, and adaptation to the effects of global climate disruption. Even if world leaders are able to agree on emissions reduction targets throughout 2020, 2050, and beyond, communities around the world still have to adapt to changes caused by global warming.


Before Copenhagen: A New York Times Op-Ed Weather Report

Report from NYtimes.com:

President Obama and other world leaders will gather in Copenhagen next week to discuss climate change. Though this is a global issue, it’s also a profoundly local one. For this reason, the Op-Ed editors asked writers from four different continents to report on the climate changes they’ve experienced close to home. Here are their dispatches:

Denmark in the Wind, by Hanne-Vibeke Holst.

South Africa’s Fire Kingdom, by Kakes Mda.

The Penguins of Brazil, by Edgard Telles Ribeiro.

In Japan, Concerns Blossom, by Yoko Tawada.


ACT colleague Dr. John Richards to speak at conference on Bangladesh and climate change

ACT colleague Dr. John Richards of SFU’s Public Policy Program will be speaking at a conference that will address Bangladesh’s potential to adapt to climate change over the coming century. The conference will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, 9th December at the Liu Centre, University of British Columbia, from 3:00 – 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit http://www.bangladeshcalling.org

Read Dr. Richards’ abstract below:

Global warming poses obvious and severe problems to Bangladesh: inundation of low-elevation coastal lands due to rising sea levels, probable increase in frequency of severe cyclones, potential reduction in annual monsoon rainfall, and simultaneously exacerbated flooding risk from monsoon rains due to deforestation in Himalayan foothills of India and Nepal. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not a powerful actor in international diplomacy. As the 7th most populous country in the world, however, it can potentially play a substantive diplomatic role at venues such as the UN climate change Copenhagen conference. Bangladesh should insist 1) that the major emitters (China, US, India and EU) adopt meaningful measures to reduce their emissions, and 2) that any diplomatic arrangement transfer revenues to the least developed countries to counter effects of global warming. This is a core argument of Lord Stern, author of the “Stern Review” of the economic costs of climate change. Bangladesh can strengthen its diplomatic case by accentuating domestic policies that would help Bangladesh to adapt over the coming century to climate change. Among such policies are 1) better protection of remaining forest areas (the Sunderban in particular); 2) provision of substitutes to biomass fuels for village cooking needs (by, for example, distributing coal and efficient stoves to villages); 3) more ambitious family planning programs to reduce population pressure on land.


Are we living in ‘The Age of Stupid’?

Are we living in the ‘Age of Stupid’? It’s quite possible. Check out ‘The Age of Stupid’ film from the UK, screening at the European Union Film Festival (EUFF) that kicks off November 27, 2009 in Vancouver.

‘The Age of Stupid’ is a documentary-drama-animation hybrid starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects) as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055.  He watches ‘archive’ footage from 2008 and asks: Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?  By 2055 runaway climate change has ravaged the planet. Pete plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the (now melted) Arctic, preserving all of humanity’s achievements in the hope that the planet might one day be habitable again. He pulls together clips of archive news and documentary from 1950-2008 and focuses on six human stories that help explain what went wrong and why.

‘The Age of Stupid’ will show Friday, November 27 at 8:50 pm at Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street, Vancouver.

For more information visit http://www.eufilmfestival.com/films_09.htm.


iPhone app helps track climate change!

Calling all iPhone lovers! There’s a new app that helps track climate change. Check out this link: iPhone helps track climate change.



“Towards Recognition” – a fantastic blog raising awareness about environmental migrants

ACT would like to take a moment to draw your attention to a fantastic Vancouver-based blog “Towards Recognition” which aims to raise awareness about the crucial topic of environmental migrants, sometimes know as ‘climate refugees’.

Towards Recognition was created by Dan DaSilva, an independent researcher and information specialist who works on the specific issue of environmental migration. He currently works in the refugee and immigrant services field in Vancouver. He holds an M.A. in International Development Studies from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Towards Recognition “would like to see ongoing formal and international recognition of environmental migrants in various forms, including an ambitious United Nations instrument. Each individual action, program, or policy initiative by governments, agencies, and organizations around the world which recognizes the link between the impact of climate change and human mobility is one step closer to this goal and a huge step forward for environmental migrants worldwide”.

We couldn’t agree with you more, Dan. The issue of climate refugees desperately needs to be addressed. Oxford University professor Norman Myers, estimates that numbers of climate refugees will increase to 150 million over the next 50 years, replacing war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement.

Check out Dan’s blog for some great resources and information on climate refugee policy and issues.

ACT will be dedicating one six-month sessions to the investigation and exploration of issues and policy surrounding population displacement. ACT will study urgent considerations for Canada and other countries likely to become hosts to refugees, such as governance, employment impacts, health care and housing. For more information on ACT’s session on population displacement, click here.



Are your investments safe…from climate change?

The United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a new staff guidance that may require U.S.-traded companies to disclose their exposure to financial risks relating to climate change and emerging policies, reports Nasdaq.

Investors will now be able to inquire about the financial implications of critical issues, such as climate change, on their investment bottom lines. The SEC guidance follows a series of investor lawsuits against emissions-intense companies demanding that they reveal the potential impact of climate policies on their operations.

Several investor groups, including Ceres and the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), requested the SEC to address the lack of corporate disclosure of climate change and other material environmental, social, and governance risks in securities filings. SEC Commissioner Elisse Walters also said the agency is considering new guidance requiring greater carbon disclosure in regular filings with the Commission.

As governments around the world move toward stronger federal regulation of carbon emissions, major industry sectors are likely to see their bottom lines impacted by new climate regulations, reports Nasdaq.


Call for Abstracts! 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Conference

The 2010 International Climate Change Adaptation Conference “Climate Adaptation Futures: Preparing for the unavoidable impacts of climate change” call for abstracts deadline is Monday, January 18, 2009. The conference will be taking place June 29 – July 1, 2010 at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, in Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast in the state of Queensland.

From the 2010 flyer:

This conference will be one of the first international forums to focus solely on climate impacts and adaptation. It will bring together scientists and decision makers from developed and developing countries to share research approaches, methods and results. It will explore the way forward in a world where impacts are increasingly observable and adaptation actions are increasingly required.

Keynote speakers include:

Professor Chris Field (Carnegie Institution for Science)
Dr Mark Howden (CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship)
Dr R.K. Pachauri (Chair, IPCC)
Professor Stephen Schneider (Stanford University)

For more information on the conference, and how to submit and abstract, visit: http://www.nccarf.edu.au/conference2010


Book Announcement! Climate Change in the 21st Century by Dr. Stewart Cohen with Melissa W. Waddell

ACT is proud to announce that board member Dr. Stewart Cohen has released a brand new book titled Climate Change in the 21st Century. Authored by Dr. Cohen, with Melissa W. Waddell, topics include climate science, impacts and adaptation, mitigation, integrated assessment, and linkages with sustainable development.

The objective of the book is to serve as a resource for teaching about the breadth of the climate change issue, and to enable students from various backgrounds to see a role for themselves in research or practice.

The book is available from McGill-Queens University Press. For more information, see the Dr. Cohen’s page on the Environment Canada website here.


Swiss resort faces serious threat of flooding from glacier movement

The Swiss resort of Grindelwald faces a serious threat of flooding as a result of glacier movement above it. For the past several years, rock falls from the east side of the mountain onto the Lower Grindelwald Glacier have hastened the chance of flooding by creating a dam effect on the edge of the ice mass – spelling danger for the ever-expanding lake that regularly forms and empties there.

The rock falls have created a dam at the end of the glacier that is blocking the outflow of melt water, resulting in a lake expanse that fills quickly during rainfall. The filling of the lake has already caused major flooding. In May 2008, 800,000 cubic metres of water from the lake spilled over, creating floods in Grindelwald, which continues to be threatened by the degrading mountain. Rock falls may also prevent the normal passage of melt water that flows underneath the glacier, and through Mount Eiger itself.

On Tuesday November 24th, ACT, in partnership with the Swiss Consulate General, and GLOBE Foundation, is delighted to welcome a Swiss expert on snow and permafrost, to Vancouver, as the keynote speaker for a special seminar on clean energy. Dr. Lehning is the Head of Research Unit “Snow and Permafrost,” Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, in Davos, Switzerland. The challenges Switerzland faces in light of climate change such as flooding in the Grindelwald valley, are similar to those of BC, due to the similar geographic makeup the two places share.

The seminar will explore research and development, barriers and opportunities in a number of areas for clean energy such as hydroelectricity, waste-to-energy and geothermal energy. The panel will be moderated by Mr. Bruce Sampson, former VP Sustainability for BC Hydro, and the current Chair, International Centre for Sustainable Cities BC. Mr. Sampson is also ACT policy author for the Energy session that will kick off at this seminar event.

For more information on the seminar and ACT’s energy session, visit the ACT website here.


Tick, tick, tick…Copenhagen 2009 is approaching

Tick, tick, tick…Copenhagen 2009 is approaching. Climate change already impacts our lives. There are millions of untold stories of the challenges that people face each day. Check out http://tcktcktck.org/ and the ‘climate orb’ that tells the stories of those affected from all over the world. You can submit yours too. An informative and fun interactive resource!


Climate change creating scores of refugees in sub-Saharan Africa

It is estimated that 10 million people world-wide have been driven out of their homes by the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, drought, flooding, and other impacts. Sub-Saharan African is acutely feeling the effects of climate change, which is driving Africa’s displacement crisis to new heights.

Oxford University professor Norman Myers, estimates that numbers of climate refugees will increase to 150 million over the next 50 years, replacing war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement. In Dadaab, Kenya, a refugee camp built for 90,000 people now houses more than 270,000 displaced persons – over three times the amount for which it was originally built.UN officials estimate as many as 10% of Dadaab’s residents are climate refugees. Many farmers have been pushed from their homes because weather conditions have forced them to abandon fruitless crops or dying herds of livestock.

The rising crisis of climate refugees highlights the massive gaps in international and domestic refugee policy. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has no policy that deals with climate change refugees. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, refugees are defined as people fleeing their country because of violence or persecution.

Population displacement as a result of climate change will place an unprecedented burden on countries that have no plans in place for a sudden influx of persons forced to abandon their countries and livelihoods. ACT will study urgent considerations for Canada and other countries likely to become hosts to refugees, such as governance, employment impacts, health care and housing, during its six-month session on population displacement.


Interactive map launched by UK Government shows consequences of global climate warming

A new map illustrating the global consequences of failing to keep climate change to under 2 degrees Celsius was launched today by the UK Government. With just 45 days to go before international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen, British ministers are pressing for the most ambitious deal possible in order to avoid these dangerous impacts.

Launch the map here.

The map – launched at the Science Museum by Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, along with the UK’s Chief Scientist, Professor John Beddington, was developed using the latest peer-reviewed science from the Met Office Hadley Centre and other leading impact scientists. The poster highlights some of the impacts that may occur if the global average temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial climate average.

Ahead of December‘s international climate change talks in Copenhagen, the Government is aiming for an agreement that limits climate change as far as possible to 2 degrees Celsius. Increases of more than 2 degrees will have huge impacts on the world.

The poster shows: that a 4 degree average rise will not be spread uniformly across the globe. The land will heat up more quickly than the sea, and high latitudes, particularly the Arctic, will have larger temperature increases.

The average land temperature will be 5.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The impacts on human activity shown on the map are only a selection of those that may occur, and highlight the severe effects on water availability, agricultural productivity, extreme temperatures and drought, the risk of forest fire and sea level rise.

Agricultural yields are expected to decrease for all major cereal crops in all major regions of production. Half of all Himalayan glaciers will be significantly reduced by 2050, leading to 23% of the population of China being deprived of the vital dry season glacial melt water source.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband said, “We cannot cope with a 4 degree world. This map clearly illustrates the scale of the challenge facing us today – climate change is a truly global problem that needs a global solution and it is a solution we have within our grasp. But to tackle the problem of climate change, all of us – foreign ministries, environment ministries, treasuries, departments of defence and all parts of government and societies – must work together to keep global temperatures to 2 degrees. It is only by doing this that we can minimise the huge security risks presented by a future 4 degree world.”

Ed Miliband, Energy and Climate Change Secretary said, “This map shows that the stakes couldn’t be any higher at the Copenhagen talks in December. Britain’s scientists have helped to illustrate the catastrophic effects that will result if the world fails to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees. With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the UK’s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world.

Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice at the Met Office says: “If emissions continue at the current rate the global average temperature is likely to rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century or even substantially earlier. The science tells us that this will have severe and widespread impacts in all parts of the world, so we need to take action now to reduce emissions to avoid water and food shortages in the future.”

Prof. Chris Rapley CBE, Director of the Science Museum and Professor of Climate Science at University College London said: “The map provides graphic evidence of the dramatic transformation of our world that a 4 degree global temperature rise would trigger. It leaves no doubt of the paramount importance of a successful outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations.”



World’s best town named, and it’s right here in beautiful British Columbia!

Beautiful Gibson’s, BC, has been named ‘the best place in the world to live,’ (for communities with fewer than 20,000 residents) by the International Awards for Liveable Communities. The award program is endorsed by the United Nations.

Gibsons’ commitment to healthy living and environmental sustainability were some of the qualities recognized when the award was bestowed. Located on BC’s Sunshine coast – a 40-minute ferry ride northwest of Vancouver – Gibson’s is already recognized by locals and visitors alike for its stunning scenery and location.

However beautiful the city, the community still faces challenges. The latest round of municipal elections highlighted the divide amongst those who want to increase development in the area, and those who would prefer to slow it down. Further hillside condo construction and harbour re-development are some of the issues causing a heated debate. Environmentalists are concerned that a lack of careful planning could signal the end of what makes Gibsons such a special and sustainable community.

A geothermal plant to provide energy for residents is already in the works, and is an example of how sustainable development and climate change adaptation techniques can exist in a co-beneficial way. The de-centralization of energy from main power grids will increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of smaller communities like Gibsons, against the impacts of climate change like extreme weather events.

ACT will be kicking off its Energy session this coming November, and will be exploring the challenges and opportunities that communities like Gibsons faces in the light of climate change impacts and economic stresses, as pressure to reduce emissions increases.


ACT’s Executive Director on The Weather Network

ACT’s Executive Director, Deborah Harford, was interviewed by Weather Network reporter Oga Nwobosi Wednesday, September 23rd. Deborah talked to Oga about extreme weather events in Canada and British Columbia, the impacts, challenges, opportunities, and responses in relation to escalating climate disruption. Deborah also discussed practical solutions for coping with extreme weather, from ACT’s Extreme Weather Events policy report.

Look for Deborah discussing extreme weather on the Weather Network on rotation for the next two weeks!


Australia’s worst dust storm in 70 years

Australia’s worst dust storm in 70 years left large parts of the country’s eastern coast glowing in an eerie orangey-red light…not to mention a horrific amount of dust. Check out the video from Seven News and the footage of Sydney.


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