Looking

air-pollution-1845242_640.jpg

I look and tremble.

When I look away,

it still remains,

an enormous

catastrophe

thriving on

numb complacency

imprisoned wallets

free market mantras

fumes of exhaustion–

we forget who we really are

who we can become.

©2017 Ontheland

Photo of coal plant is in the public domain, made available by Pixabay.

Waters rising

It’s easy to be numbed by the growing list of things that will happen if we allow global warming to continue, but unfortunately some predictions are already happening.  One warning has been that ocean levels will rise, submerge islands, and flood coastal communities.  Depending on where you live and what news sources reach your attention, you may be aware that coastal flooding is already a serious concern in United States coastal cities.  Tidal flooding is not reserved to major storms, ‘sunny-day flooding’ is becoming a common phenomena, especially in the South.  If you have time for a video, the one I’ve posted above offers an overview.

Scientists have linked rising sea levels to human induced global warming for quite some time:  melting polar ice increases ocean volume as does warm water expansion.  Coastal communities feel ocean encroachment the most during high tide and heavy rainfall.  Now warnings are no longer predictions, the pressing questions are how fast are oceans rising, how high, and how can we slow the process?

While global sea level rose roughly eight inches from 1880 to 2009, much higher rates have occurred along parts of the East Coast, including New York City (more than 17 inches since 1856), Baltimore (13 inches since 1902), and Boston (nearly 10 inches since 1921).  Union of Concerned Scientists

I was inspired to write about this by a recent article in the New York Times, which I highly recommend.  The images that stuck with me were houses being raised up on stilts, flooded roads, measuring sticks in roadways to show drivers the depth of flood waters, well water poisoned with salt, storm sewers overflowing in downtown markets, and so on.    The other major take away for me was the sense that even when faced with actual events of disastrous dimensions, Congress is reluctant to create a national plan for combating and coping with sea level rise—even when confronted with advice that naval bases are threatened.  The stigma that continues to linger with issues linked to climate change is astounding.

… local leaders say they cannot tackle this problem alone. They are pleading with state and federal governments for guidance and help, including billions to pay for flood walls, pumps and road improvements that would buy them time.

Yet Congress has largely ignored these pleas, and has even tried to block plans by the military to head off future problems at the numerous bases imperiled by a rising sea. A Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck, recently called one military proposal part of a “radical climate change agenda.”  Justin Gillis, New York Times

And to conclude, my haiku comment:

Salt water flooding,

Now coast-land, in time, sea floor,

Ocean invasion.

©2016, all rights reserved by ontheland.wordpress.com

My haiku uses ‘coast-land’ for beach and ‘time’ for Ronovan Writes Haiku Challenge #113.

Friday Fact Feature–Moon’s Atmosphere

Happy Friday! On Fridays for the next while, I will be featuring a fact, a blog, or both. We’ll see how it goes. Today I came across a fact that tickled my interest:

The moon has no atmosphere to shield it from the sun’s heat or to retain the sun’s warmth–this means that during the day it is very hot, at about 100° C and at night it is very cold at about -150°C.

I guess I knew there was no oxygen on the moon, but I had never thought about temperature.  This ‘fact’ came from Stephen Leahy’s article, Global Warming Explained in 60 Seconds or Less.  In this very short post, he uses his skills as an award-winning environmental journalist, to provide a clear explanation of global warming. His description of temperatures in an atmosphere-free environment provides an excellent contrast to the situation here on earth where we have many atmospheric gases.

I’ll say no more, except: having a clear understanding of the relationship between extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global warming could be useful, as conversations about climate change pick up at home, on television, and at work–especially in December, when the Paris Climate talks take the stage.

Stephen Leahy is based near Toronto, Ontario.  His most recent honour was to receive the Lane Anderson Award for the best science writing in Canada in 2014–for his book: Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products.  For his writeup on this book, see his post,  Best Science Book of the Year: Your Water Footprint.  I’ve added this book to my Amazon wish list.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Idling–Unsettling or Creepy?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Creepy.”

This is my second submission for this week’s “Creepy” challenge. My photo subject is not really “creepy”, but I find it unsettling– it shows one of my pet peeves. What irks me is seeing line-ups of cars idling with engines running when it is avoidable. Yesterday morning, around 6:30 AM, I stopped at a coffee shop and there they were–3 or 4 cars waiting in line.

image

I quickly took a photo through my car window and walked into the shop– I was served right away as no one else had walked in.  When I came out there were more cars lined up–at least six–and I took a second photo:

image

Sometimes I wish for the total banning of drive throughs but then I realize–in a moment of generosity–that maybe there is a place for them.  For example, if I have my dogs with me, I can’t leave them in a hot car, nor can I take them into a restaurant.  Similarly, a person with young children on board might benefit from the convenience of not having to unbuckle, carry, and supervise children.

If there is a line up, I avoid the drive through or turn off my engine in line (at a car wash, for example).  As food for thought, here are six facts about engine idling:

  1. Running an engine releases CO2 into the atmosphere, promoting global warming.
  2. A running car engine releases pollutants into the air.
  3. A running car engine burns expensive fuel.
  4. “Letting your engine idle for more than 10 seconds consumes more fuel and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than turning it off and starting it up again”.Government of Quebec Ecomobile Guidelines
  5. When idling exceeds 60 seconds, the cost of fuel is greater than  potential wear and tear on the starter and battery from stopping and starting — National Resources Canada.
  6.  “In Europe, the recommended guidelines for turning engines off are 10 seconds in Italy and France, 20 seconds in Austria, 40 seconds in Germany and 60 seconds in the Netherlands. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smartway and Drive Wise programs both recommend turning the engine off if you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds.” National Resources Canada, 2013.

At the Daily Post you will find more Responses to the “Creepy” challenge.

Resources used for this post:

National Resources Canada Report, November 2013

Government of Quebec Ecomobile website

Road to Paris 2015

Introducing:

Road to Paris 2015 Blog Series

IMG_1296Today I am launching a series of posts tracking international climate change negotiations. In December of this year there will be a major United Nations climate summit held in Paris, France, where international leaders will, once again,  attempt to negotiate a binding agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Road to Paris”  is the name of a strategic campaign initiated by business and government leaders in 2013, to  promote  solutions in preparation for the Paris Summit.  “Road to Paris”  is now a twitter hashtag (#RoadToParis), a Climate Reality Project campaign, a website hosted by the International Council for Science, and more (including this humble blog series).

2014 and 2015 have been particularly busy years for governments, businesses, and citizens concerned about climate change.  Why is the 2015 Paris climate conference, a.k.a. COP 21,  so important?— why is there so much buildup and drama preceding a United Nations December conference in Paris, the 21st UN Framework Convention on Climate Change?

The answer is simple: we are running out of time to slow down global warming.  The general science-based consensus is that global warming is already having negative side effects–such as droughts, floods, devastating storms, and ocean warming.  Once average global temperatures exceed pre-industrial levels by 2 degrees C,  turning back will be extremely difficult as negative causes and effects will have gained momentum. World leaders generally agree that:

  • Carbon emissions must be reduced to prevent warming from exceeding 1.5 to  2 degrees C above average pre-industrial temperatures; and that
  • In order to prevent temperatures from continuing to rise, global emissions must be cut very deeply by 2050 and reduced to zero by 2100.

With such a short time frame, it is obvious that the time to act is now.  Significant commitments  and actions are needed to reduce carbon emissions and many people, organizations, and governments are hoping that a real, binding plan will be established at the Paris Climate Summit.

A Recent Event:  Climate Summit of the Americas, July 2015

Leaders from North and South America have just come out of a summit held  in Toronto, Canada called,  “Climate Summit of the Americas”.  It was a three-day event organized by the government of Ontario, which brought together provincial, state, and municipal leaders. The outcome was the first Pan American Action Statement on climate change. It was signed by representatives of the following 22 jurisdictions, according to a National Observer report:

CANADA:  Provinces–Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia,  Newfoundland/Labrador, and Northwest Territories; Cities: Burlington, Hamilton, Kitchener, Whitby and Vancouver.

UNITED STATES:  States–Vermont, Connecticut, California, Washington State, and Oregon.

MEXICO:  States–Jalisco, Baja California, and Yucatan.

BRAZIL:  State–Para; Cities– Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

In the Climate Action Statement, participants agreed to implement one or more of the following:

  • Carbon pricing;
  • Public reporting of emission levels;
  • Action in transportation and energy sectors;
  • Compliance with existing greenhouse gas reduction agreements.

Although commitments were loose, continental neighbors came together expressing a general consensus that  deep emissions cuts must be achieved by mid-century. This  was an important step. Cooperation at state, provincial, and city levels, will only increase possibilities of cooperation and action at national levels.

Postscript

The purpose of my Road to Paris 2015 blog series is to inform myself and you, my readers, of  events and issues leading up to to the UN Climate Summit in Paris this December.  If there are related topics that you would like to read about, please let me know in the Comments. Now for a relaxing picture:

IMG_1208

Environment Report of Canadian Index of Wellbeing–Reminder that we need national energy and environment strategies

 

On April 7, 2011 the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) released its first Report on the Environment, bringing together statistics on the wellbeing of Canada’s air, water, and natural resources.  They concluded that, as Canadians, we need to do more to protect our natural home–we need a national energy plan and an environmental conservation strategy.

If you’re anything like me, you’re concerned about climate change and the general health of our natural environment; you have an understanding of causes and effects—that everything is interconnected, and that human activities affect water, soil, air, forests and climatic conditions.  Some impacts are fairly obvious and others are more subtle.  Thousands of scientists and citizen researchers keep us informed by studying trends, such as:

  • Receding glaciers,
  • Rising temperatures,
  • Disappearing animal species, and
  • High smog indexes.

However, in national leadership debates we hear very little real discussion about the future of our resources, air, water, and land—there may be passing references, but no substantive talk about how we are doing. Many citizens are concerned and making changes at home and at work, but what about the bigger picture?   The Canadian Index of Wellbeing Environment Report attempts to provide a snapshot using available environmental data.

WHO AND WHAT IS THE CANADIAN INDEX OF WELLBEING (CIW)?

Publicly launched in 2009, the CIW network recently made its home at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.  It is an independent, non-partisan think-tank aiming to produce a numeric indicator of national wellbeing by the fall of 2011.  Participants include researchers, organizations, and individuals.   The Chair of the advisory board is Roy Romanow, former Premier of Saskatchewan, and the Director is Bryan Smale, professor of recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo.

While a traditional economic progress indicator, such as GDP, measures production, an index of wellbeing measures social and environmental factors.  The wellbeing approach challenges the assumption that  economic indicators, such as GDP or TSX, can truly reveal a nation’s quality of life, progress, and future potential.

The Wellbeing Index uses 64 indicators under the following 8 categories:

  1. Environment—measures resource use,   resource stocks, damage control efforts, and sustainability practices–the preliminary report is summarized below.
  2. Community Vitality—measures inclusiveness and participation of residents in private and public sectors.
  3. Democratic Engagement—measures involvement of citizens in government and Canadian global participation.
  4. Education—measures literacy and skill levels.
  5. Population Health—measures life expectancy; physical, mental, spiritual and social indicators of health; health care quality and access.
  6. Leisure and Culture—measures recreational and cultural activity.
  7. Living Standards—measures levels and distribution of  income and wealth; poverty rates; and sustainability.
  8. Time Use—measures how people experience and manage time during different life stages.

WELL BEING INDEX IS ABOUT COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability and quality of life are not new ideas, but part of current policy in many quarters.  For example, Kingston, Ontario, has an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan—based on holistic notions of progress and endorsed by local government.   Plan partners agree to promote four pillars of Kingston’s sustainability:   cultural vitality, economic health, environmental responsibility, and social equity.  We need a similar type of plan at the national level.

SUMMARY OF CIW ENVIRONMENT REPORT

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing environment report findings are mixed. One reason is that across Canada there are distinct differences in large cities and  other regions—these differences are concealed in national statistics.  Nevertheless, we  need to evaluate and dialogue at a national level, especially at federal election time.

Air quality has shown some improvements, but, in some areas, air quality is still negatively affecting respiratory health. Ground-level ozone exposure is increasing.  There has been some success in reducing industrial emissions of toxic air contaminants.

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) grew 24% since 1990 even though our Kyoto commitment was to reach 6% below 1990 levels by 2012—this is not news, but still a frightening statistic.  Per capita GHG emissions are increasing—only the United States emits more per capita. The breakdown of emissions shows that the highest contributors are fossil fuel industries, transportation, and electricity production.

The Canadian Arctic is warmer, according to the report, more than 1.7 degrees.  This is expected to continue.

Consumption of non-renewable energy sources–Consumption of non-renewable energy resources, such as crude oil, natural gas and nuclear energy, continues to be high.  We have a strong conflict of interest, as the energy sector accounts for 4% of GDP, with 90% attributable to fossil fuels.   Canadians are major producers, consumers, and exporters of fossil fuels.  Dollars that could be used to promote clean energy alternatives are being used to subsidize resources that will not last forever and that increase GHG emissions.

Water supplies are diminishing in some parts of the country—in southern Canada, by about 3.5 cubic km per year (equivalent to our annual residential water use).  Climate change is predicted to cause water supply fluctuations– from scarcity caused by drought to disastrous abundance in times of flooding.  Residential water use has declined somewhat, but we continue to be among the highest water users in the world.

Consumption of goods and waste production are high—there are some signs of reduced consumption and increased recycling, but these efforts need to increase as landfill sites continue to grow.

Reptiles, birds and fish–Native frog, toad, salamander, freshwater fish, grassland bird, shorebird, and seabird populations are endangered or declining. Predatory large fish, such as swordfish, are also at risk.

Depletion of forest ecosystems is exceeding growth–caused by harvesting and industrial development, as well as natural causes.

More environmental monitoring is needed to assess the status of our natural environment and resources.  Most of the data used in the report is 2 to 4 years old.  This may be one of the most profound conclusions of the study.   While economic indicators are available quarterly, indicators of health, quality of life, and natural environment are not available on a regular basis.  Trillions of GDP dollars may be a sign of wellbeing, but does not reveal activities that reduce quality of life, such as pollution, frantic lifestyles, and underfunded healthcare facilities.

When I started this blog, I thought it was about an environment report, but on reflection it may be more about the need for us to think more deeply and farther ahead.  In difficult times it is tempting to think purely in “economic” terms– in reality we are at a juncture in history when we should be asking a broader question: “What do we need to do to protect our quality of life and our environment?”.  National monitoring and strategic planning is the way to begin.

Related Resources:

WORLD EARTH HOUR IS COMING UP!

On Saturday March 26, at 8:30 PM local time, homes, businesses, and public buildings will turn off their electric lights to celebrate Earth Hour™. Over a billion people in over 120 countries worldwide will voluntarily choose darkness for 60 minutes to show their commitment—their desire to conserve energy and slow global warming.

An annual event hosted by the World Wildlife Fund since 2007, Earth Hour™ promotes awareness and inspires action. The message is that:

  • We need to use energy wisely, and
  • We need to take steps to convert to clean renewable resources, such as solar, wind, and tidal power.

Why?  Non-renewable resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, create emissions that promote climate change.

Check out one of the Earth Hour websites for an opportunity to pledge your support, to get ideas for participating at home or at work, for event listings, free downloads, and activities for children:

Earthhour.org

 EarthHourCanada.org.