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Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

The best way developers can help cut emissions is by redesigning suburbia. Make them to do it.

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Subdivisions in Coquitlam, BC. Ending sprawl is a tough conversation, which is why we seem to be putting it off. Photo via Alamy.

There’s a hole in B.C.’s climate plan big enough to drive a subdivision through.

While civil servants in Victoria diligently seek emissions reductions throughout the province to hit our climate targets, the people working in B.C.’s municipal governments routinely approve more suburban sprawl, meaning more drivers in private vehicles pushing emissions up.

More frustrating is that local governments are ultimately creatures of the provincial government. This means the B.C. government is essentially working against itself.

The CleanBC plan includes all kinds of policies, from efficient buildings to promoting electric vehicles to workforce training. But it’s strangely silent on the number one municipal climate issue: suburban sprawl.

Transportation accounts for the most emissions at the city level, and those emissions are driven by development patterns. If municipalities approve dense development close to services, people can walk, bike or be well served by transit. If they approve spread-out subdivisions far from services, people have no choice but to get in their vehicles every time they leave the house.

And no, electric vehicles will not save us from bad development decisions. While a growing minority of people are indeed going electric, they still account for less than four per cent of new car sales in Canada. Meanwhile, many buyers are increasingly shifting to gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, making Canada’s fleet the least efficient in the world.

This is a policy failure in itself, but also a reminder that there is no one fix to climate change. We need to do it all, and local governments must play their part.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Diana Beresford-Kroeger on the Flawed Thinking that Got Us to Climate Crisis

Diana Beresford-Kroeger on the Flawed Thinking that Got Us to Climate Crisis

Our conversation with the renowned botanist turns to fire, money and manual work.

Diana-Beresford-Kroeger
‘Climate change is not just a question of science. It is question of society, too. Maybe the society question is a bigger one than the science.’ Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe.

In early November, a California radio station in Marin County invited the world-renowned botanist to participate in a podcast about her new book To Speak for the Trees.

The book, already in its fourth printing, has much to say about climate change and the healing role of forests.

But the climate crisis rudely intervened as wildfires once again scorched their way across the populous state.

Just before the scheduled interview, she got an emergency call from the station, recalls Beresford-Kroeger.

“They said, ‘Sorry we can’t do the interview today because the studio is on fire. We’re getting out of here fast.’” 

At first she thought it was a joke. “They were telling me as matter of fact as though their studio goes on fire everyday. But this is the new reality.” 

So she wished them well. “You know that that the crisis is happening to them and you realize yours might be the next shot.” 

And there’s the problem. Climate change has now appeared at everyone’s doorstop in different guises; rising seas, longer king tides, melting ice caps, brutal fires, dying trees, failed crops, migrating peoples, rising food prices, monstrous storms, drying aquifers and absent politicians.

Beresford-Kroeger has been thinking about climate change for a long time.

She first thought about the issue in the 1960s while chatting with her bookish Uncle Pat about her fear of going hungry.

The two didn’t have much money, and Beresford-Kroeger already knew what it meant to go to bed with an empty stomach. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

It’s late in 1940, six months since the fall of France. Still a year to go before America joins the war. Meanwhile, Britain soldiers on alone – or so it likes to tell itself, the vastness of Empire folded conveniently into the background. Through the crackling of the wireless, the prime minister’s voice is unmistakable.

‘Every endeavour must be made to use the time available to produce the greatest volume of food of which this fertile island is capable. We shall all have to make changes to the way in which we eat and each household must now play its part in the way in which that food is grown. We have to look a long way ahead in this sphere of the war. We have to think of the years 1970 and 1971 and of the tonnage programmes which we shall be able to move and which we shall have to move across the oceans then.’

The mistake is glaring, absurd – yet this was the voice I heard in my head as I read the summary of the EAT–Lancet report on climate change and food, published in January, with its conclusions about the changes called for in our diets. In North America, an 84% cut in the average intake of red meat; for Europeans, a fifteen-fold increase in the amount of nuts and seeds we eat. All of this is to be achieved by 2050: a timeline based on reasonable assumptions and ambitious behaviour-change goals, for sure, but it doesn’t sound like a response to an existential threat.

The speech which Churchill actually gave that autumn, part of which was printed on the leaflets that launched the Dig For Victory campaign, urged Britain to ‘think of the years 1943 and 1944’.

* * *

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New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

The gas plays a powerful role in driving up global temperatures.

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A new study found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated. Photo via Shutterstock.

A new study published in Nature may have ended a long scientific debate about the key source of rising methane levels in the atmosphere.

It found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated, while natural sources of methane emissions are up to 90 per cent lower than previously estimated.

In plain English, that means the fossil fuel industry is having a much greater impact on climate destabilization than previously thought.

Methane, the main chemical constituent of natural gas, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Although methane dissipates faster than carbon dioxide, it has 80 times the climate warming impact over a 20-year timespan.

Every day, the oil and gas industry burns or releases methane by design, often as an unwanted byproduct of oil production, or leaks it accidently through faulty or aging equipment — a form of chronic spillage known as “fugitive emissions.” The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Methane also escapes while industry strips a number of impurities and contaminants from natural gas gathered in gas fields, including hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.

For years the fossil fuel industry has claimed that natural gas is a clean fuel that will serve as bridge to a renewable future, but recent studiesshow leakage rates are highly underestimated, thereby challenging that claim.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Guest post: The irreversible emissions of a permafrost ‘tipping point’

Guest post: The irreversible emissions of a permafrost ‘tipping point’

Across vast swaths of the northern hemisphere’s higher reaches, frozen ground holds billions of tonnes of carbon. 

As global temperatures rise, this “permafrost” land is at increasing risk of thawing out, potentially releasing its long-held carbon into the atmosphere.

Abrupt permafrost thaw is one of the most frequently discussed “tipping points” that could be crossed in a warming world. However, research suggests that, while this thawing is already underway, it can be slowed with climate change mitigation.Tipping pointsThis article is part of a week-long special series on “tipping points”, where a changing climate could push parts of the Earth system into abrupt or irreversible change

Yet, what is irreversible is the escape of the carbon that has been – and is being – emitted. The carbon released from permafrost goes into the atmosphere and stays there, exacerbating global warming.

In short, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.

Permafrost and the global climate

Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two consecutive years. Its thickness ranges from less than one metre to more than a kilometre. Typically, it sits beneath an “active layer” that thaws and refreezes every year.

A warming climate puts this perennially frozen ground at risk. When temperatures rise, permafrost thaws – it does not melt.

There is a simple analogy: compare what happens to an ice cube and a frozen chicken when they are taken out of the freezer. At room temperature, the former will have melted, leaving a small pool of water, but the chicken will have thawed, leaving a raw chicken. Eventually, that chicken will start to decompose.

This is exactly what happens to permafrost when temperatures increase. One quarter of the landmass of the northern hemisphere is underlain by permafrost, which acts like Earth’s gigantic freezer and keeps enormous amounts of organic matter frozen.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global warming was blamed for evaporating the Great Lakes, now blamed for high water levels in Chicago’s ‘climate emergency’ – Updated 2

Global warming was blamed for evaporating the Great Lakes, now blamed for high water levels in Chicago’s ‘climate emergency’ – Updated 2

“What we are seeing in global warming is the evaporation of our Great Lakes.” That was Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in 2013 when Lake Michigan was at a record low. You can find plenty of claims to the same effect from the time. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore chimed in around then, too, saying climate change was driving Great Lakes levels down by causing evaporation.

But that was then and this is now.

What’s causing today’s record high levels? Climate change, naturally.

So now, citing “catastrophic lakefront erosion” from high water, Chicago just declared a climate emergency. It’s radical, and is reproduced in full below.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Durbin want the federal government to help Chicago pay for damage to its shoreline. Lightfoot’s accompanying statement is reproduced below. You’ll be relieved to see that she’s putting “equity” at the center.

Given that Lightfoot hasn’t exactly been friendly to President Trump, you might be concerned about what reception her request for federal help will get. Per the Chicago Tribune, Lightfoot acknowledged “some concern, of course,” that President Donald Trump won’t see the urgency in sending help to Chicago — a city he has treated as a public antagonist for years — to combat climate change, an issue he hasn’t deemed a high priority.

Why, yes, I’d have some concern, too, of course. She called Trump’s visit to Chicago “insulting, ignorant buffoonery.” Not that he’s vindictive or anything.

And since sustainability is emphasized in Lightfoot’s statement, I’d also have some concern about sustainability of claims about the causes of Great Lakes water fluctuations. I confess to being old enough to remember exceptionally high lake levels in the late 1970s when global cooling was blamed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Even The Mainstream Media Is Now Admitting That Humanity Is Facing “A Perfect Storm”

Even The Mainstream Media Is Now Admitting That Humanity Is Facing “A Perfect Storm”

Over the last several decades, have we ever seen a year start as strangely as 2020 has?  Global weather patterns have gone completely nuts, large earthquakes are popping off like firecrackers, it looks like the plague of locusts in Africa could soon develop into the worst in modern history, and a massive plague of bats is severely terrorizing parts of Australia.  On top of all that, African Swine Fever is wiping out millions upon millions of pigs around the globe, the H1N1 Swine Flu is killing people in Taiwan, there have been H5N1 Bird Flu outbreaks in China and in India, and the H5N8 Bird Flu has made an appearance at a poultry facility in Saudi Arabia.  Of course the coronavirus outbreak which is causing people to literally drop dead in the streets in China is making more headlines than anything that I have mentioned so far, and it could potentially turn into a horrifying global pandemic that kills millions of people.

But other than that, it has been a rather calm beginning to the year, eh?

I have been repeatedly warning that the time of “the perfect storm” is upon us, and many others have also been using this terminology to describe what we are now facing.

The world is facing a series of interlinked emergencies that are threatening the existence of humans, because the sum of the effects of the crises is much greater than their individual impacts, according to a new global study.

Climate breakdown and extreme weather, species loss, water scarcity and a food production crisis are all serious in themselves, but the combination of all five together is amplifying the risks of each, creating a perfect storm that threatens to engulf humanity unless swift action is taken.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

coal

A suggestion by the UK Committee on Climate Change to burn more wood and plant replacement trees as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels has drawn criticism from think tank Chatham House, which says this is hardly the best approach to reducing emissions.

“Expanding forest cover is undoubtedly a good thing, if you’re leaving them standing,” energy expert Duncan Brack told the Daily Telegraph. However, Brack, who served as special adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, suggested that burning wood for heating was not the most sustainable way forward. Calling wood burning a carbon neutral process is “highly dubious,” Brack added.

These claims, according to the Telegraph’s environment editor, Emma Gatten, rest on the assumption that the carbon footprint of chopping down trees and burning them is offset by planting new trees to replace them. This assumption excludes the fact that older trees absorb more carbon and that it takes time to replace a forest.

“You can leave trees standing and they will continue to absorb carbon for decades,” Brack says. “But the biomass industry implicitly assumes that forests at some point stop reach a saturation point for carbon intake and can be harvested and simply replaced.” 

The benefit of planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change has been put to the test on a wider scale as well. A study released last year found that reforestation could work, but it had to be done at a massive scale.

We need to plant 25 percent more trees than there are on Earth right now, or more than half a trillion in total, the study found. This would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by a quarter, erasing 20 years of emissions. Yet it would not solve the climate problem on its own, without a sustained effort to cut emissions, commentators on the study said.

IMF Slashes Global GDP Forecast For 6th Consecutive Time, Warns “Climate Change” Will Hit Economy

IMF Slashes Global GDP Forecast For 6th Consecutive Time, Warns “Climate Change” Will Hit Economy

After the IMF cut its global economic outlook for 2019 to 2.9% in October, the lowest since the financial crisis, and warned that global trade growth would be “close to a standstill”, moments ago the IMF once again downgraded its forecast for global GDP for 2020 and 2021, its sixth straight reduction, although in a sliver of optimism, global GDP in 2020 is now expected to post a modest rebound from 2.9% to 3.3%, (down from 3.4% in October) and to 3.4% in 2021 (down from 3.6%) as the IMF says “there are now tentative signs that global growth may be stabilizing, though at subdued levels.”

According to the IMF, the downward revision primarily reflects negative surprises to economic activity in a few emerging market economies, most notably India, where 2020 GDP is now expected to rise just 5.8% down from 7.0%, which means that in 2020 China will regain the title of the world’s fastest growing economy. In a few cases, this reassessment also reflects the impact of increased social unrest.

Emerging market debacle aside, the IMF said that on the positive side, market sentiment “has been boosted by tentative signs that manufacturing activity and global trade are bottoming out, a broad-based shift toward accommodative monetary policy, intermittent favorable news on US-China trade negotiations, and diminished fears of a no-deal Brexit, leading to some retreat from the risk-off environment that had set in at the time of the October WEO.”

However, and this will be of particular interest to traders, even the IMF admitted that “few signs of turning points are yet visible in global macroeconomic data.”

And so, in addition to the collapse in India, the IMF also sees continued slowdown in the US and Europe in 2020, both of which were cut by 0.1% to 2.0% and 1.3%, while China saw a modest increase by 0.2% to 6.0%, which however drops to 5.8% in 2021.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe Leads The World In Environmental Protection

Europe Leads The World In Environmental Protection

Earlier this week, the European Union unveiled their European Investment Plan aimed at shifting 1 trillion euros into making the economy more environmentally friendly over the next 10 years.

Statista’s Willem Rpoer reports that the investment plan is in line with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal, which looks to make the European continent carbon-neutral by 2050. Since taking office, Von der Leyen has made climate change her top priority.

European countries have typically been leaders in the fight against climate change, with many ranking lowest in carbon emissions globally and highest in environmental quality. The newest trillion-euro investment plan looks to solidify Europe as the global example for combating global warming as other continents like Asia and North America continue to produce high carbon emissions and lag behind in renewable energy sources.

n 2019, Yale University released their Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for all 180 countries in order to gauge which countries had the highest environmental quality and which had the lowest.

Infographic: Europe Leads the World in Environmental Protection | Statista

It’s the hottest decade–ever

It’s the hottest decade–ever 

As the decade comes to a close, environmentalists are looking back over the last ten years of supposedly ‘natural’ disasters and extreme weather. It’s alarming: there are absolutely no signs that the global climate crisis is under control.  

It just keeps on getting hotter. While Canadians are enjoying a balmy winter (which officially started on December 21, when temperatures were way above seasonal in Toronto), Australians are once again being scorched half to death. 

Temperatures peaked on December 21-22 in Victoria and South Australia with  several areas exceeding 48°C.  The heat and bone dry conditions have sparked numerous bushfires. New South Wales has been placed under a total fire ban as firefighters battle to contain more than 100 fires burning around the state, including the 400,000-hectare Gospers Mountain megafire in Wollemi national park in the Blue Mountains.  Across the globe in California, the 2019 fire season, which so far has counted close to 7000 fires, is still not over. Moreover, fires are flaring up in places where they have rarely been seen before—in the Arctic tundra and in Siberia above the Arctic circle. The chart on the left shows the startling spike in carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires that has occurred this year.

Emissions of CO2 from Arctic wildfires

It’s not hard to figure out that the increasing number of wild fires might be sparked and fanned by rising global temperatures. Meteorologists are already saying that 2019 is the planet’s second-warmest year on record, rounding off the hottest decade on Earth since those records begun. Eight of the ten warmest years have occurred this decade, and the other two were just a few years before. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) headlined their latest assessment by saying that “2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather”.

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Dave Collum’s 2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won”

Dave Collum’s 2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won”

Authored by David B. Collum, Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology – Cornell University (Email: dbc6@cornell.edu, Twitter: @DavidBCollum),

“I hope David comes to his senses.”

~ Nassim Taleb (@nntaleb), best-selling author and Professor at NYU

Every year, David Collum writes a detailed “Year in Review” synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year’s is no exception.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • About the Author–A Brief Autobiography
  • Contents
  • Sources
  • Creation of the Year in Review
  • My Personal Year
  • Investing
  • Almond-Eyed Aliens and Other Conspiracy Theories
  • Gold
  • Bitcoin
  • Modern Monetary Theory
  • The Fed and Repo-Madness
  • Share Buybacks
  • Climate Change
  • The Jeffrey Epstein Affair
  • Thoughts on College
  • Political Correctness–Collegiate Division
  • Political Correctness–Adult Division
  • Political Correctness–Youth Division
  • Political Correctness–Corporate Division
  • Civil Liberties
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Books

The whole beast can be downloaded as a single PDF here, for those who prefer to do their power-reading offline.

If it happened this year & mattered, it’s covered in here…

Introduction

It is that time of year again when I sit down and, in a frenzied stream of subconsciousness, bang out my view of the world. It’s my 11th chronicling of human folly and anthropogenic global idiocy (AGI).1 It’s like when Forest Gump jogs: I start writing, go on too long, and then just stop. Forty years of writing about organic chemistry has taught me that you do not understand something till you finish writing about it. Constrained by time—you can’t write an annual synopsis in May—I have made sure to sacrifice quality not length.

“Huge fan. Please continue to remain above the din.”

~ Guy Adami (@GuyAdami), trader and commentator on CNBC’s Fast Money

*I am the din, Guy.

Figure 1. An original by Candace E. Cornell (my wife) dedicated to Jeff Macke (my Bud and the Banksy of Wall Street).

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“The UN’s ‘Woke’ Climate Change Propaganda Is An Insult To Science”

“The UN’s ‘Woke’ Climate Change Propaganda Is An Insult To Science”

I was always a ‘middle-grounder’, rather than a ‘denier’ – until I discovered the extent of the dishonesty

The climate change “emergency” is fake news. Many will roll their eyes in exasperation at the conspiratorial bombastry of yet another “denier”. But for years I have been a plastic recycling, polar bear cooing middle-grounder. In fact, Aristotle would probably turn in his grave at the logical fallaciousness of my long-held presumption that the truth must lie somewhere between those two mutually loathing opposites – Scepticism and Armageddon.

But as the doom-mongering acquires the rubber-stamped smell of instutionalised illness, it is impossible to ignore that the “woke” are the new “slept” – too deep in their sugar coma of confected hysteria to realise they are being duped by disinformation.

Before I explain why the climate “emergency” is the most electrifyingly effective propaganda exercise of the 21st century, two clarifications. I have no fight to pick with glaring evidential realities: surface records clearly show the planet is getting warmer. Nor do I have a culture war-bloodied axe to grind with the fundamental chemistry: carbon dioxide indisputably contributes to the greenhouse effect. But I do take issue with how the mainstream debate has become an insult to both the public’s intelligence and basic science. 

This was clearer than ever two weeks ago, as bureaucratic catastrophists kicked up dystopian dust-clouds on their way into the UN Madrid climate change summit. As Greta Thunberg arrived by yacht (after her British skipper likely clocked up 3 tonnes of carbon emissions flying to the US to pick her up), UN Secretary General António Guterres rumbled that, over the horizon, he could see “the point of no return”. Delegates waved the UN’s latest Emissions Gap Report as if it were both a millenarian death oracle and a methodologically indisputable text; in it, the recommendation to cut emissions by at least 7.6 per cent per year for the next decade.

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When Climate Striking Stops ‘Sparking Joy.’ What Comes Next?

When Climate Striking Stops ‘Sparking Joy.’ What Comes Next?

Youth activists pause to plan a fresh wave of action.

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Julia Sampson: Striking ‘opened up a window for youth to act.’ Photo by Theresa Duerr-Farrell.

On a cold Friday in Winnipeg two weeks ago, ten people gathered in a circle outside city hall singing “Happy Birthday.” They were celebrating the one-year anniversary of the city’s first student climate strike. 

“We’re all a little burned out,” said Cam Beer, 17, one of the attendees. “We’ve been going at it for a while and some of these things are not sparking joy as they could.” 

The Winnipeg group strikes every Friday and meets every Monday to organize. I got to know many of its members when I helped plan the global climate strike on Sept. 27. In writing this piece I spoke with many more youth strikers in other cities. What I heard repeatedly is they are weary, frustrated with the lack of government response. They are pausing this Christmas to regroup and strategize. 

But they show no signs of stopping. In fact, it feels like they’re only getting warmed up. 

Cricket Guest, 20, an Anishinaabekwe Wiisaakodewikwe land defender and one of the lead coordinators of the Toronto climate strikes, can relate. She said these days she’s mostly angry. 

“The feeling of anger stems from a feeling of deep hurt. Myself and other student climate strikers feel deeply hurt people in power are not taking this issue as seriously as we are. If we are able to take the time out of our day, why is it not a priority for the adults who say they care about our future?”

Greta Thunberg expressed similar frustrations recently, when she told the United Nations, “Of course there is no victory, because the only thing we want to see is real action.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oilsands Firms ‘Morally Responsible’ for Deaths and Destruction from Climate Disasters

Oilsands Firms ‘Morally Responsible’ for Deaths and Destruction from Climate Disasters

Greenpeace’s Yeb Saño explains what a Philippines human rights investigation means for the fossil fuel industry in Canada.

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Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Naderev Yeb Saño has long pressed for action against climate change. He led a hunger strike as lead Filipino delegate to the 2013 UN climate summit. Photo: Creative Commons, courtesy tcktcktck.org.

Four years ago, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights began posing an incendiary question. 

Should 47 of the planet’s most polluting companies have to answer legally for the deaths and suffering caused by climate change?

This includes the more than 6,300 Filipinos who died in 2013 during Typhoon Haiyan, which was made more destructive by rising global temperatures. 

Four of the companies named in the investigation are Canadian oilsands producers — Canadian Natural Resources, Encana, Husky and Suncor — and Canadian environmental law experts like York University’s David Estrin presented evidence at hearings held by the commission. 

The commission, established in the Philippines constitution, announced its findings last week at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

While the commission cannot make legal rulings, it found that the fossil fuel companies under investigation are “morally responsible” for death and destruction linked to their business model. Some legal experts think this could be a starting point for civil and criminal cases against those companies. 

The Tyee spoke with Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Naderev Yeb Saño, who was in Madrid for the climate talks, about the implications of the commission’s decision for Canadian oilsands producers and the political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who support them. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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