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How Rethinking Affordable Homes Connects with the Climate Fight

How Rethinking Affordable Homes Connects with the Climate Fight

First in a five-part series exploring the case for a Green New Deal for Housing.

Earlier this year, Vancouver city council approved a new downtown condo tower pitched as one of the greenest skyscrapers on the planet. It “will quickly become a blueprint for future towers in cities around the world,” said the architecture firm behind 1075 Nelson, a 60-story development in the West End that will be built to Passive House standards.

“The planet is on fire,” Rick Gregory, vice-president at Henson Developments, said of using ultra-efficient windows, insulation and ventilation systems resulting in much less energy requirements than a typical tower. “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.”

Because 25 per cent of the building’s floorspace will be set aside for social housing, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart also portrayed 1075 Nelson as a step towards addressing the city’s dire affordability needs.

“We’re in a housing crisis, and this is a building on private land with private financing, and we’re still getting 102 social housing units,” Stewart said.

Just down the road from 1075 Nelson is another skyscraper competing for eco-bragging rights in what aims to be the world’s “Greenest City.” The “Butterfly” tower being built by Westbank boasts of “sustainability goals exceeding LEED Gold.”

But when Samuel Stein looks at luxury towers with the latest green technology, he doesn’t necessarily see progress on climate change. “It makes the problem worse as it claims to make it better,” the New York-based housing policy analyst and author of Capital City told The Tyee.

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‘They’re Trying to Take My House’

‘They’re Trying to Take My House’

A massive LNG project faces rising opposition in Oregon. The quiet backer is a Canadian firm.

For the past several years, Mike Williams has had hanging over his head the possibility that a Calgary oil and gas company could kick him and his family out of their home. The Pembina Pipeline Corporation is trying “to fuck me over,” he told The Tyee.

Williams, his wife Jane and their four-month-old daughter live on a rural property in southern Oregon with fir trees “you can wrap your arms around” and a rolling hill leading to a wetland. Several years ago, he started getting calls from Pembina asking him to sell the property. At first, he claims they offered him $78,000, which Williams considered an insult. That would barely allow him to purchase “a trailer in a mobile park,” he said. Then the offer apparently went up to $300,000.

Now Williams worries that the company will use eminent domain, whereby the government allows private property to be taken over for projects deemed in the public interest, to run a 36-inch natural gas pipeline through his drinking water supply and turn the home he built from salvaged materials into a staging area for the construction. “That’s the worst thing,” he said. “They’re going to let a Canadian company eminent domain a U.S. citizen. It’s wrong.”

That may be what’s happening in private. But in public, the pipeline’s defenders are telling a much different story — in fact, their strategy is to not even mention Pembina by name.

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The Positive Power of Emergencies

The Positive Power of Emergencies

Seth Klein discusses his new book on tackling the climate crisis like we’ve fought wars — and now the pandemic.

Seth Klein spends a lot of time thinking about emergencies. Earlier this spring, the former director of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had just finished writing a book drawing lessons for fighting climate change from the country’s Second World War experience when the coronavirus hit. “Talk about awkward timing,” Klein recalls in A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, which will be published on Sept. 1.

But Klein quickly realized that the global pandemic made his book’s central argument more relevant than ever. Whether it’s a war against Nazi aggression, a deadly and infectious virus or a climate emergency irreversibly changing our country, collective dangers require swift and transformative action. They are opportunities to overhaul conventional wisdom.

“Once emergencies are truly recognized,” Klein writes, “what seemed politically impossible and economically off-limits can be quickly embraced.”

In a recent interview with The Tyee about his forthcoming book, which is currently available for pre-order, Klein expands on that argument, explaining how Canada’s $250-billion response to COVID-19 has shattered mainstream conceptions about what’s feasible for climate action. He discusses what the Second World War can teach us about reducing social inequality in the face of a crisis, and the crucial role Indigenous people have played in both our wartime efforts and our current battles on climate change.

Geoff Dembicki: Where does the interest in WWII come from? Because it doesn’t seem like you’re that much of a war person.

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Press Groups Slam Deporting of Danish Journalist Covering Pipeline Fight

Press Groups Slam Deporting of Danish Journalist Covering Pipeline Fight

‘Sobering.’ Foreign and Canadian organizations criticize blocked entry to Kristian Lindhart at YVR.

Days after a Canadian border guard denied Danish journalist Kristian Lindhardt entry into Vancouver to cover the fight over the Trans Mountain pipeline, journalism associations here and abroad have “condemned” the deportation as an attack on press freedoms.

“Journalism is of vital importance particularly in times of crisis. Using COVID as an excuse to block a journalist is simply unacceptable,” said Martin O’Hanlon, president of the Canadian media union CWA Canada, in a statement put out on Tuesday by several organizations.

“It is especially troubling because COVID is now being used by many regimes as yet another way to crack down on press freedom, and Canada should be setting a positive example for the world. We urge the Canada Border Services Agency to reverse this decision,” said the statement.

That was echoed in Europe, where the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists urged the Canadian government “to clarify the situation and guarantee freedom of information and access rights for foreign journalists.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to impede certain media coverages and hamper press freedom,” the organization’s general secretary Anthony Bellanger said in the statement. “The Canadian authorities haven’t provided a valid explanation to deport Mr. Lindhardt.”

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A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

Kristian Lindhardt says Canada’s laws stifle press freedom afforded ‘during every crisis.’

When Danish journalist Kristian Lindhardt arrived at the Vancouver airport on Friday, he knew he would face additional levels of border scrutiny because of the coronavirus. Lindhardt wasn’t too concerned, though, because he has international press credentials from Denmark’s version of CBC and a statement from Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation explaining that Lindhardt is here to report on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Lindhardt had also made all the necessary arrangements for a 14-day quarantine in Vancouver.

But just as Lindhardt was about to get through customs a border guard pulled him aside. The guard questioned him for hours and made him sign a document promising to fly back to Denmark today. “I asked what happens if I don’t sign them,” Lindhardt told The Tyee over the phone Saturday morning, just hours before his flight back to Europe was set to depart. “And he said he would detain me in a jail cell.”

The B.C. government currently deems “newspapers, television, radio, call centres, online news outlets and other media services” as essential work. But there is no direction from the federal government saying journalists must be let into the country, according to Green Party MP and former leader of the party Elizabeth May, who has looked into the issue. At the end of the day, it’s up to individual border guards to decide who can enter and who can’t.

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

Has Suncor Seen the Climate Crisis Coming for 61 Years?

Has Suncor Seen the Climate Crisis Coming for 61 Years?

A US lawsuit wants the oilsands producer to pay for global warming havoc.

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Suncor Energy Centre is the tallest building in this photo (and second highest on the Calgary skyline), built in 1984. That would be a quarter century after corporate leaders were first told about global warming and around the time the company was involved in public relations to downplay the threat, alleges a lawsuit. Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr.

Did Canada’s largest oil producer learn about climate change as early as 1959, develop a massive bitumen industry in northern Alberta knowing the atmospheric damage it would cause, and then take part in an international effort throughout the 1990s and 2000s to convince the public that climate change isn’t real?

Those questions are now at the heart of a closely-watched lawsuit filed against Suncor in the state of Colorado, which earlier this month cleared an important legal hurdle.

Now it’s up to a judge to determine whether the lawsuit, which also names Exxon as a defendant, can move beyond procedural wrangling into the first phases of an actual trial. Such a trial has the potential to set a transformative legal precedent: for the first time ever assigning legal blame for climate change to oil and gas companies in a U.S. court while holding those companies accountable for undermining life-saving science.

“That would be huge news,” said David Bookbinder, an attorney with the Washington D.C.-based Niskanen Center, which is helping the city of Boulder and several other local Colorado communities sue Suncor and Exxon for allegedly profiting from climate change while concealing the devastating impacts. “We’re waiting for the judge to give us an answer.”

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This Energy Analyst Says the Oil Sands Are ‘Done’

This Energy Analyst Says the Oil Sands Are ‘Done’

COVID-19 is making many bearish about bitumen. Deborah Lawrence’s past pessimism has proven unpopular, and correct.

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Deborah Lawrence, formerly Deborah Rogers, warned of the shale gas and oil crashes, and called Teck Frontier’s proposed new oil sands mine ‘uncommercial even at relatively high oil prices’ years before it was cancelled. Photo: submitted.

Deborah Lawrence used to be a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch. Over the past decade, the independent economic analyst has developed a reputation for telling oil investors what they don’t want to hear.

In 2009, she started warning that the financial model for shale oil fracking companies doesn’t make any sense. Lawrence began analyzing financial data for Chesapeake Energy after the oil and gas company began drilling near her farm in Texas. She discovered that the company, and many others in the industry, were going through cash and accruing debt at alarming rates.

“I think we have a big problem,” she told a colleague at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where she was then an advisory committee member. But finding a larger audience proved difficult. The so-called “shale revolution” was transforming the U.S. into the world’s biggest oil producer and everyone from oil executives to state leaders to Wall Street bankers wanted a piece of it.

“I kept saying, look, ‘There’s no free cash flow and it keeps deteriorating every year I look at this,’” Lawrence recalled in an interview with The Tyee. So she contacted business outlets like the Wall Street Journal. “I sent them stuff for so long with all the underlying documentation and they were like, ‘Oh no, shales are gonna save us forever.’”

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

Jason Kenney’s Other Pipeline War Is with Michigan

Jason Kenney’s Other Pipeline War Is with Michigan

Locals say Enbridge’s aging Line 5 is a disaster waiting to happen and Alberta’s premier should butt out.

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Enbridge’s US underwater Line 5, built in 1953, carries mostly Alberta crude. Premier Jason Kenney has attacked Michigan’s governor for moving to decommission the pipeline for safety concerns. Photo via the National Wildlife Federation.

Locals urging the aging pipeline be closed down fear it could imperil drinking water for tens of millions of people. Some wonder why Kenney, who has claimed Alberta is bullied by foreign-backed environmental advocates, has no problem intervening in the decision-making of a jurisdiction beyond Canada’s borders.

“The premier ought to take care of things that are directly impacting the citizens of Canada and let the people of Michigan take care of things that directly impact the citizens of Michigan,” said David Holtz, a spokesperson for the environmental group Oil & Water Don’t Mix, based in northern Michigan’s Traverse City. 

Last June, Kenney notified his 173,000 Facebook followers that Michigan’s leaders are trying to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5, a nearly 70-year-old pipeline traversing the state. Line 5 serves as a shortcut for moving Alberta crude oil to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario, accounting for about 70 per cent of the oil it carries. 

The pipeline, which was built in 1953 and runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, is losing its protective coating and was damaged by an anchor several years ago. In August, Enbridge revealed a 25-metre segment was unsupported due to erosion caused by strong currents, and said it was acting to re-anchor the section.

A worst-case-scenario spill would pollute 643 kilometres of Michigan coastline, a state-ordered risk analysis concluded.

Yet Kenney has said that Line 5 poses “no pressing or legitimate environmental concern.”

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

Trudeau and His North Van Climate Minister Are ‘Wrestling’ with a Massive Oilsands Decision

Trudeau and His North Van Climate Minister Are ‘Wrestling’ with a Massive Oilsands Decision

Teck’s Frontier mine would kill emissions targets, say analysts.

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Where will Minister for Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, MP for North Vancouver, land on Frontier, possibly the biggest oilsands project ever? Photo by Mike Sudoma, the Canadian Press.

The Trudeau government is under intense scrutiny for a looming decision — one that will powerfully signal whether it favours oil patch growth over fighting the climate emergency. 

Will the Liberals approve a new bitumen mine twice the size of Vancouver that alone is expected to add 20 per cent of additional oilsands emissions over the next three decades? 

Or will Justin Trudeau’s government make good on its promise to set Canada on the path to having “net-zero” emissions by 2050 by rejecting the Frontier mine being proposed by Vancouver-based Teck Resources?

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who represents the riding of North Vancouver, is reportedly “wrestling” with the decision, which is expected sometime next month. The Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond to The Tyee’s interview request.

Wilkinson has said that achieving Canada’s aggressive net-zero target, which would result in the country effectively ceasing to contribute to global temperature rise within three decades, is not open to negotiation: “That is a target that is not informed by politics. It’s informed by science.” 

If that’s the case, then the Liberals need to forcefully reject what is one of the biggest oilsands mining projects ever proposed, says Eriel Deranger, executive director of the Edmonton-based group Indigenous Climate Action. “We cannot afford more destabilization of critical ecosystems and the creation of massive amounts of carbon emissions,” she told The Tyee.

…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.

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Canadian Oilsands Firm Denied Its Own Science On Climate Change

Canadian Oilsands Firm Denied Its Own Science On Climate Change

While Imperial Oil was calling the link between fossil fuels and global warming an ‘unproven hypothesis,’ internal reports had confirmed the connection.

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Contradicting the company’s own assessment of CO2 from 1970, Imperial Oil’s then chairman wrote in 1998, ‘Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but an essential ingredient of life on this planet.’ Photo by Jonathan Franson, the Canadian Press.

Oilsands giant Imperial Oil continued to call the link between fossil fuels and global temperature rise an “unproven hypothesis” decades after its own research confirmed the industry’s role in global warming, newly released documents show.

That decision made Imperial Oil, which is majority-owned by Exxon, an early supporter of an oil industry campaign of climate denial that continues to slow progress in combating the greatest existential challenge of our time. 

Brendan DeMelle, executive director of the research group DeSmog, said the documents show that as early as the 1970s Imperial Oil had confirmed the link between fossil fuels and global warming. DeSmog and the Climate Investigations Center last week published thousands of pages of official Imperial Oil documents found in an archive in Calgary.

DeMelle said that with pressure building in the late 1990s for Canadian climate change solutions that might reduce fossil fuel consumption and hurt the company’s business model, “they start talking about scientific uncertainties and doubt.”

Imperial Oil declined to provide comment for this story, instead pointing The Tyee to its website, which states that “We believe that climate change risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us — business, governments and consumers — to make meaningful progress.” 

That was not what the company was arguing in the late 1990s, however, as its 1996 Annual Report makes clear.

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

Enviros Tools of Russians? The Weird Conspiracy Theory Firing up Kenney’s Inquiry

Enviros Tools of Russians? The Weird Conspiracy Theory Firing up Kenney’s Inquiry

SPECIAL REPORT: Alberta’s ‘anti-energy’ probe makes a debunked US report its must-read.

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Texas Republican Lamar Smith, a noted climate denier and big recipient of oil and gas political donations, led a House committee that produced a report suggesting environmentalists are manipulated by the Russian government.

Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media was produced by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which at the time was led by a climate change-denying Republican from Texas named Lamar Smith. Upon its release in 2018, Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva described the report as “another round of unsupported conspiracy theories,” and it received little traction.

Now the report is officially required reading for Alberta’s inquiry, explicitly included in its terms of reference.

Why would that be? Answers were not forthcoming from Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan, who didn’t respond to The Tyee’s interview request.

“There is very little the commissioner can share with the media at this time that is not contained on this website,” reads the Alberta Inquiry website. The commission’s terms of reference also explain that “As part of the inquiry, the commissioner shall examine the work completed by other investigations in other jurisdictions into similar activities or alleged activities.”

A New York-based journalist who wrote an article about the Republican-produced report was surprised Alberta is paying attention to its claims of Russian intrigue.

“That is unexpected,” said John Timmer, senior science editor for the media outlet Ars Technica. The report “didn’t pick up very wide coverage perhaps because it was rather strange to begin with… It just didn’t really hold up to a critical analysis very well.”

“It’s just a bizarre compilation of allegations that feeds a conspiracy theory,” said Devon Page, the executive director of Ecojustice, about the report’s inclusion in the Alberta inquiry’s terms of reference.

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

As Election Nears, Canada’s Biggest Oil Firm Is Noticeably Quiet

As Election Nears, Canada’s Biggest Oil Firm Is Noticeably Quiet

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he’s Canada’s energy ‘champion.’ Yet he opposes climate policy Suncor supports.

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Mark Little is the CEO of Suncor, the biggest oilsands firm in Canada which, awkwardly for some federal political parties, supports strong government policy on climate change. Photo by Jeff McIntosh, the Canadian Press.

As we race towards a federal election that will determine if and how Canada responds to the climate emergency, one central player is noticeably absent.

Suncor is without a doubt the biggest and most influential oilsands company in the country. Contrary to what you might think, however, it has a more aggressive position on climate action than federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer. While Scheer promises to scrap Canada’s national carbon price as soon he gets into office, Suncor argues the Liberal policy should stay.

“We have and continue to support the Pan-Canadian Framework as a path forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Nathan Maycher, Suncor’s director of climate change and sustainability integration, told The Tyee in an email.

In 2017, the company employed 12,381 people, brought in over $32 billion in revenue and produced roughly 1.2 million barrels of bitumen per day, which is over one-third of the industry’s total output, according to research from the Corporate Mapping Project.

Yet when three major oilsands producers — Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy and MEG Energy Corp. — ran an “open letter to Canadians” in 30 newspapers this July arguing that “shutting down Canada’s oil industry will have little impact on global [emissions] targets,” Suncor stayed silent. And the company’s CEO Mark Little doesn’t appear to be involved with an effort by small and mid-level Calgary oil and gas executives to get Scheer elected prime minister this October.

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

‘Climate Crisis’ Open Letter to Media: Who’s Responded (So Far)

‘Climate Crisis’ Open Letter to Media: Who’s Responded (So Far)

Five-point plan on Tyee finds allies in CWA union and top US journos.

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Journalism prof Sean Holman fired off to Canada’s news orgs a public challenge to better cover the climate crisis. Who got back? Photo by Laura Balanko-Dickson.

Now the responses are rolling in, some from beyond Canada’s borders. 

Here’s how Holman came to write the widely shared letter and what it’s helping to trigger.

As record wildfires raged out of control across B.C., spreading smoke into the Rockies and Alberta, Holman looked out the window of his Calgary home and thought about a book he’d read as a child. The World of the Future: Future Cities predicted “if drastic steps are not taken to control pollution and achieve some sort of ecological balance,” the city of the 21st century could become a “polluted pesthole.” 

The book’s image of gas-mask-wearing citizens in a dystopian streetscape choked by smog “always stuck with me,” Holman said. The view of smoke turning the sun into a sickly orange dot was strikingly similar. “That was really troubling.” The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Even more disturbing to Holman, though, was the failure of Canadian news media to accurately report the underlying reasons for this hellscape: the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming Canada twice as fast as the rest of the world.

Holman, an investigative reporter, associate professor of journalism at Mount Royal University and an occasional Tyee contributor, found that of the 182 media pieces produced about the wildfires last summer by outlets like the Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun, only 14 of those pieces mentioned the scientific reality that global temperature rise caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities contributed to the fires’ unprecedented intensity and destruction.

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

On Climate, Does Trudeau’s Canada Play Hero or Villain?

On Climate, Does Trudeau’s Canada Play Hero or Villain?

The Tyee asked global experts, and got some surprising answers.

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Canada’s symbolic role globally outweighs its actual emissions impact, say experts, who call Trudeau’s carbon tax ‘courageous.’ Still, it’s not enough to meet emissions pledges, upping the ante for the federal election.

How does Canada rate in fighting climate change? 

Better than most countries, especially ones where fossil fuels drive politics. 

Terribly for the world, because if every country copied Canada, that would ensure climate catastrophe. 

That’s the complicated picture climate policy experts in Canada and abroad shared with The Tyee.

They said Canada, while still far from where it needs to be in lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, is enacting “courageous” and “interesting” policies that are pushing global progress forward at a time when the opportunity for action is rapidly fading

On the surface this doesn’t seem to make much sense, given that under Trudeau’s Liberal government Canada is set to miss the 2030 climate targets it agreed to at Paris, spends billions of dollars propping up the oil and gas industry (despite promising to end fossil fuel subsidies), and last year nationalized Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. 

But Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University who has contributed to assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that Canada’s record on climate change is more complex and productive than most people realize.

“It seems to me people get so focussed on the Trans Mountain pipeline as a symbol that the federal government has failed on climate policy, without paying attention to the actual policies and comparing them to the rest of the world,” he told The Tyee. “When you do that, we’re among the leaders.”

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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