IPCC Climate Talks: Tech and Limits to Growth

Ashley Kocsis, Bill Rees, Sydney Karbonik (CCYP)

Is sustainable development a contradiction? Is capitalism sustainable? Are their limits to economic growth? Will technology save us? Do individual actions matter at all?

This week on Terra Informa, we have two very different perspectives on these questions. At the Edmonton IPCC climate talks we spoke with Hoesung Lee, the Chair of the IPCC, and Bill Rees, Professor Emeritus from the University of British Columbia.

Download episode now.


What’s Happening

On Tuesday, March 27,  a group of students at the University of Alberta are holding an event to get students from across faculties together to talk about the interdisciplinary challenges of climate change and sustainability. They will feature the UofA Chair of Anthropology, a Director from the Alberta Climate Change Office, and a Professor of Philosophy. At Terra Informa, we think it’s always great to bring different disciplines together!

Download program log here.

Photo by: Chris Chang-Yen Phillips

Summer and CO2 in the air

Two people placing a small plant into the ground.

Ahhh. Summer has arrived, and Terra Informa’s got your gardening Q’s covered with our new segment, Dispatches from the Dirt. Of course, it’s hard to enjoy the weather if the skies are black with fumes—and making you sick. This begs the question, how does one find out if the environment is the cause of certain illnesses in the first place? Finally, we get an economist’s guide to the complex climate change negotiations from a Killam Prize winner.

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The End of Growth – Suzuki and Rubin

This week, David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin join us in studio for a story at the heart of the way we live: the end of growth. Are we reaching limits to our economic system? What principles could guide us instead?

David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin also shared the stage in Toronto this year.

David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin are touring Canada to discuss Rubin’s new book about the natural limits to our economy.

Download this week’s show.

David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin – The End of Growth

On May 28, Random-House Canada and Greystone Books announced that Jeff Rubin and Dr. David Suzuki would be visiting cities across Canada to deliver a message…one that you can’t afford to miss. Jeff Rubin, formerly the chief economist and strategist at CIBC World Markets, is the author of Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller and more recently The End of Growth. David Suzuki is the celebrated scientist, broadcaster, and environmentalist who’s perhaps best known for his role on the long running CBC series The Nature of Things. His latest book, Everything Under The Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet, examines the interconnected nature of life on earth, and our role in it. Together, they’re turning heads as they tour the country to tell Canadians that a sustainable future is still possible, but only if we’re willing to change we way currently understand the economy and the environment.

More on this storyCanada NewswireJeff Rubin’s Smaller WorldGreystone Books


Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change

An international women’s delegation will spend 8 days touring energy projects in Western Canada. Led by American Peace Laureate Jody Williams, the group will tour the Alberta oil sands and proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route in British Columbia. Delegation members include Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, award-winning Kenyan environmentalist Ikal Angelie, and climate scientist Marianne Douglas from the University of Alberta. The group starts their tour in Fort McMurray on October 9th, and ends in Vancouver on October 16th, where they will share their findings at a press conference. They will meet with women community and First Nation leaders, as well as women government and industry officials to hear how energy projects are impacting the lives and livelihoods of women and communities. The tour is organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative. In September, they wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to block the proposed Keystone KX Pipeline, and calling on Stephen Harper to use federal powers to halt further expansion of the tar sands.

More on this storyNobel Women’s InitiativeBreaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change, The Globe and Mail

A Passing: Barry Commoner

Barry Commoner, a founder of modern ecology, and one of the central leaders of the anti-nuclear-testing movement in the U.S., died in Manhattan, on Sunday September 30th. He was 95. His training as a cellular biologist combined with his grounding in Marxist theory, made him a made him a powerful critic of capitalism and its systems of production in industry, agriculture, energy and transportation that emphasized profits and process with little regard for environmental consequences. He worked to connected the dots between ecology and social justice and believed that environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem. He was one of the founders of a survey of baby teeth in St. Louis that assessed the levels of strontium-90 in the teeth and showed how children were absorbing radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs that were being tested.
He made the science of ecology accessible. Among his works were “Making Peace with the Planet” and “Science and Survival.”

More on this story: The Globe and MailCalgary HeraldColumbia University

Charges Against StatOil, Green Cremation, and Animal Personalities

This past week saw tar sands developer StatOil in court facing charges related to 19 contraventions of the Water Allocation Act. We caught up with representatives of Greenpeace outside the courthouse to discuss the nature of the infractions and their concerns with the industry. Wildlife researcher Robert Found tells us about work he’s done identifying different personality types amoung elk and the impact it will have on conservation efforts. We learn about two new methods of cremation that are cleaning up the industry’s sooty reputation, and we round out the show with a look at ecosystem markets and how they help economists factor the environment into their work. All that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines.

Elk taking in a game of golf. Photo courtesy of Eric_L.

Terra Informa February 28: The Economics of Happiness

Terra Informa February 28, 2010 – Economics of Happiness and How to Petition the Government (listen/Download)

This is a selection of this weeks environmental headlines.

The Environmental Protection Agency is delaying plans to force power plants, oil refineries and other industrial polluters to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions until at least 2011. The EPA also said it won’t target small emitters of greenhouse gas emissions until 2016. In December, the EPA announced it will draft regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Since then, the agency has faced harsh criticism from lawmakers from states that rely on coal mining and electricity generated from fossil fuels.(Democracy Now!)

The US Department of Energy has offered a $1.4 billion loan guarantee to a California company planning to build a large-scale solar power plant in the Southern California desert. The loan guarantee would go to a company called Bright Source Energy. The loan guarantee is the largest ever given by the Energy Department for a solar power project, but it is just one-sixth of the size of the $8.3 billion loan guarantee pledged by the department last week for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia.(Democracy Now!)

The environmental group Friends of the Earth is fighting in court to prevent the proposed construction of a new nuclear reactor in the state of South Carolina for which the Obama administration recently provided 8.3 billion dollars in loan guarantees. The South Carolina state supreme court has announced a hearing will be held on March 4th in response to a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth.(Democracy Now!)

The Vermont Senate has voted to close the state’s lone nuclear power plant. On Wednesday, the state senators voted to shut the Vermont Yankee plant when its license expires in 2012. The thirty-eight-year-old plant is one of the oldest in the country and has had a series of leaks. The move marks the first time a state has moved to shut down a reactor in over twenty years. the Nuclear Regulator Commission confirmed the Vermont Yankee has had several leaks of radioactive tritium dating back to 2005. An investigation later established that the plant’s owners had lied about the extent of contamination to the local water supply. They claimed the facility did not have underground pipes that could carry tritium, when it did and now those pipes are leaking. (Democracy Now!)

A report, jointly produced by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy along with the Public Policy Forum, claims that The Harper government could do more for the environment and sustainable development if it worked with stakeholders to take politics out of the debate. The report title Progress through process said that said many important policies are abandoned because of an “adversarial and confrontational” debate with environmental groups and the business community.( Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service)

More than $85 billion will be invested in Canadian pipelines over the next 15 years, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. Most will be for transporting bitumen from controversial oil sands projects to refineries in the United States, and natural gas from shale plays in British Columbia to industries on both sides of the border with a large increases in arctic projects. The destinations of the pipelines being mainly foreign markets show how the economic of energy production in Canada is largely based on extraction and exportation excluding Canada from the refining and value added side of the process which means fewer jobs and less economic benefits for the country and the communities where extraction occurs.  (Calgary Herald)

Wiebo Ludwig, a controversial opponent to hydrocarbon development in Alberta and convicted oil patch bomber has begun a protest against sour gas flaring near his home by Hythe Alberta. According to Ludwig, Canadian Superior Energy began testing flares at the well Sunday, prompting the group to gather with protest signs on public land just outside the fenced-in well. Ludwig has house trailer right across from the well site and plans to remain at the site during the night and potentially continue the protest for weeks. Ludwig said Canadian Superior has ignored his group’s attempts to open up discussions with area residents to work out their concerns.  (Vancouver Sun)

As part of Alberta Climate Change strategy $70 million dollars are scheduled to be provided to communities public transit initiatives under the Green TRIP Program. Despite this program being rolled out over two years ago no guidelines or applications have been developed for municipalities. Despite Edmonton’s visionary new transit plan and its approval of 2 billion for the projects Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette has said in regard to possible projects that “We weren’t getting real, good-type stuff. the money should go toward something more innovative than helping build local transit systems.” When Stelmach initially pitched Green TRIP funding, he promised $2 billion for it and carbon capture and storage to cut Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions. These comments seem to completely back peddle The governments big announcements in support of public transit which were announced along side the controversial 2 billion for Carbon Capture and Storage. (Edmonton Journal)

Edmonton City Council was packed yet again last Monday in support of altering the 10 year municipal development plan to included a local foods strategy. The Greater Edmonton Alliance succeeded in having their amendment attached to the document and move through the public consultation process. This success at city hall really opens up Edmonton for a new path to sustainability. Listen to the show here for interviews from the event

Petitions are a great way to demonstrate a broad base of public support for a particular issue and are also a useful tool for developing contact lists and generating discussion among the public.  However, getting a petition read before the House of Commons is a complicated process.  This week Andy and Rebekah bring us the low down on how to get your petition presented to Parliament.

The House of Commons Guidelines for Form and Content of Petitions

This week, Terra Informa’s correspondent  David Kaczan caught up with Mark Anielski. Mark’s book “The Economics of Happiness” describes how communities and governments can strive for genuine wealth – not just GDP, but for the myriad of other factors that influence the quality of our lives. These include the health of our environment, the livability of our cities, the strength of our social relationships and the efficiency of our public services. He advocates new metrics to measure such factors holistically, and has advised governments in Canada and around the world in putting these ideas into action. David Kaczan caught up with Mark last month, to ask him about his ideas, his work, and what kind of future his economics of happiness promises.

Terra Informa February 28, 2010 – Economics of Happiness and How to Petition the Government (listen/Download)