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Brag Box
15 April 2016



News

Plants Face Extinction – New Reports 16 May 16

One in five types of plant worldwide is at risk of extinction from threats such as farming and logging that are wrecking many habitats according to a new report.

The report by Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England has provided the first comprehensive assessment of the world's plants. That assessment concluded that, excluding algae, mosses, liverworts and hornworts, there are approximately 390,900 plant species known to science, of which an estimated 369,000 are flowering plants.

Compiled by a team of more than 80 scientists, this 84-page report is the most complete evaluation of the world's plants ever carried out. Due to be updated every year, the publication of the State of the World's Plants report coincided with a scientific symposium on 11 and 12 May at the Botanical Gardens in the London suburbs.

Despite 21 per cent of all the species being threatened with extinction, the report also said new plants were still being discovered, such as a 1.5 metre (5 feet) tall insect-eating plant on a mountaintop in Brazil in 2015.

"There's a huge change going on, mainly agricultural change and land for urbanization," said Kathy Willis, RBG Kew's director of science.

Willis said a rising world population of more than 7 billion people need food and places to live and that scientists should be pragmatic and help identify areas most in need of conservation.

View May 12, 2016 EurActiv.com article
View May 11, 2016 Discovery News article
View April 23, 2012 CBC News article
View 2016 State Of The World's Plants Report
View Center for Biological Diversity The Extinction Crisis page

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Pallister Contradicts Election Promise About Bipole III 16 May 16

'Your new Progressive Conservative government will restore Manitobans' trust and return integrity to their government.' This from the Manitoba PC election platform, how they convinced Manitobans to vote for them.

The Pallister government has already broken this trust by choosing to let Manitoba Hydro's own board review Manitoba Hydro's massive Bipole III transmission line, not the Public Utilities Board as promised by the Progressive Conservatives.

The PUB review of Bipole III was one of the promises Pallister made in their "first 100 days of change for a better Manitoba," campaign in the recent provincial election.

As Manitoba Hydro reports it, the $4.5 billion dollar Bipole III is nearly half complete. Manitoba Hydro says it is needed to add security and reliability to power transmission in the province and to increase capacity from northern hydro dams. This mantra of needing Bipole III for security is not entirely true as investing the same amount of money in renewables like solar and wind would support a far safer de-centralised power grid.

A de-centralised power grid would be almost immune to ice storms and climate events, and renewables are the best way a Manitoba government can keep its promise to First Nations and rate payers for a strong energy economy and long term jobs.

Not having a PUB review of Bipole III also keeps the decision making process in the hands of Manitoba Hydro and cuts out any public participation in such an important review.

The Manitoba Clean Environment Commission held hearings to review Bipole III. The environmental license for Bipole III is more extensive than for any other transmission project in the province. Bipole III was left out of the PUB review.

View May 12, 2016 CBC News article
View April 20, 2016 The Western Producer article
View April 13, 2016 Progressive Conservative article
View February 28, 2016 CTV News Winnipeg article

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Big Oil Abandons Arctic Drilling 16 May 16

After spending more than $2.5 billion on drilling rights in U.S. arctic waters, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Iona Energy Inc, and other big oil companies are quietly letting go of projects once claimed to be the next big discovery for the oil industry.

Crude oil prices have fallen to less than half of where they were in June 2014, forcing oil companies to cut spending. Shell and ConocoPhillips, decided to formally abandon arctic land claims before a May 1 due date to pay the U.S. government millions of dollars in rent to keep holdings in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska.

The U.S. Arctic is estimated to hold 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but energy companies have struggled to tap resources buried below icy waters at the top of the globe.

Big oil companies have relinquished 2.2 million acres of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea -- nearly 80 percent of the leases they bought from the U.S. government in a 2008 auction. Oil companies spent more than $2.6 billion buying up 2.8 million acres in the Chukchi Sea during the 2008 sale. This after spending millions on exploration claims in the Beaufort Sea.

The high costs of working in the Arctic means it is generally attractive only to large oil companies.

View May 9, 2016 Bloomberg article
View September 29, 2015 CBC News article
View September 28, 2015 The Guardian article
View September 28, 2015 BBC News article

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Mourning for Fort Mac 7 May 16

In a remarkable analysis distributed by email Thursday, Dale Marshall, National Program Manager at Environmental Defence, connects the tragedy unfolding in Fort McMurray with climate disasters and dislocations around the world.

I mourn for Fort Mac.

The stories and the images coming out of northern Alberta are devastating and scary. I can’t imagine what the people of Fort McMurray and the surrounding areas are going through, and everything they will continue to go through as they try to recover and rebuild homes, businesses, and communities they loved. I mourn for them.

Over the last couple of days, there are many others I have been thinking about, people that I had the honour and privilege of visiting, and the good fortune to be able to head back to my safe and secure home in Canada.

I remember the Maasai people, living in southern Kenya in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. They have lived a semi-nomadic life for centuries, moving season by season to find places for their cattle to graze and drink. When I visited them, despite all the collective, cultural knowledge held in their communities, their cattle were dying because they could not find enough food and water for them. No elder I spoke with had seen the land so altered as by the ongoing drought. The Kenyan government, in desperation, sent mechanical diggers throughout the region to dig down until they hit groundwater. Some of these pits, where water used to be available at the surface, were 20 or 30 feet deep. I mourn for them.

Read the rest of this column here:
Climate Hawk Mourns for Fort Mac…and Many Others

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Fort McMurray Burns in Climate Change Casino 7 May 16

'Fort McMurray was incinerated in a wildfire creating 80,000 climate refugees overnight. As tragic as this fire was, it is just one more city being destroyed in our climate change casino. Every city on our planet is vulnerable. Governments must do the right thing and declare a global climate change emergency.' Says Paul Beckwith, a University of Ottawa climate expert.

High winds and parched timber and brush from a spring heat wave stoked flames, which have engulfed 247,000 acres (101,000 hectares) in Canada's energy heartland since erupting May 2nd. Some 88,000 people were forced to flee Fort McMurray two days later. About a third of Canada's oil production has been shut due to wildfire storm, according to a Reuters estimate.

Canada's northern forests have been burning more frequently over recent decades as temperatures there are rising at twice the rate of the global average. A 2013 analysis showed that the boreal forests of Alaska and northern Canada are now burning at a rate unseen in at least the past 10,000 years. The extreme weather of recent months is also closely linked with the ongoing record-setting El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which tends to bring a warmer and drier winter to this part of Canada. Last month, Canadian officials mentioned the possibility of "large fires" after over-winter snowpack was 60 to 85 percent below normal and drought conditions worsened.

In 2012 a panel of experts issued a report that warned that the aging forests in Alberta were at great risk of 'catastrophic' wildfires. The Flat Top Complex report, named after the three fires which devastated Slave Lake in 2011, found that Alberta's forests were aging due to reduced wildfire activity that challenged ecosystems and increased the risk "of large and potentially catastrophic wildfires."

View May 7, 2016 Reuters article
View May 6, 2016 BBC News article
View May 4, 2016 Slate article
View May 4, 2016 National Post article
View Paul Beckwith Climate Systems Scientist website

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Fort McMurray Wildfire A Climate Event: May 7 May 16

"Of course," Elizabeth May said when asked if there was anything about the Fort McMurray wildfire that is linked to global warming. "The temperature records were being smashed through last month for northern Alberta," she said, while noting that no single event is caused by climate change alone. "It's due to global emissions."

"Scientists will say we know with a destabilized climate, with a higher average global temperature, we will see more frequent, more extreme weather events ... due to an erratic climate, due to our addiction to fossil fuels."

May later issued a statement to clarify her position.
“The devastating wildfires in Fort McMurray that continue to rage today are heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Fort McMurray, those who have lost homes and businesses, and first responders who continue to fight to extinguish the blaze," she said. “Some reports have suggested that the wildfires are directly caused by climate change. No credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim. Rather, we must turn our minds in the coming days to the impact of increased extreme climate events, and what we can do collectively to respond to these events."

Climate change scientists have predicted that the planet will continue to experience an increase in extreme weather events because of a rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The Trudeau government was advised when it was sworn in last November that wildfires were getting worse. The bureaucrats at Natural Resources Canada told their new minister, Jim Carr, that governments across the country hadn't provided enough funding to help communities prepare for the worst.

View May 6, 2016 Toronto Star article
View May 4, 2016 Elizabeth May article
View May 4, 2016 CBC News article
View May 4, 2016 Maclean's article
View May 4, 2016 The Georgia Straight article
View May 4, 2016 Canoe.com blog post

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Manitoba Protected Areas Audit Released During Election 15 April 16

Manitoba Wildlands has released its multi year audit of government steps to establish protected areas, based on public policy and commitments. Based on actions since January 1, 2013 the audit includes any crown land designation that is protected. These may be wildlife management areas, ecological reserves, provincial forest areas, park reserves, national parks or provincial parks.

There is a discrepancy between Manitoba government data for the protected lands that shows 12% versus Manitoba Wildlands' data at 9.9%. Regulations for protection from mining are missing for some designations as of December 31,2015.

"We have spent much of the winter identifying gaps in the regulatory system for protected areas, with the aim of urging government departments to complete the steps needed for protected areas already announced. Often it is the Mines Act regulation that is missing. As of April 13 some of these regulations are still outstanding. Included in the missing regulations are the First Nations traditional lands planning areas for the future World Heritage Site. The tracking chart shows NO in the column regarding protection from mining.

Manitoba needs to return to its former rigor and professionalism regarding the scientific, consultative, and regulatory steps for protected areas establishment," indicated Gaile Whelan Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands.

View more information on Manitoba Wildlands Protected Areas Grades & Audit page
View Manitoba Wildlands' 2015 Protected Areas Audit - Summary (PDF)
View Manitoba Wildlands' 2015 Protected Areas Audit (PDF)

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Opposition To Fracking Growing 10 April 16

A new study by Stanford scientists published in Environmental Science & Technology finds that fracking operations in Wyoming had clear impact to underground sources of drinking water. The research paints a picture of unsafe practices including the dumping of drilling and production fluids containing diesel fuel, and high chemical concentrations in unlined pits with a lack of adequate cement barriers to protect groundwater. Drilling companies use proprietary blends that can include potentially dangerous chemicals such as benzene and xylene. When the wastewater comes back up after use, it often includes those and a range of potentially dangerous natural chemicals.

Concerns about this practice have riled the U.S. political landscape and communities around the country, perhaps nowhere more so than in Pavillion, Wyoming, population 231. As part of the so-called frackwater they inject into the ground, drilling companies use proprietary blends that can include potentially dangerous chemicals such as benzene and xylene. When the wastewater comes back up after use, it often includes those and a range of potentially dangerous natural chemicals.

"Decades of activities at Pavillion put people at risk. These are not best practices for most drillers," said co-authorRob Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

A new study of the effects of fracking in Canada, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin” confirms the horizontal drilling technique (which in essence creates an underground mini-earthquake to open up fissures for oil and gas extraction) is responsible for earthquakes in western Canada, above and beyond what is already canonized in the scientific literature. Injecting fracking waste into underground wells can cause quakes. Now it's not just injections wells, but the fracking procedure itself being linked to seismic activity.

Polls in both Canada and the U.S. show a steady growth in opposition to fracking and the risks to drinking water it poses. Add the fact that fracking caused earthquakes are now common place and you have a very sound argument to end fracking.

View April 4, 2016 DeSmogBlog article
View March 30, 2016 Fusion article
View March 30, 2016 Gallup article
View March 29, 2016 Stanford News article
View March 29, 2016 DeSmogBlog article

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Seven Year Old Sues Pakistan Over Climate Change 10 April 16

A 7-year-old girl, Rabab Ali, through her father and pro bono environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar, and on behalf of all the Pakistani people, has filed a climate change lawsuit against the Federation of Pakistan in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Constitution Petition asserts that, through the exploitation and continued promotion of fossil fuels, in particular dirty coal, the Pakistan and Sindh governments have violated the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation's fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information and equal protection of the law.

"The protection of these inalienable and fundamental rights is essential if we are to have any chance of leaving our children and future generations with a stable climate system and environment capable of sustaining human life," said Qazi Ali Athar, public interest environmental attorney representing his daughter as youth petitioner in the case.

"Pakistan is rich in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, more than enough to meet the energy needs of current and future generations of Pakistanis. Yet the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan, along with the vested interests in the country and the region, are exploiting Pakistan's most environmentally degrading and carbon intensive fuels—low-grade coal from the Thar Coal Reserves—in violation of the Pakistani people's constitutionally protected fundamental rights."

The case is the latest in a global string of lawsuits geared at forcing governments to do more on climate change. It follows a landmark win in the Netherlands last year, where the government was forced to increase emissions reductions targets.

View April 8, 2016 New Matilda article
View April 6, 2016 EcoWatch article
View June 24, 2015 The Guardian article
View March 30, 2015 The Guardian article

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Over 130 Countries to Sign Paris Agreement April 22 10 April 16

The 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement opens for signature on 22 April 2016 during a ceremony convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, marking an important international push to the agreement’s timely entry into force.

Last December in Paris, world leaders came together to agree on a set of goals and pathways to decarbonize the global economy and increase capacity to adapt to climate change. It was a landmark achievement, but just the beginning. Every country – with the support of cities, the private sector, and citizens – must now move swiftly to fulfill its promises and bring climate change under control.

Over 130 countries have confirmed to United Nations headquarters that they will attend the signing ceremony, including some 60 world leaders, amongst them President Francois Hollande of France. Canada's prime minister will be there to sign.

The event will also be attended by the President of COP21, France’s Segolene Royal, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , Christiana Figueres. All Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are invited to sign the agreement. International practice is that full powers are required to sign.

View April 8, 2016 Climate Change News article
View April 7, 2016 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change article
View April 7, 2016 United Nations article
View United Nations Tackling Climate Change page

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Quebec Cree Sue Ontario and Canada 12 March 16

The James Bay Cree Nation has commenced an action in the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, to obtain recognition of the Cree Nation's Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights over its traditional territory in northern Ontario, Eeyou Istchee - Ontario. The lawsuit, filed against the governments of Canada and Ontario, seeks declarations of Aboriginal title (on a shared basis with other Aboriginal nations) and Aboriginal rights over approximately 48,000 square kilometres of lands located south of James Bay and immediately west of the Ontario-Quebec boundary. In addition, the lawsuit claims damages of $495 million for past breaches of the Cree Nation's rights in relation to these lands.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come calls the suit the latest chapter in the Cree Nation's struggle to ensure that its pre-existing rights over all of its traditional lands are properly respected.

"The imposition of the Ontario-Quebec boundary cut through our homeland of Eeyou Istchee," Coon Come said in a release. Our people have used, occupied, governed and protected these lands in Ontario since time immemorial, but our rights in these lands have never been addressed in any treaty," he said.

View March 8, 2016 CBC News article
View March 7, 2016 Newswire article
View March 7, 2016 Global News article
View November 4, 2015 CTV News article

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Taxpayers To Pay For Arctic Oil Exploration 12 March 16

After the very public failure of a number of Arctic drilling attempts last year, Big Oil companies are lobbying the government of Canada to extend their drilling licenses and relinquish hundreds of millions in security deposits.

The Liberal government says it is proceeding, behind closed doors, with a review of Canada's Arctic drilling law that could see it relinquish up to $500 million to major oil companies that want to use the money to pursue risky exploration projects. Not only do the big oil companies want extensions on their contracts, they are seeking repayment on the collective $500 million in security deposits to obtain those licenses—after they give Arctic drilling another shot.

Arctic oil exploration has slowed down in the wake of a plunge in global commodity prices. The industry also struggled to meet new safety conditions imposed by authorities following BP's 2010 offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists who have reviewed the paper trail say they have been skeptical about the review ever since it was announced.

"Now, (the review) is being continued under a different government, and it's possible that this minister has a different objective of the review than (former Conservative minister) Valcourt," said Speers-Roesch, from Greenpeace Canada. "So I guess you can't be sure that the same attitude is there. Maybe they're taking a different approach, but that remains to be seen."

View February 29, 2016 National Observer article
View February 29, 2016 eNews Part Forest article
View November 24, 2015 National Observer article
View Canada Petroleum Resources Act
View Frequently Asked Questions: SSRW Technical Proceedings

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