This remarkable mission was built by NASA for more than $100 million but then mothballed after the 2000 presidential election. Many in the scientific community are outraged that that this novel experiment was seemingly buried by the Bush Whitehouse, likely in an effort to limit emerging science around climate change.
Beyond being able to directly measure the energy budget of our warming planet for the first time ever, this spacecraft would also continuously return high resulotion images of our planet from a distance of 1 million miles.
In order to make it easier for people to review everything I have researched and written on the DSCOVR mission, I have set up a stand alone blog for these postings. It is available at: www.dscovr.blogspot.com. I hope you find it useful. It remains invisible to Google, so please link to it if you like.
Most importantly, if anyone close to the mission, or in the scientific community has information or documents they would like to share in confidence, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail a brown envelope to:
1207-207 West Hastings St.
Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
Your planet thanks you.
First of all, these amazing events are not an illegal power grab by a political fringe. It is an entirely legitimate and unprecedented level of cooperation among four of Canada’s five political parties that represent fully 62% of the popular vote in the last election.
Yet many seem startled that former bitter foes are somehow coming together in a new and unusual way. What’s the catch? Where is the hidden agenda?
Like all political parties, these players are motivated simply by the opportunity to govern. There is nothing wrong with that. The currency of commerce is money; the currency of politics is power. It is that powerful imperative that will hold these disparate parties together as they move forward to govern our nation.
Of course there will be tensions and disagreements between the three signatories to the coalition agreement. But all know very well that if they allow their short term partisan differences get the better of them, they will face another election and likely a Stephen Harper majority. That is motivation enough for hoary political pragmatists of all stripes to toe the line in cooperation with their former adversaries, whether they like it or not.
All this means that for the first time in living memory, Canadian politics has become interesting. Our parliamentary system was designed to test the legitimacy of governing parties by holding them to the daily scrutiny by the opposition. The Harper government has clearly failed that test in a way not yet experienced in the history of Canada.
The coalition government as proposed by Dion, Layton and Duceppe is entirely consistent with our constitution, and far more desirable than forcing Canadians to trudge to the polls in another divisive and unwanted election.
However, the main obstacle to co-operative governance in Canada is not legal or political, it is the widely held and entirely backwater belief that coalition governments are somehow radical or undesirable.
If fact, virtually every government in Europe now uses some form of coalition rule, which typically results in representative, accountable and stable governments as a matter of course. Switzerland has had the same coalition government arrangement since 1959. Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands are all routinely governed by coalitions.
Because different parties know that they have to work together or loose power, the public debate tends to be more respectful than the embarrassing spectacles for which Ottawa has become infamous. Coalitions also mean that governments are more accountable to the people between elections – not just on voting day.
Yet many Canadians (and of course all politicians) still yearn for the so-called “stability” of majority governments. To those puzzling souls, I can only suggest casting your mind back to the dark days of trough wallowing under the Mulroney Conservatives. Let’s also not forget the Versailles-like arrogance of the Chretien government and the abundant political rot that inevitably followed.
Such “majorities” are also a misnomer. Since 1921, Canada has had 15 “majority” governments of which only 4 garnered more than 50% of the popular vote. In all other cases over 50% of Canadians who bothered to vote, voted against whatever government enjoyed virtual dictatorial powers during their “majority” rule.
Those voices now howling against our budding parliamentary cooperation seem rooted in nothing more principled than pure political bigotry.
Harper rails against governing with “socialists” and “separatists” in a bid to save his political hide. Those die-hards on the left indignantly sniff at the idea of cooperating with their former foes the Liberals. I’m sure Gilles Duceppe is now fending off attacks from those in his ranks that would rather cling to rigid ideology than engage in hard work of seeking accommodation with other viewpoints.
The simple truth is that every member of the house has earned the mandate to represent the people of Canada, whether you agree with them or not. For far too long our political process has been hobbled by cartoonish simplifications of the Canadian political landscape, and imprisoned by outdated and self-serving partisan politics.
Canadians are sick of it and clearly voted with their backsides in the last election, producing the lowest voter turnout since confederation. It is time for this country to grow up.
Canada stands at a crossroads. We can continue with the divisive politics that everyone is so clearly weary of. Or we can try something new that is clearly within our parliamentary system and national character: cooperation and accommodation.
Courage, Canada. You can do it.
The story is incredible.
The big question has always been: who would want to kill a $100 million fully completed climate satellite that has sat in a box since the 2000 presidential election - even though dozens of leading scientists have demanded it be launched?
“Apparently Cheney was the hatchet man”, said the source. “Bush tried the keep his hands clean so he didn’t actually have direct involvement. It almost reminds me of the way Nixon used to operate…He assigned Cheney to be the hatchet man job on DSCOVR… That’s what we heard through the grapevine.”
Our source did not want their identity revealed due to the pervasive culture of fear that permeates NASA under the Bush Administration: “People are somewhat intimidated – but it will all unravel. People will talk. It will come out. These things always do.”
So why would the Bush Administration want DSCOVR dead?
Our source offered these thoughts:
“The reputation in early days was that Al Gore thought of it, so when Bush was elected the mission basically just disappeared. It never got launched. And that had never happened at NASA before…That’s what so weird about it. The people at NASA Headquarters, the ones who won’t return your phone calls and won’t talk about it - their position is that this is just a normal course of events. It’s really strange. They are obviously covering something up.”
Beyond Gore, there was also the issue that DSCOVR would further our understanding of climate change -something the Bush Administration was never keen on. According to our source:
“The Whitehouse...felt threatened by [DSCOVR]. They didn’t want to hear anything about the Earth changing because that meant climate change, and that means CO2 and then they would have to regulate CO2 and they just wanted to avoid anything to do with that… Cheney was the chief hatch man on climate change in general. That’s the rumor that went around.”
Of course there is little chance of finding hard evidence of Whitehouse interference in this mission. I have filed numerous freedom of information requests with NASA, NOAA and the Whitehouse but came up with almost nothing. The Whitehouse is not even subject to FOIA anymore. Virtually all internal documents related to the DSCOVR mission have been kept secret.
Our source is not surprised: “That’s going to be really hard to nail because Cheney is deleting all his emails.”
It turns out that the mission was always a weird one. The NASA leadership insisted from the start that this spacecraft fly into orbit aboard the space shuttle. Those close to the mission were incredulous.
“There was the stupidity of putting it one the shuttle. That was just absolutely silly. You don’t launch satellites to that high of an orbit on the shuttle. The normal NASA tradition is to launch a satellite like that on a rocket.”
Because DSCOVR had to go far beyond the low Earth orbit accessible by the shuttle, a large rocket motor would need to fly aboard the shuttle to boost DSCOVR to L1 one million miles distant. Not a good idea.
“A big rocket motor with its fuel tanks filled is basically a bomb. Using the shuttle as a carrier for what is basically a bomb is not smart. It was absolutely stupid from the get-go.”
So why the mission forced onto the shuttle?
“There’s no good reason. NASA will give you reasons but there’s actually no good reason. It was a very strange decision. It was a decision that the science team tried to fight but were never able to even get to first base on it”, said our source.
They were told by NASA brass ‘we’re going to launch it on the shuttle and that’s that and don’t talk to us about it and stop complaining’”.
Our source also provides a chilling insider account of how the spacecraft was on track to be launched by another agency as late as last year, but was abruptly cancelled.
“It seemed that everything was on track to give the satellite to NOAA and they would be refurbish and launch it and then - boom. It just disappeared off the radar screen and no one would talk about it. It was very weird. It gave me the creeps actually. I’ve never seen that happen at NASA, before where things would disappear and no one would talk about them. It was like the way people would disappear in a dictatorship regime.”
Our source made no bones about the importance of this novel experiment to provide continuous monitoring of the daytime and nighttime profiles of our planet.
While DSCOVR’s destination L1 is one million miles towards the sun, there is another gravitational parking spot called L2 beyond Earth away from the Sun. If a similar spacecraft were also placed there, scientists would have a continuous view of the both the daytime and nighttime profiles of our warming planet.
“Those two points would have been revolutionary for doing remote sensing of the Earth. All our satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit meaning that they pass over the same time every day. So you have way of getting information about the so-called diurnal cycle. DCSOVR and other satellite at L2 would mean the whole Earth would be covered.”
Having DSCOVR at L1 and similar spacecraft at L2 would allow scientists to resolve glaring gaps in our understanding of the Earth’s energy budget and our understanding of global warming.
“Low Earth orbit satellites are not able to close the Earth’s outgoing radiation budget. It’s pretty far off - it’s quite an embarrassment… They can’t close the Earth’s radiation budget better than six watts per square meter. We have every reason to believe to that the Earth is out of balance by only one watt for square meter, which accounts the global warming. It was so embarrassing they kept it quiet for a while”
DSCOVR would not only solve that important problem but also provide a completely new perspective for NASA to carry out their important mandate of monitoring our changing planet.
“It would been significant because it would meant that NASA was finally getting out of low Earth orbit, where they’re stuck. NASA doesn’t have any high Earth orbit satellites, not geostationary, not L1, not L2. It’s very weird. “
You would think that resolving the Earth’s energy budget at this point in history would be a priority for NASA, especially given they have a perfectly good $100 million instrument sitting in a box that would help them do that. But I digress…
NASA leadership have also frequently relied on the so-called Decadal Survey as a rationale for killing DSCOVR. This was an effort to prioritize potential NASA missions for the next ten years. DSCOVR was not prominently featured in this assessment but our source is not surprised.
“All the people involved in the Decadal Survey knew what NASA’s attitude toward DCSOVR was. They weren’t going to take on a political hot potato, why should they? It wasn’t that they thought it was a bad idea, it’s that they were politically sensitive… So they ignored it. So for NASA now to use their ignoring it as an argument against it is really hypocritical frankly.”
For some reason DSCOVR was also included in this assessment even though it was already built at a cost $100 million, something our source feels is incredible.
“It’s putting DSCOVR in the same hopper as un-built missions. And that’s kind of silly… It didn’t really need to be ranked by the decadal survey. Suppose every mission that NASA built was then subjected of to a panel of scientists to decide whether to launch it or not? That would be kind of silly wouldn’t it? The whole thing is just sheer hypocrisy.
What about the peculiar notion of the Air Force launching DSCOVR without the earth observing instruments as a way to save money? Our source it at a loss why NASA would ever consider doing that.
“That’s just bizarre… The instruments would have to be refurbished but NASA gave some ridiculously outsized estimate of what it would cost to do that. It was like ten times too high in order to kill the idea of having Earth viewing instruments. There have been a lot of shenanigans around this mission. It’s embarrassing for me personally because I used to have huge respect for NASA and I’ve lost some. I’ve seen people do stuff that I would never thought I would see people do.”
Our contact was cautiously hopeful that things at NASA may change in the future.
“The Whitehouse created a climate of fear within government and that was intentional. But the administration is changing… Once Bush is truly out, things will start to unravel. Eventually the whole crowd at NASA headquarters will change and then there might be a new a spirit of openness. Or they might want to just bury the past and move on…”
And what about DSCOVR?
“It’s sad for NASA that they are stuck trying the trash DSCOVR when it’s actually a great idea…They hate it so much at this point and they are so determined to put it in a box and keep it there forever…They’re just trying the figure out how to bury it.”
I will of course continue digging on DSCOVR to make sure that doesn’t happen. The cone of silence around this fascinating story is starting to crumble but the clock is ticking bring the truth out before the spacecraft is destroyed.
If anyone has knowledge of the mission they would like to share in confidence, please contact me here. Your planet thanks you.
It doesn't work for everyone, but it seems about half of the names on the list are entwined in some way with the giant network of groups like the Heartland Institute that receive funding from ExxonMobil and their ilk to downplay the dangers of climate change.
Now why would the oil industry do that?
A far better question is “why wouldn’t they”? The fossil fuel industry is worth between $8 and $9 trillion – about six times bigger than the next biggest global industrial sector, which happens to be cars. With that kind of money at stake, you can bet there will be some serious push-back around meaningful regulation of carbon dioxide.
When tobacco was threatened by pesky regulation aimed at curbing its dangerous product, they went and hired some phony scientists to conduct one of the most successful and heinous PR campaigns in history.
A now infamous internal memo leaked from tobacco giant Brown and Williamson stated coldly:
“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy...if we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health.”
Back to Big Oil. They simply borrowed the PR campaign pioneered so successfully by Big Tobacco and went and hired some phony scientists of their own to churn up climate change misinformation in the mainstream media.
The difference between oil and tobacco is size. The tobacco industry is worth a mere $300 billion annually. That is less than less than 4% the size of the behemoth that is the fossil fuel industry.
Big Oil has some big money to spread around in order to massage public opinion to their benefit, and they are of course not shy about doing whatever it takes to get their way.
Which brings us back to the Heartland Institute. Desmog blog readers might recall that it was also the Heartland Institute who bragged that they had a list of 500 scientists whose work contradicted that human-caused climate change was real.
We took the trouble of contacting many of these scientists who were surprised and appalled their research and reputations were being misrepresented by the likes of the climate deniers at Heartland. For my own enjoyment, I offer some of the more colorful quotes from the offended scientists:
I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite." - Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh
“I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there."- Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University
“I don't believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article."- Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford
“Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"- Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University
“I'm outraged that they've included me as an "author" of this report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary."- Dr. John Clague, Shrum Research Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University
“They have taken our ice core research in Wyoming and twisted it to meet their own agenda. This is not science."- Dr. Paul F. Schuster, Hydrologist, US Geological Survey
“Please remove my name IMMEDIATELY from the following article and from the list which misrepresents my research."- Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth, Department of Geology, State University of New York at BuffaloSo when the Heartland folks again trot out another list of “climate experts” to back up Big Oil’s position on global warming, take it with a very large grain of salt.
This is not good news.
Jones is currently a director of Chevron Oil. He also heads of the Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy - a group lobbying on energy issues in DC and described by the Grist as “part of the Republican machine, dominated by -- and lobbying fiercely for the interests of -- Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Pharma, and other such Bigs.”
As their president, Jones has made a number of troubling blog postings calling for the repeal of restrictions of off-shore drilling, scaled up oil sands development, coal extraction, coal-to-liquids, nuclear energy, and waiving various environmental protections.
When he is National Security Adviser to Obama, Jones will be in a powerful position to make these environmental roll-backs happen.
Have a look at this recent post General Jones made on the importance of scaling up production of dirty oil from the Alberta tar sands:
“We must continue to invest jointly in the technologies that will allow us to use oil sands and oil shale in an environmentally responsible way. It is estimated that by 2030, production from Canadian oil sands will reach 3.6 million barrels a day. This represents a promising new source of energy at a time when many existing oil fields are in decline. An important step for the United States to take is the repeal of Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which prevents the federal government from utilizing non-traditional fuel sources, such as oil shale, for its vehicles and aircrafts.”
General Jones goes on to tout the virtues of carbon capture and storage as a way to have our oily cake and eat it too:
“We must work together to increase investments in carbon capture and sequestration technologies to ensure its viability for harnessing the coal and oil sands that our countries have in abundance. Technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration offer the potential to meet energy demands while promoting environmental stewardship.”
This sunny evaluation is spite of a secret Alberta government memo showing that decision makers have known since at least the spring of 2008 that carbon capture at the tar sands on a meaningful scale remains impossible. This of course has not stopped politicians from telling the public exactly the opposite.
General Jones also holds forth on the a series of other issues that will be music to the ears of the oil, nuke and coal industries:
- Permanently end the moratorium on exploration and production of America’s oil and natural gas resources.
- Expand the federal Loan Guarantee Program to increase the construction of emission-free nuclear power plants.
- Increase federal investments in clean coal technology to $20 billion over ten years, with half coming from the federal government and half from the private sector through a small fee on fossil-based utilities.Will Obama will bring “real change” to DC? We'll be watching closely.
It seems their editors were interested in the news I broke that the Air Force was considering launching this $100 million mothballed spacecraft – minus the Earth observing instruments.
Last week they published an 800 word article based on information I provided to them about this bizarre story.
Alas, my extensive research on the DSCOVR mission was not mentioned in the Nature article, but such is the lot of a blogger.
More importantly, the exposure provided by this piece in one of the premier journals in the world will hopefully light a fire under NASA to not to kill this vital mission.
According to Nature, NASA “is now in talks with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Air Force about finally getting the probe off the ground. But the negotiations might mean that the spacecraft loses its Earth-observing instruments and instead goes into orbit with a remit to stare only at the Sun. An Earth-observing satellite that can see the whole planet is described as 'crucial' to climate research."
Lead researchers pull no punches when asked about the idiotic idea of blinding the spacecraft by removing the Earth observing instruments prior to launch.
“Stripping the two Earth-monitoring systems from DSCOVR to save money is an "appalling" idea, says Francisco Valero, the mission's principal investigator at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.”
The piece goes on to describe the unique perspective that DSCOVR would provide researchers studying climate change.
“Satellites in low-Earth orbit make similar energy measurements but can observe only small sections of Earth at a time. DSCOVR would offer a "global, rather than myopic, perspective of the planet", Valero says. One of its Earth-monitoring instruments, a spectroradiometer, would indirectly measure variables such as ozone levels, aerosols, cloud thickness and water vapour. The other, a radiometer, would measure reflected and emitted radiation for the whole planet.”
However the clock is ticking on saving this mission from powerful people that want to destroy the spacecraft. Many scientists are starting to publicly voice their support for this critical mission and the data it would provide from vantage of Lagrangian point L1, one million miles away.
"In March 2008, the Ernst Strüngmann Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany, held an invitation-only forum for 44 top climate scientists. Many participants, none of whom was directly involved with DSCOVR, agreed that satellite observations of Earth from L-1 are essential for assessing changes in cloud cover and climate.”
I will continue to rake up more muck on this incredible story, and it seems like we are getting somewhere. My last posting on DSCOVR at Desmog Blog.com was read 32,000 times.
That is perhaps best word to describe a class action lawsuit filed this week in the International Criminal Court in The Hague in Holland against national governments refusing to act on reducing carbon emissions.
The suit was filed by climate activist Danny Bloom who is asking for "US$1 billion dollars in damages on behalf of future generations of human beings on Earth - if there are any"
The lawsuit is specifically seeking damages from "all world leaders for intent to commit manslaughter against future generations of human beings by allowing murderous amounts of fossil fuels to be harvested, burned and sent into the atmosphere as CO2, causing possible apocalyptic harm to the Earth's ecosystem and the very future of the human species.
The point of the suit of course is not to wring money out of carbon emitters, but to embarrass the legions of laggard governments in advance of upcoming international climate negotiations next month in Poland.
According to Bloom, the legal action "is about trying to protect future generations of mankind, humankind, and a positive judgment in this case will help prod more people to take the issues of climate change and global warming more seriously. We fully intend to make all world leaders of today responsible for their actions in the present day and age."
This case is a legal long shot no doubt, but Bloom's team said ""it's up to the court to decide whether this case has any merit. We fully expect the court to agree to at least hear the case and make a responsible and measured decision later."
It would also be the first case of its kind to seek to act on behalf of future generations for the irresponsibility of their ancestors.
The need to put world leaders on the hot seat is very real. International climate talks like the one happening next month in Poland have happening for over a decade yet global emissions just keep climbing. A recent report showed that in spite of international commitments, carbon emissions of 40 industrialized countries rose by 2.3 percent between 2000 and 2006.
That said, those countries that signed Kyoto saw their overall emissions fall by 17% below 1990. The disgraceful outlier among those nations is Canada, whose emissions ballooned by over 20% in spite of having ratifying Kyoto.
Canada's Prime Minister Harper has called Kyoto a "mistake" and he seems openly contemptuous of such international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Mr. Harper is of course not alone in the responsibility for Canada' terrible climate change record. The Canadian public recently handed him another mandate in a general election.
Back to Mr. Bloom. His lawsuit seems directly targeted towards such irresponsible nations like Canada that have refused to take this issue seriously. If he wins, Bloom is planning to donate the $1 billion in damages to the Nobel winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Godspeed Mr. Bloom.
The president-elect last week sent Jason Grumet, a policy adviser mentioned for a possible energy post, to an environmental conference in Washington to offer reassurances that there would be swift movement on climate change legislation. Observers feel this is an early sign that Obama is taking a hard line on carbon.
"The whole transition team felt it important to be here," Grumet said. "I think it is going to be a very very busy 2009, and I think we are going to need all of you to be on top of your game."
Grumet is also no fan of the filthy oil coming from the tar sands. In June, he told reporters, "The amount of energy that you have to use to get that [tar sands] oil out of the ground is such that it actually creates a much greater impact on climate change."
"We [Obama's team] are going to support resources... that meet our long-term obligations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. And I think it's an open question as to whether or not the Canadian resources are going to meet those tests," said Grumet.
You can almost feel posteriors puckering across the Alberta oil patch. After all, what good is the world’s largest capital project, if the US doesn’t want to buy what it produces?
So far over $200 billion has been sunk into this bitumen boondoggle. Flagging oil prices, a slowing economy and now a new Administration committed to a green energy future all add up to bad news for big oil.
No surprise then that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper virtually lunged at the newly elected Obama with a protect-the-oil-sands-plan almost before the victory confetti had hit the ground in Chicago.
According to analyst Gwen Dyer, “Harper's strategy is transparent. He wants a climate-change pact with the United States in which Alberta's "dirty oil" is exempted from controls on the grounds that it contributes to that other American national goal, "energy independence."
Dyer points out that the boogieman of an oil embargo of the kind that traumatized the US in 1973 has long since become a red herring. Why? Because since ’73 oil-exporting nations such as Saudi Arabia have become as addicted to selling the west their oil as we have become at buying it.
Saudi Arabia seen its population triple in the last thirty five years. Even with this massive increase in people, their per capita GDP has also risen by a stunning 556% between 1973 and 2006. Yet as of 2007, non-oil manufacturing contributed a mere 10% to Saudi Arabian GDP and less than 6% of total employment. If America has an oil monkey on its back, so do the Saudis.
Real “energy independence” has much more to do with reducing carbon emissions and avoiding shoveling billions of dollars into someone else's economy. Canada would of course enjoy the US pouring all that cash into our coffers instead, but that will not help the American trade balance much more than buying Saudi crude.
According to Dyer, “Stephen Harper is appealing to the stupid version of the energy independence policy: Maybe the Ay-rabs won't sell you their oil, but the Canadians always will. It will be instructive to see if Obama falls for it.”Who would have thought that Canada could only be dragged into global moral alignment by Uncle Sam on the most important issue of the 21st century? Roll over Pierre.
But this envy is not merely about charisma. The United States seems well on the road to finally getting serious about climate change. Canada under Harper now has perhaps the worst climate policy of any country in the developed world. In fact, had John McCain prevailed instead, Canada would still be trailing the US in carbon reduction targets.
Worse still, Mr. Harper is trying to drag the US down with us. Just this week, Harper proposed to Obama that Canada and the US enter into a climate agreement that would guarantee the continued pell-mell development of the Alberta tar sands. To Obama’s credit, and our shame, the US very likely won’t collude with us to the detriment of our the planet’s atmosphere.
During the campaign, Obama’s team was highly critical of the US’s continued reliance on “dirty oil”. That is a widely perceived to be a code word for oil originating from the Alberta tar sands.
So energy intensive are these very low-grade deposits that 700 million cubic of relatively clean natural gas are burnt each day just to extract tar from rock. This is enough to heat more than 3.7 million Canadian homes.
It is not just the massive emissions resulting from separating tar from sand. The only reason you produce oil is to refine it and burn it in vehicles. This precludes the very oversold concept of “carbon capture”, unless of course you trail a very long hose behind your car.
Production and downstream emissions for Alberta synthetic crude are 638 kg carbon dioxide per barrel – much higher than conventional oil.
Based on extractable reserves of 175 billion barrels, the oil sands will eventually contribute an incredible 112 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the planet’s atmosphere – equivalent to all fossil fuel and industrial emissions worldwide combined over a period of more than four years.
Released all at once, these emissions would single handedly bump atmospheric CO2 concentrations close to 400 ppm. This is perilously close to potential catastrophic tipping points identified by the scientific community. It’s hard to imagine meaningful emissions targets that would not limit the development of the Alberta oil sands.
Back to Barack. He has committed the United States to a U-turn on climate policy, including strict carbon caps. That of course would be a disaster for oil-addled Alberta – Harper’s political power base. After all, what good is the world’s largest capital project, if our biggest trading partner doesn’t want to buy what it produces?
Watching the US for the last eight years has been like watching an old friend with a drinking problem. Just as Uncle Sam seems ready to sober up, Canada is trying to hand him another bottle.Expect to see Harper try to take our country and the US even farther on the wrong side of history. Expect the US to say no.
Most of Canada cheered when Obama prevailed but the fact is that even if John McCain had been elected president, the United States would now have far more ambitious carbon reduction goals than Canada.
A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada shows that Canada now has among the worst environmental records of 17 of our major trading partners, ranking only slightly above Australia and the US.These are only the latest in a series of shameful embarrassments on the world stage that would make Pierre Trudeau spin in his crypt.
Consider Canada’s outrageous flogging of cancer causing asbestos to the poorest countries in the world. The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently compared Canada’s aggressive promotion of our asbestos industry to the “international arms trade”.Last week Ottawa succeeded in preventing Canadian asbestos from being included in the Rotterdam Convention. This agreement would merely require informing impoverished nations of the well-known human health risks of using this deadly substance.
Rather than defending this heinous position to international community, the Canadian government instead cut a quiet deal behind closed doors with such moral luminaries as Zimbabwe and Russia.Our country is also become closely aligned with the worst of George Bush’s foreign policy. We have spent close to $20 billion intervening in impoverished Afghanistan, but less than 10% of this was aid. The vast majority of there has instead been on aggressive counter-insurgency.
This, while our military allies are plainly stating that international troops are now "part of the problem, not part of the solution".
Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis unfolds largely unnoticed in the Congo that may rival the Holocaust in loss of human life.The UN is pleading for peacekeepers, a vocation that was invented by Canadians. Yet in 2006, the number of Canadian peacekeepers worldwide could fit on a school bus. The genocide in Rwanda only fifteen years ago is apparently ancient history.
Canada’s perennial inability or unwillingness to deal with aboriginal living conditions, homelessness, child poverty, world poverty or universal day care speak volumes about what kind of country we have become.While many Canadians enjoy absolving themselves by instead slagging Stephen Harper, at least he is honest in his disdain for such apparently naïve causes as environmental protection and peacekeeping.
More Canadians voted for his party than any other, and he won the election fair and square on a clear campaign of lower taxes and cheaper fuel. Had he also thrown in free cable, a grateful nation might well have handed him a majority.The political Left in Canada remains far more committed to partisan gains than egalitarian principles. The provincial NDP’s brazen opposition to the BC carbon tax is a sickening case in point. Jack Layton successfully fear-mongered the proposed Liberal carbon tax in apparent collusion with the Tories.
Both parties maintained that this was an untried experiment though both knew very well that such taxes had been successfully employed in Europe for almost twenty years.Sweden brought in a carbon tax seventeen years ago and has reduced absolute carbon emissions by 9% below 1990 levels while their economy grew by 44%. Here in the bumpkin backwater of Canada, emissions have ballooned by over 20% with no end (or concern) in sight.
Meanwhile the Green Party succeeded in wasting almost one million progressive votes and have ambitious plans for even more counter-productive lunacy.For their part, the Liberals immediately threw the hapless Stephane Dion under the bus, and new leadership contenders are rapidly distancing themselves from the political plutonium of meaningful environmental policy.
Even with such stark choices in the last federal election, less than 60% of eligible Canadian voters bothered to exercise their democratic rights that many Canadian veterans gave their lives for. This is the worst voter turn out since confederation.Electoral reform is one potential route out of this morass but that issue seems dead as a doornail in our jerkwater country.
Every other developed nation in the world besides Canada, the US and the UK have rejected the ancient first past the post system that was a museum piece when we inherited it from the British 150 years ago.Provincial referenda on electoral reform have failed so far in BC, PEI, and most recently in Ontario where more than 60% of the public rejected the idea with the strident support of such supposedly progressive newspapers as the Toronto Star.
I do not enjoy writing these words but they are true. These and other issues have pushed me in sad transition from proud Canadian to someone who is increasingly ashamed of my country. The fact is that our international reputation was forged over 40 years ago and very little has happened since.We can of course do much better but for the time being, and foreseeable future, we have chosen not to. It is not surprising that no leader remotely approaching the stature of Obama or Trudeau has appeared on the Canadian landscape. They would wither in the stripmall worldview that has become our new Canadian character.
Is our country capable of picking up the inspirational gauntlet that has been cast down by our southern neighbours? I sincerely doubt it, but would be delighted to be proven wrong.
Between March 2005 and May 2006, three representatives of Chesapeake Climate Action Network were apparently being spied on due to their non-violent efforts to raise awareness about climate change.
All three received letters from the Maryland State Police this October blandly stating that there was “no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime” and they had the option to view the files once, without a camera or lawyer present, before the surveillance records were destroyed.
Obviously, the three young activists were none too pleased to learn that Big Brother was picking through their underwear drawer due to their opposition to Big Oil.
Mike Tidwell, the founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said in his blog “since 2001, I have devoted my life entirely to the peaceful promotion of windmills and solar panels to solve global warming. Apparently not everyone liked my work, however.”
Josh Tulkin is another one of the “gang of three”, who has since moved on to work for another climate action organization.
He provided a video statement and said for the record, “I won’t be intimidated. Like so many young people, I understand that global warming will have severe impacts on my future, and we are working together to address this problem. I am proud of the action of my peers, and we should be supported, not suspected.”
Most disturbingly, this bizarre action against non-violent activists appears to be politically motivated. The letter provided to all three says they are being informed of the program only due to review and change of heart initiated at the governor’s office. Specifically the letter states:
On July 31, 2008, at the request of Governor Martin O'Malley, former Attorney General Stephen H Sachs agreed to conduct an independent review of an intelligence-gathering operation undertaken by the Maryland State Police from March 2005 to May 2006.
Mr. Sachs' report was released on October1, 2008. His report made several recommendations for action by the Maryland State Police, among which was to contact all individuals who are presently described in the MSP's Case Explorer database program as being “suspected of involvement in terrorism but as to whom MSP has no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime." Additionally, the report recommended that MSP provide these individuals the opportunity to review the relevant Case Explorer entries before purging these entries. I agreed to this recommendation.
You are one of the individuals whose name was placed in the Case Explorer system under this designation. Accordingly, I am writing to you to provide the opportunity for you to review the relevant entries before the Maryland State Police begins to purge these entries. Please contact the Maryland State Police, Homeland Security and Investigation Bureau to make arrangements to review the entries.As the current Superintendent of the MSP, I am looking forward to purging these entries, putting into place policies and supervision that will prevent against this kind of operation in the future and moving beyond these issues to continue the necessary work of the Maryland State Police.
The Maryland State police and Homeland Security might want to note the scientific community has warned that climate change is a “far greater threat to the world than international terrorism”. Just a thought.
Consumers are increasingly demanding that companies demonstrate their commitment to the environment through responsible practices. Many of these companies are instead providing PR spin and phony labeling in an effort to keep doing what they have been doing while improving their corporate image.
While this might buy them some time in the short term, the public is peeling back the green veil on eco-bunk. Have a look at this insightful article by Fred Pearce in the Guardian on the Great Green Swindle.
Pearce details how many companies are investing in image instead of action, and being exposed as a result.
In August, an ad industry's watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, rapped oil company Shell's knuckles for trying to claim, in an advertisement in the Financial Times, that its $10bn investment in sucking tar sands out of the Canadian midwest was a contribution to a sustainable energy future… Overall, the emissions from mining, refining and burning tar sands are between three and 10 times greater than for conventional oil. Shell's sleight of hand was to use the much-abused word "sustainability" to imply a green agenda when what it was really on about was keeping a sustainable flow of fuel out of its forecourt pumps. The ASA cried foul.
It seems the audacity of some companies knows no bounds. The oil sands are so obscenely unsustainable that they consume enough relatively clean natural gas every day to heat over three million Canadian homes. Environmental Defence published a 131 page report on the tar sands cheerfully called “The Most Destructive Project on Earth”.
If the tar sands are “sustainable”, then the word clearly has lost all meaning in the English language and should be expunged from dictionaries the world over.
How about this corporate nose-stretcher: Manchester airport apparently pledged to make the facility carbon-neutral, with one small caveat: the target does not include the 200,000-plus flights into and out of the airport each year.
The sustainable development organization, Forum for the Future conducted an audit on the airport and observed that this claim "jars somewhat". The British have always had a gift for understatement.
Here’s another knee-slapper exposed by Pearce. The City of London Corporation launched a City Climate Pledge, under which local banks would pledge to "measure and monitor" their carbon footprint. But companies simply have to fill out a form detailing their CO2 plans and they can use the pledge logo. "Companies using the logo will be recognized as exemplar sustainable businesses [able to] attract consumers who are becoming more discerning about the credentials of businesses they deal with," says the flyer.
Not bad for just filling out a form. Especially as there doesn't seem to be any follow-up or auditing process involved.
Thankfully this effort by the Guardian to expose green washing is not merely a one-off. They are launching a regular column where their readers can help with the daunting task of tracking the torrent of eco-bunk the public is exposed to.
According to Pearce, “How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? We want to name and shame them before the whole green movement gets a bad reputation.” Well said, Mr. Pearce.
Readers are invited to send vent their spleens in the direction of: email@example.com
“Changes in the Arctic show a domino effect from multiple causes more clearly than in other regions,” said James Overland, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle and a lead author of the report. “It’s a sensitive system and often reflects changes in relatively fast and dramatic ways.”
The arctic is at the leading edge of global climate change and researchers are already dramatic changes in this sensitive ecosystem. According to NOAA:
“Autumn air temperatures, which are at a record 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) above normal, because of the major loss of sea ice in recent years. The loss of sea ice allows more solar heating of the ocean. That warming of the air and ocean affects land and marine life, and reduces the amount of winter sea ice that lasts into the following summer. The year 2007 was the warmest on record for the Arctic, continuing a general Arctic-wide warming trend that began in the mid-1960s.”
The arctic report card focuses on six areas including Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land and Greenland. This year, three of the six including atmosphere, sea ice, and Greenland were coded red meaning that observed changes are almost certainly due to climate change.
The remaining three (biology, ocean, land) were coded yellow, meaning that signals were mixed. The 2007 report card had two red and four yellow.
The relentless march upwards of arctic air temperatures is obvious in this graph of surface air temperature anomalies since 1900.
Arctic sea ice reached its second lowest minimum in recorded history this year, second only to last year. You don't have to be a researcher to see the freefall of ice extent since 1957.
Greenland lost an incredible 100 cubic kilometers of ice last year. To get an idea of what that looks like, have a look at the retreat of the Ilulissat glacier since 1850.
According to the authors, “there continues to be widespread and, in some cases, dramatic evidence of an overall warming of the Arctic system.”
Scientists are often not the greatest communicators in the world but this report speaks loud and clear about the frightening changes that are happening at the top of the world.
So important is tacking global warming in Europe that leaders have pledged to stick with their carbon cutting agendas, even while dealing with the greatest economic crisis since the great depression.
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, stated for the record that "We're not going to let up in the battle against climate change and there's no question of picking between the financial crisis and climate change. The two go together."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy concurred: "The deadline on climate change is so important that we cannot use the financial and economic crisis as a pretext for dropping it".
In the UK, they even upped the ante on carbon cuts. Climate Change and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband said the current 60% target of carbon cuts by 2050 would be replaced by a higher goal of 80%.
He added, “In our view it would be quite wrong to row back and those who say we should, misunderstand the relationship between the economic and environmental tasks we face."
Here in North America, it is a different story. The Canadian election saw little talk of dealing with climate change since stock markets tanked in the final week of the campaign. South of the border, election talk is almost entirely dominated by the economy.
Newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper successfully campaigned on a pro-carbon platform of making burning fossil fuels even cheaper. While carbon taxes ore old hat elsewhere in the world, here in Canada Harper managed to portray the idea as “crazy”, “insane”, and something that would “screw everyone across the country” and “wreck” the economy.
It is if North America exists in a transatlantic time machine – back in time that is. While Canadians like to believe that we are a progressive country, we are rapidly lapsing into a political backwater in comparison to many more progressive nations on the other side of the ocean.
Regardless of who wins the US presidential election in November, Canada under Stephen Harper will have a far less credible climate policy than virtually any developed country in the world. Even John McCain is calling for far more stringent carbon cuts than Canada under Harper.
Canada is no longer a world leader - we are a world laggard. Look to Europe to courageous leadership on climate change – expect more platitudes and inaction here at home.
The top of the Harper food chain is Guy Giorno, appointed Chief of Staff in the PMO this summer when Ian Brodie was forced to resign after he was caught leading information to the media that seriously impacted the U.S. nomination race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - part of the so-called NAFTA-gate.
Giorno is a Toronto-based lawyer, corporate lobbyist and chief of staff to then-Ontario premier Mike Harris during the so-called “common sense revolution”.
Giorno was also a vocal opponent of the Kyoto protocol – to the point that he was a key member of an anti-kyoto front group group called Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions (CCRES).
According to Source Watch, CCRES was set up by National Public Relations - Canada’s largest public relations firm - when Giorno worked for them.
National Public Relations is also the Canadian affiliate of the often controversial international firm Burson-Marsteller.
In classic Astroturf fashion, CCRES members are a who’s who of industries that would be affected by mandatory CO2 emission reductions. They include:
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Petroleum Services Association of Canada
Propane Gas Association of Canada
Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors
Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association
Alberta Chamber of Resources
Alberta Chambers of Commerce
The Cement Association of Canada
Canadian Council of Chief Executives
Giorno organized a wine and shrimp fete in 2002 to allow CCRES members to lobby top-level Ontario cabinet ministers in an effort to oppose action on climate change.
The As Harper’s chief of staff, Giorno is now one of the most powerful people in the country, from which position it must be considerably easier to represent industries that are hostile to climate change regulation.Keeping in mind the unfolding economic mess south of the border, it is also interesting that Giorno is an enthusiastic fan of the policies that have failed so miserably in the US.
Ten years after the disastrous reign of Mike Harris in Ontario, Giorno wrote in the National Post, “Despite the caterwauling about the severity of its agenda, the Harris government's spending cuts were too timid.”
Having lived in Ontario in 1990’s, I can assure you that statement is enough to make George Bush blush.
I have one piece of advice for Mr. Harper to prove to Canadians he is serious about this important initiative: Turn yourself in.
When it comes to flouting our international environmental commitments - as well as our domestic laws and regulations - the Harper government is seemingly beyond rehabilitation.
Lets have a look at a small selection from their rap sheet:
Stephen Harper ignored legal obligations under Canada’s Species at Risk Act for preparing recovery plans for over 105 endangered species including the critically threatened Northern spotted owl, whooping crane, swift fox and Vancouver Island marmot.
Minister of Environment Rona Ambrose was later sued by five prominent environmental groups for failing to list the spotted owl as an endangered species. Ms. Ambrose opined that she did not believe the bird faced an “imminent” threat to its survival, even though only 17 owls remain in the wild.
“If the Species at Risk Act doesn’t apply to 17 birds, when will it ever apply?” asked Devon Page, a lawyer for EcoJustice Canada.
The Harper government suppressed the release of an international investigation that the federal government is systematically ignoring its own laws regarding habitat protection and water pollution.
At issue was the allegation that Canada was ignoring the illegal destruction of some 45,000 migratory bird nests annually through clear-cut logging in the boreal forest, and the massive release of toxic effluent from pulp mills into Canada’s lakes, rivers and streams.
If Mr. Harper is doing such great job enforcing our environmental laws, what does he have to hide?
Harper ignored Canada’s binding international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, throwing in the towel without even trying.
Not satisfied with flouting international law, the Harper government also violated our own Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act , passed by the Canadian parliament and becoming law on June 22, 2007.
This act requires that Canada develop and execute a plan to reduce carbon emissions as per our obligations under Kyoto. Several environmental groups sue the Harper government in federal court for defying the will of parliament.
"This government has broken the law and, as Canadian citizens, we have both a moral and legal imperative to insist on enforcement of our own laws on climate action,” said Beatrice Olivastri, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Canada who filed the suit.
In March 2008, a coalition of environmental groups successfully argues in federal court that the environmental assessment for the massive $8 billion Kearl tar sands expansion was woefully inadequate.
Remarkably the federal and provincial governments had concluded that the project would cause “ no significant environmental impacts” even though it would strip mine 200 square kilometers of boreal forest and dig up enough bitumen to dump 3.7 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year – the equivalent of 800,000 passenger vehicles.
The response from the Harper government to the court’s decision ? His cabinet overrode the judge and re-issued the necessary permits within four weeks. So much for respect for our legal system or environmental laws.
Mr. Harpers’ record on the environment is frankly laughable. For him to now portray himself as some kind of green law-and-order sheriff is even more ludicrous.
Stephen Harper is no environmental tough guy. He is a dangerous offender.
Wow Stephen. Calm down.
Besides the fact the carbon taxes have been widely used throughout the world without the sky falling, or that independent economists have reviewed the Liberal plan and found it sound , perhaps now is as good a time as any to step back and ask the simple question: who has a better record of managing the economy, liberals or conservatives?
Lets start with the royalty of conservative movement: Ronald Reagan. Was the Gipper a restrained fiscal conservative? That’s certainly the mythology.
Yet by the end of Reagan's second term the national debt ballooned by more than 15% as a percent of GDP and totaled $2.6 trillion. Between 1980 and 1990, the national deficit had tripled to $220 billion. When he left office, the country owed more to foreigners than it was owed, and the United States moved from being the world's largest international creditor to the world's largest debtor nation.
Then there is George W. Bush, who inherited a $128 billion surplus in 2001 and yet has so far ran up the national debt by a whopping $2.78 trillion - not including of course the recent bailout of Wall Street on his watch that will cost the taxpayers an additional $700 billion.
The scale of this disaster is only now coming into grim focus and will no doubt hobble the economy of the US for generations into the future. Besides his obvious incompetence, Bush’s contribution to crushing national debt was fueled mainly by tax cuts and military spending.
Here in Canada, Brain Mulroney spent taxpayer’s money like a drunken sailor, racking up a $42 billion deficit in his last year in office. During his tenure the national debt ballooned by $338 billion, an increase of 200%.
Even Margaret Thatcher was appalled, stating “As leader of the Progressive Conservatives I thought [Mulroney] put too much emphasis on the adjective and not enough on the noun."
The fact is that so-called fiscal conservatives on both sides of the border have a shameful record of managing the economy, and typically tear through taxpayer’s money like bingo winner on a bender.
Which brings us to Stephen Harper. When he became Prime Minster less than two years ago he inherited a surplus of $12 billion. In that short time, Canada has already fallen into deficit territory.
This ends an eleven-year streak of budget surpluses posted by their predecessors, the Liberal Party, whose fiscal discipline in the 1990’s finally tackled the deficit, delivering budgetary surpluses every year from 1997.
Like Bush and Reagan, Harper undermined previous surpluses primarily through ill-advised tax cuts and ballooning military spending.
Harper’s cuts to the GST reduced income from that tax by 21% and likely cost the federal treasury over $14 billion up till the end of 2007. While Harper is trained as an economist, his colleagues were almost unanimous in calling the GST cuts a dumb idea. "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid," was the analysis from Christopher Ragan, a McGill University economist.
Incredibly, the tax cuts brought by Harper have cost more than all federal transfer payments for health and social programs combined. In other words, if Harper had not slashed government revenues, the federal government could have doubled its support for healthcare, post-secondary education, and social assistance.
At the same time, Harper committed Canada to spend an additional $15 billion on the military, which later became $50 billion . Some predict the actual amount may be closer to $100 billion . Who knows? Harper isn’t telling. Incidentally, Canada now has the worst performing economy in the G7.
Ideologues will no doubt dispute the fact that “fiscal conservatives” like Mr. Harper have a serious credibility problem when it comes to managing the economy. These holdouts are either be blind to history, or willfully misrepresenting the facts. Sadly, shrill hyperbole often substitutes for meaningful analysis south of the border.
Keep that in mind when Harper rants against a carbon tax with terms like “crazy”, “insane” or saying it will “screw everybody” or “wreck” the economy.
Canadians are not stupid, and we expect more from our leaders than hyperbolic fear mongering - especially on an issue as important as climate change.