Prime minister facing moment of truth on Indigenous rights

By John Dillon

Ecological Economy Program Coordinator

KAIROS Policy Briefing Papers are written to help inform public debate on key domestic and foreign policy issues

As the newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau handed mandate letters to all cabinet ministers that stated: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” His letter to Dr. Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Indige- nous and Northern Affairs, also included as a first pri- ority “to implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

From the beginning of the new government’s man- date there was always the potential for conflict be- tween these commitments to Indigenous rights and the Liberal Party platform promising “Our plan will de- liver the economic growth and jobs Canadians need, and leave to our children and grandchildren a country even more … sustainable … than the one we have now.”1

The day is fast approaching when Prime Minister Trudeau and his government will have to choose be- tween their promises to respect Indigenous rights and their preference for large resource projects and fossil fuel export pipelines to grow the economy.

Read more:

briefing-paper-47-moment-of-truth

Canada’s Approach to Climate Change

Four working groups have been established. These working groups are working with Indigenous peoples and the public, including youth. The four working groups are developing options for:

How and where to reduce emissions
Clean technology, innovation and job creation
How to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate
Putting a price on carbon

Key Dates

  • April 22, 2016: Launch of public engagement.
  • May to August 2016: Working groups meet with and solicit input from Indigenous peoples, and incorporate Indigenous input into the interim and final reports.
  • September 2016: Working groups report to Ministerial tables.
  • October 2016: Ministerial recommendations to First Ministers. Working group reports made public.
  • Fall 2016: First Ministers meet and finalize the plan.

Get Involved

Share your input through this website to inform the work of the four working groups.

Submit Your Idea

 

Prince Charles: We must treat our planet like a sick patient

The Prince of Wales today called for us all to treat our planet like a sick patient.

In a keynote speech, he also urged health practitioners to be bolder about highlighting the links between the effects of climate change on clean air, water and our wellbeing.

Prince Charles –who for decades has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future–—told the Royal Society in London, ““Protect the health of the planet, protect our health. Actions which are good for the planet are also good for human health.

““Taking a more active approach to transport by walking and cycling and adopting healthy diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and more –saving lives and money.

‘“Reductions in air pollution also result, with separate and additional benefits to human health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.””

The future King’’s strong intervention, at a joint event involving his International Sustainability Unit and the World Health Organisation, came after he and the Duchess of Cornwall made a historic visit to the London Evening Standard newsroom today.

The royal couple were met by owner Evgeny Lebedev and editor Sarah Sands, who escorted them on a tour of our Kensington headquarters –the first time a future King and Queen Consort have made an official visit to the Standard since it was founded in 1827.

Mr Lebedev said, ““We are all very privileged that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited our newsroom today.

““It is a reminder of how engaged he is with the country he serves and of how the London Evening Standard is central to the lives of everyone in the capital, including our future monarch.””

Editor Sarah Sands said, ““It is an honour to welcome their Royal Highnesses to the Evening Standard.

““The fact that they have taken time to visit us demonstrates their keen interest in what is happening in London today.,”

Clarence House said, “”During the usual course of their engagements, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall wanted to visit their local newspaper as it went to press.””

During the visit Charles praised our Homeless Veterans fundraising campaign. He recalled there was a rise in the numbers of veterans needing help after the Falklands war and voiced concern that the same may happen after the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts as more service personnel require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Today’’s Royal Society event brought together health ministers, senior civil servants, health professionals and civil society organisations to discuss climate change, health and forthcoming negotiations involving the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21.

The Prince said in his speech, ““Those negotiations taking place in December provide perhaps our last opportunity to set targets that will keep the world to below two degrees of warming.””

He highlighted his delight that a meeting hosted by his International Sustainability Unit in December 2013, to help forge a consensus on the critical importance of the health sector talking with a coherent voice on this issue, has encouraged others to speak up.

““Five years ago The Lancet’s commission on climate change described it as ‘the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century’,”” he said. “”This warning has been echoed worldwide.””

The visit to our Kensington headquarters this morning will be listed as an official engagement.

It will be reported in the Court Circular, the authoritative, historical record of official engagements of members of the Royal Family. Climate change is also expected to be one of the main themes of Prince Charles’’s visit to the US next month, when he and the Duchess will meet President Obama at the White House.

While in America, the heir to the throne will also be honoured by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation with an award for exceptional leadership in conservation.

‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say

The RCMP has labelled the “”anti-petroleum”” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.

In highly charged language that reflects the government’’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.

“There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’’s reliance on fossil fuels,”” concludes the report which is stamped “”protected/Canadian eyes only”” and is dated Jan. 24, 2014. The report was obtained by Greenpeace.

““If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.””

The government has tabled Bill C-51, which provides greater power to the security agencies to collect information on and disrupt the activities of suspected terrorist groups. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified the threat as violent extremists motivated by radical Islamic views, the legislation would also expand the ability of government agencies to infiltrate environmental groups on the suspicion that they are promoting civil disobedience or other criminal acts to oppose resource projects.

The legislation identifies “activity that undermines the security of Canada” as anything that interferes with the economic or financial stability of Canada or with the country’-s critical infrastructure, though it excludes lawful protest or dissent. And it allows the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service to take measures to reduce what it perceives to be threats to the security of Canada.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has already launched challenges to the RCMP complaints commission and the Security Intelligence Review Committee–which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service–over alleged surveillance of groups opposed to the construction of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in B.C.

“”These kind of cases involving environmental groups–or anti-petroleum groups as the RCMP likes to frame them–are really the sharp end of the stick in terms of Bill C-51,”” said Paul Champ, a civil liberties lawyer who is handling the BCCLA complaints. “”With respect to Bill C-51, I and other groups have real concerns it is going to target not just terrorists who are involved in criminal activity, but people who are protesting against different Canadian government policies.””

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox insisted the Mounties do not conduct surveillance unless there is suspicion of criminal conduct.

“”As part of its law enforcement mandate, the RCMP does have the requirement to identify and investigate criminal threats, including those to critical infrastructure and at public events,”” Sgt. Cox said in an e-mailed statement. “”There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.””

But Sgt. Cox would not comment on the tone of the January, 2014, assessment that suggests opposition to resource development runs counter to Canada’’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “”anti-petroleum movement.””

The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists “”claim”” that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, and “”claim”” it is a direct consequence of human activity and is “”reportedly”” linked to the use of fossil fuels. It echoes concerns first raised by Finance Minister Joe Oliver that environmental groups are foreign-funded and are working against the interests of Canada by opposing development.

“”This document identifies anyone who is concerned about climate change as a potential, if not actual–the lines are very blurry ––‘anti-petroleum extremist’’ looking to advance their ‘‘anti-petroleum ideology,'”’” said Keith Stewart, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.

““The parts that are genuinely alarming about this document are how it lays the groundwork for all kinds of state-sanctioned surveillance and dirty tricks should C-51 be passed,”” he said.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada said Bill C-51 does not change the definition of what constitutes a threat to Canadian security, and added CSIS does not investigate lawful dissent.

“”CSIS has a good track record of distinguishing genuine threats to the security of Canada from other activities,”” Public Safety Canada’’s Josée Sirois said. “”The independent reports of the Security Intelligence Review Committee attest to CSIS’’s compliance with the law.””

 

Mr. Obama’’s Easy Call on Keystone Bill

The New York Times Editorial Board

Congress has delivered to President Obama a bill commanding him to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, accompanied by a warning from House Speaker John Boehner to ignore the “”left-fringe extremists and anarchists”” who oppose the project.

It was not immediately clear whom Mr. Boehner had in mind, unless he meant the 90 scientists, economists and Nobel laureates who appealed this week to Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline on the grounds that the United States should not be complicit in unlocking some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet. In any case, Mr. Obama should ignore the speaker and, as he has promised, veto the bill. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the decision about whether to proceed is his to make, not Congress’s, and the State Department review that will help guide that decision is not yet complete.

The veto is the easy call. The tougher one–for the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry–is whether eventually to say yes or no to the pipeline, which would carry about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. In the great scheme of things, this would not be a big addition to a global oil output that now exceeds 90 million barrels a day. And the oil would come from a reliable friend, Canada. Building the pipeline would also provide about 3,900 temporary construction jobs over two years, but no more than 50 permanent jobs thereafter.

At the same time, both Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have declared, without reservation, that climate change is a grave and increasingly tangible threat to world stability. The Canadian tar sands oil can only add to that threat.

One reason is that tar sands oil yields roughly 17 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. A bigger reason is that there is so much of it–170 billion barrels recoverable with today’’s technology and maybe 10 times that amount in potential resources. Mainstream climate scientists are virtually unanimous in saying that as much as two-thirds of the world’’s deposits of fossil fuels must remain in the ground if climate disaster is to be avoided. Alberta’’s tar sands oil should be among the first such deposits we decide to leave alone.

Saying no to the pipeline will not prevent the Canadians (and American oil companies that have invested in Alberta) from extracting the oil. But it could make the job much harder. The industry hopes to expand daily production to about five million barrels in 2030 from the current 1.9 million. Doing this profitably will require robust oil prices and access to pipelines, which are a much cheaper way of moving oil than rail. And with oil prices falling fast, pipelines become even more necessary.

Not building a pipeline means that more oil — and more carbon dioxide — will be left in the ground. That is the main reason to say no. Another is that, at least right now, this country does not need the oil. Improved technology, chiefly hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, has opened up vast new deposits of not only natural gas but crude oil; in January 2014, Mr. Obama was able to announce that for the first time in decades the United States was producing more oil than it imported, and the Energy Information Administration has forecast that reliance on overseas oil will continue to fall.

The stars seem very much in alignment for a courageous presidential decision that would command worldwide attention and reinforce America’’s leadership role in the battle against global warming.

Leading UK Sceptic Group Promotes Koch-Funded Canadian Climate Denier

by Kyla Mandel

Canadian climate denier Ross McKitrick has officially taken over as chairman of the academic advisory council of Lord Lawson’’s controversial climate-denying charity, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

The economics professor is also a Senior Fellow of the Koch- and Exxon-funded Fraser Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

McKitrick succeeds British economist David Henderson, 87 – the man responsible for inspiring Lawson’’s climate scepticism over a decade ago.

Henderson, who stepped down at his own request on 1 January 2015, had been chairman since the GWPF’’s inception in 2009. Prior to that he was the head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from 1984 to 1992.

A visiting professor at the Westminster Business School, Henderson is also an advisory council member of free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Lawson’’s Inspiration

Lawson and Henderson knew each other long before they started talking about climate change. This fateful conversation would begin at the end of 2004, when Lawson revealed his interest in climate change during a lecture at the London School of Economics.

As Lawson recalls: ““I said there were two issues… that really did not come across my desk at the time I was Chancellor in 1989, which are now two big issues, which were the European Monetary Union and climate change, global warming. And, I made an allusion that I was rather concerned that the climate change issue was not being analysed in economic terms, and this whole dimension appeared to be missing and concerned me.

““After that, David Henderson, whom I had known for many years, who had been taking an interest in the subject for some time, starting talking to me about this,”” he explains.

So much of an inspiration was Henderson that Lawson even dedicated his book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, to him. It reads: “”To David Henderson, who first aroused my interest in all of this.””

Henderson also knew McKitrick in the lead-up to the GWPF’’s debut. In 2007, he spoke alongside the Canadian at the Fraser Institute’’s launch of their Independent Summary for Policymakers.

McKitrick was also invited by Henderson to speak at small, informal discussion panels in England with other like-minded individuals, including ‘global lukewarmist’ Peter Lilley.

Instrumental Feedback

But Benny Peiser, director general of the GWPF, seems a little confused about Henderson’’s role in the charity.

Speaking to Brendan Montague, editor of DeSmog UK, back in 2010, he said: “”David Henderson was heavily involved … The original idea was Lawson’’s but Henderson was instrumental by giving feedback.””

Later, in 2013, he said: “”David Henderson, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with GWPF … He wasn’’t involved in the set up.””

And as Sir Ian Byatt, member of the GWPF’s academic advisory council, told Montague: “”David knows the importance of getting influence on these things, and one of the great things that David did, which has all carried on in the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is the bringing together of science, economics and politics.””

McKitrick’’s Promotion

His successor certainly has some big shoes to fill. While Henderson will continue to remain an active member of the council, what does McKitrick’’s promotion signify for the future of the GWPF?

A member of the council since 2010, McKitrick was chosen from a slew of renowned climate sceptics. Other members include heir to a vast British coal fortune, Lord Matt Ridley, and Richard Lindzen, one of the original sceptic scientists to emerge during the 1980s.

Perhaps McKitrick’s contribution to climate sceptic blogger Steve McIntyre’’s critique of Michael Mann’’s hockey stick graph was one point in his favour. After all, the GWPF has praised McKitrick for being ““instrumental in exposing the fatal flaws of the so-called Hockey Stick.””

McKitrick has also authored a couple reports that have been submitted to the GWPF, including a 49-page report calling for ‘radical reform’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and another arguing for an ‘evidence-based approach to pricing CO2 emissions’.

He has also become a regular speaker at the Koch-connected Heartland Institute’’s annual International Conference on Climate Change. So, whatever the deciding factor, McKitrick’’s climate denial stock has just gone up.

@kylamandel

Photo: Guelph University Wikimedia Commons

What Canadian media are missing about climate change

A Q&A with UBC Sociology Prof. David Tindall on his presentation at Congress

By April van Ert, Faculty of Arts

Are national newspapers giving Canadians the information they need to make informed decisions about climate change?

New research by the University of British Columbia and Memorial University on how Canada’s media reports on climate change suggests that our national newspapers – the Globe & Mail and National Post – are failing to provide their readers with a complete picture of global warming and climate change issues in Canada.
David Tindall, UBC Dept. of Sociology

David Tindall, UBC Dept. of Sociology

Sociology professors David Tindall of UBC and Mark Stoddart of Memorial University studied the papers’ reporting on climate change issues from 1997 and 2010. In addition to stark editorial differences, they found that both outlets underemphasized climate change impacts and responses at the local, provincial and non-governmental levels. That’s a problem, says Tindall, as local successes and challenges play a key role in motivating people to take action on climate change.

Tindall, a participant in former U.S. vice president and Nobel laureate Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, spoke with ArtsWIRE writer April van Ert ahead of presenting the research at Congress, Canada’s national humanities and social sciences conference, which takes place in Victoria from June 1 to June 8.

AE: What was the motivation for researching how the Globe & Mail and National Post are covering climate change stories?

DT: The paper we’re presenting in Victoria will be presented in one of three different sessions on climate change at Congress. With this paper, we want to contribute to the sociological understanding of climate change by focusing on discourse and what is more or less likely to make it into the media.

AE: What were your findings in researching how these two newspapers cover climate change?

DT: The Globe & Mail tended to focus on issues like government responsibility for dealing with climate change while the National Post has been more likely to focus on those who challenge the science behind anthropogenic climate change. The National Post also is more interested in the economic cost of tackling climate change. However, both newspapers focus mostly on the national level or even to a certain extent the international level. The result is that progress happening at local levels is underplayed.

When people don’t hear about the progress being made on provincial or local levels, they tend to become more pessimistic about getting involved in environmental groups or changing their own behavior. I think if we emphasized what was being done locally and provincially, that might lead to more optimism and a greater willingness to become involved in the environmental movement as individuals.

AE: What is the significance of looking at climate change policy and adaptation from a national or international perspective?

DT: The truth is that in Canada, we really haven’t made much progress at all nationally in terms of policies to deal with climate change. Canada initially embraced the Kyoto Protocol but didn’t really implement serious policy measures that would allow us to deal with carbon emissions. The Conservatives then made Canada the first country to reverse its support for the Kyoto Protocol. In contrast, there has been quite a bit of progress at provincial and local levels. By focusing on national policy, these newspapers are not presenting a complete picture of climate change adaptation in Canada.

AE: Is newspaper coverage contributing to climate change cynicism?

DT: Because there has been little progress on the federal level, the reporting is accurate but it does neglect progress at other levels. This certainly can contribute to cynicism but also shows the media isn’t capturing the complexity of climate change governance and policy, which calls for responses at the local and provincial levels as well as at the national and international levels.

AE: Are our attitudes towards climate change impacted by whether we get our news from traditional media or social media?

DT: This content analysis project hasn’t formally considered social media but in another paper I’m working on I found that people who got their information from the Internet were actually more likely to participate in the environmental movement relative to other types of media. I think that is part of the interactive nature of social media. It seems to have a positive effect on their concern and participation. That being said, people concerned with getting “serious news” still turn to traditional sources so outlets like the Globe & Mail and National Post play a key role in influencing our perceptions of climate change and what can be done to slow it.

AE: In light of Canada’s failure to enact meaningful climate change policy, are you becoming cynical about our potential to tackle human-made climate change?

DT: We can’t afford to be cynical about climate change because that implies we’re ready to give up and that’s not an option. I think that if the media emphasized successes at the provincial and local levels, there would be a lot more optimism about addressing climate change in general.

For more on this topic, read UBC Geography Prof. Simon Donner study on U.S. media coverage of climate change
– See more at: http://news.ubc.ca/2013/06/06/what-canadian-media-are-missing-about-climate-change/#sthash.qSEVeYHN.dpuf

James Hansen: The One Thing We Should Be Doing to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change

The country’s leading climatologist talks about what our future looks like if we continue along with business as usual — and what we could do to prevent catastrophe.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who has done more to further our understanding of the impacts of climate change than Dr. James Hansen. After 46 years working a scientist and climatogolist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Hansen wasn’t content to simply catalog the dangers facing humanity and our planet — he has been ringing the alarm bell. “On a blistering June day in 1988 he was called before a Congressional committee and testified that human-induced global warming had begun,” the New York Times wrote in a recent story about Hansen. “Speaking to reporters afterward in his flat Midwestern accent, he uttered a sentence that would appear in news reports across the land: ‘It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.’”

Over the next several decades as scientific evidence poured in about the threats from climate change, and as governments — including the U.S. — failed to take any meaningful action, Hansen stepped out of the lab and into the media spotlight. He has participated in climate change protests, including being arrested several times, and has been outspoken about urging the Obama administration to kill the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. He warned that building the pipeline would mean “game over” for the climate.

This week Hansen was awarded the 2013 Ridenhour Prize for Courage from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. Ridenhour prizes are named in honor of the late Ron Ridenhour, who blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War and went on to become an award-winning investigative journalist.

“At a moment when a debate is raging about the treatment of whistleblowers, the Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who put their lives on the line to challenge the status quo,” said Randy Fertel, founder of the Fertel Foundation, which co-sponsors the prizes. “The 2013 winners represent voices who have come forward to speak truth on the most defining issues of our time.”

Hansen recently announced that he is stepping down from his post at NASA. He talked to AlterNet about what he plans to do next, what may be in store for our future, and the most important thing we can do to prevent catastrophic, runaway climate change.

Tara Lohan. First off, congratulations on your Ridenhour Prize for Courage. They selected you for your decades of hard work ringing the alarm bell about climate change. Does it get a little lonely out there for you?

James Hansen: Well, that is an interesting question I have never been asked before. I am a little surprised that the scientific community has allowed us to go so far down the line that it’s almost too late to avoid the rather substantial climate change and practical impacts. It was not surprising at all that the scientific community or at least many people in it objected to my testimony in the late 1980s and was illustrated so well by the article that Dick Kerr wrote in Science Magazine that was called “Hansen vs. the World on the Greenhouse Threat.”

It was interesting because in that article he interviews a lot of people at a meeting, which was described as a “get Hansen” meeting, but in any case, he got the comment from one of the scientists that said, “Well, if there was a secret ballot, a secret vote probably the majority of us would agree that this global warming was underway,” but they weren’t ready to say so yet. And I can completely understand that, in the 1980s it was not yet statistically proven.

But what’s a little disappointing is that we’ve reached a point where we should really be pounding on the desk of leaders and saying, “Hey, you’ve got to do something. You have to do something in a hurry or we’re going to leave our children and grandchildren a situation that’s out of their control. There will be large impacts, which they simply cannot do anything about.” And the basic physics for that is very well understood that the climate system has tremendous inertia, it does not respond quickly as humans or nature applies forces to the system. But now we know those forces, those human made forces — the CO2 amount and how it’s changing is known very precisely. And we know the consequences on the century timescale are going to be enormous. So there’s really no disagreement about that and the fact that we won’t be able to control it.

So in that sense, the answer to your question is that I am disappointed that there aren’t more of my colleagues out there. On the other hand, it’s not that most of them now disagree, I mean those who are in the category of knowing what you are talking about because of relevant expertise, actually say that they’re glad I’m making noises because they think it’s appropriate.

TL: A lot of people in the activist community like to point their fingers at government for a very good reason, but what do you think the scientific community should be doing?

JH: Well, I think the government should be asking the scientific community. We have a National Academy of Sciences that was formed at the request of Abraham Lincoln to advise the government on technical matters, which require scientific expertise. So if the government wants to do something it could ask the Academy to give it a report to provide some guidance and that’s not really happening. Instead, we’re allowing the politics to control the discussion and that then ends up leading to little if any action because politics is not going to allow it simply because there’s such a preference among the fossil fuel industry and the people who are making a lot of money off of it to continue business as usual.

So the politics ends up in a stalemate. The scientific community has issued reports. The major scientific groups like the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society have pretty strong statements about the fact that humans are causing climate change and there will be consequences. So I’m not sure that it can do a lot more if it’s not asked to provide specific guidance.

TL: Why do you think we are so incapable of taking action when we are presented with the overwhelming scientific evidence?

JH: Well, what I’ve learned in going to several different countries is that the money has a huge influence on national politics not only in the United States but in practically every country in the world. And the fossil fuel industry is the wealthiest industry in the world, so it becomes difficult to get government action without more pressure from the public. And that, in the case of this problem, is something that is really difficult because of the fact of this inertia and delayed response so the public doesn’t see that much happening.

The difficulty is that because of this inertia of the system, we have only realized, the planet has only realized, about half of the effect of the gases that are already in the atmosphere — the rest is still in the pipeline and will occur over coming decades and this century. And that makes it very difficult. The public has many other issues on its mind like feeding their families and important practical issues. If they don’t see a major effect then it’s just not high enough on their priority list.

It’s clear now to the scientific community that we should be doing something and yet we’re not doing much. As I say, we’re almost to the point where it’s going to be unavoidable that we will have significant consequences this century, in the lifetime of today’s young people.

TL: Based on that, where we stand right now, what does our future look like if we continue along the path we’re on?

JH: Well, okay it still depends. If we continue on the path that we’re on, which is continuing to actually increase CO2 emissions, then we’re talking about a different planet by the end of the century in the sense that we could get warming of at least a few degrees celsius which would mean that, among other things, the two biggest effects that I’m concerned with are those that are irreversible. And if we continue on that business-as-usual pathway then the ice sheets are not going to be stable, they’re going to begin to disintegrate rapidly, which will mean sea level rise of many meters. Scientists will argue about how much sea level rise will occur this century in the next 87 years, for some reason the year 2100 is picked as the year we’re trying to estimate the change.

It’s very hard to say when that collapse will occur. It’s like the stock market, if the country has a stupid economic policy then eventually the stock market is going to reflect that with a collapse, but you can’t predict exactly when it’s going to occur. Anyway, in my opinion, we would get multi-meter sea level rise this century. Some other scientists argue that we’ll only get about one meter this century and the multi-meter rise will be next century. But, in either case it means that all the coastal cities would have to be abandoned at some point whether it’s this century or next century and that’s thousands of cities around the world on coastlines. Cities develop from coastlines because commerce was by ships for much of history so that’s one of the irreversible effects.

The other one is the extermination of species. If we begin to slow down emissions by the end of this decade, then we can keep the warming less than two degrees Celsius. In that case, I think most of the species can survive. But if we continue business as usual, the whole century, so that climate zones really shift a large amount so that species have to migrate to a different region in order to survive; then when that’s combined with the other pressures we’re putting on species, the other stresses that we’re causing as humans basically take over the planet, it’s going to mean that a large fraction of species get exterminated, which is another irreversible effect — one which is morally reprehensible.

But the practical thing, many people are not too concerned about sea level rise later this century or species extermination later this century. They are more concerned with climate events that are beginning to happen now. We can see that climate extremes are beginning to increase as expected with a globally warming because the distribution of anomalies from a normal climate is shifting such that the extreme events are more frequent. That’s true both for temperature and for rainfall because the amount of rainfall depends upon the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, which increases as the planet gets warmer.

So you get more extreme rain events when you do get rain, but because of the increased temperature the droughts also increase in intensity and the fires that go with drought conditions become more intense and burn hotter. So we’re beginning to see these more extreme paths. Also, storms that are driven by latent heat increase water vapor in the atmosphere also can be more powerful as the planet gets warmer. I think we’re beginning to see that effect also. If we stay with business as usual, those effects will be larger and larger as we go decade by decade into the future.

TL: What kind of policy changes should we be advocating for immediately?

JH: Yes, that’s a good question and it’s actually quite clear what we should do. The fundamental fact is that as long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest energy to the consumer then we’ll just keep burning that. That’s what’s happening so far. The truth is fossil fuels are not the cheapest. If we would eliminate the subsidies for them and if we would include in their price, the external costs of them — the human health effects of air pollution and water pollution from burning and mining of fossil fuels are presently worn by the public entirely without any of the health effects being charged to the fossil fuel industry. The public picks up their health costs and the effect of climate change. The increased climate extremes are already causing some very expensive events.

Either the public picks it up by just suffering the damage or the federal government may come in and provide relief of billions of dollars. But again, that comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket. So what we should do to solve the problem and get us to move to a clean energy future is to book a gradually rising price on carbon, which would be a fee that you collect from possible fuel companies at the domestic mine or the port of entry. So it’s a very small number of sources and very accurately known. So you can just have a carbon fee which we suggest, for example, should be 10 dollars a ton to start with and increase year-by-year. The money that’s collected should be distributed 100 percent back to the public, to all legal residents, in equal amount. That way people would have the resources needed to make changes over coming years.

When they buy a new vehicle, they buy one that’s more efficient, they insulate their homes, they make choices. And it would provide the incentive for the business community, for entrepreneurs to develop low-carbon and no-carbon energy sources and products that are more energy efficient. And would stimulate our economy and make us much more competitive on international trading by making us leaders in clean energies. That is finally beginning to be recognized.

You may have noticed in the past two weeks, there was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, a conservative newspaper, by George Shultz and Gary Becker, which advocated exactly what I just described. The carbon fee with 100 percent of the money distributed to the public. So it does not make the government any bigger and it allows the market to determine what are the most efficient ways to move to a clean energy future. Yesterday, the Washington Post, which is a liberal newspaper, had an editorial saying essentially the same thing, they were pointing out that the European cap and trade system has collapsed and is completely ineffectual. That’s what we’ve been saying for the last few years that cap and trade with offsets is a hokey system, which has no hopes of solving the climate problem. We need a simple honest approach, which makes fossil fuels pay their true cost to society and which stimulates the development of clean energy alternatives.

Unless you make fossil fuels pay their true costs, people will just keep burning them. The [Obama] administration’s approach is, “Well, let’s reduce coal use and make vehicles more efficient.” Those things will reduce U.S. carbon emissions, but they won’t solve the problem because they reduce the demand for fossil fuels which makes them cheaper and somebody else will burn them.

The only way to solve the problem is to put an honest price on the fossil fuels. And it’s going to need to be international. So the United States and China are going to have to get together and agree on the fact that they both will need to put a gradually rising price on carbon emissions. And I feel that’s a doable thing because China knows that they will suffer from climate change more than most places. They have their 50 million people that are living near sea level. They have tremendous pollution, air and water pollution from fossil fuels. So they have a strong incentive for wanting to deal with this problem.

And to have a bilateral agreement between China and the U.S. is a practical solution. While trying to get 190 nations to agree with the Kyoto protocol type approach is hopeless as we’ve seen from the negotiations that have occurred over the last 20 years. That’s kind of a truth telling, which we have to have. Otherwise, we just continue down this line where we pretend that the UN is going to solve the problem eventually and they’re not doing anything to help.

TL: If governments can’t move fast enough, and so far our government especially has not moved much at all, what’s our plan B?

JH: It’s interesting, I was at a meeting of some of the 20 top scientists in the country just a few weeks ago and they’re already at the point of saying, “Well, we have to do geoengineering.” So they keep thinking of finding ways to suck the CO2 out of the atmosphere, well it will be incredibly expensive and we will be leaving that job for young people. It’s not clear that it will work, it’s not clear that it will be practical. It will be so expensive that it will make no sense.

We really need to have a plan A, plan B just is frightening. That’s why I think it’s really important that the U.S. and China start talking to each other about this. And you know, there actually was a meeting within the last two weeks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese counterparts. One of the outcomes is that they will have some continuing talks between the two nations on the climate issue. And that is probably the most promising avenue for a plan A.

TL: I remember probably about five years or so ago everyone was talking about peak oil and then we had this resurgence of fossil fuels with the tar sands and fracking. Is the use of more unconventional sources more of a sign that we are in fact running out of the cheap and easy stuff and that we are running toward peak oil or does that mean the predictions of peak oil were actually off?

JH: Well, it’s a sign that governments don’t get it. That they think we just continue to go after every fossil fuel we can find including those that are very hard to get at, it takes a lot of energy to extract them and they’re particularly dirty and cause other environmental problems as well as climate change. They don’t get it, we can’t exploit the unconventional fossil fuels without guaranteeing that our children and grandchildren will have problems that are out of their control. That’s the message that has to get through.

I’m hoping that the Obama administration is beginning to understand this and that they will reject the Keystone Pipeline. That’s becoming more likely than pundits have been suggesting because it is just crazy to approve that pipeline. It would guarantee that we do exploit a significant fraction of those tar sands. Whatever we extract out of there and put into the atmosphere we’re going to have to take back out somehow and it’s going to be very expensive and may be impossible. If it’s impossible then our children will suffer the consequences.

So just by putting this moderate rising price on carbon you can be far more effective and more helpful for U.S. energy independence and economic development than you would be by approving that pipeline and producing a small number of jobs, temporary jobs associated with building a pipeline. You would get far more better jobs with this rising price on carbon because it would stimulate the development of clean energies and energy efficiency.

TL: I know that you have recently announced your retirement from your long-held post at NASA. What’s next for you?

JH: I want to continue to do science so I have to generate non-government support for a couple of people to work with me on doing science. I will be able to hopefully spend more time on it because I won’t have these administrative duties that I had with the government. But, it will also allow me to do things that I couldn’t do as part of the government. For example, I’m working with Our Children’s Trust on legal actions against the government for not protecting the rights of young people. I was not able to testify against the government when I was a government employee, but I can do that in the future.

And also, there are going to be some legal actions trying to stop the expansion of coal exports from the West Coast and legal actions to try to stop the pipelines, the tar sands pipelines both the east-west pipeline and the north-south one. And I will now have the time that I can contribute to the science aspect of those attempts to stop this senseless development of unconventional fossil fuels and continued reliance on coal. Because what the science tells us is we can’t do that, we’ve got to leave most of the remaining coal in the ground and we’ve got to leave those unconventional fossil fuels in the ground.

TL: Given everything that you know and how much you understand about this, how is it that you stay hopeful?

JH: Well, that’s fairly easy because if you look at our planet and nature it’s so incredible. With my grandchildren, we’ve been focusing on one particular species, the Monarch butterfly, which is just absolutely incredible. You have to preserve this incredible life on the planet. I believe as biologist Ed Wilson has argued that we can. It’s possible that this present time in which we are putting so much pressure on other life on the planet, that this is a bottleneck and if we are smart we can win this battle and allow the other life on the planet to continue to exists, co-exist with us, and I think that’s possible. But it’s going to require that people understand the situation and put the pressure on governments to see that we have policies that will achieve that. I think it’s still possible, but we’re running out of time.

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

EarthMatters_600.jpg New “concerned citizens group” has deep pockets and close ties to oil industry

Last week, a new ad promoting oil pipelines appeared ahead of my favourite new song on YouTube. It featured a pair of actors having a simulated ‘real-life’ conversation about the paradox between protecting the environment and future economic growth. After the female actor asks, “But can’t we have both?” the man responds, “but if we let pipelines and tankers into our environment, what safeguards to we have?”

A third, smiling actor steps onto the scene, and says in a reassuring voice: “Let’s look at the facts.” She proceeds to set the environment-versus-economy debate to rest with a series of stats about double-hulled tankers and the “99.9 per cent safety record” of pipelines.

The ad is part of a campaign by British Columbians for International Prosperity, a new concerned citizen’s group that calls itself “an independent group of concerned citizens looking to promote practical resource development, international trade expansion, manufacturing development, and other initiatives bringing prosperity to British Columbia, Canada, and our Global partners”.

But a closer look reveals the group’s deep connections to the oil sands industry, according to research that ran in today’s Globe and Mail.

A domain search for the website registered on December 20, 2012, shows that the website is registered to Bruce Lounds of “West Coasters for International Prosperity Association”.

Lounds is a management consultant based in Vancouver. He works at Connex Solutions, Inc.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Lounds’ specialties include Project Evaluations, Regulatory Affairs, Heavy Oil and Tar Sands Sector, Project Management, Economics, Business Unit Management.

His role at Connex solutions, where he has been since 1998, is “Management Consulting in Heavy Oil / Tar Sands Sector”.

Prior to Connex, Lounds worked at ConoccoPhillips from 1996-1998 as the Surmount Project Manager. Surmount was ConoccoPhillips’ first pilot project for in situ, a term to describe bitumen extraction from oil sands. The project was a 50-50 joint venture with Total E&P Canada.From 1970-1996, he worked with BP in various roles: Human Resources Benefits and Compensation Analyst (1970-81), Petroleum Engineer (1981-84), Engineering Supervisor (1984-88), Chief Engineer (1988), Engineering Manager (1988-1992), General Manager (1992-1996) .In 1992, Lounds was the President of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association (CHOA).

In addition to this work, Lounds has appeared before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board as a representative for Japan Canada oil sands Limited. Later, he appeared again before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board on behalf of Gulf Canada. And from at least 1994-1995, Lounds was the manager for heavy oil at Amoco.

Even though Lounds claims that he’s “not a front for the oil industry” and that BC4IP hasn’t received any backing from Enbridge or Kinder Morgan, the fact that he won’t identify any of the group’s other leaders, members or its media campaign spending, raises some big questions.

Cleaning up the oil industry’s image

The last two weeks have been bad ones for the oil industry’s public image. A 2,200-barrel Alberta spill last Monday was followed just two days later by a spill in Minnesota. A broken pipe at Suncor Energy Inc. contaminated the Athabasca River in Alberta the very next day. Then on Friday, a residential Arkansas community was dumped with 10,000 barrels of crude, forcing 22 homes to be evacuated. Then, a Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in northwestern Ontario and one of the 22 cars affected is leaking crude oil. And CP was off by an order of magnitude about the impacts from that spill. A Shell pipeline later burst in Texas, dumping over 30,000 gallons into nearby waterways.

So in a crisis week, groups like British Columbians For International Prosperity fight back with PR. The group alleges that, “[t]here are many organizations who oppose development under any circumstances. Their voices have overshadowed important considerations in improving the standard of living in British Columbia and across the globe”.

Presumably, they are referring to the environmental groups, academics and politicians across the globe this week who are looking at oil sands pipelines under the microscope and wondering if it’s such a good idea after all.

BC4IP’s failure to disclose its close connections to the oil industry is as insincere as its promise to “address the downsides of development in an honest and forthright manner”.

So the next time those ads appear on YouTube, take a moment to recognize the hypocrisy of this so-called concerned citizens’ group.

Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist: ‘We’re trying to buy time for the world to wake up’

You’ve probably never heard of him, and for years Jeremy Grantham liked it that way. But now the man who made billions by predicting every recent financial crisis is speaking out

Leo Hickman

‘Anyone who says government can’t do this, or can’t do that, I say a pox on you’ … environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

One icy morning in February, a train pulled into Washington DC. It was loaded with environmentalists planning to handcuff themselves to the gates of the White House, in protest at the building of a 3,500km oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Amid the hundreds of placard-carrying protesters stood a somewhat incongruous figure in a suit – Jeremy Grantham, a 74-year-old fund manager. “What we are trying to do is buy time,” he told reporters. “Buy time for the world to wake up.”

Grantham – who occupies a legendary place in the world of finance for predicting all the major stock market bubbles of recent decades (and doing very well in the process) – had decided, after 15 years of low-key environmental philanthropy, to, as he puts it, “walk the walk”.

“I was committed to getting arrested,” says Grantham, a tall, slight man, as he looks out across the City from his London office on the 15th floor of a glass-and-steel tower next to the Bank of England. He speaks machine gun-quickly in a soft, mid-Atlantic accent. “But the day before [the protest] my wife checked with the lawyer, who said, ‘Don’t do that!'” It turned out that being arrested would give him serious problems when it came to travelling. “I’ve had a green card since completing my MBA at Harvard in 1964.”

Grantham, co-founder and chief strategist of GMO, a Boston-based global investment group, manages $106bn (£69bn) of assets on behalf of 1,000 institutional investors, and employs 600 people, so he decided that the fallout would be too great. He was forced to stand back and watch as his daughter Isabel got arrested, alongside the actor Daryl Hannah, the US’s highest-profile environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Nasa climate scientist James Hansen.

So he is speaking out instead. From where he stands, this bubble, the “carbon bubble”, is the biggest he’s seen. “We’re already in a bad place. The worst accidents are [only] 20, 30, 40 years from now.” Such apocalyptic talk is often the preserve of deep-green doom-mongers – the kind of talk that has led many to reject environmentalism. But Grantham insists he’s guided “by the facts alone”. On some issues (immigration and education) he “would be considered rightwing”, but with the environment, he says he calls it as he sees it. He is disdainful of those who ignore the data, or worse, misinform the public.

“I find the parallels between how some investors refuse to recognise trends, and our reaction to some of our environmental challenges, very powerful,” he says. “There is an unwillingness to process unpleasant data. In a bull market you want to believe good news. You don’t want to hear that the market is going to go off a cliff.” He finds climate sceptics – led by a “little army of non-scientific, persuasive loony lords”, as he characterises them (a barely disguised reference to the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson and Ukip’s Lord Monckton, both of whom promote, to varying degrees, climate-sceptic views) – a frustrating ideological phenomenon. “They have profound beliefs – as opposed to knowledge – that they are willing to protect by all manner of psychological tricks. So you have people who are very smart – great analysts and hedge-fund managers – who on paper know that their argument is wrong, but who promote it fiercely because they are libertarians. Anyone with a brain knows that climate change needs governmental leadership, and they can smell this is bad news for their philosophy. They are using incredible ingenuity to steer their way around facts they do not choose to accept.”

Grantham, who was born in Hertfordshire and raised by his Quaker grandparents in Doncaster, freely admits to being a “late arrival to all this”. After completing a degree in economics at the University of Sheffield in the early 1960s, he worked for a short stint at Shell before going to Harvard for an MBA. In 1977, he co-founded GMO [Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo]. Making his clients – and himself – wealthy filled his working days until the mid-1990s. And then he went on holiday with his children, to the Amazon and Borneo. “And without thinking about it, you start talking about the logs along the side of the river and the lack of mature forests in Borneo.” He smiles, seeing the risk of being accused of being driven by emotion rather than rigorous statistical analysis. “That played a role, but we didn’t treat it as an epiphany.”

And he didn’t preach. For years he has remained, Oz-like, behind the curtain of the environmental movement. He has shunned in-depth interviews and expressed his views only in quarterly newsletters published on GMO’s website, where he writes of long-term risk, climate change and dwindling resources – not just oil, coal and natural gas, but also phosphorus and potash, whose use in modern farming methods “must be drastically reduced in the next 20–40 years or poorer countries will begin to starve”.

At the same time, he has poured an ever-larger amount of his personal wealth into his Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, which he runs, with family input (his children are trustees) and minimal staff, out of GMO’s Boston headquarters. The foundation’s latest tax filing shows that in 2011 he increased the fund’s coffers by $46m (£30m), bringing the total to something approaching $400m (£260m), up from $106m in 2006. Ever the wise moneyman, he has largely reinvested this money, in order to guarantee the foundation’s long-term security. But he also spends about $17m annually on his chosen causes, in the process becoming, according to one magazine, the “world’s most powerful environmentalist”.

Run your finger down the tax document and you see why. In 2011 alone, his foundation gave $1m to each of the leading US conservation charities, the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, as well as $2m to the Environmental Defense Fund, where his German-born wife Hannelore is a trustee and where Isabel has also worked. He is perhaps best known in the green world for funding the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment ($2.2m in 2011), and Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change ($1.9m in 2011), but he funds climate researchers in India, too. He has written large cheques for the Carnegie Institute of Science, the Smithsonian, 350.org, WWF, Greenpeace and, keen to counter what he calls the “misinformation machine”, funds environmental journalism at National Public Radio, the Center for Investigative Journalism, grist.org, Media Matters and the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media. Until last year (when he decided investigative and environmental journalism was “dying out” due to cutbacks), he funded the world’s most lucrative journalism award, the annual $80,000 Grantham prize for environmental reporting.

In the past few months, however, there has been a conspicuous gear-shift in his activities. In addition to being more outspoken, he intends to support new research initiatives, particularly into “avant garde, sustainable” farming techniques. He talks of a “hybrid” form of farming that takes the best of organic farming and the best from “Big Ag”. He doesn’t rule out “compromises” such as genetic modification, which some environmentalists will find hard to swallow.

Having said that, his interest isn’t entirely selfless. “Fifteen years ago, we started a forestry division [at GMO] because I had fallen in love with land and trees, and because I realised it was a mispriced asset class. We have done extremely well in that sector, outperforming the benchmark for 15 years.”

Many deep-greens – who claim the root cause for our environmental woes is the slavish quest for economic growth – will recoil at the thought of a hard-boiled capitalist such as Grantham underpinning so much of the environmental movement. He is unconcerned. “Capitalism does millions of things better than the alternatives. It balances supply and demand in an elegant way that central planning has never come close to. However, it is totally ill-equipped to deal with a small handful of issues. Unfortunately, they are the issues that are absolutely central to our long-term wellbeing and even survival.”

More awkwardly, he insists his substantial investments in oil and gas don’t contradict his green views. “We need oil. If we took oil away tomorrow, civilisation ends. We can burn all the cheap, high-quality oil and gas, but if we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or even third-derivative, energy-intensive oil and gas, with ‘fracking’ for shale gas on the boundary, then we’re cooked, we’re done for.”

He does think there’s some cause for hope. For example, “the business mathematics of alternative energy are changing much faster [than many people] realise.” Looming carbon taxes (“hopefully, in the not-too-distant future”), coupled with the increasing affordability of alternative energy, will mean that coal and oil from tar sands run the “very substantial risk of being stranded assets”. There there’s the “amazing” fall in fertility rates across the world (“the absolute minimum hope of survival is a gracefully declining population”).

But “China is my secret weapon,” he says enthusiastically. His eyes widen with excitement, and he talks quicker and quicker. “The Chinese cavalry riding to the rescue. I have very high hopes for China because they have embedded high scientific capabilities in their leadership class. They know this is serious. And they are acting much faster now than we are. They have it within their capabilities to come back in 30 years with the guarantee of complete energy independence – all alternative and sustainable for ever. They have an embarrassment of capital. We have an embarrassment of debt. So they can set a stunning pace, which they are doing. And they could crank it up. To hell with their five-year plans, they should move up to 25-year plans. They would have such low-cost energy at the end of it they’d be the terror of the capitalist system. Low energy and low labour, that’s the ball game.”

But he argues that there is no reason why the west can’t compete. “Anyone who says government can’t do this, or can’t do that, I say a pox on you; have a look at the Manhattan Project. They did remarkable things. They stuck the brightest minds out in the desert. They were herding cats with great egos, but it worked. If we did that on alternative energy, we’d be home free.”

Read a longer version of this interview, discussing the books he’s currently reading and his views on austerity and Superstorm Sandy, at guardian.co.uk/environment on Monday