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  • New Zealand
    Peter Jones - August 27, 2014

    A Canadian speaks to “Down Under” Countries

    Australia is retreating from a strong climate change policy. New Zealand is wavering.  Why should Canadians worry about such developments down under?

    Gordon McBean, a Canadian climatologist who is the President elect of the International Council for Science, encouraged New Zealand to take a strong stand on climate change.  He referred to the world wide increase in GHG emissions, the result of many countries, including Canada, not reducing their emissions. In his opinion, the world needs fresh inspiration, and a leading role by New Zealand as a down under country could embarrass other countries into following its example.

    The New Zealand Parliament is elected using the mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) voting system.  This system encourages the formation of political parties, currently eight in number, all of whom seek representation in Parliament.  These parties all have policies on climate change.

    • The governing National Party will reduce GHG emissions by 2020 to the Kyoto target, but there are questions  whether its program and proposed path for reductions can assure this result.
    • The Labour Party is relatively more determined and promises a transition to a green, i.e. non-carbon, economy.
    • The Greens also have a transition strategy aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050.
    • The New Zealand First party proposes research and incentive programs for individual users to move to renewable energy.
    • Three other parties, the Maori, United Future and Mana-Internet party, have sensible programs to reduce emissions, but minimal representation in Parliament.
    • The ACT party – which has no representation in the current parliament – will not “act” to reduce emissions  as such efforts would be inconsequential.

    Is the proliferation of political parties an advantage for the development of climate change policy?  We can only wait and see!

    Side bar thought:  would electoral reform in Canada result in a similar proliferation of political parties?


  • 600_ICLR_IMAGE1.2_long_
    Peter Jones - August 21, 2014

    Living in an Age of Unpredictability

    Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, described one of the disturbing aspects of climate change in these words:

    “Climate instability is becoming the new norm.  The time when we could use climate trends of the recent past as a guide to future climate conditions is now history.  We are moving into an age of unpredictability.  (“World on the Edge”, p. 47).

    The world’s re-insurance industry is in the front line of the battle to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG). Why? Because re-insurers have long recognized that continued emissions of GHG will inevitably cause an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events.

    The facts are that insurers in almost every country have seen payments for insured damage resulting from these events spike drastically.  Insurers are warning that the necessary increases in premiums will be well  beyond the amounts to which the public have been paying.

    So how will the insurance industry assess future losses in an age of unpredictability?   That uncertainty erodes its ability to provide insurance at a fair price.  Still there can be no practical certainty that even large sums raised by significantly higher premiums will be sufficient to cover actual losses as they occur.

    Yet there is suspicion that insurers are using climate change as an excuse to increase profits.  See our blog “Climate Conversations with Club Members”.   The individuals who believe this are much influenced by the ranting of Denialists.

    Inevitably the insurance industry has been forced to take public issue with Denialists, who continue to grasp at straws to dispute the inevitable.  Glenn McGillivray, the Executive Director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction has written a hard hitting blog.    In our opinion his conclusion is indisputable:

    “We are long past the point where we need to direct our time and resources at arguing with deniers. We must now move rapidly toward strategies to mitigate greenhouse gases (which do not fall within the scope of ICLR’s work) and toward strategies for adaptation (or building resilience against extreme weather that is worsening due to climate change, something that is well within our strategic purview).”

    For further comments on public reaction to unpredictability see
    What is normal in a time of climate change?In the more prosaic language of the National Climate Assessment (US):

    “Because of the growing influence of human activities, the climate of the past is not a good basis for future planning.”



  • australian flag
    Peter Jones - August 18, 2014

    Climate Change Policies “down under”

    So – has Australia progressed in reducing GHG emissions to meet its 2020 targets?  And, if not, what steps will it take to do so?

    Australia is the source for about 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  On a per capita basis these emissions are nearly twice the OECD average and more than four times the world average. Only a few countries in the world rank higher in per capita emissions — Bahrain, Bolivia, Brunei, Kuwait and Qatar.

    To reduce emissions the previous Labour Government proposed an emissions trading scheme and introduced a carbon tax.  In the 2013 election the Coalition Party successfully campaigned against these measures, defeating the Labour Government.  Since taking office, the Coalition Party has promised to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle the infrastructure required for effective emissions trading.

    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott still acknowledges that climate change is a serious problem.  His solution to GHG emissions is a policy of direct action, which includes a government-financed Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will promote the lowest-cost carbon abatement schemes to reduce emissions and encourage “practical ways of reducing emissions where every dollar is spent on actually purchasing real means of decreasing Australia’s overall emissions”.

    The Direct Action plan appears to include future regulation of industries that burn carbon.  If they are to have any effect, these regulations will negatively impact Australian coal exports, a big contributor to the Australian economy.

    Abbott proposes other policies he claims will help meet Australia’s emission targets. For example, Abbot proposed planting more trees noting the loss of natural forests results in an increase of carbon in the atmosphere, .  He was challenged by scientists who concluded that a crash program of tree planting could not significantly offset Australia’s emissions at their present and anticipated levels.

    Abbott also believes that energy efficiency measures will be another way of reducing Australia’s emissions. These measures will help, but the devil is in the details, which are still lacking.

    There is also the reality that Australia has to make up for lost time. In 2010 in International Energy Agency conducted a review of public spending on energy efficiency measures by Australia and 17 other countries: Australia came in last.

    Abbot considers solar energy as a large contributor to reducing emissions. The Labour government did provide financing for solar energy projects, but continued support of this financing is uncertain.

    A group of Coalition MP’s, wish to reduce renewable energy targets.  So does Australia’s coal and gas industry who would benefit by increased profits that a greater share of the energy market would bring.

    Three years ago we wrote a commentary “Climate Change Leadership Australian Style”.   In the interval this leadership has almost disappeared although the impact of climate change on Australia (droughts, heat waves, and wildfires) has not.

  • Gord Miller
    Peter Jones - August 12, 2014

    In Danger of failing. 

    Many many decades ago, this language appeared on school report cards. A check mark warned parents that their child might not advance to the next grade.  Judging by the recent conclusions of Gordon Miller (Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner), “In danger of failing” could refer to Ontario.

    His 2014 report  to the Ontario Legislature on Ontario’s performance questions whether the present Government is committed to programs that will result in Ontario meeting its 2020 GHG reduction target.

    Ontario committed to GHG reduction targets in its 2007 Climate Action Plan.  The Province met its interim 2014 target principally through the phasing out of coal-fired electrical generating plants.  Why then is Miller pessimistic about meeting the 2020 target?

    The Report explains that Ontario has failed to establish new policy objectives that will result in further reduction of GHG emissions over the next six years.

    A large part of GHG emissions in Ontario is attributable to transportation.  In this year’s election the Ontario Liberal Party undertook to improve transport infrastructure for public transit, particularly in Toronto, which should reduce GHG emissions from automobiles.  This election promise, coupled with GHG emissions standards that will apply to automobiles manufactured after 2017, should have a positive effect on emissions levels from this source.

    But that is not enough – more must be done.  Yet in the face of this need, the Ontario Government has whittled back the 2020 GHG reductions target by 80%.  The Government has not explained why it is reneging on the commitment in its Climate Action Plan. There is no assurance that the Government will commit to either policy initiatives or additional financing to fulfill its Action Plan promises.

    Miller’s Report contains this observation why meeting these targets is essential:

    The release of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report represents a watershed event in global climate science; the science underlying climate change has become much more compelling and certain, and the projections being made are dire indeed.

    No sense counting on the Federal Government to set an example for Ontario: the Federal Government is too busy implementing policies encouraging the exploitation of the Tar Sands, which will guarantee that Canada does not meet its international reduction targets.


  • Peter Jones - August 3, 2014

    “International Coalition of Grandparents Appeal for Climate Sanity”

    Statement to national and international political leaders from Concerned Grandparents – united for our grandchildrens’ sustainable future.

    International Grandparents call for a new moral leadership, giving priority to the safety of all our grandchildren and their right to a sustainable planet. Putting their best interest at the top of national and international political agendas will demonstrate solidarity between generations.

    The latest IPCC reports leave no doubt – the health of our planet is in grave jeopardy.

    Our grandchildren must cope with the risk of uncontrollable global warming in a world ridden by famine, sickness, displacement and despair.   This risk has greatly increased, yet international climate negotiations are stalled.

    The search for new sources of fossil fuel grows. More fertile land is being stripped, precious water contaminated, and more habitats for animals and humans disrupted.

    We know that most fossil reserves must remain in the ground if global warming of more than 2 °C is to be avoided. Consequently, coal must be phased out faster. Environmentally costly fossil fuel sources such as tar sands, coal seam gas and shale gas cannot be exploited. In the fragile High Arctic, where unique habitat and precious marine life must be protected and prioritized, oil exploitation must stop.

    “Turning down the heat” for the sake of our grandchildren will require changed attitudes and sincere efforts to slow down consumerism in affluent societies. We need to recognize and adjust to the limits of the Earth’s resources.  We must regard saving, caution and moderation as positive values – economically beneficial to both today’s and future societies.

    As elders we acknowledge our time-honoured role as caretakers of the inheritance of future generations. We owe grandchildren everywhere sustainable living conditions, clean air and water, fertile and uncontaminated land, and a contained global climate.

    In short, we owe them a planet Earth as wonderful as the one we have enjoyed.

    Therefore we call upon concerned grandparents of the world to join us in efforts to force political leaders – national and international –to protect the rights and safety of children and all future generations.

    Halfdan Wiik, chair, Grandparents Climate Campaign, Norway
    Peter Jones, chair, For Our Grandchildren (4RG), Canada

  • web-simpson-logo
    Peter Jones - July 27, 2014

    A must read!

    In 2012 an enterprising Website ranked Canadian columnists who commented on climate change. Jeffrey Simpson walked away with the Project Beaver Award as the best!.

    4RG has commented on numerous Simpson columns.  In our view he has continued to be the most balanced, most insightful and most persistent commentator on the subject.

    Read his recent column in Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail. He successfully integrates many themes in this column:

    • Canada’s experience with extreme weather conditions,
    • our need to adapt to global warming,
    • the winners and losers from climate change, and
    • the measures taken by the Federal Government to minimize public appreciation of the issue.

    We had addressed up the last theme – the “suppression” of publicity about climate change – in our blog of July 1 Ohhhhhhhh Canada!  We should have mentioned that Leona Aglukkaq, the Federal Minister of the Environment since May 2013, has managed to avoid any public statement on climate change for close to a year.

    Saying nothing about climate change is an effective way for our Federal Government to keep the issue out of the public eye.

    Climate Change is not a concern of this Government.  And certainly not of this Minister of the Environment!