Bill Longstaff: Canada earns a D for environment

Last week the Conference Board of Canada released its environment report card and Canada did not do well. We earned a D, ranking third from last against 15 of our international peers. The only countries that performed worse were Australia and the U.S. The best performer of the provinces was Ontario with a B. Five ...

Bill Longstaff: Canada earns a D for environment

Last week the Conference Board of Canada released its environment report card and Canada did not do well. We earned a D, ranking third from last against 15 of our international peers. The only countries that performed worse were Australia and the U.S. The best performer of the provinces was Ontario with a B. Five ...

Bill Longstaff: Alberta’s carbon tax—benefits plus

The Alberta government released its 2016 budget last week, revealing the details of the new carbon tax and the details look good. The tax will kick in on January 1, 2017, at $20 per ton of carbon burned and increase to $30 per ton in 2018. The bulk of the revenue will be used for ...

Bill Longstaff: Alberta’s carbon tax—benefits plus

The Alberta government released its 2016 budget last week, revealing the details of the new carbon tax and the details look good. The tax will kick in on January 1, 2017, at $20 per ton of carbon burned and increase to $30 per ton in 2018. The bulk of the revenue will be used for ...

Bill Longstaff: Oceans of plastic

What comes to mind when you think of oceans? Fish, of course. But what about plastic? Most people know we are dumping a lot of plastic into the world’s oceans, but many would be surprised at just how much. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum, by mid-century the oceans will contain ...

Bill Longstaff: The Pope, the Prime Minister and Naomi Klein

Pope Francis has made it very clear that he is profoundly concerned about what we are doing to life on our planet. He has particularly made it clear to Canadians. Earlier this month he gave an audience to our prime minister. It lasted all of 10 minutes and ended with an awkward photo op. The ...

Bill Longstaff: Will Republicans keep invoking God if the Pope keeps pissing on their philosophy?

American politicians are particularly prone to invoking their Christian faith as a guide to their political beliefs. Although members of both major parties freely trot out scripture at the drop of a writ, conservative Republicans are especially inclined to pepper their appeals with references to their faith, God and Jesus. But now they have encountered ...

Bill Longstaff: Finally, a voice Harper may listen to

A carbon tax is an eminently fair and sensible approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And big oil agrees. At least Steve Williams, CEO of Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, Suncor Energy, does. Speaking to a downtown Calgary crowd on Friday, Williams stated, “We think climate change is happening. We think a broad-based carbon ...

Bill Longstaff: The U.S. military’s war on the environment

One of the American institutions most alert to the threat of global warming is the military. The Pentagon has issued several reports stating that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is climate change. Ironically, the military itself is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. The Department of Defense devours about 330,000 barrels of oil ...

Bill Longstaff: The Arctic—the U.S. conserves, Canada exploits

Federal cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq wears a number of hats. She is Minister of the Environment as well as Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. Being a member of a Harper cabinet, the latter is of course the top hat. She illustrated this in her recent two-year term as chair of the Arctic ...

Bill Longstaff: Pipelines in every direction

Our new premier, Jim Prentice, claims he is committed to making Alberta an environmental leader. That’s on Sundays, just after church. The rest of the week his commitments lie elsewhere. He made that plain in a speech to the Economic Club last week when he declared his goal is to see pipelines built in every ...

Bill Longstaff: It wll be lonely without the animals

We are a rapacious species. Since we first walked out of Africa we have been decimating our neighbours. Today, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2014, we are annihilating other species on a grand scale. The report claims we have reduced the numbers of other animals in the world to half what ...

Bill Longstaff: Greyer is greener

As I slip slowly into my dotage I have at least one consolation—I’m less of a burden on the planet. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany found that per-capita carbon dioxide emissions in Western countries rise steadily as children become adults and as adults become more affluent, but after ...

Bill Longstaff: Will capitalists save us from global warming?

In her latest book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein argues that if we are to defeat climate change we must defeat capitalism. At this week’s UN climate summit in New York, a number of corporate leaders seemed determined to prove her wrong. For example, a group of investment institutions that included ...

Bill Longstaff: Pembina praises Ontario’s new energy plan

The Pembina Institute, one of the country’s leading environmental advocacy organizations, has good things to say about Ontario’s new long-term energy plan. In a press release this week, the Institute praised the province for wisely investing in conservation. According to Tim Weis, Pembina’s director of renewable energy and efficiency policy, “Energy efficiency is the centrepiece ...

Bill Longstaff: Forget the polar bears, what about the moose?

As the Earth inexorably warms up due to human folly, one species after another pays the price. The most iconic example is of course the polar bear. And why not—what is cuter and cuddlier than the bear with the thick white coat and the black nose? But less cuddly creatures are also suffering. For example, ...

Bill Longstaff: At least the provinces (well, two of them) care about climate change

In a good news item, the governments of Ontario and Manitoba announced they will maintain the internationally renowned Experiment Lakes Area project. Ontario has committed $2-million a year and Manitoba another $900,000 over six years through its funding of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The IISD, a Winnipeg-based public policy research organization, will ...

Bill Longstaff: The swan song of the Round Table on the Environment

As part of its monstrous budget bill earlier this year, the federal government trashed the National Round Table on the Environment. The Round Table, established in 1988, brought together leaders from business, academia, environmental groups, labour and public policy, to bring “leadership in the new way we must think of the relationship between the environment ...

Bill Longstaff: Harper plays Mulcair … at our expense

If Stephen Harper is anything, he is a shrewd politician—always strategizing. He illustrated this yesterday starting off the new session of Parliament by accusing the NDP of supporting a carbon tax. Thomas Mulcair fell into the trap by immediately denying the NDP was considering any such thing. This accomplishes two goals for the Conservatives. First, ...

Bill Longstaff: Call for international solidarity with Canadian scientists

As the federal government’s assault on science encounters increased resistance from Canadian scientists, the international community increasingly takes notice. In a recent column in The Guardian, science writer Alice Bell suggests that our scientists deserve international support, saying “We can’t pretend Canadian science is simply a Canadian matter any more than we can pretend we ...

Bill Longstaff: Scientists warn, politicians ignore

The Global Network of Science Academies, representing 105 science academies around the world, issued a press release last week highlighting what they referred to as “two of the most profound challenges to humanity—population and consumption,” and went on to call for “urgent and coordinated international action to address them.” They emphasized that, “current patterns of ...

Bill Longstaff: If it ain’t one damn thing …

That China’s waterways are badly polluted, is common knowledge. Less well recognized is the increasing pollution of its land. Zhou Jianmin, director of the China Soil Association, reports that, “More areas are being affected, the degree of contamination is intensifying and the range of toxins is increasing.” The main culprit is arsenic from China’s 280,000 ...

Bill Longstaff: Northern Gateway and ghosts of the Exxon Valdez

I have been reading Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll, and was captivated by the prologue, which reviewed the Exxon Valdez tragedy. As I read the story, I began to get an uneasy feeling that we may be witnessing history about to repeat itself. Precisely what sent the Exxon Valdez into Bligh ...

Bill Longstaff: Wildlife flourishes in human dead zones

We all know what the big problem with planet Earth is—people. Homo sapiens. The most destructive of species. Ever since we walked out of Africa 70,000 years ago, we have been an enemy of nature. Long before we invented agriculture, we were annihilating other species. The only big land animals left on Earth, live in ...

Bill Longstaff: Slowing Harper’s rush to environmental ruin

The federal government, it appears, is in a hurry. We cannot exploit the tar sands fast enough and bad guys are getting in the way. In an open letter to Canadians, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver declared, “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our ...