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7 Environmental Charities Face Canada Revenue Agency Audits

7 Environmental Charities Face Canada Revenue Agency Audits.

CBC  |  By THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark BlinchPosted: 02/06/2014 8:55 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/07/2014 9:59 am EST

canada revenue agency

The Canada Revenue Agency is currently conducting extensive audits on some of Canada’s most prominent environmental groups to determine if they comply with guidelines that restrict political advocacy, CBC News has learned.

If the CRA rules that the groups exceeded those limits, their charitable status could be revoked, which would effectively shut them down.

Many of the groups are among the Conservative government’s fiercest critics. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signalled clearly in his budget of 2012 that political activity of these groups would be closely monitored and he allocated $8 million to the effort. The environmental organizations believe they have been targeted with the goal of silencing their criticism.

“We’re concerned about what appears to be an increase in audits around political activity and in particular around environmental organizations” said Marcel Lauzière, president of Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for charities.

“There’s a big chill out there with what charities can and cannot do.”

The list of groups CBC has now confirmed are undergoing audits reads like a who’s who in the environmental charity world. They include:

– The David Suzuki Foundation

– Tides Canada

– West Coast Environmental Law

– The Pembina Foundation

– Environmental Defence

– Equaterre

– Ecology Action Centre

“This is a war against the sector,” says John Bennett, of Sierra Club Canada. His group is not yet being audited, but he said he is prepared.

“In the 40-year history of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, it’s been audited twice in 40 years” so there are more audits than usual, Bennett said.

CBC has confirmed that at least one group, Environmental Defence, has received its report back from the CRA and they are appealing it. Sources said their report threatened to revoke their charitable status. Another group, West Coast Environmental Law, had auditors fly in from Ottawa to enhance the work of the local CRA team. One source said the Ottawa CRA people called themselves “The A team.”

Most groups on this list would not talk on the record, but sources say executive directors of these groups are meeting regularly by phone to discuss a united response to the government.

By law, charities are allowed to use a maximum of 10 per cent of their resources for political activity or advocacy, but the guidelines are clear that it cannot be partisan activity. That has been interpreted for years to mean that a group can oppose a government policy but cannot back a specific candidate in an election.

During a pre-budget consultation in December, Flaherty said he is considering making even more changes to rules for charities that have a political aspect.

“We’re reviewing that,” Flaherty said. “We spent some time on it last year and we’re looking at it again now as I prepare the budget.”

He went on to warn charities: “If I were an environmental charity using charitable money, tax-receipted money for political purposes, I would be cautious.”

Bennett said the rules seem to be constantly changing.

“We don’t know what rules we’re playing by. The problem with this is that they gave the power to CRA to walk in and shut you down. And then if you want to complain, you can go to court afterwards.”

The government insists it does not target certain charities, nor does it tell CRA to do so. Auditors alone determine whether they investigate a charity.

“I assume they receive all sorts of information from all sorts of Canadians, in terms of who they should or should not audit. Ultimately it is up to them as an independent agency who they audit or not,” Alberta Conservative MP James Rajotte said.

CBC News contacted the CRA several times to ask how auditing targets are chosen. Spokespeople suggested responses could be found on their website. There it states some of the reasons a charity could be selected for an audit including random selection, to review specific legal obligations under the law and to follow-up on possible non-compliance or complaints.

According to lawyer Mark Blumberg, who specializes in charity law, the CRA often audits charitable organizations based on complaints.

“If there are a number of complaints about a charity and its political activities, that could trigger an audit by CRA,” he said. That assessment is echoed by a number of groups currently undergoing audits.

“I believe our audit was complaint driven,” said Ross McMillan, the president and CEO of Tides Canada.

“I am confident of a positive outcome as we take seriously our responsibility to act in compliance with the Income Tax Act and Canada Revenue Agency guidelines,” he said.

Pro-oilsands group has filed complaints

McMillan goes on to cite complaints from Ethical Oil, a group that has formally submitted complaints to the CRA about Tides Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence.

The complaints are all filed through legal counsel and are part of a campaign Ethical Oil has started to strip these environmental groups of their charitable status.

Ethical Oil is a registered non-profit non-governmental organization that describes  itself as an “online community” to empower people to become grassroots activists in defence of the oilsands development.

The group was founded by Alykhan Velshi, who is currently the director of issues management in the Prime Minister’s Office. Environmental groups say Ethical Oil is funded by the oil and gas industry to try to undermine their work

CBC News has repeatedly asked Ethical Oil to reveal who their funders are but no specific list has been made public.

Environmental groups are not the only ones who have been audited. Social justice groups like Amnesty International Canada are also currently undergoing an audit about their political activities. CBC News contacted them but they declined to comment.

All the groups say they will be watching Tuesday’s budget for new rules that may affect their charitable status.

“We have an important role to play in our society and we want to play that role,” said Bennett. ” But we need a governing system that actually welcomes public dialogue instead of discouraging it.”

David Suzuki: Rail versus pipeline is the wrong question : thegreenpages.ca

David Suzuki: Rail versus pipeline is the wrong question : thegreenpages.ca.

Photo: Rail versus pipeline is the wrong question

The question isn’t about whether to use rail or pipelines. It’s about how to reduce our need for both. (Credit: Dieter Drescher via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

Debating the best way to do something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place is a sure way to end up in the wrong place. That’s what’s happening with the “rail versus pipeline” discussion. Some say recent rail accidents mean we should build more pipelines to transport fossil fuels. Others argue that leaks, high construction costs, opposition and red tape surrounding pipelines are arguments in favour of using trains.

But the recent spate of rail accidents and pipeline leaks and spills doesn’t provide arguments for one or the other; instead, it indicates that rapidly increasing oil and gas development and shipping ever greater amounts, by any method, will mean more accidents, spills, environmental damage — even death. The answer is to step back from this reckless plunder and consider ways to reduce our fossil fuel use.

If we were to slow down oil sands development, encourage conservation and invest in clean energy technology, we could save money, ecosystems and lives — and we’d still have valuable fossil fuel resources long into the future, perhaps until we’ve figured out ways to use them that aren’t so wasteful. We wouldn’t need to build more pipelines just to sell oil and gas as quickly as possible, mostly to foreign markets. We wouldn’t have to send so many unsafe rail tankers through wilderness areas and places people live.

We may forgo some of the short-term jobs and economic opportunities the fossil fuel industry provides, but surely we can find better ways to keep people employed and the economy humming. Gambling, selling guns and drugs and encouraging people to smoke all create jobs and economic benefits, too — but we rightly try to limit those activities when the harms outweigh the benefits.

Both transportation methods come with significant risks. Shipping by rail leads to more accidents and spills, but pipeline leaks usually involve much larger volumes. One of the reasons we’re seeing more train accidents involving fossil fuels is the incredible boom in moving these products by rail. According to the American Association of Railroads, train shipment of crude oil in the U.S. grew from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 234,000 in 2012 — almost 25 times as many in only four years! That’s expected to rise to 400,000 this year.

As with pipelines, risks are increased because many rail cars are older and not built to standards that would reduce the chances of leaks and explosions when accidents occur. Some in the rail industry argue it would cost too much to replace all the tank cars as quickly as is needed to move the ever-increasing volumes of oil. We must improve rail safety and pipeline infrastructure for the oil and gas that we’ll continue to ship for the foreseeable future, but we must also find ways to transport less.

The economic arguments for massive oil sands and liquefied natural gas development and expansion aren’t great to begin with — at least with the way our federal and provincial governments are going about it. Despite a boom in oil sands growth and production, “Alberta has run consecutive budget deficits since 2008 and since then has burned through $15 billion of its sustainability fund,” according to an article on the Tyee website. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Alberta’s debt is now $7 billion and growing by $11 million daily.

As for jobs, a 2012 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows less than one per cent of Canadian workers are employed in extraction and production of oil, coal and natural gas. Pipelines and fossil fuel development are not great long-term job creators, and pale in comparison to employment generated by the renewable energy sector.

Beyond the danger to the environment and human health, the worst risk from rapid expansion of oil sands, coal mines and gas fields and the infrastructure needed to transport the fuels is the carbon emissions from burning their products — regardless of whether that happens here, in China or elsewhere. Many climate scientists and energy experts, including the International Energy Agency, agree that to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, we must leave at least two-thirds of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground.

The question isn’t about whether to use rail or pipelines. It’s about how to reduce our need for both.

Related articles

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation.

Photo: Are we trading away our rights and environment?

(Credit: Gord McKenna via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

One recent case could put Canada on the hook for $250 million. Quebec has put a hold on fracking pending a study into the environmental impacts of blasting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release gas deposits. A U.S. resource company plans to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, claiming compensation for the moratorium’s damage to its drilling interests. Similar disputes have already cost Canada millions of dollars.

Ontario also wants assurances that fracking is safe before it allows the practice. That province is facing costs and hurdles because of another conflict between trade and environment. Japan and the European Union filed a complaint with theWTO, claiming a requirement under the Ontario Green Energy Act that wind and solar projects must use a set percentage of local materials is unfair.

Many of the problems arise because of an investor-state arbitration mechanism, which is included in NAFTA, as well as the proposed Canada-China FIPA, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership. It allows foreign investors to bring claims before outside arbitrators if they believe their economic interests are being harmed by a nation’s actions or policies. So economics trump national interests.

This has caused many countries, including Australia, South Africa, India and several in Latin America, to avoid signing deals that include the investor-state arbitration mechanism. In Australia’s case, the country recognized the pitfalls when tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, attempted to claim damages under a bilateral investment treaty after the federal government introduced a science-based law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain, unappealing packages.

According to Australian National University law professor Thomas Faunce, Philip Morris then lobbied the U.S. government to include a similar mechanism in a new trade agreement it was negotiating with Australia. In an article for Troy Media, Faunce wrote that, with such a mechanism, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes “would, in effect, become the final arbitrators on major Australian public policy questions concerning mineral royalties, fossil fuel and renewable energy, water, telecommunications, banking, agriculture and power.”

The 31-year trade agreement between Canada and China is worrisome, with its 15-year opt-out clause (compared to just six months for NAFTA), but the inclusion of the mechanism in other agreements is also cause for concern. At the very least, we could be on the hook for millions or billions of dollars if our environmental, health, labour or other policies were deemed to harm the interests of those investing in or trading with Canada.

The government’s desire to expand global trade may be understandable, but we mustn’t give away too much. We must tell our elected representatives to at least delay the Canada-China FIPA until it has been examined more thoroughly, and to reconsider the inclusion of investor-state arbitration mechanisms in all trade deals.

Neil Young Blasts Harper Government For Allowing Oilsands Development

Neil Young Blasts Harper Government For Allowing Oilsands Development.

TORONTO – Canadian rock icon Neil Young launched a blistering attack on the Harper government and Alberta’s oilsands at a news conference on Sunday, saying that he was “shattered” after visiting a Fort McMurray industrial site he compared to the atomic bomb-devastated wreckage of Hiroshima, Japan.

Joined on the Massey Hall stage by representatives from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Young was especially scathing in his criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “hypocritical” administration, which Young said was ignoring science to irresponsibly drive corporate profits.

“Canada is trading integrity for money,” said the environmentally engaged 68-year-old rocker. “That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States and is lagging behind on the world stage. It’s an embarrassment to any Canadians.”

“I want my grandchildren to grow up and look up and see a blue sky and have dreams that their grandchildren are going to do great things,” he added later. “And I don’t see that today in Canada. I see a government just completely out of control.

“Money is number one. Integrity isn’t even on the map.”

Young was speaking hours before he was set to take the same stage for a concert, the proceeds of which were to be directed to the Athabasca Chipeyan First Nation Legal Fund. The tour, which also features Canuck jazz chanteuse Diana Krall, was set to roll through Winnipeg and Regina before wrapping in Calgary on Jan. 19.

The stage was already dressed for Young’s show: a colourfully paint-smeared piano, a half-dozen guitars arranged in a circle, a majestic organ, a wooden First Nations figure and, behind it all as a massive backdrop, a red banner reading “Honor the Treaties.”

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation represents a community living roughly 200 kilometres downstream of current oilsands development. The group is embroiled in a legal battle to protect their traditional territory from further industrialization.

Young, who was born in Toronto before launching his storied music career in Winnipeg, was ferocious in his condemnation of what he sees as a violation of treaty rights.

“The name Canada’s based on a First Nations word. The word Ottawa’s based on a First Nations word, Ontario’s based on a First Nations word, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec — these are all First Nations word. This is where Canada came from,” said Young.

“We made a deal with these people. We are breaking our promise. We are killing these people. The blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands.”

Young said that “a while ago” he decided to drive his electric car from San Francisco to northern Alberta. Along the way, he stopped to meet Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam — who sat next to Young onstage on Sunday — and visit others in the community.

It was on this trip that Young also decided to see the oilsands first-hand. The visit certainly left a mark.

“(I) drove around the tarsands in my electric car viewing and experiencing this unbelievable smell and toxicity in my throat — my eyes were burning,” he recalled. “That started 25 miles away from the tarsands. When I was in Fort Mac, it got more intense. My son, who has cerebral palsy, has lung damage, (so) he was wearing a mask to keep the toxic things in the air out of his lungs and make it easy for him to have lungs after he left.”

They soon came upon a “huge industrial site.”

“It looked very big and very impressive. Extremely well-organized. A lot of people were working — hard-working people, who I respect,” Young remembered. “That was one of 50 sites. The one we saw was the cleanest one. It’s the best-looking one. It’s the poster child.

“And it’s one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.”

During the week’s concerts, Young said he planned on screening the 12-minute Greenpeace film “Petropolis,” which he said was “probably the most devastating thing you will ever see.”

“It’s the greediest, most destructive and disrespectful demonstration of just something run amok that you could ever see,” he said. “There’s no way to describe it, so I described it as Hiroshima, which was basically pretty mellow compared to what’s going on out there.

“I still stand by what I said about Fort Mac and the way it looks. Not because the houses in Fort Mac look like Hiroshima, but because Fort Mac stands for 50 sites, the name Fort Mac stands for diseases that these First Nations people are getting, pollution, everything that’s happening there.”

He soon segued into another attack on the Harper government.

“This oil is all going to China. It’s not for Canada, it’s not for the United States, it’s not ours. It belongs to the oil companies. And Canada’s government is making this happen. It’s truly a disaster to anyone with an environmental conscience.”

Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Harper, countered that “projects are approved only when they are deemed safe for Canadians and (the) environment” and stressing that the resource sector creates “economic opportunities” and “high-wage jobs” for thousands of Canadians.

“Canada’s natural resources sector is and has always been a fundamental part of our country’s economy,” MacDonald wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day. Our government recognizes the importance of developing resources responsibly and sustainably and we will continue to ensure that Canada’s environmental laws and regluations are rigorous. We will ensure that companies abide by conditions set by independent, scientific and expert panels.”

At one point during the hour-plus media session, Young was asked what he would say if granted a private consultation with Harper. Initially he demurred, muttering that the query “blew (his) mind.”

Later, however, he said he’d be open to such a meeting.

“I don’t think I’m going to get to see him anyway, but if he does want to see me, I’m ready to go see him. I would welcome the opportunity,” said Young, noting that he invited government representatives to attend the news conference and provide their side of the story, but the invitations were declined.

Environmental activist David Suzuki, who moderated the session, pointed out that he had personally tried to meet with Harper three times but had been rebuffed on all occasions.

“Well, you got a bad reputation,” Young replied with a smirk.

Young has been politically active on other matters recently as well. On his website, he’s posted messages questioning the pollution level in Shanghai and shaming Harper for competing “with Australia’s pro-coal government for the worst climate record in the industrialized world.”

The restlessly prolific guitar wizard hasn’t released new music since issuing “Americana” and “Psychedelic Pill” within a few months of each other in 2012. In 2009, he released an album about fossil fuels called “Fork in the Road.” He was asked Sunday whether this new campaign might similarly inspire new music.

“I don’t plan it. If I write something, it’ll come to me,” said Young, clad in a tassled light brown jacket, his face shaded by a black hat. “I think it will happen, but I don’t know.”

Olduvai’s Top Ten 2013

OLDUVAI’S TOP TEN

TOP TEN POSTS:

  1. Fukushima Debris Island (292)
  2. Collapse of Trust and Faith in the System (241)
  3. Summarizing the Known Rigged Markets (226)
  4. David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning (221)
  5. 4 Articles: Grid Ex II-Nov 13/14 North American Grid Failure Exercise (165)
  6. How the NSA Hacks Your iPhone: Presenting Dropout Jeep (145)
  7. Peak Oil Responds: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” (138)
  8. Jeremy Grantham: We have been conned. (110)
  9. Meet Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar Bin Sultan: The Puppetmaster Behind the Syrian War (94)
  10. Protesting Veterans Tear Down DC Barricades, Chant “Shut Down the White House” (89)

TOP INTERNAL LINKS FOLLOWED:

  1. Olduvai (4288)
  2. Home Page/Archives (1480)
  3. About (259)
  4. Topics (124)
  5. Readings (59)
  6. Media (55)
  7. Passage (54)
  8. Purchase (36)
  9. Book 2 Sneak Peek (28)

TOP TEN EXTERNAL LINKS FOLLOWED:

  1. Zerohedge (517)
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  3. Huffington Post (98)
  4. Wikipedia (92)
  5. CBC (89)
  6. Al Jazeera (80)
  7. The Economic Collapse (73)
  8. Washington’s Blog (62)
  9. Kunstler (36)
  10. Bloomberg (34)

TOP TEN VIEWING COUNTRIES:

  1. United States (7553)
  2. Canada (6004)
  3. United Kingdom (511)
  4. Australia (253)
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Climate Change Could Throw Atlantic Canada into Chaos | David Suzuki

Climate Change Could Throw Atlantic Canada into Chaos | David Suzuki.

David Suzuki Foundation supporters who live in Western Canada often have eyes riveted on Ottawa to see what the federal government’s next move will be when it comes to environmental issues. So we sometimes too easily overlook Canadians in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador — coastal regions, like ours, on the front lines of climate change.

As oceans warm, water expands and sea levels rise. Melting glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets add to the water volume. Scientists predict oceans could rise by more than a metre before the end of the century. They’re also increasingly convinced that escalating carbon emissions are linked to the risk of extreme weather events and intensified storms, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or super storm Sandy in the U.S. in 2012. A key finding from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is that Atlantic Canada faces similar risks if climate change is left unchecked, with more severe storms causing surging tides, flooding and widespread coastal erosion.

For his captivating documentary, Climate Change in Atlantic Canada, Ian Mauro, an environmental and social scientist at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, interviewed farmers, fishers, local residents, First Nations community members, scientists and business people from all around the Atlantic provinces. All say climate change is affecting their communities and livelihoods. They also agree something must be done and that the “business as usual” scenario is no longer an option.

The heart of the problem is our seemingly unquenchable thirst for mainly fossil-fuel based energy resources. As our desire for comfort and efficiency grows, so does our energy consumption, prompting the search for sources increasingly difficult to extract. The wordstar sandsshale gasoffshore drilling and fracking have only entered our vocabulary in just the past few decades – including in Atlantic communities, many of which now also rely on these fossil-based industries to fuel economic prosperity.

But with current talks about oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, shale gasfracking in New Brunswick, and moving tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the East Coast, we must ask if economic profit and prosperity for a few are worth the environmental and social risks to so many — especially when the latest IPCC report suggests that to avoid global catastrophic climate chaos, we must leave much of the known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground.

In light of what the scientific community is telling us about the scope and impacts of climate change – largely a result of burning fossil fuels – we owe it ourselves and our children and grandchildren to consider the implications of the choices we’re about to make in Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country. As former Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Scott Vaughan reminded us before leaving his position earlier this year, Canada is not prepared for a major oil spill off the East Coast. And, as New Brunswick Chief Medical Health Officer Eilish Cleary points out regarding the economics of shale gas development, “[We] cannot simply assume that more money equates to a healthier population.”

Coastal regions such as Atlantic Canada have a long cultural history based largely on fishing, tourism and other marine activities. Although fossil-fuel activities have been in Atlantic Canada for decades, proposed new on- and offshore energy projects will likely put Atlantic Canada’s existing economy and way of life at risk, affecting tourism and fishing in the ocean and on rivers like New Brunswick’s famous Miramichi.

When it comes to climate change, our future will not be determined by chance but by choice. We can choose to ignore the science, or we can change our ways and reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s up to us and our leaders to consider and promote energy alternatives and other solutions that modernize our energy systems, provide a clean, healthy environment for our families and offer long-term economic prosperity.

I’ll be touring Atlantic Canada with local and national experts at the end of November, premiering Mauro’s film and holding conversations with Atlantic communities about climate change and energy issues. Please join us and be part of the solution!

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation-Quebec Science Project Manager Jean-Patrick Toussaint. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

 

 

Philippines Tragedy Shows Canada Needs a Climate Change Wake-Up Call | David Suzuki

Philippines Tragedy Shows Canada Needs a Climate Change Wake-Up Call | David Suzuki.

As people in the Philippines struggle with the devastation and death from the worst storm to hit land in recorded history, world leaders are meeting in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss the climate crisis. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Yeb Sano, lead negotiator for the Philippines, told the opening session of the UN climate summit, which runs until November 22. “We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.”

Given the slow progress at the 18 meetings held since 1992 — when countries from around the world joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — it’s hard not to be pessimistic. Canada, in particular, has been repeatedly singled out among the close to 200 member countries for obstructing progress and not doing enough to address climate change at home.

But as scientific evidence continues to build, and impacts, from extreme weather to melting Arctic ice, continue to worsen, with costs mounting daily, the impetus to resolve the problem is growing.

We’re exhausting Earth’s finite resources and pushing global ecosystems to tipping points, beyond which addressing pollution and climate issues will become increasingly difficult and costly. The only hindrance to developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate plan for the world is lack of political will.

Part of the problem is that much of the world is tied to the fossil fuel economy, and the rush is on to get as much oil, coal and gas out of the ground and to market while people are still willing to pay for it and burn it up. We’re wasting precious resources in the name of quick profits, instead of putting them to better use than propelling often solo occupants in large metal vehicles, and instead of making them last while we shift to cleaner energy sources.

But there’s cause for hope. Solutions are available. Governments just have to demonstrate courage and leadership to put us on a path to a healthier future.

For example, a recent report by energy consulting firm ECOFYS, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century”, shows it’s technically and economically feasible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero from 90 per cent of current sources with readily available technology. It shows we could phase out almost all net emissions by 2050 by innovating further. In doing so, we could likely meet the agreed-upon goal of limiting global average temperature increases to below 2 C, and we’d stand a 50 per cent chance of staying below 1.5 C by the end of the century. All of this would have the added benefit of reducing “water, air and soil pollution associated with traditional energy generation.”

The report echoes the David Suzuki Foundation’s findings regarding Canada’s potential to meet its current and forecasted demand for fuel and electricity with existing supplies of solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass energy.

Whether or not any of this is politically feasible is another question. But the longer we delay the more difficult and expensive it will get.

Polling research also shows Canadians expect our government to be a constructive global citizen on climate action. A recent Leger Marketing survey sponsored by Canada 2020 and the University of Montreal found the majority of Canadians understand that human activity is contributing to climate change and believe the federal government should make addressing the issue a high priority. Of those polled, 76 per cent said Canada should sign an international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, with most supporting this even if China does not sign.

The poll also found majority support for a carbon tax as one way to combat climate change, especially if the money generated is used to support renewable energy development. Although B.C. has recently stepped back from previous leadership on climate change, itscarbon tax is one example among many of local governments doing more than the federal government to address climate change.

We and our leaders at all political levels — local, national and international — must do everything we can to confront the crisis. As Mr. Sano told delegates in Warsaw, “We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.”

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

 

David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning Is Dire And Scary (VIDEO)

 

David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning Is Dire And Scary (VIDEO).

David Suzuki has issued a scary warning about Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, saying that if it falls in a future earthquake, it’s “bye bye Japan” and the entire west coast of North America should be evacuated.

The “Nature of Things” host made the comments in a talk posted to YouTube after he joined Dr. David Schindler for “Letting in the Light,” a symposium on water ecology held at the University of Alberta on Oct. 30 and 31.

An excerpt of the talk shows Suzuki outlining a frightening scenario that would result from the destruction of the nuclear plant.

“Fukushima is the most terrifying situation I can imagine,” he said.

“Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is, if there’s another earthquake of a seven or above that, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose.

“And the probability of a seven or above earthquake in the next three years is over 95 per cent.”

Suzuki said that an international team of experts needs to go into the Fukushima plant and help fix the problem, but said the Japanese government has “too much pride to admit that.”

 

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation. (source)

Photo: Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues

A new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First (Credit:Jason van Bruggen)

By Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola

Last fall the David Suzuki Foundation and our allies in the farming and local food movements defeated a mega-quarry proposed by the Highland Companies, that, if built, would have destroyed hundreds of acres of class 1 soil near Melancthon township, Ontario. Much of Canada’s most productive farmland has already been drained, dug up or paved over with urban sprawl and unsustainable aggregate pits, quarries and other development. The project would have been yet another outrage against this country’s rich agricultural heritage.

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The successful fight to stop the mega-quarry was inspired by tactics of the civil-rights movement and other grassroots campaigns — and people power eventually won the day. Local residents and allies held protests and rallies, wrote letters to politicians, gathered thousands of signatures, created land-inspired art, and participated in hundreds of other activities to raise awareness and put pressure on Highland Companies. The campaign benefited from support from some of Canada’s top musicians, artists, writers and actors, including Barenaked Ladies, Sarah Harmer and Rachel McAdams, and culminated in Soupstock, a giant community picnic/culinary protest that brought 40,000 people together in Toronto’s Woodbine Park.

Though the mega-quarry proposal was withdrawn, our precious farmland is still at risk of being destroyed. Currently, nothing prevents another similar project from going forward. So a new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First. Its goal is to ensure stronger government policies and laws to protect prime agricultural land and source drinking water areas from development.

The Food and Water First coalition, which includes the David Suzuki Foundation as well as farming organizations, local businesses and other NGOs, has already managed to get nearly a dozen communities — from small townships such as Melancthon to giant cities like Toronto — to pass council resolutions recognizing the importance of farmland and committing to protect it.

Recently, Food and Water First again joined with the Canadian actor Rachel McAdams, indie band Whitehorse and film maker Jason van Bruggen to produce an inspiring short video about the need to place our most precious assets — food and water — ahead of short-term economic gains brought about with their destruction.

Join the fight to save Ontario’s prime farmland by signing the Food and Water First pledge.

 

Canadian environmentalists paint catastrophic picture of oilsands for U.S. lawmakers | canada.com

Canadian environmentalists paint catastrophic picture of oilsands for U.S. lawmakers | canada.com. (FULL ARTICLE)

WASHINGTON — Five prominent Canadian environmentalists told Washington lawmakers this week that the Keystone XL pipeline will lead to such a huge growth in oilsands’ carbon emissions, it will help tip the world into catastrophic climate change.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently told Americans that Canada would not take “no for an answer” on the pipeline,  until the project is approved, the environmentalists said further expansion of the oilsands should be immediately stopped – followed by a gradual shutdown of all operations.

“The current trajectory for the growth of the tar sands is consistent with the International Energy Agency’s prediction of a six-degree (Celsius) growth in the temperature on the planet,” Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada, told reporters Friday at a news conference. “That is a catastrophic scenario.”

“Most of the oil that remains in the ground in Alberta has to stay there,” he added.

The environmentalists, who included broadcaster and scientist David Suzuki, came to the U.S. capital to counter what they claim is a disinformation campaign waged over the last eight months by Canadian politicians….

 

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