Feed on

This is perfect.

Writer & Activist

If anyone’s still reading, it should be obvious that I’ve been on hiatus.

I’ll give you the short version: I’m spending every spare second I can find on finishing a young adult novel that’s been rattling around in my brain for three years. I’ve recently launched a web site to talk about the craft of writing, and to continue conversations on social justice and climate change.

I’m hoping to preach to more than the choir, and I hope that many of you will join me there.

Richard LevangieWriter & Activist Blog

To Haiti With Love


A wonderful auction of all things creative, organized by Joshi Sims of fruityfantastica and Nova Scotia author (and friend) Kate Inglis of sweet | salty.

Proceeds to benefit the people of Haiti.


Blue A fine art print by Maine’s Kristin Zecchinelli

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gore brilliantly explains the stakes at Copenhagen.

I’m not sure that Saran Palin understands. She had this to say about global warming in a Washington Post editorial.

I know that Carbon Dioxide is a great gift from God, also a gift that brings warmth to us during the long Alaskan winter, and by burning natural gas and oil, we are honoring Him, sending a blessed and holy plume of smoke skyward to our great Father in heaven, imploring him to watch over Americans, and our troops, and also to bring us energy security, also to the great state of Alaska, and the first Dude and my beautiful family. And then as the glorious sun sets over the Last Frontier in shades of red, white and blue, I know with every ounce of my being that Russia, silent in the distance, will never understand the joy that I feel right now, a joy of freedom.

Please add your own Sarah Palin quotes. Visit Slate for inspiration; this was a GREAT contest.


Three things you should read if you’re a Canadian.

Collossal Fossil

Canada garners a Fossil of the Day Award at Copenhagen for being a climate dick.

“Canada garnered today’s award for its unwavering commitment to stand firm in its inaction throughout these negotiations [...] Since announcing its emissions target in 2007 of reducing GHG emissions by 20% below the 2006 emission level (equivalent to 3 % below the 1990 level), the Harper government has consistently refused to adopt any regulatory framework to start reducing emissions, namely form the rapidly growing sector of tar sands.”

Canadians want climate action

But 64 per cent of respondents to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said rich nations have a responsibility to commit to higher and harder targets than developing countries.

Most also want to see a binding agreement come out of Copenhagen, and 81 per cent said Canada should act independently of the United States.

The Conservatives insist Canada must tie its policy to that of the U.S. because of the countries’ extensive economic relationship.

The Harper government says it’s waiting for the Obama administration to come out with a suite of policies to which Canada can synchronize its own.

Climate Change and Canadian Unity

Chantal Hébert’s perspective on how Harper is undermining Canadian unity for his Alberta power base.

Harper’s base is in Alberta. His minority government will soon have to address a record federal deficit. The strength of the economic recovery will determine how painful that exercise will be. Over the next few years, the energy sector is expected to soften the impact of a dramatic restructuring of Canada’s manufacturing sector.

The flip side to this lose-lose equation for the environment is that the activist climate-change agenda of the three biggest provinces is not unfolding in a political vacuum.

Together, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec speak for three-quarters of Canadians. Slowly but surely their green ambitions are making the laissez-faire attitude of the Harper government politically unsustainable.

Words To Live By


I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward Everett Hale
Author and Unitarian Minister


Most people who follow the climate debate — and many who do not — will have heard about the so-called Climategate. In a nutshell, hackers stole 13 years of emails from leading climate scientists at Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the UK’s University of East Anglia, and published them on the web for all to see.

Embarrassing, to say the least! And so we see researchers talking trash, musing about tricks to coax trends out of data, puzzling over downward blips in the temperature record, and pondering ways to discredit their critics.

But the skeptics are having a field day, pulling quotes here and there that prove all manner of malfeasance, including proof that climate scientists killed John F. Kennedy, and that they were behind the infamous decision to change the Coca-Cola recipe.

Honestly, if you’re looking for a smoking that disproves global warming, you won’t find it. And that’s because there’s so little to be found. What global warming deniers can’t seem to get through their thick skulls is that four major climate research centers exist, including Hadley. If any one of them had been cooking the books, it would have been apparent.

But, as the graph above shows, NOAA, NASA, HADCRU and JMA show a remarkably similar temperature record. To doubt their results, you would have to believe that:

  • International scientists in three countries — and four institutions — are in collusion
  • That this collusion was invoked sometime around 1880
  • That scientists have co-opted virtually every climate scientist on the planet, and convinced them to play along, publishing hundreds of false studies — in fact, 1,500 in the last three years alone
  • That somehow climate scientists at Hadley have managed to get Mother Nature to play along, melting the glaciers, Antarctica, and the Arctic Sea Ice, to name just a few of the thousands of changes wrought over the last 30 years

    I joke, but Climategate does raise one serious matter: a few Hadley researchers discussed ways to avoid complying with Freedom of Informtion requests. If they acted, then their actions were stupid and illegal.

    Let me say that again. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    What could have caused them to act so rashly? Perhaps being subjected to 58 FOI requests over a six-day period, and hundreds over the last few years. In a nutshell, were being hounded by non-scientists who, in most cases, don’t know their ass from their elbow.

    But I’m with Dr. Jim Hansen on the issue. Ninety-eight percent of climate data is available for all to see, but we need to bump that up to 100 percent, as they do at NASA, to ensure complete and utter transparency. Here’s Hansen’s take:

    No, [the emails] have no effect on the science. The evidence for human-made climate change is overwhelming… [The hacked emails] indicate poor judgment in specific cases. First, the data behind any analysis should be made publicly available. Second, rather than trying so hard to prohibit publication of shoddy science, which is impossible, it is better that reviews, such as by IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, summarize the full range of opinions and explain clearly the basis of the scientific assessment. The “contrarians” or “deniers” do not have a scientific leg to stand on. Their aim is to win a public relations battle, or at least get a draw, which may be enough to stymie the actions that are needed to stabilize climate.

    People like Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit and Anthony Watts at Watts Up don’t have to concern themselves with truth. They play a cynical public relations game in which they smear their betters, and line their own pockets — even as people in the developing world watch helplessly as rising sea levels wash away their homes.

    Frankly, I don’t know how they sleep at night.


    For more reasoned perspective on Climategate, see:

    Real Climate: A number of articles, beginning with this one.

    Greenfyre’s: Always smart and entertaining

    Joe Romm at Climate Progress: He has something new everyday, including this commentary.

  • Tzeporah Berman is one seriously smart woman — but not just because she’s saying what I’ve been saying (here and there and everywhere) since taking One Blue Marble live one year ago. She gets it. It’s not just about climate change. It’s about prosperity and the heart and soul of our nation.

    Let’s just look at clean energy. This year in the budget, Obama is outspending Canada 14 to 1 per capita on green stimulus, 6 to 1 if you just look specifically at new investment into clean energy. And the result is Canada is bleeding jobs, good investment, and good renewable companies to the US. We are missing the boat on developing the low-carbon economy and creating an alternative to the oil and gas money that’s flowing into Ottawa. So there’s two issues that we need to look at on what any government is doing to address this challenge. One is: how quickly are they reducing global-warming pollution, and what policy mechanisms are they putting into place to do that? And how quickly are they scaling up the alternative in clean energy? And the Harper government’s doing neither. So there is not a single policy in place to reduce global warming pollution since they came into power. Not a single policy. So they’ve talked about cap-and-trade, but we have nothing on the books. They’re just waiting, waiting, waiting. And Canada’s emissions are going up, not down. We’re one of the top ten polluters in the world. And we’re one of the only countries—in fact, the worst record of any G8 country in terms of how fast our global warming pollution is going up.

    Thanks for Joe Romm for the tip!


    George Monbiot in The Guardian

    When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

    So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

    Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

    In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

    It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

    After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.

    In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.

    In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

    Why? There’s a simple answer: Canada is developing the world’s second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It’s actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up – unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.

    To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

    Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta’s tar sands operation is the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.

    Canada hasn’t acted alone. The biggest leaseholder in the tar sands is Shell, a company that has spent millions persuading the public that it respects the environment. The other great greenwasher, BP, initially decided to stay out of tar. Now it has invested in plants built to process it. The British bank RBS, 70% of which belongs to you and me (the government’s share will soon rise to 84%), has lent or underwritten £8bn for mining the tar sands.

    The purpose of Canada’s assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada’s politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.

    Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government’s scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

    I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?

    Stephen Harper, and Jim Prentice, we’re waiting. Where are you?

    Older Posts »