SNAPSHOT: A Year of Climate Extremes

 
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2018 was another year of hell and high water as the extreme weather impacts predicted by decades of climate science and advocacy continued to accelerate. The rolling series of storms, floods, wildfires, severe heat, and drought produced a constant stream of headlines from around the world, making the human and ecological devastation of extreme weather one of the toughest but most important aspects of the climate change story.

The year opened with daunting but hardly surprising reports that an unstable global climate did record damage in 2017, with all the evidence pointing to the need for faster action on greenhouse gas reductions. Insurers warned of a $1.7-trillion gap in severe weather coverage over the next 10 years, while the U.S. National Institute of Building Sciences said investments in climate resilience pay off sixfold. In the run-up to a landmark report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in September, stressing the urgency of a 1.5°C target for average global warming, a small avalanche of studies and reports showed that the 2.0°C “guardrail” previously suggested by climate science would be insufficient to hold off severe impacts around the world.

While much of the news coverage of extreme weather focused on impacts in developed countries, governments and climate justice advocates continually reminded the rest of the world that the poorest countries and regions are almost invariably the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As the 2018 United Nations climate conference in Katowice approached, the Climate Vulnerable Forum held a “carbon-free” virtual forum that demanded 1.5°C action for the world’s most vulnerable nations.

Severe Storms and Floods

At one time or another in 2018 just about every part of the world saw the extreme impacts of severe storms and flooding. While not every storm (or wildfire, heat wave, or drought) could be linked directly to the climate crisis, it’s settled science that climate change “loads the dice” for extreme weather events, making them more frequent and severe. The year also saw improvements in the science that allows attribution of specific events, pointing toward an emerging opportunity for litigation and liability focused on climate polluters.

The local impacts of severe storms and floods were chilling, and often heart-rending. A flash flood in Jordan in late October killed 18 people, most of them children and teachers on a school trip. A mudslide in Montecito, California, left 17 dead, 40 missing, and the immediate area looking like a First World War battlefield. An intense hurricane literally wiped a small Hawaiian island off the map, and Typhoon Mangkhut killed 64 in the Philippines before continuing on to southern China and Hong Kong, just a couple of weeks after another typhoon sent an empty fuel tanker careening into a bridge in Japan. Floods and landslides killed 200 people in Japan, even as the country missed an opportunity for a shift to renewable energy, and Fiji entered a frightening new era of extreme weather. Late autumn storms killed six people across northern Italy and flooded 70% of historic Venice.

In Canada, British Columbia endured heavy flooding in mid-May as it prepared for the approaching wildfire season. New Brunswick warned of possible municipal sewage contamination as floodwaters hit record levels, and a review of historical records showed the country’s weather getting wilder. One of a half-dozen tornadoes that suddenly hit Ottawa September 21 turned a beloved, wooded neighbourhood into a logging camp, and the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op pointed to the need and opportunity to build a more resilient, distributed local electricity system.

A Harvard University study concluded that 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane María in 2017—73 times the official estimate from the U.S. government under Donald Trump—and hurricanes cost the Caribbean $3 billion in tourist revenue in 2017.

Boston confronted two “100-year storms” within weeks. Hurricane Florence bore down on North Carolina, a state that had previously tried to legislate sea level rise out of existence, eventually turning North and South Carolina into an archipelago until drenching floodwaters dissipated. The experience prompted North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to set a 2025 deadline to reduce his state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

Less than a month later, a super-heated ocean boosted Hurricane Michael into a 250-kilometre-per-hour monster that churned through an impoverished part of the Florida Panhandle. Gaps in emergency response had some survivors worried that “they’re doing us like they did New Orleans.”

Fire and Heat

At mid-year, wildfires and heat emergencies were sweeping North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Eurasia, with the constant stream of news showing signs of finally burning climate denial to the ground.

Veteran climate hawk and meteorologist Eric Holthaus pointed to the firestorms sweeping much of the western United States as evidence that a new era of “fire tsunamis” has begun. “You can imagine standing in front of a tsunami or tornado and trying to stop it from destroying homes,” incident commander Ben Brack told the Denver Post. “A human response is ineffective.”

“The official term for the hellish meteorological event that hit La Veta [Colorado] is a ‘firestorm,’ a self-propelling explosion of flame generated by strong and gusty winds from a particularly intense fire over extremely dry terrain,” Holthaus explained. “When a fire gets hot enough, it can generate its own weather conditions and wind speeds can approach hurricane force, drying out the surrounding land.” U.S. firefighters got their first taste of a “fire tornado,” and a similar incident grabbed a responder’s hose and pulled it 100 feet in the air before letting go. “Sorry for the profanity,” wrote Vanderhoof, B.C., firefighter M.C. Schidlowsky at the end of an incident video on her Instagram feed.

A climate impact assessment pointed to wildfires as one part of the “apocalyptic threat” California faces if climate change is not brought under control, after an earlier assessment found that the state’s private utilities lost $20 billion in value after a prior round of blazes. Within months, both assessments were out of date, as the Camp Fire near Sacramento became the worst conflagration in California history, killing at least 85 people and destroying 14,000 homes.

British Columbia declared a(nother) state of emergency in late August in response to an epic wildfire season, as smoke from the province’s more than 600 fires worsened air quality in many parts of Canada. Analysts and activists connected dots between a year of severe climate impacts and energy policies destined to make the problem worse—including Ottawa’s decision to buy a leaky, 65-year-old pipeline from Houston-based Kinder Morgan.

An after-action review found that the emergency response to the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 largely neglected nearby Indigenous communities, even as it relied on some of them to shelter evacuees. Studies found that drought and heat make it tougher for forests to regenerate after a fire, that intense, repeat wildfires pollute rivers and threaten water supplies, and that homes destroyed in fires produce a disturbing spike in airborne toxic compounds. Fire, drought, and insect infestations were putting large swaths of the Canadian boreal forest at risk, and a new round of boreal mapping pointed toward future increases in all three.

Extreme Temperatures and Drought

Drought, extreme heat, and, sometimes, extreme cold showed that climate change is about a far wider range of localized effects than just “global warming.” The Washington Post captured a snapshot of the story at mid-summer: from scorching high temperatures in the Middle East and Southern California, to 51.3°C heat in Ouargla, Algeria, that set a record for all of Africa. North America set or tied temperature records in Montreal; Ottawa; Los Angeles; Denver; Mount Washington, New Hampshire; and Burlington, Vermont. A northeastern “heat dome” brought stifling temperatures above 100°F to Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, DC. While “no single record, in isolation, can be attributed to global warming,” the Post wrote, “collectively, these heat records are consistent with the kind of extremes we expect to see increase in a warming world.”

In Siberia, while actual weather observations are scarce, modelling put the temperature above 32°C July 5, more than 22°C above normal. “It is absolutely incredible and really one of the most intense heat events I’ve ever seen for so far north,” wrote meteorologist and blogger Nick Humphrey.

Record highs were recorded in Glasgow, Belfast, and Shannon in Ireland; Castlederg in Northern Ireland; Tbilisi, Georgia, and Yerevan, Armenia, in Eurasia; several locations in southern Russia; and in the Middle East in Quriyat, Oman. And experience in Iran showed that it didn’t take record high heat to trigger public protests, a violent response, and at least one strange burst of paranoia from a senior public official.

European cities were on track for more severe climate impacts. Studies linked a winter deep freeze across much of North America to climate change and found a strong correlation between Arctic warming and wacky winter weather, while a massive storm pushed temperatures at the North Pole 30°C higher than normal. The world’s oceans marked the warmest recorded temperatures in 2017.

Farmworkers in the United States were dying of heat-related illness, and 70 people in southern Quebec, most of them impoverished, died in a summer heat wave. An Omani fishing village endured a record 24-hour period in which the low temperature was 42.6°C, and a heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, killed at least 65 people. A study found that 3.0°C average global warming would lead to a fivefold increase in heat waves in Africa. A sweltering summer left 72% of Britons concerned about climate change; Alaskans faced severe impacts due to surging Arctic temperatures; Colorado ski operators stood to lose billions of dollars due to warmer, drier winters; and an early snow drought was expected to cut reservoir levels, resulting in billions in costs across the western United States.

Cape Town, South Africa, was on track to run out of water on April 22, until the imminent threat of Day Zero prompted residents to cut their per capita consumption by half.

Human Impacts and the Way Forward

Droughts and floods drove global hunger to a 10-year high, wiping out previous gains and prompting United Nations agencies to call for greater emphasis on climate resilience. A migrant caravan from Central America heading toward the United States was driven primarily by climate-induced drought, and millions around the world were being displaced each year by climate impacts, while the Trump administration scaled back its quota for incoming refugees. The poorest and most marginalized bore the brunt as air pollution killed eight million people per year, and many young adults faced a wrenching ethical dilemma as they weighed whether to become parents.

Analysis showed that the economic costs of climate change will hit hardest in India and the United States, placed the annual cost of unchecked sea level rise at $27 trillion by 2100, and stressed that compensation for loss and damage—the unavoidable costs that vulnerable countries and regions face due to climate disasters—must push beyond market-based measures like insurance.

Puerto Rico was in the midst of a major mental health crisis a year after Hurricane María, and Fort McMurray faced higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress after its 2016 wildfire. British Columbia unveiled a mental health plan for 2017 wildfire evacuees just as its 2018 wildfire season kicked off, and the overwhelming devastation from Hurricane Florence hit poor and rural North Carolinians the hardest. Australian farmers demanded practical solutions to the climatic changes they could see unfolding before their eyes, local solar installations pointed toward a better way to rebuild Puerto Rico, and a study found that a suite of urban solutions could free billions of people from climate impacts by 2050.

Media largely missed the memo on the urgency of the IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, a new Canadian climate atlas showed that the crisis is real, and Texas fossils—without a trace of irony—sought federal government funding to protect their vulnerable, greenhouse gas-producing operations from climate change.

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Though single-use plastics have rebounded sharply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the poor optics of producing a product that is neither biodegradable nor recyclable may foretell lean times for the materials down the road.

Study Suggests Relief for Some Small Island States as Coral Reefs Adapt to Rising Seas

Coral reefs may be adaptable enough in the face of sea level rise to protect some of the vulnerable small island states at risk of disappearing beneath the water, according to new research published this week in the journal Science Advances.

Pandemic Produces New Efforts, Wider Paralysis on International Climate Action

The economic and logistical paralysis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a mixed picture for global action on the climate crisis, with countries, cities, businesses, and others scrambling to accelerate action under the Paris Agreement but some of the key commitments under the 2015 accord facing serious obstacles.

Climate Means More Intense Rainstorms Across North America

Locals See Hope of Cleaner Air as Maharashtra State Delays 1,320-MW Coal Plant

Mid-Sized Buildings Fall Behind on Deep Energy Retrofits

Nature Isn’t Doing Well in Coronavirus Pandemic

Regenerative Grazing Helps Rural ‘Carbon Cowboys’ Thrive During Pandemic

Alberta Community Sees Flooding Despite Recent Mitigation Project

U.S. Cities Look to Green Methods for Stormwater Control

Texas Would Gain from Nature-Based Climate Mitigation

No Way to Solve Climate without Anti-Racist Response, U.S. Marine Biologist Argues

Racism derails the effort to fight the climate emergency, and the only way for white people to maintain a habitable planet is to become anti-racist, marine biologist and Ocean Collectiv founder Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson argues in a widely-circulated article for the Washington Post.

The Interview: On Climate Mobilization, Canadian Public is ‘Ahead of Our Politics’, Klein Says

Seth Klein is a research associate with the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. His book on the Second World War and the lessons it holds for today’s battle to get climate change under control is due to be published in September by Toronto-based ECW Press.

Minneapolis Climate Plan Fails to Serve Black, Low-Income Neighbourhoods

What was greeted seven years ago as a groundbreaking local climate action plan in Minneapolis is now being flagged as a source of racial division in the city where the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer, sparked massive protests and renewed attention to police brutality across the United States.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Capital_Region_(Canada)

No More Skating the Canal: Ottawa Study Predicts Less Winter, More Extreme Weather

More heat waves, floods, freezing rain, and tornadoes are coming to Canada’s capital if global emissions don’t decline precipitously over the next decade, according to a report commissioned by the city and the National Capital Commission.

Formula to Prevent Pandemics: Less Meat, Less Wildland Encroachment

Humans must eat less meat and processed foods, create less food waste, and limit population growth if we are to stop the degradation of tropical rainforests—degradation that science is connecting ever more closely to the rise of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Student Organizers Push Salt Lake City School Board to 100% Clean Energy by 2040

The district school board in Salt Lake City will shift to 100% clean electricity by 2030 and drop all fossil fuels for heating and transportation by 2040, after a campaign led by students from the community’s three major high schools.

Extreme Weather Poses Small but Real Risk to UK Nuclear Reactors

Even as it reassures the British public that the country’s nuclear power plants are built to withstand a one-in-10,000-year event, the United Kingdom’s nuclear regulator is being warned that extreme weather events remain a dangerous threat to the industry.

Australia Faces Crisis as Water Supplies Begin to Vanish

Site C Builders Get Set to ‘Move a River’ to Make Way for Megaproject

Coronavirus Lockdown Could Increase Indoor Air Pollution

Population Facing Water Stress Could Double to 760 Million by 2050

First Nations, Other Residents Raise Flag About Northern B.C. Plastics Plant

Edmonton Develops Local Climate Resilience Tool

Opposition Builds Over South Bruce Nuclear Waste Disposal Plan

Venice Glimpses a Different Life as Port Cities Mark World Oceans Day [Global Virtual Rally Today]

As Venice slowly emerges from lockdown—and braces for the return of millions of tourists—locals are daring to imagine another future for their beloved City of Water, after seeing a glimpse of what life could be like without colossal cruise ships and inflated rents.

Resist Fossil Lobbying, End Oil and Gas Subsidies, International Agencies Urge Canada

Two leading international agencies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency, are urging the federal and provincial governments to do away with fossil subsidies worth US$3.7 billion last year, just as the fossil lobby accelerates its demands for exactly that kind of largesse from taxpayers.

Trump Order to Speed Pipelines, Gut Environmental Protections is ‘Sitting Duck’ for Legal Challenges

Donald Trump signed an order last week to waive environmental safeguards on oil and gas pipeline projects that disproportionately harm minority communities already convulsed by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. But his administration may just be cruising for the latest in a string of court defeats in its effort to obliterate laws protecting air quality, drinking water, species, and habitats.

Major U.S. Television Media Silent on Race-Based Risks of Extreme Weather

Major broadcast news outlets in the United States are consistently failing to tell a crucially important story about a wide range of epic disasters, from hurricanes to the pandemic—that people living in poor, non-white communities are at far greater risk of grievous harm.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_East_Africa_drought

Pandemic Will Drive Global Famine Without Urgent Food System Reform

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the risk of famine in the world’s poorest countries as it bankrupts small-hold farmers, breaks supply chains, and stymies efforts to build climate resilience, reports Climate Home News. If the worst of the disaster is to be averted, humanitarian systems need to change the way support is delivered, and “think differently” about everything from climate finance to food production.

Alberta Under Pressure to Restart Environmental Monitoring for Oil and Gas Operations

A group of seven environmental groups and Indigenous communities in Alberta is pressing the Jason Kenney government to restart environmental monitoring for oil and gas operations and release its criteria for when that work will begin again.

Week 23, June 8: Regenerative Farming

Studies show that regenerative organic methods of farming and ranching can produce similar yields to conventional agribusiness while storing carbon in the soil, producing no GHG emissions, and allowing nature to regenerate. Forty years of side-by-side trials by the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania have found that after a five-year transition, the yields from organic farming are competitive with conventional farming, and that in drought years, yields can be up to five times higher

New Bank of Canada Governor Must Navigate Climate Risk: Quinlan

French Utility Sees Coronavirus Crisis Overshadowed by Climate

Transit Use Patterns Show Inequalities in Cities

North Carolina Releases Climate Risk Report, Roadmap

New Analysis Weighs COVID, Climate Risks

Dry Weather Could Bring ‘Challenging’ Season for UK Farmers

Climate Justice Requires Racial Justice, Expert Panel Says

The roiling traumas of racial injustice, coronavirus, and climate change are a “veritable witch’s brew of community risk,” according to a panel of five environmental justice leaders recently brought together by Grist. The antidote? To make sure that “normal” is never the same again. 

Electrifying GTHA Cars, Trucks, and Buses Would Prevent 731 Premature Deaths, Cut 8 Mt of Emissions Per Year

A shift to electric cars, SUVs, trucks, and buses would prevent 731 premature deaths per year in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and reduce the region’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by eight million tonnes, bringing Ontario half-way to meeting its 2030 carbon target, according to a modelling study released this week by Environmental Defence Canada and the Ontario Public Health Association.

2.0°C Would Shift Once-in-a-Century Storms to Once in Five Years, Canadian Study Concludes

Researchers at Environment and Climate Change Canada have established an unequivocal correlation between climate change and the increasing number of extreme rainfall events in North America—and the data suggests things will get worse if warming continues. 

Early Hurricanes Kill 14 in El Salvador, Threaten Major Damage in Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane season in the East Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico is off to an early and deadly start this year, with 14 killed as Tropical Storm Amanda swept through El Salvador and forecasters keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Cristobal as it moves toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

Minnesota Regulator Delays Line 3 Construction to 2021

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. will have to postpone a large chunk of the work on its controversial Line 3 pipeline to 2021, after a Minnesota regulator announced a public hearing this summer to review the company’s plans to protect streams and wetlands.

Ocean Warming Means ‘Escalating Threats’ to Marine Life through 2100

The climate in the world’s deep oceans could be changing seven times faster by mid-century, even if humanity manages a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published late last month in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Locust-Driven Famine Threatens Millions as COVID-19 Rages

Experts are urging policy-makers in Africa and Asia to fight the escalating locust plague at the same time as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that famine will be a very real threat for millions without strong, pre-emptive action.

Caribbean Sees Half the Risk of Severe Storms at 1.5° vs. 2.0°C

Pennsylvania Pollution Regulators Scramble During Pandemic

Pollution in Canadian Cities Down One-Third During Pandemic Lockdown

Ho Chi Minh City Faces Extreme Flood Risk by 2050

Thousands of ‘High-Hazard’ U.S. Dams Would Kill People If They Failed

New Orleans Contends with ‘Inevitable’ Loss of Protective Marshes

Pandemic Produces Moratorium on Ontario Nuclear Rebuild

Developer Sets Sights on ‘Climate-Resilient’ Low-Head Hydro Turbine

Climate Community Steps Up as Anti-Racism Protests Sweep U.S. Cities

With protests escalating in dozens of cities across the United States following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer, climate organizations across the United States have been adding their voices to the fight against racism, social inequity, and environmental injustice.

Federal Officials Express Doubts on Post-COVID Recovery Package as Cabinet Seeks Free Consulting Advice

Federal government department officials may be throwing cold water on the idea of a green recovery package—or any economic recovery package at all—the Globe and Mail reported last Friday, in a story that focused mainly on the Trudeau government turning to one of the world’s biggest management consulting firms for free advice on its post-pandemic strategy.

Cyclone Harold Shows Impact of Climate Emergencies in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

When Tropical Cyclone Harold slammed into four Pacific Island nations in early April as a Category 5 storm, it became the first example of the complex crises countries will face with the “collision of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related disasters,” Refugees International writes, in a case assessment published today.

Keystone Faces Delays After Appeal Court Upholds Withdrawal of Environmental Permit

The Keystone XL pipeline and other U.S. pipeline projects are facing further delays, after a federal appeal court in California declined last week to reverse a lower court decision to cancel a national environmental permit that had enabled construction to proceed.

40 Global Brands Threaten Boycott Over ‘Land-Grabbing’ Brazilian Legislation

A diverse coalition of 40 international companies—including the UK’s top supermarkets, a Swedish pension fund, and Norwegian asset manager Storebrand—are threatening boycotts should Brazil’s Bolsonaro government push through a bill that will accelerate the devastating deforestation of the Amazon.

‘Patchwork’ Wildfire Safety Protocols Increase COVID-19 Outbreak Risk

In the face of another hot, dry season, western U.S. wildfire fighters are worried that unwieldy pandemic protocols for fire camps—paired with the hard financial realities of the job—are breeding ideal conditions for a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

Western U.S. Gears for Above-Normal Wildfire Risk This Summer

Farmers Need Better Support After COVID-19 Collapses Food Chains

Hotter-Than-Usual Summer Could Drive Texas Demand for Microgrids

Loss of Shorefast Sea Ice to Hit Coldest Canadian Arctic Communities the Hardest

Six in 10 in High-Risk U.S. Flood Zones Have No Insurance

Charleston, SC Approves $2B Seawall in Bid to Protect Historic Downtown

Gas Pipeline Leaks Cause Urban Tree Deaths

Drones Plant 40,000 Trees Per Month

EU Confirms Green Strings Attached to €750-Billion Recovery Package, €1-Trillion/Seven-Year Budget

News reports are confirming that the European Union’s seven-year, €1-trillion budget proposal and its €750-billion coronavirus recovery package will both have green strings attached, with 25% of the funds devoted to climate action and a “do no harm” clause to prevent environmentally damaging investments.

U.S. Green Jobs Program Earns Cross-Party Support

The idea of a green jobs creation program is receiving bipartisan support in the United States as policy-makers grapple with the twin spectres of skyrocketing unemployment and escalating ecological breakdown—perfect timing, as recent high school graduates pile onto the ranks of millions of Americans desperate for work in a COVID-ravaged economy.

Montreal’s High Temperature in May was the ‘Definition of Extreme’

Montreal earned coverage in the Washington Post last week after experiencing its second-hottest day on record, with the mercury soaring to 36.6°C—far above normal for May. Adding to the swelter: nighttime temperatures that never dropped below 20.5°C. 

New Study Shows Forests Growing Shorter, Dying Younger, Storing Less Carbon

The world’s forests are growing shorter, dying younger, and storing drastically less carbon due to the combined effects of climate change and illegal logging, according to a new study published last week in the journal Science.

Four-Day Work Week Could Boost Post-Pandemic Economy

Canadian workplace health experts are urging policy-makers to consider a condensed work week to reduce stress, increase productivity, and boost a post-coronavirus economy. A three-day weekend could also be a boon to the pandemic-ravaged tourism sector, which lost 50% of its work force this past spring.

Uber Scraps Tens of Thousands of E-Bikes in Shocking Move

Cycling advocates are confused and outraged following Uber’s recent decision—in the middle of a transportation-choking pandemic—to send massive numbers of e-bikes and scooters to the scrap heap.

Week 22, June 1: Regenerative Forestry

It is not our emissions as such that are causing the climate emergency: it is our accumulated emissions. Our world therefore faces not one but two climate challenges: Reducing human-caused emissions to zero, and bringing the atmospheric burden of carbon down to its pre-industrial level.

100 Groups Ask Ottawa for Pause on Nuclear Waste Disposal Plans

Michigan’s Most Toxic Zip Codes See No Benefit from Pandemic Shutdown

Toronto Neighbourhood Gets Serious about Urban Farming

Torvill and Dean Introduce Dancing on Thin Ice Show

More Ice-Free Days Will Boost Methane Releases from Boreal Lakes

Toronto Transit Faces 50% Service Cut Without Federal, Provincial Funding [Urgent Sign-On]

Public transit advocates have launched an emergency appeal for federal funding for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), after Mayor John Tory announced the system faces a 50% service cut without federal and provincial support.

200+ Groups Representing 40 Million Health Workers Call for Health, Climate Reform

Health workers around the world have joined together to deliver an open letter to G20 leaders urging them to implement post-pandemic recovery plans that prioritize human and environmental health—with key signatories representing more than 40 million individual medical professionals. 

New Study Reveals Shrinking Snow Mass Across North America

Across all the non-alpine regions of North America, more than 46 billion tonnes of snow has “gone missing” this decade—and the same has happened every decade since 1980, according to the latest, best estimate from climate researchers, posing serious problems for regional administrators seeking to manage reservoir levels.

Courts Rule Against Fossils in California Climate Disclosure Case, Reject Montana Oil and Gas Leases Over Sage Grouse Protection

Five of the world’s most colossal fossils will have to face a pair of lawsuits from California cities and counties in state court, rather than trying for more favourable rulings from federal judges, after an appeals court ruled this week that the state level is the proper venue for the courts.

Solar Microgrids Deliver Multiple Wins for Refugee Camps

Non-polluting, cost-effective, and mercifully quiet, solar microgrids may make the dirty, noisy, and expensive fossil-powered generators that are ubiquitous in humanitarian relief efforts a thing of the past—a gift both for traumatized asylum seekers and cash-strapped aid organizations. 

UN Climate Conference Rescheduled for November 2021

Britain has announced that the next UN climate conference, originally planned for Glasgow in November, will be delayed a full year, to November 1-12, 2021.

Pandemic, U.S.-China Trade War Drive Renewable Energy ‘Pivot’ in Asia

Rising CO2 May Affect Our Ability to Think

Indiana Farmers Use Solar to Help Cover Costs

Warming Leads to More Soil-Borne Pathogens

Climate Change Driving Oxygen Out of Oceans

150 Canadian Non-Profits, Campaign Groups Launch Just Recovery Principles

A group of 150 non-profit and campaign organizations of Canada have launched a set of six principles for a just recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Braces for Above-Average Hurricane Season on Top of Pandemic

The United States is likely facing an above-average hurricane season, with the prospect of unprecedented challenges if storms make landfall while officials are still scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in its annual hurricane forecast released last week.

Massive Trans-Global Carbon Storage Study a ‘Wake Up Call’ to Halt Deforestation

The world’s tropical rainforests will be able to absorb “high levels” of CO2 even as the planet warms, provided that global temperatures do not rise more than 2°C from pre-industrial levels and that these verdant ecosystems are not further fragmented by deforestation, predicts a study just published in Science magazine.

Landmark NY Pipeline Rejection a Turning Point for State Action

New York State’s recent rejection of a new gas pipeline to Long Island and New York City, based in part on its recent-enacted climate law, is emerging as a possible precedent for other jurisdictions across the U.S.. But legal counters are just as likely, particularly given the Trump administration’s predilection for challenging state authority when it comes to fossil fuel development.

Rwanda Emerges as Climate Leader with Updated 2030 Carbon Target

One of the world’s poorest countries became one of its more ambitious climate leaders last week, when Rwanda became the first African nation to promise deeper greenhouse gas emission reductions and a more ambitious approach to climate adaptation by 2030.

Bloated Military Budget Undercuts U.S. Ability to Fund Health, Address Climate

With an annual budget of US$700 billion-plus, and an outsized—and morally compromised—standing as the ultimate defender of the national interest, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has flourished at the expense of agencies far better positioned to protect the public, like those dedicated to preserving public health and solving the climate crisis.

Pandemic Makes Science Journalism More Important Than Ever

Australia’s Adani Mine Approval Ignored Science

Bolsonaro’s Deregulation Sets Amazon Deforestation to Skyrocket

Devastating Floods Hit East Africa

California Oil and Gas Drilling Goes Full Steam Ahead During COVID

Massive Missouri River Records Driest Decade in 1,200 Years

Orillia Continues LED Streetlight Project Despite Pandemic

Flour Mill Brings West Washington Community Together for Food Security

Pollinator-Friendly Solar Makes Energy Cleaner, Greener

New Zealand Budgets $1.1B for Environmental Restoration

Heat-Resistant Coral Could Protect Reefs from Warming Oceans

Gas Appliances Can Be Bad for Your Health

Campaign for a Resilient Canadian Recovery Signs 2,100+ Allies [sign-on]

More than 2,100 Canadian companies and organizations have signalled their support for a post-pandemic economic recovery plan grounded in the principles of sustainability and resilience and driven by projects that “aren’t just shovel-ready, but shovel-worthy.”

Alberta tar sands oil sands

Alberta Killing Fossil Jobs with Massive Regulatory Rollback, Notley Charges

The Jason Kenney government is under attack for killing fossil sector jobs in the midst of a brutal recession, after the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suspended most environmental monitoring for the province’s oil and gas producers.

‘Office Centricity is Over’, Shopify Declares, as Tech Companies Embrace Working from Home

Ottawa-based e-commerce giant Shopify has declared itself “digital by default”, joining a growing list of North American tech companies that are rethinking their work arrangements in the wake of the pandemic—with still unpredictable but potentially huge implications for everything from commuter traffic and congestion to the demand for downtown real estate.

Michigan Dam Failures Highlight Risks in Aging Infrastructure, Toxic Sites

Safety officials warn that last week’s double dam failure and resulting, massive flood in Michigan foreshadows a frightening future for aging dams throughout the United States—structures that were never intended to withstand the torrential rains that are arriving with climate change.

Trump’s ‘Blitzkrieg Against the Environment’ Speeds Up as COVID Distracts, Election Nears

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the latest pretext for Donald Trump to shower his fossil industry benefactors with support, with the White House accelerating its rollback of environmental regulations, a key U.S. government agency foregoing royalties on oil and gas drilling on public lands, and fossil companies set to cash in from a coronavirus bond buyback program instituted by the Federal Reserve.

Ontario Foresters Complete 80% of Annual Planting Despite Pandemic Restrictions

A different kind of essential service is becoming a good news story during the pandemic, with tree-planting activities in Ontario hitting about 80 to 85% of their target for the year in spite of logistical snags due to physical distancing.

Next UN Science Report Will Factor In COVID Impact

Manitoba Cree Take Down Keeyask Hydro Blockade After Protesting COVID-19 Risk

India Approves Coal Mining, Endangers Elephant Reserve in ‘Amazon of the East’

Pandemic Slows Down 2.5-GW Wind Procurement in New York

Mediterranean Stands Out as Climate Hot Spot

Siberian Wildfires Scorch Area Three Times the Size of Delaware

Legal Loopholes, Cycle of Greed Drive Next Fire Season in Brazilian Amazon

New York Races to Make Subway Rides Safer

Pacific Northwest Farmers’ Views Don’t Match Up with Climatic Changes

Honduras Sees Better Food Security with Agroforestry

Feeding Habits, Temperatures Affect Mosquitoes’ Ability to Transmit Malaria

New Plastics Process May Replace Dangerous Toxins with Water

Carbon Emissions Fell 17% at Pandemic’s Peak, But Will Rebound Without Bigger Changes

While the economic crash brought on by the coronavirus pandemic reduced daily greenhouse gas emissions 17% in early April, and will likely produce a 4.0 to 7.0% emissions reduction for the year, the real takeaway from a new analysis in the journal Nature Climate Change is that those carbon cuts will only be temporary without an aggressive response to the climate crisis.

Major Cities Urge Green, Resilient Recovery with ‘No Return to Business as Usual’

There’s no going back to “business as usual” after the COVID-19 pandemic when that previous path had the world on track for at least 3.0°C average global warming, the mayors of more than three dozen major cities declared in a statement of principles released earlier this month.

E-Bikes Sales Spike as Commuters Prep for Return to Work

Lighter and faster than ever, e-bikes are in high demand as lockdown regulations ease and commuters begin to return to work. Add in ever-increasing urban density, and producers are forecasting a bright future for e-bikes as an alternative to a second family car. 

Idling Tankers Clutter Shores, Spew CO2 While Waiting out Oil Crash

As the global collapse in fossil fuel demand leaves oil tankers—and their toxic cargo—idling offshore around the world, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) is raising concerns about the risks to air quality and marine life.

Retreating Alaskan Glacier Sets Stage for Devastating Tsunami

Glacial retreat high above an Alaskan fjord has put the area at imminent risk of a landslide-triggered tsunami—and researchers are calling for real-time monitoring to protect residents and recreationalists.

Cyclone Amphan Hits South Asia Communities Already Coping with Pandemic

After initially shaping up as the biggest cyclonic storm South Asia had seen in 20 years, Cyclone Amphan brought less death and damage than expected when it came ashore yesterday, after authorities in India and Bangladesh evacuated more than three million people from the storm’s path.

Power lines, Mississauga, Canada

Maine Approves New Transmission Line from Quebec to New England

Regulators in Maine have approved a 145-mile, US$950-million transmission line that will carry 1,200 MW of electricity from Quebec to New England.

Use Adaptation Funds to Build Back Better, IISD Urges

Pandemic Means Quieter Ocean for B.C. Orcas

Gwich’in Urge Banks to Steer Clear of Arctic Wildlife Refuge

Central Europe Prepares for Worst Drought in 500 Years

Spanish Olive Oil Cultivation Faces Serious Damage Due to Climate

Vancouver Passive Solar Building Will Deliver 146 Affordable Housing Units

Will Riders Feel Safe Returning to Commuter Rail?

Taiwan Women Take On Climate Fight

Pandemic Could Undercut Massive Vaca Muerta Fracking Project in Patagonia

‘Sustainable’ Extraction Ravages Traditional Lands, Culture in Congo Basin

Minnesota Scientists Try to Plan Forests of the Future

Community Planners, Homeowners Must Step Up for Fire Suppression

Spain’s Green Recovery Bill Pledges 350,000 Jobs Per Year, Sets 2050 Net-Zero Target, Halts All New Fossil Projects

The Spanish government is expected to table a draft law today that will aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, call an immediate halt to new coal, oil, and gas projects, and ground the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a green transition.

Tar Sands/Oil Sands ‘Man Camp’ Drives COVID-19 Spread to Five Provinces

While actions taken to contain the COVID-19 outbreak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake tar sands/oil sands mine seem to have slowed infection rates, both labour and community officials are calling for a ban on fly-in workers, a labour model that has proven literally deadly in its power to both incubate and spread the virus.

Judges Reverse Ford Government Bid to Cancel Cornwall-Area Wind Farm

The 100-megawatt Nation Rise Wind Farm near Cornwall, Ontario is back on the boards, following a court decision that quashed the last-minute decision by Environment Minister Jeff Yurek to cancel the project in December.

COVID-19 Wipes Out Nearly 600,000 U.S. Clean Energy Jobs

The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out nearly 600,000 energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs in the United States, more than twice as many as the country has created since 2017, and the numbers are set to rise through the spring, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data released last week by Washington, DC-based Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

30 Workers Test Positive for COVID on Equatorial Guinea Oil Platform

Virus Forces Retirees to Shelter Near Colorado Fracking Site

Passive House Design Can Slow COVID’s Spread

Communities Bear Environmental Justice Burden During Pandemic

Traditional Sheep Farming in Wales Could Fall Victim to Changing Climate

Thinning Forests Before Drought Could Limit Tree Loss

Ramp Up Training, Break Down Market Barriers to Boost Zero-Carbon Buildings, CaGBC Urges

Canada’s building industry “still has work to do” to acquire the skills and knowledge it’ll need to deliver zero-carbon buildings at scale, even based on the country’s current greenhouse gas reduction target of just 30% by 2030, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) concludes in a report issued last week.

Canada’s ‘Rich Carbon Sink’ Peatlands Need Urgent Protection, Story Map Shows

Northern peatlands—the richest carbon sinks on the planet and epicentres of biodiversity—are in urgent need of protection from human development, the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada asserts, in a detailed “story map” that outlines why and how these “enormous carbon storehouses” must be preserved, with Indigenous peoples leading the way.

Researchers Cite Urban Density as Solution, Not Cause in Pandemic Spread

It is not density, but instead an inhumane and unhealthy infrastructure rooted in a long history of pervasive inequality and bigotry, that is fuelling the COVID-19 pandemic in the world’s cities, according to several environmental health experts who are urging city planners not to waste a critical insight laid bare by the current health crisis.

WRI ‘Build Back Better’ Webinar Addresses COVID-19 Recovery and Public Transport

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes its relentless sweep across the world’s cities, it is revealing the vital importance of urban public transport systems in delivering essential workers to hospitals, grocery stores, and other critical services the entire community relies on. At WRI’s most recent webinar on how to build back better after the pandemic, panelists pointed to this moment as an opportunity to invest deeper in public transit—not just as an essential system, but as a path to economic recovery. 

High School Transit Training Offers Independence, Confidence to Young Riders

Youth, schools, and communities all stand to gain from a public transit initiative in Kingston, Ontario that is empowering young riders, making (pre-COVID) field trips less costly and more climate-friendly, and encouraging life-long transit ridership.

Dozens of Birds Dead at Kearl Tar Sands/Oil Sands Tailings Pond

Rhine Dries Out as Drought Hits Germany’s Most Important River

Alberta Hires 200 More Wildland Firefighters

Sea Level Rise Could Imperil UK Nuclear Plans

Australia Tosses $300M at Reef Restoration, But Won’t Cut Emissions

B.C. Allows Forest Companies to Chop Whole Trees for Pellets if They’re ‘Inferior’

Silvipasture Strengthens Long-Standing Ranching Practices in Panama

COVID Raises Future Questions for Travel, Transport

Lockdown-Driven Boost to European Air Quality Saves Thousands of Lives

Over one month of coronavirus lockdown, an estimated 11,000 fewer Europeans have died from illnesses caused by air pollution, and future effects will include 6,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma, 600 fewer preterm births, and far fewer sick days. That has health experts urging a permanent prescription for clearer skies and cleaner air.

Doubling of Impacts by 2030 Points to Need for Flood Protection Investment

With the number of people around the world affected by flooding rivers, storm surges, and sea level rise set to double by 2030, aggressive investment in flood protection infrastructure could prove to be very cost-effective in the long term, the World Resources Institute (WRI) concludes in a recent blog post.

Thunberg Donates £80,000 in Prize Money to UNICEF Pandemic Relief

CAPP Affirms Support for Indigenous Rights After Harsh Words from AFN

Satellites Predict Drier, More Fire-Prone Year in Brazil

Kinder Morgan Loses Permits After Texas Construction Spill Fouls Drinking Water

Pandemic Stalls Out Australia’s LNG Industry

Near-Historic Low Snowpack Forces Yukon Energy to Look Beyond Hydropower

Manitoba Town Maps Groundwater Vulnerability

Climate Deniers Turn to Attack Coronavirus Models

‘Hope is Not a Strategy’ in Natural Disaster Planning During Pandemic

Carbon Cycle Feedbacks Could Make Warming Worse

Money for Carbon Farming May Be Getting Ahead of the Science, Researchers Warn

Mega-Drought Coming to U.S. Southwest

Public Parks Can Help Build Local Reslience

Arctic Ocean Study Documents Rapid, Unprecedented Change

From melting ice to spiking acidity, from stagnating thermoclines to troubled food chains, frighteningly rapid changes are under way in the waters of the Arctic Ocean, while a lack of long-term data leaves scientists and Indigenous peoples uncertain about how to respond.

Haley: Governments Need Long-Term Investment to Get Green Stimulus Right

Governments that hope to recapture the gains and avoid the pitfalls of the last big round of economic stimulus more than a decade ago should double down on decarbonization and energy efficiency programs—and take a careful look at the thinking of 1930s-era economist John Maynard Keynes for a guide to the best strategic investments, says Broadbent Institute Policy Fellow Brendan Haley.

Indigenous Group Warns of Possible Tailings Pond Leaks as Spring Floods Inundate Downtown Fort McMurray

With a 24-kilometre ice jam on the Athabasca River causing severe flooding in downtown Fort McMurray, Alberta, a local Indigenous advocacy group is raising flags about a lack of information on possible toxic releases from tar sands/oil sands tailings ponds and holding ponds located alongside the river.

IonE Webinar: What the Media Gets Right—and Wrong—in Climate Coverage

Though media coverage of climate change has improved significantly in recent years, it still fails to adequately convey the scale of the crisis, according to five expert panelists at a webinar hosted earlier this month by the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

Vietnamese Mangrove Biosphere Thrives Under Citizen Management Program

Under the care of a citizen army of forest managers, Ho Chi Minh City’s precious but little-known Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve has not only rebounded from devastating chemical defoliation during the Vietnam War, but has actually begun to thrive. Development and aquaculture, however, loom as ongoing threats to the area.

Guterres Urges Marshall Plan Moment to Save the Sick, Heal the Planet

With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting humanity with its biggest challenge since the Second World War, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is calling for a six-point, Marshall Plan-style response to rebuilding the global economy—and building back in a way that slows climate change.

British Public Wants COVID-Style Emergency Response to Climate

Australia Bushfires Exceeded Country’s Total Annual Emissions

Arctic Herds Could Help Slow Down Permafrost Loss

Canada’s Seasonal Farmworkers Stress Essential Role in Pandemic

Sea Level Rise, Habitat Loss Could Soon Make South Florida Uninhabitable

Confront Climate Risk or Face Financial Downgrade, BlackRock Warns Utilities

Chicago Furious After Coal Plant Demolition Coats Neighbourhood in Dust

COVID Creates Moment to Study Warming Impact of Aviation

Ecological Land Co-op Offers Model for Smaller Farms

Study Maps Climate to Extreme Weather Around the World

U.S. Agency Looks to Deregulate Nuclear Waste Disposal

Port Burwell, ON Builds Resilient Stormwater Infrastructure

The Interview: COVID Demands Global Investment to Build Back Better, McArthur Says

Shaughn McArthur is Policy and Influence Lead at CARE Canada, and has been a leading voice for Canadian civil society at the last several United Nations climate change conferences. He’s been looking at the way the global focus on the pandemic has drawn attention away from the climate emergency—and how action on COVID can bring both crises together.

‘Radical Agenda’ in Memo to Ministers Shows Fossil Fuel Lobby Losing Touch

The epic news conference in mid-April where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced C$2.4 billion in job creation funding for the country’s oil and gas workers, but not the $30-billion bailout the industry had demanded, was the second-worst moment in a very bad week for the fossil fuel lobby.

Mid-Density Cities Can Meet Community Needs While Containing Sprawl, Ryerson Report Concludes

An institute at Toronto’s Ryerson University is diving right into the looming debate over urban density in an age of pandemic.

Post-Pandemic ‘Metro Makeovers’ Could Bring Better Pedestrian, Bike Access

Dense cities across Europe are making bike lanes and pedestrian thoroughfares the linchpins in their plans to slowly return citizens to some semblance of normal life—partly in anticipation of a transit-wary public, and partly to double down on a pre-pandemic trend of banning cars from city cores. 

Pandemic’s Economic Hit Threatens Off-Grid Power in Developing Countries

Off-grid electricity companies that have been supplying power to poor communities in developing nations are struggling to keep the lights on as the economic fallout of COVID-19 leaves more and more customers unable to pay their bills. 

Pandemic Points to Resilience Gaps in Supply Chain Management

Recent pandemic-driven shortages have made it clear that mapping supply networks, reconfiguring procurement, and incorporating “disruption-related metrics” into the evaluation of suppliers are critical to building resilience into global supply chains.

CoronaCulture: ‘Fragile Moment’ Brings Outbreaks of Decency, Ethical Shift

The current long moment of enforced solitude is an opportunity to recognize how pre-pandemic life was really quite appalling for far too many people, and to vow to work together to ensure that we do not simply revert to the unkind, unjust status quo post-pandemic, writes Berlin-based Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti.

Week 17, April 27: Fossil-Fuel Wind-Down

In 2017, Canada’s oil and gas sector produced 195 Mt of CO2e, accounting for 27% of the country’s emissions. Between 2020 and 2024, oil and gas corporations are planning to invest US$1.4 trillion in new extraction projects, 85% of which are in the U.S. or Canada, 50% of which former Bank of England governor Mark Carney tells us will result in stranded financial assets.

Community Gardens Reopen in Ontario

U.S. Tribe Fights Uphill Against Climate Impacts

Birds Learn New Feeding Techniques to Adapt to Changing Climate

Renewables Agency Urges $110-Trillion Green Infrastructure Investment to Supercharge Recovery, Boost Resilience

Governments around the world can “supercharge their recovery, become more resilient to crises, and save trillions of dollars,” while setting sights on deep greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050, by directing stimulus funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to green infrastructure, Forbes magazine reports, citing a new release this week from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The Interview: Pandemic Shows Community Risk of Climate, Air Pollution, Buchanan Says

Sarah Buchanan is Program Manager, Clean Economy at Environmental Defence in Toronto. Her work on clean vehicles and air pollution over the last six months has her focusing on the multiple, overlapping crises communities are facing during the pandemic.

California Utility Pitches Cleaner Battery Storage to Replace 40-Year-Old Power Plant

A California utility is planning to replace a 40-year-old, Oakland-area power plant running on jet fuel with two lithium-ion battery storage projects.

Citigroup Still Falls Short After Stepping Away from Coal, Arctic Oil and Gas Financing

Citigroup Inc., one of the three largest banks in the United States, is promising to cut off financial services for new and expanded thermal coal mines and power plants, Arctic oil and gas activities, and projects that harm the Outstanding Universal Value of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in an updated energy policy issued Monday.

Wildfire

Wildfire Crews Must Change Tactics, Rethink Camp Hygiene to Prevent COVID-19 Spread

With wildfire smoke putting firefighters at greater risk of dangerous complications from coronavirus infection, experts are urging multiple changes in firefighting procedures, including improved camp hygiene, adjusted fire lines, regular testing, and even keeping wildfires small to circumvent the need for large crews.

Tenth Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Disaster Shows Few Lessons Learned

Ten years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, producing the largest oil spill in U.S. history and devastating avian and marine ecosystems as well as local economies, the Trump administration is reneging on safeguards put in place in the disaster’s wake, even as the odds of a worse catastrophe grow larger.

COVID Stimulus Should Think Long-Term, Do No Harm: Elgie

Orphan Wells Funding ‘Sends Important Signal’, Clean Energy Canada Says

UK Food Charity, Vertical Farm Tackle COVID-19 Supply Shortages

Mississippi River Towns Brace for Flooding on Top of Virus

Minnesota Sees Pollution Drop as Renewables Gain

Montreal Considers First ‘Water Square’ to Control Intense Floods

Nepal Climate Migrants Struggle as Climate Warms

Indonesia Plans to Increase Emissions Through 2030

3D Printed Structures Could Boost Coral Growth, Support Algae-Based Fuels

‘A Major Turning Point’: Trudeau Unveils $1.7 Billion for Abandoned Wells, Resists Fossils’ Bailout Demands

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled C$1.7 billion in new funding to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells and another $750 million to combat methane leakage, part of a $4-billion package for sectors affected by the coronavirus crash, while rejecting fossil industry calls to suspend climate action and regulations during the pandemic.

Fossil Lobby Demands Massive Deregulation in ‘Crass Attempt to Exploit Global Pandemic’

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) called on the federal government to suspend more than 30 environmental regulations, laws, and policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, in a 13-page letter issued March 27 and released last week by Environmental Defence.

Ontario Asks Court to Dismiss Youth Climate Case [Petition]

The Ontario government is asking a judge to dismiss a Charter of Rights and Freedoms case filed last November by seven youth climate litigants, claiming the matter shouldn’t be decided in court.

The Interview: Community Values Must Inform Post-COVID Rebuilding, Yano Says

Sherry Yano is Manager of Community Renewable Energy at the David Suzuki Foundation. She talks about the fault lines in society revealed by the COVID crisis and the values that lead to action on environment and social justice.

Brazilian Deforestation Plants the Seeds for Future Pandemics

As Brazil’s current leader continues to champion the deforestation of the Amazon, experts are warning that such destruction is planting the seeds for the next uncontrolled disease outbreak, as wild animals and their attendant viral and bacterial hitchhikers increasingly cede territory to humans whose immune systems can be defenceless against such “novel” assailants.

Amazon workers protest Minnesota

Two Amazon Employees Fired After Advocating for Better Virus Protections

Two Amazon employees who risked their jobs by publicly criticizing the company’s climate credentials—and demanding better from their employer—have been fired in the wake of their equally public support for warehouse workers demanding stronger COVID-19 protections.

‘Gobsmacking’ UK Announcement Says Green Transport Must Become Citizens’ First Choice

The UK government recently declared that meeting the nation’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require that public transit, cycling, and other forms of active transport become “the natural first choice” for citizens—a statement that transport policy experts and active travel campaigners found happily “gobsmacking,” reports BBC News.

Explosion at Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plant Damages 60 Homes

A recent, massive explosion at a OneH2 hydrogen fuel cell plant in Long View, North Carolina has left the facility’s 44 employees shaken, but unscathed and 60 homes damaged, one of them beyond repair. 

Suspected COVID-19 Claims Climate Pioneer Sir John Houghton at Age 88

Sir John Houghton, a Welsh physicist and climate researcher who helped convince then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher that climate change is real, caused by human activity, and in need of a response, died last week of suspected COVID-19 at age 88.

12 Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in Kearl Lake Tar Sands/Oil Sands Work Force

Kentucky Coal Closures Produce Reduction in Hospital Admissions

Greenland Ice Sheet Records Biggest Ever Loss

Squamish May Join Review of Woodfibre Work Camp

British Columbians Prepare for Flooding in Midst of Pandemic

Urban Farming Could Supply 122% of Sheffield, UK’s Produce

Social Media Erupts After 19 Responders Die in China Wildfire

Oil Spill Hits Ecuadoran Amazon

Warming Waters Mean More Fatal Ship Strikes for Whales

Major U.S. Pipelines Run Through Local ‘News Deserts’

Florida Chemical Plant Emits Massive Volumes of Climate Super-Pollutant

BREAKING: U.S. Judge Rejects Essential Construction Permit for Keystone XL Pipeline

Construction along hundreds of water crossings along Keystone XL pipeline route was thrown into doubt late yesterday, after Montana District Court judge Brian Morris threw out a key permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Three Workers Test Positive for COVID-19 at Kearl Lake Tar Sands/Oil Sands Complex

The Alberta is maintaining that the Kearl Lake tar sands/oil sands complex 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray must remain open as an essential service, after three workers tested positive for COVID-19 and six others went into isolation pending test results.

WRI Webinar: Nations, Cities Can ‘Build Back Better’ after Pandemic

As governments attempt to steer their economies through the mounting economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulus packages should focus on fostering new models of sustainable and inclusive economic growth, according to panelists at a webinar hosted earlier this month by the World Resources Institute (WRI). 

Citizen Scientists to Mark Earth Day by Crowdsourcing Ecological Data Collection

A new research initiative is allowing anyone in possession of a mobile device to become a scientific sleuth for the planet—collecting and submitting data on everything from plastic pollution to air quality to, eventually, climate change and food security.

Adow: The West Must Pay Its Debt If the World Is to Win the Climate Fight

Writing with “a clarity born not from abstract understandings but from visceral experience,” Mohamed Adow, founder and director of Power Shift Africa, urges the West to act with integrity and deep compassion, and pay the profound and ever-growing “climate debt” it owes the developing world. 

Coastal Protection a ‘Forever Battle’ for Indigenous Long Islanders

The Shinnecock Indian Nation—the original inhabitants of Long Island—are using deep-rooted maritime and ecological knowledge to protect what remains of their ancestral lands from an escalating climate crisis.

Millions at Risk as Second Wave of Locusts Swarms East Africa

Great Barrier Reef Faces Extensive Bleaching

COVID Creates Supply Chain Shocks for Canadian Farmers

Meat Industry ‘Ruined’ If It Fails to Meet Climate Challenge

BBC Probes Pollution, Working Conditions at South Asian Shipbreaking Yards

Michigan County Burns Recyclables for Electricity as Pandemic Curbs Pickups

Survey Shows Germans More Receptive to Climate Migrants than Political Refugees

Banned CFCs Still in Use, Affecting Climate and Ozone Layer

Human Incursion into Wild Spaces Make Pandemics More Likely

Humanity’s ever more destructive relationship with wild animals and their habitats—as expressed in a global wildlife trade worth billions, the calculated destruction of rainforest for palm oil, the negligence of building solar farms in wildlife reserves, and the collateral damage wrought by urbanization—was a cause of the current pandemic, and, if left unchecked, will drive future ones, according to disease ecology experts.

SolarAid solar lights Zambia

‘Imagine Facing COVID in the Dark’: SolarAid Raises Rural Electrification Funds for Zambia [Donor Appeal]

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins spreading across the African continent, with Malawi and Zambia each recently recording their first death, UK-based SolarAid has set out to raise £162,000 to support fast dissemination of local health advice, light and basic power for rural clinics, and other measures to adapt and respond to immediate needs in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The Interview: Pandemic Experience Puts Spotlight on Local Resilience, Self-Sufficiency, Logtenberg Says

Rik Logtenberg is a city councillor in Nelson, British Columbia, founder of Climate Caucus, a national network of mayors and councillors, and the developer of Nudj, a software platform for mobilizing change.

Amsterdam Turns to ‘Doughnut Economics’ for Equitable Post-Pandemic Recovery

Determined to eschew the dogma of growth at all costs and the reflexive dictates of supply and demand, the city of Amsterdam is vowing to embrace the “doughnut model” of social and planetary boundaries as it plans its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

NOAA Reports Fastest Growth in Methane Concentrations Since 2014

Atmospheric methane levels increased at the fastest rate in five years between 2018 and 2019, according to preliminary data released last week by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and scientists aren’t entirely sure why.

Keep Local Markets Open, UK Food Security Expert Urges

With the COVID-19 pandemic manifesting as an economic nightmare as well as a health crisis, food security groups in the UK are urging policy-makers to make clear that local food markets must stay open so that vulnerable populations do not go hungry.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Subnational Leadership ‘Essential’ in Climate, COVID-19 Crises

Informed, cooperative, and compassionate bipartisan leadership at all governmental levels is helping U.S. citizens weather the pandemic, just as such subnational leadership has proven to be an essential agent in the climate crisis fight.

Ukraine Wildfire Burns to Within Three Kilometres of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site

A wildfire in Ukraine has burned to within three kilometres of the containment structure that covers the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, site of one of the world’s worst-ever nuclear disasters when it exploded in 1986.

Brazil Cuts Timber Export Controls, Accused of Genocide

Peruvian Fossil Pluspetrol Accused of Devastating Amazon Communities

Extreme Heat Will Affect 1.2 Billion by 2100

PepsiCo Closes Supply Chain Loophole in Palm Oil Policy

New Himalayan Patterns Turn Water into Weapon

Category 5 Cyclone Hits Vanuatu in Midst of Coronavirus Lockdown

A Category 5 cyclone hit the South Pacific island state of Vanuatu Monday, with the country’s 276,000 residents already under travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Interview: Climate Action Builds Resilience Against Wider Range of Crises, Abreu Says

Catherine Abreu is Executive Director of Climate Action Network-Canada. She talks about the strengths and resources the climate community brings to the global health crisis, and the wider importance of building genuine relationships and resilience.

COVID-19 Risks Prompts Calls to Shut Down Fossil and Hydro Man Camps, Pipeline Construction [Sign-ons]

From the Site C hydro megaproject to the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines, from the tar sands/oil sands in northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, fossil workers with little opportunity for physical distancing are finding themselves at higher risk of contracting COVID-19—and in most cases, raising anxieties for nearby First Nations and other rural communities with limited resources to deal with an outbreak.

Pandemic-Mandated Car-Free Streets Are an ‘Epiphany Moment’

Chicago city planners looking to help their citizens keep fit during the pandemic—mentally as well as physically—are being encouraged to close streets to cars and open them up to cyclists and pedestrians, thereby taking a step forward to a climate-friendly world more favourable to transit, bike lanes, and walking.

Analyst Puts Solar at Centre of Water-Energy-Climate Nexus

Scientists May Have Overestimated CO2 Storage in North Atlantic Ocean

56,000 Demand Retraining for Oil and Gas Workers, Funding for Renewables, as Fossils Push for Bailout

With the Canadian government still tight-lipped at week’s end on the bailout package it’s crafting for the country’s pandemic-ravaged fossil sector, 56,000 online petitioners demanded the government invest in the oil and gas work force, not shareholders, while new analyses showed how the right investments could position the country for a stronger, greener recovery.

COVID-19 Could Slash Emissions 5%, But Permanent Cuts Depend on Structural Change

The COVID-19 pandemic could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 5% this year, producing the deepest reduction since the end of the Second World War. But analysts warn the advantage could be “vanishingly thin” without economic recovery packages that emphasize a shift off carbon.

Some New Habits May Continue as Coronavirus Drives 38% Drop in Airline Emissions

Airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions are set to fall 38% this year as the coronavirus pandemic drives down travel demand, and the Australia Institute says some of the reductions may be permanent as businesses reassess their need for travel.

The Interview: Pandemic Reminds us that ‘We Are All Relatives’, Munn-Venn Says

Karri Munn-Venn is Senior Policy Analyst at Citizens for Public Justice. She’s been watching the changes in practice wrought by the pandemic and the shifts in perspective it might produce. 

COVID-19 May Deliver ‘One-Two Punch’ to Flood, Wildfire Response

The potential for a one-two punch—natural disaster plus COVID-19—has emergency preparedness teams across Canada working feverishly to be ready for complex battles that could range from wildfire smoke increasing the risk of serious lung infections, to trying to sandbag flooded rivers while keeping the imperative of social distancing.

Bank of Montreal, RBC, BlackRock Among the Backers for Alberta’s ‘Reckless’ Keystone XL Subsidy

The Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, and TD are among the banks that are being called out for funding the Alberta government’s “reckless” decision to back the contentious Keystone XL pipeline with nearly C$8 billion in financial aid.

Saxifrage: Canada Uses ‘Creative Accounting’ to Push Forest Emissions Off the Books

Canada is scrambling to push its managed forests off the climate accounting books as the climate crisis itself transforms the country’s vast resource from a net carbon sink to a carbon source, veteran data-cruncher Barry Saxifrage argues in a new explainer on his Visual Carbon website.

Child cycling with a mask

Air Pollution, Lack of Clean Water Increase Infection Risk for Poorer Communities

Chronic health problems—often owing to high levels of pollution—and poor access to clean water are putting poor, Indigenous, and non-white communities across the world at greater risk of infection and hospitalization in the face of COVID-19.

Amazon Climate Strikers Now Demand Better Virus Protection

A group of Amazon employees, fresh from last year’s strikes for climate action, are now extending their fight to demand stronger COVID-19 protections for their fellow fulfilment centre and warehouse workers.

Week 14, April 6: Renewable Electricity

In 2017, the generation of electricity from fossil fuels produced 74 Mt (10.3%) of Canada’s emissions. Renewable energy has become the cheapest option for new power generation. Onshore wind and solar PV power are now less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance.

China’s Post-COVID Emissions Bounce Back After Falling 25%

Honolulu Sues Fossils for Climate Costs

Climate Finance Isn’t Reaching the World’s Most Vulnerable

Fossil Use Not Linked to Longer Life Expectancy

Pandemic Will Shift Food Security, Food Systems

PG&E Accepts Involuntary Manslaughter Plea in 2018 Camp Fire

History Shows Warming Threw North Atlantic Current Into Chaos

Keystone XL to Start Construction with $8 Billion in Financial Aid from Alberta

Calgary-based TC Energy is starting construction on the Keystone XL pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Steele City, Nebraska, after the Jason Kenney government announced a US$1.1-billion “strategic investment” and put up another $4.2 billion in loan guarantees to underwrite the fiercely-contested project.

Trump Rolls Back Fuel Economy Standard Aimed at Cleansing the Air, Cutting Emissions

With his country in the grips of an out-of-control pandemic of respiratory disease, Donald Trump is pressing ahead with his long-standing plan to gut vehicle fuel efficiency standards designed to cleanse the air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in what InsideClimate News describes as the country’s “largest anti-climate rollback ever”.

The Interview: Pandemic Recovery Can Boost the Economy, Attack Emissions, Increase Climate Resilience, Nagata Says

Kai Nagata is Communications Director at Dogwood in British Columbia. Since the pandemic began, he’s been pointing out that every dollar spent on the government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline is a dollar diverted from pandemic response—and that in any health emergency, none of us is safe unless all of us are safe.

UN Postpones COP 26 Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

The United Nations has postponed this year’s global climate change conference, COP 26, to the middle of next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Remarkable’ Conservation Gains Show Oceans Could Be Fully Restored by 2050

A series of isolated but remarkable examples of biological resilience show that conservation efforts could fully restore the glory of the world’s oceans within 30 years if countries redouble their efforts to make it happen, according to a major international review published yesterday in the journal Nature.

‘Now Is the Time’ for Food Security Planning, Dauncey Urges

With the pandemic posing an increasing threat to food security, policy-makers need to be thinking hard, and quickly, about how to protect the supply chain—from farm to store to table—with timely attention to building greater long-term resilience into the systems that sustain our food supply, Canadian author and climate hawk Guy Dauncey writes in a recent post.

Community Gardeners Object After Ontario Deems Food Production ‘Recreation’ During Pandemic [Sign-On]

With tens of thousands across the province relying on community gardens for affordable, local food, the Ontario government made a big mistake when it included them in its list of recreational activities to be shut down in the effort to #FlattenTheCurve on the coronavirus pandemic, a non-profit food security group warns in a release this week.

Canadian Cities Stepping up with Sustainable Land Use

Affordability, equity, quality of life, and climate resilience are emerging as key objectives in sustainable land use practices being developed by municipalities across Canada—and those objectives are actually being achieved thanks to a strong evidence base, robust community engagement, and close working relationships within and between public and private sector partners.

Extreme Weather Response Holds Answers to COVID-19’s ‘Slow-Motion Hurricane’

The COVID-19 pandemic is a kind of “slow-motion hurricane”, and lessons from past hurricane disasters can help guide us through it, according to a seasoned expert in extreme weather events. What’s needed is calm, non-partisan leadership that takes decisive, expertise-based action, emphasizes collective protection of the vulnerable, and tries to pre-empt both foolish and selfish behaviours. 

Tesla Fudged Injury Reports, California Regulator Charges

Pemex Refinery Project Illegally Destroys Threatened Mangroves

Gender Power Structures Make Women More Vulnerable on Climate

Trump Border Wall is a Defeat for Republican Ranchers, Land Stewards

Great Barrier Reef Faces Third Major Bleaching in Five Years

Havoc of Storms’ Underwater Impact Still Poorly Understood

Study Shows How Concrete Producers Can Cut GHGs, Boost Air Quality

Most Carbon Stored in UK Tree Plantations Ends Up Back in Atmosphere

Cow Belches Give Plant-Based Spreads an Advantage Over Butter

European Green Deal Will Guide Coronavirus Recovery Plan, EU Leaders Pledge

European Union leaders have agreed to make the massive economic measures they’re planning in response to the coronavirus match up with the continent-wide Green Deal they adopted not long before the pandemic struck.

Cleanse the Air to Help #FlattenTheCurve, Doctors Urge