SGC Admin: We were happy to see this article regarding the proposed “cap and trade” coming to Ontario in 2017. We, like many folk didn’t really understand what “cap and trade” meant, and how it’s implementation is supposed to assist in reducing the negative impacts our present way of life has on climate change.
David Suzuki’s explanation is clear and easy to understand… (unlike the gobble gabble we get from our politicians), and helps the SGC team to see the possible positive affects of such a system. However, we remain adamant in our belief that adding more tax on at the gas pump is not necessary and smacks of an easy tax grab. Until cars are produced that run on alternative energy sources, (such as electric and water) are affordable for the general public, charging/refilling stations are conveniently in place, along with affordable and reliable transit; the public’s choices of transportation are limited. In this respect, the general public should not be subjected to another tax.
Please feel free to add your comments… 🙂
Will cap-and-trade slow climate change?
Copyright : Dmitry Rukhlenko
The principle that polluters should pay for the waste they create has led many experts to urge governments to put a price on carbon emissions. One method is the sometimes controversial cap-and-trade. Quebec, California and the European Union have already adopted cap-and-trade, andOntario will join Quebec and California’s system in January 2017. But is it a good way to address climate change?
The program sets an overall limit — a cap — on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a province can emit. It then tells polluters, such as heavy industry and electricity generators, how many tonnes of carbon each can release. For every tonne, polluters need a permit or “allowance.” So, if a company’s annual limit is 25,000 tonnes, it would require 25,000 allowances. If a company exceeds its limit, it can purchase additional allowances from another firm that, because of its greater efficiency, has more allowances than it needs. This is the “trade” part of the equation.
Although an individual company can exceed its greenhouse gas limit by purchasing credits, the province as a whole can’t. The overall limit is reduced every year, so if the law is followed, cap-and-trade guarantees annual emissions reductions. The declining cap is the system’s great strength and the way it protects the environment.
How effective is it? Although the answer isn’t straightforward, there’s evidence cap-and-trade played a key role in reducing acid rain in the United States. The 1990 Clean Air Act allowed power plants to buy and sell the right to emit sulphur dioxide. Since then, U.S. sulphur dioxide concentrations have gone down by more than 75 per cent. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, “Acid rain did not disappear as a problem, but it was significantly mitigated.”
Despite this and other successes, some experts are skeptical, arguing that cap-and-trade amounts to little more than a cash grab by government, a tax in everything but name. Others say it’s a mistake to expect climate change can be addressed through markets, when the problem actually requires changing our entire approach to economics, with a commitment to a steady-state economy and an end to the commodification of nature.
Some experts have also noted that the emissions reductions it brings are often modest. A2015 paper in Canadian Public Policy claimed Quebec’s system “is still too weak to meaningfully address the environmental imperatives as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, in which fully eliminating carbon emissions is the benchmark for long-term policy goals.” From 2013 to 2014, California’s allowance cap went from 162.8 to 159.7 megatonnes, a drop of less than two per cent.
Ontario’s proposed legislation indicates its program will have some great strengths and a number of shortcomings. It will likely have wide coverage, applying limits on most of the province’s emissions, including those from transportation fuels. (California’s system did not initially include these fuels.)
Ontario is expected to reduce emissions by over four per cent a year — about twice the initial rate of California — and generate $1.9 billion annually from the plan. That money will be invested in “green” projects throughout the province with the goal of reducing carbon emissions even further.
Ontario’s proposal to give away many allowances to big emitters is less encouraging. The government says it will eventually phase out this free disbursement, but in the meantime millions of dollars in government revenue that could be used to support renewable energy and public transit will be lost.
To keep the bulk of fossil fuels in the ground — as scientific evidence says we must — we need a variety of strategies. Cap-and-trade helps reduce emissions and generates billions of dollars for other strategies to address climate change. It also embodies the polluter pays principle. But it’s not enough on its own.
The David Suzuki Foundation and others have long argued that provinces and the federal government should put a price on carbon, through carbon taxes, cap-and-trade or a combination of both. The urgent need to address global warming means provinces that have adopted cap-and-trade need to strengthen it by ensuring emissions drop faster and polluters pay a price that truly reflects the damage caused by carbon pollution.
Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Climate Change and Transportation Policy Analyst Gideon Forman.
We are the world; we must act on that understanding
The coming year looks bright with the promise of change after a difficult decade for environmentalists and our issues. But even with a new government that quickly moved to gender equity in cabinet, expanded the Ministry of the Environment to include climate change, and offered a bravura performance at the climate talks in Paris, can Canada’s environmentalists close up shop and stop worrying?
Of course not. The nature of politics includes constant trade-offs, compromises and disagreements. Even with a government sympathetic to environmental issues, we won’t act deeply and quickly enough or prevent new problems because we haven’t addressed the root of our environmental devastation. The ultimate cause isn’t economic, technological, scientific or even social. It’s psychological. We see and interact with the world through perceptual lenses, shaped from the moment of conception. Our notions of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and the environment we grow up in all limit and create our priorities.
If we were to examine the anatomy of human brains, the circuitry and chemistry of neurons or the structure of our sense organs, nothing would permit us to distinguish gender, ethnicity or religion because we all belong to a single species. But if you were to ask a man and a woman about love, sex or family, answers could be quite disparate. A Jew and Muslim living in Israel might respond differently to questions about Gaza, the West Bank or Jerusalem. A Catholic and Protestant living in Northern Ireland might hold radically different outlooks about their country’s history.
We learn how to see the world. That, in turn, determines our priorities and actions. The world has been overwhelmed by the belief that our species stands at the pinnacle of evolution, endowed with impressive intelligence and able to exploit our surroundings as we see fit. We feel fundamentally disconnected from nature and therefore not responsible for the ecological consequences of our actions. Even at the 2015 Paris climate conference , the sense of urgency about climate change was dampened by the perceived equal need to protect jobs and to consider the economic costs of aiding vulnerable nations and even ways to continue exploiting fossil fuels, the very agents of the crisis.
We can’t just look at the world as a source of resources to exploit with little or no regard for the consequences. When many indigenous people refer to the planet as “Mother Earth”, they are not speaking romantically, poetically or metaphorically. They mean it literally. We are of the Earth, every cell in our bodies formed by molecules derived from plants and animals, inflated by water, energized by sunlight captured through photosynthesis and ignited by atmospheric oxygen.
Years ago, I visited a village perched on the side of an Andean mountain in Peru. People there are taught from childhood that the mountain is an apu, a god, and that as long as that apu casts its shadow on the village, it will determine the destiny of its inhabitants. Compare the way those people will treat that mountain with the way someone in Trail, B.C., will after being told for years the surrounding mountains are rich in gold and silver.
Is a forest a sacred grove or merely lumber and pulp? Are rivers the veins of the land or sources of power and irrigation? Is soil a community of organisms or simply dirt? Is another species our biological relative or a resource? Is our house a home or just real estate?
Once we learn that our very being, essence, health and happiness depend on Mother Earth, we have no choice but to radically shift the way we treat her. When we spew our toxic wastes and pesticides into the air, water and soil, we poison our mother and ourselves. When we frack our wells, we contaminate the air and water on which we depend. When we clear-cut forests, dump mine tailings into rivers and lakes and convert wilderness into farms or suburbs, we undermine the ability of the biosphere to provide the necessities of life.
Is this how we treat our source of survival? Until all of society understands this and then acts on that understanding, we will not be able to act fully to protect a future for ourselves.
By David Suzuki
Blue Dot News
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SGC From our inbox to you From: The David Suzuki Foundation on the “Magic” of Mushrooms
The many marvels of the mysterious mushroom
Until 1969, biologists thought mushrooms and other fungi were plants. They’re actually more closely related to animals, but with enough differences that they inhabit their own distinct classification.
This and more recent findings about these mysterious organisms illustrate how much we have yet to learn about the complexities of the natural world. New research reveals mushrooms can even help plants communicate, share nutrients and defend themselves against disease and pests.
There’s far more to mushrooms than the stems and caps that poke above ground. Most of the organism is a mass of thin underground threads called mycelia. These filaments form networks that help plants, including trees, connect to each other, through structures called mycorrhizae.
Scientists believe about 90 per cent of land-based plants are involved in this mutually beneficial relationship with fungi. Plants deliver food to the mushroom, created by photosynthesis, and the filaments, in turn, assist the plants to absorb water and minerals and to produce chemicals that help them resist disease and other threats. And, of course, a myriad of other life forms benefit from the healthy plants.
The structure and function of the mycelial networks and their ability to facilitate communication between physically separated plants led mycologist Paul Stamets to call them “Earth’s natural Internet.” He’s also noted their similarity to brain cell networks. According to a Discover article, “Brains and mycelia grow new connections, or prune existing ones, in response to environmental stimuli. Both use an array of chemical messengers to transmit signals throughout a cellular web.”
Research by Suzanne Simard at the University of British Columbia found that Douglas fir and paper birch trees transfer carbon back and forth through the mycelia, and other research shows they can also transfer nitrogen and phosphorous. Simard believes older, larger trees help younger trees through this process. She found that the smaller trees’ survival often depends on large “mother trees” and that cutting down these tree elders leaves seedlings and smaller trees more vulnerable.
Researchers in China found trees attacked by harmful fungi are able to warn other trees through the mycelia networks, and University of Aberdeen biologists found they can also warn other plants of aphid attacks.
It all adds to our growing understanding of how interconnected everything on our planet is, and how our actions — such as cutting down large “mother” trees — can have unintended negative consequences that cascade through ecosystems.
Scientists are also finding that fungi can be useful to humans beyond providing food and helping us make cheese, bread, beer and wine. Stamets believes mushrooms can be employed to clean up oil spills, defend against weaponized smallpox, break down toxic chemicals like PCBs and decontaminate areas exposed to radiation.
He credits his interest in fungi to another fascinating aspect of many mushrooms around the world: their hallucinogenic properties. During college, Stamets spent a lot of time in the Ohio woods, where he first tried psilocybin mushrooms. They had a profound effect on him, and after his first experience, his persistent stutter went away. He later quit a logging job, because the work was destroying mushroom habitat, and began studying fungi at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
Since then, his research has led to fascinating discoveries of multiple possible purposes for fungi, including nuclear decontamination, water filtration, biofuels, increasing agricultural yields, pest control and medicines.
Research is also shedding light on potential benefits of the psychotropic properties of mushrooms, such as the 144 species that contain psilocybin. Indigenous people have long used hallucinogenic mushrooms for ceremonial, spiritual and psychological purposes — and with good reason, it turns out. Psilocybin has been shown to improve the brain’s connectivity. Researchers are finding the chemical can help combat depression, anxiety, fear and other disorders, and increase creativity and openness to new experience. This makes them potentially beneficial for post-traumatic stress, addiction and palliative care treatments.
We humans have made a lot of technological and scientific advances, and this sometimes gives us the sense that we’re above or outside of nature, that we can do things better. Sometimes it takes a fascinating lifeform like a mushroom to shake us from our hubris and show us how much we have yet to learn about the world and our place in it.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.