Peace and Environment News — Insider, November–December 2008
by Mike Buckthought
UK to Reduce GHG Emissions by 80%
The British government committed the UK to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2050. The new target replaces an earlier commitment to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by the middle of the century. Ed Miliband, Britain’s energy and climate change secretary, emphasized that the recent economic turmoil would not stop plans to deal with the climate crisis. He promised to amend Britain’s energy bill to allow home-owners to generate wind and solar power, and sell the electricity at a guaranteed price. The “feed-in tariffs” will encourage small-scale local generators of electricity to plug into the electrical grid. (The Guardian, October 16, 2008)
Ottawa River Pollution
Recent tests have found 10 toxic chemicals in the Ottawa River. One of the toxins is perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), a chemical that causes problems such as birth defects and cancer. Another toxin is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical associated with non-stick coatings on Teflon cookware. It is also found in coatings on paper packaging used for fast food such as pizza and popcorn. Other chemicals found in the river include: bisphenol A, acetaminophen, carbamazepine, lincomycin, progesterone, diclofenac, lasaloid A and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The report comes at a time when many citizens are concerned about pollution. According to a recent survey, 49 per cent of Ottawa-Gatineau residents believe the Ottawa River is highly or quite polluted. (Ottawa Sun, October 20, 2008; CBC News, October 17, 2008)
Disappearing Sea Ice
Climate change has led to a dramatic warming in the Arctic, and the rapid melting of sea ice. On September 14, the Arctic sea ice cover reached its minimum extent for the year. It is the second-lowest area recorded, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over the month of September, the sea ice had an average area of 4.67 million square kilometres. That is 34 per cent below the average for the years 1979 to 2000. According to preliminary data, 2008 represents the year with the lowest volume of Arctic sea ice on record. With the loss of sea ice, climate change accelerates. Open water absorbs more sunlight, leading to more warming — and as the ice disappears, polar bears lose their habitat. (National Snow and Ice Data Center, October 2, 2008 http://nsidc.org/news/press/20081002_seaice_pressrelease.html)
Canada’s Costly War in Afghanistan
Canada’s war in Afghanistan is costing a lot more than expected. According to a recent report, the war will cost up to $18.1 billion by 2011. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page explained that the war could cost significantly more than this most recent estimate. He said not all of the relevant government departments gave enough information. He criticized the lack of transparency: “When compared with international experience, Canada appears to lag behind the best practices of other jurisdictions in terms of the quality and frequency of war cost reporting to their respective legislatures.” The estimate is based on the assumption that 2,500 troops and support staff remain in Afghanistan. Costs could escalate, if the mission is expanded. (Canadian Press, October 9, 2008)
Exporting Cancer: Canada and Asbestos
The Canadian Medical Association Journal is criticizing the federal government for its interference with international efforts to control asbestos. United Nations-sponsored negotiations are set to start on October 27. During the talks in Rome, delegates will consider whether or not to list chrysotile asbestos as a dangerous substance under the Rotterdam Convention. Although Canadians do not use much asbestos any more, Canada exports a lot of the mineral to developing countries. The asbestos is mixed in with cement and other building materials, and causes deadly diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. According to the World Health Organization, the use of asbestos leads to 100,000 preventable deaths annually around the world. (Globe and Mail, October 20, 2008)
Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and social justice issues.
Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 23, Number 6, November–December 2008, page 2.