Peace and Eco Briefs, January–February 2010

Peace and Environment News — Insider, January–February 2010
by Mike Buckthought

Portland’s 40-Year Climate Action Plan

The city of Portland, Oregon is taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. On October 28, Portland’s City Council passed a 40-year Climate Action Plan, a joint effort by the city and Multnomah County. Portland Mayor Sam Adams says the plan will create green jobs and encourage the introduction of new services and products that can be marketed globally. The plan includes a list of 93 actions to take over the next three years. By 2030, all homes and buildings will have “zero net greenhouse gas emissions.” Energy efficiency will be used to reduce the energy use in existing buildings by 25 per cent. The plan will also ensure that 90 per cent of city residents can meet all of their non-work needs through walking or bicycling. (Portland Herald Tribune, October 28, 2009; City of Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan, October 2009)

Doctors’ Diagnosis: Uranium Bad for Health

Twenty-four doctors from Sept-Îles, Québec have pledged to resign and leave the city if exploration for uranium continues near a lake that provides drinking water for their community. In an open letter addressed to Québec’s Minister of Health and Social Services, the doctors express concerns about the health impacts of a uranium mine proposed by Terra Ventures. They are asking for a moratorium on uranium mining across the province. A thousand citizens of Sept-Îles joined a protest to support calls for a moratorium. Nova Scotia and British Columbia have banned uranium mines, but the Québec government has so far refused to follow these examples. The Sept-Îles Hospital supports the doctors’ actions, while warning that the loss of so many doctors would be “catastrophic” for the community. (La Presse, December 4, 2009; Radio-Canada, December 7–14, 2009)

Spanish Wind Power

During a recent windy day, Spain’s wind turbines set another record, supplying 53 per cent of the country’s electricity needs. On November 8, Spain’s wind turbines were generating 11.5 gigawatts of power, equivalent to almost twice the combined output of Ontario’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations. In 2009, Spain generated about one quarter of its energy needs from renewable sources of power such as wind turbines and solar panels. The country’s wind power capacity is growing rapidly, thanks to government support. According to the Spanish Wind Energy Association, by 2020 Spain will generate 40 gigawatts from wind turbines — about six times the capacity of Ontario’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear plants. Spain’s wind turbines currently generate 80 per cent more electricity than the country’s nuclear plants. (The Guardian, November 9, 2009; Ontario Power Generation

Sea Level Rise of Nine Metres

According to a new study published in Nature, global sea levels could rise by as much as 9 metres over the next few hundred years, even if global mean temperature increases are halted at two degrees above pre-industrial levels. A sea level rise of nine metres would result in the loss of most of the Netherlands, and many coastal cities such as New Orleans. Island states such as the Maldives would be completely submerged, and much of Bangladesh and Florida would also be lost. The prediction of a nine-metre rise is higher than previous estimates. The study takes into account the impacts of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. According to Princeton University researcher Robert Kopp, “the IPCC’s last numbers were underestimates because they didn’t include all the factors that can accelerate ice sheet melting.” (The Guardian, December 16, 2009)

European Union Goes Green

The European Union is introducing new regulations to ensure that nearly all buildings constructed after 2020 will generate most of their energy from renewable sources, or incorporate energy efficiency to reduce power needs. Existing buildings will incorporate green retrofits whenever possible, when they are renovated. The regulations will help the EU reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels. Another regulation will ensure that home appliances are clearly labelled with efficiency ratings, to encourage people to use energy-efficient washing machines, televisions and refrigerators. Advertisements for home appliances will have to include the energy-efficiency rating, ranging from “A” for the greenest appliances, to “G” for the least efficient. (Greenwire, November 18, 2009)

Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and social justice issues.

Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 25, Number 1, January–February 2010, page 6.