From Ricardo Navarro | GAIA’s Steering Committee member for Latin America

Dear Friends:

In addition to Neil’s report that some members of GAIA were in Poznan  and we held a session to denounce some of the false solutions to climate  change, such as waste incineration, I also want to share with you my  impressions about certain themes in the meeting.

The first impression that I have is that, among the political leaders  such as ministers or heads of environmental policy of the various  countries, there is no consciousness about the gravity of the climate  problem. They all know the problem exists but their reactions and  proposals do not reflect the gravity of the situation. For example, they  talk of reducing emissions 20% by the year 2020 and 50% by 2050. But the  IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that, in order to have a 50% probability of keeping global temperature rise to 2C (after which there would be true environmental catastrophes), we would have to stabilize the concentration of CO2 equivalent gases in the atmosphere below 450ppm. This implies that the concentration of CO2 itself would have to be below 360ppm; but in 2005, the concentration of CO2 had already reached 379ppm. In other words, we are already past the limit for a scenario where we have only a 50% probability of holding the temperature below dangerous levels, and even so we are not acting with the necessary urgency.

This goal that so many politicians mention, of not passing 2C seems to  be merely wishful thinking since we have already increased 0.8C; as one  British scientist said: “…we have to try to keep the temperature  increase to 2C but we also have to prepare for an increment of 4C…and of course if it rises by 4C most probably there will be a series of  feedback mechanisms such as the escape of methane from the permafrost of Siberia, the Canadian tundra and ocean clathrates, as well as the destruction of the Amazon and the melting of the glaciers, which will push the temperature rise above 5C, then to 6C and then… ?”

To see the gravity of the case, we only have to remember that less than
8 months ago there was a tropical cyclone in Burma that left more than  150,000 dead, the equivalent of 2 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs together. And this is before the temperature has increased even 1C. I wonder, what will be these catastrophes that the IPCC speaks of if the temperature rises more than 2C? Millions of dead in one single climate event?

In spite of all this, the principal polluters (the countries of the
North) want to continue polluting, and in order to do so, they want to  give the Southern countries money for them to plant trees, capture the  methane from landfills or put up wind turbines. This they call carbon  trading, clean development mechanisms, joint implementation – they have plenty of creativity to continue inventing names when an intelligent and honest analysis of the problem demands an immediate halt to any  additional CO2 emissions. The problem is complicated because many  Southern countries agree with this approach, as it provides them with  funds.

On the other hand, although the historical responsibility for the  current problem lies with the industrialized countries, since they have  produced 70% of all greenhouse gases emitted since the start of the  industrial revolution (in spite of having only 17% of the global  population), the problem is that, in the last decade, the situation has  changed. Those countries called “developing countries” now emit more  than the “developed” countries. For example, China has passed the US as the world’s principal emitter of CO2.  This means that, in order to  solve the problem, the Southern countries must also embark on an  effective program of emissions reductions; this could be done if the  industrialized countries recognize their historical responsibility of  having caused the problem and provide the necessary capital and  technology to do so. Some estimates of the necessary investment run on the order of US$200 billion per year; but the industrialized world seems not to be prepared to to put in more than 10% of this amount at best; and, to make matters worse, they want the funds to be managed by the World Bank!

The final decisions will be taken in Copenhagen in one year, but  everything indicates that, if the decision makers of Northern and  Southern countries do not change their postures, we will soon face  climatic situations never before seen in the history of humanity. In the  face of this challenge, we in NGOs have a huge task to complete, at the  national and international levels.

Greetings to all, and may God and Mother Earth protect us.

Ricardo Navarro


Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

WMO Greenhouse gas bulletin
Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Originally published Nov. 2008


[Note: On the PDF above – Page 9.  We are actually at 288 PPMV and not 281 as the report states.  This is due to the fact their reference date is 2006 and now we are 2009.  A 7 point increase.]

The latest analysis of data from the WMO-GAW Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Network, a comprehensive network of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs in 2007 with CO2 at 383.1 ppm, CH4 at 1789 ppb and N2O at 320.9 ppb. These values are higher than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 37%, 156% and 19%, respectively. Atmospheric growth rates in 2007 of CO2 and N2O are consistent with recent years. The mixing ratio of CH4 shows the largest increase since 1998. The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) shows that from 1990 to 2007 the atmospheric radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases has increased by 24.2%. The combined radiative forcing by the most abundant ozone depleting substances, CFC-11 and CFC-12, exceeds that of N2O. They are decreasing very slowly as a result of emission reductions under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That
Deplete the Ozone Layer.

For Free Access to the full article click here (pdf Format) Because the world needs to know

Global Warming 20 Years Later (June 23, 2008)

Tim Hortons Continues to Lead in Denialism & Greenwash Tactics in Canada

Group raises doubts over drive-thru study

December 15, 2008


Tim Hortons stands by its study of pollution from idling vehicles in drive-thrus, despite a withering critique by the city’s environment committee.

A meeting of the city’s environmental advisory committee on Thursday included a harsh analysis of the company’s study on vehicle emissions at drive-thrus.

“It is not a scientific study, it is a piece of marketing and public relations,” committee member Bob McColl said.

Tim Hortons Inc. retained Guelph-based RWDI to study pollution from vehicles waiting in drive-thru lines.

It concluded the emissions from vehicles waiting in drive-thru lines were less than from cars that had been turned off for a few minutes and then restarted.

But McColl said only five locations out of 3,000 were studied. The study also compared vehicle emissions to “everyday sources” such as a 16-horsepower snowblower and an 11-horsepower chainsaw.

McColl said such engines are rarely used, giving the comparison little relevance.

And a small sample size can have a high margin of error, McColl said.

“These are some of the shortcomings in the report. They are enough to foster skepticism in me,” McColl said.

Tim Hortons Inc. had the study done after learning that Kitchener had joined a growing list of cities that considered tighter restrictions or even outright bans on new drive-thrus.

Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons Inc., said the RWDI study is absolutely a scientific study.

“The breadth of analysis and range of sensitivities studied deal with any concerns raised about the number of stores in the study. Also, high-volume locations at rush hours were studied,” Javor said in an e-mail.

He defended the comparisons of emissions from chainsaws and snowblowers.

“Readers need to understand the order of magnitude and scale,” Javor said. He noted the study was peer reviewed and is currently under consideration for publication in a scientific journal.

“This all suggests that the study is worthy of broader consideration,” Javor said.

The environment committee voted to pass along the RWDI study to city councillors as information.

The committee also supports changing the way drive-thrus are designed so that people do not have to walk through a line of waiting vehicles.

Tim Hortons and other quick-service restaurants will be encouraged to better promote the option of going inside rather than idling in a drive-thru.

A representative of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association did not like that idea.

“Our windows at the front are how we draw customers in, so the recommendation is a little confusing,” Michelle Saunders, the association’s manager of government relations, said to the committee.

“I would simply say that drive-thrus are widely supported by the public,” Saunders said.

Alain Pinard, the interim director of planning, listened to the critique of the RWDI study, but noted that city staff do not have the expertise to wade into this field of scientific inquiry. That is best left to peer-reviewed journals, Pinard said.

City staff will watch for reactions after the study is published and exposed to more experts in the field.

Pinard called the RWDI study a good start, but said city staff need more information before public policy decisions are based on it.

“We are not experts,” Pinard said.

Some committee members were openly disappointed, having hoped for a crackdown on drive-thrus and a ban on new ones.

“We know cars pollute,” committee member Nirala Sonder said.

“We asked that there be no new drive-thrus and that has not been addressed,” Sonder said.

Opinion | Drive-thru study isn’t convincing | The Record | Kitchener

Drive-thru study isn’t convincing

December 16, 2008

Tim Hortons has become as much of an esteemed Canadian institution as any corporate entity, but the company’s environmental policy doesn’t have the same top-notch reputation.

The coffee shop chain is going to have to do better than present the type of report it released on drive-thrus if it expects both coffee drinkers and everyone else to take its commitment to the environment seriously.

Concerned about the possibility that Kitchener and other cities could set tough rules or ban drive-thrus at coffee shops, Tim Hortons commissioned a report that said if cars shift from using drive-thru lanes to parking lots they will create more, not less, pollution. The report was prepared by a consulting company, RWDI of Guelph.

At the very least, this result seems to be counter intuitive. Skeptics may feel the report’s conclusions sound like the reports issued by the tobacco industry a few decades ago that denied a link between tobacco and cancer.

Sure enough, Kitchener’s environmental committee treated the report with scathing skepticism.

“It is not a scientific study, it is a piece of marketing and public relations,” committee member Bob McColl said. He wondered not only about the small number of locations used in the study but also about some of the comparisons in the report.

It compared emissions at a drive-thru with emissions made by a 16-horsepower snowblower and an 11-horsepower chainsaw. This comparison just confuses the issue.

What snowblowers and chainsaws do or do not emit has nothing to do with the question: Does taking a vehicle through a drive-thru produce more emissions than a vehicle that stops and starts in a parking space?

Perhaps the answer depends on the length of time a vehicle spends in a drive-thru.

Tim Hortons might even argue persuasively that the amount emitted at drive-thrus is small compared to all the emissions made by all vehicles, but its current strategy makes the company appear defensive. It would be wise to have an open mind and review its entire policy.

Airsick: Industrial Devolution – Images of Global Warming

Twenty days. Twenty thousand still images. A single message. Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk captures the issue of global warming in a video created entirely by using still images.