Friday, December 31, 2010

Crystal Ball Gazing, Part 2b: The Game-Changer: War in Korea

Let me just re-iterate: I don't believe that there will be war in Korea in 2011, as the stakes are just too high. Having said that, the prospect for war have never been greater, at least not since the conclusion of the first Korean War in 1953. I read somewhere earlier today that making predictions involving North Korea has always been a complete crap-shoot. Which is why I'm publishing this little post, on the off-chance that I might miss the biggest story of 2011.

If there is to be war in Korea, it may go like this.

The 2011 Korean War

First off, the parties involved (North Korea, South Korea and the U.S.) know that war between them will change everything, and cause devastation on a scale not seen in decades. War will not be a limited engagement, and it would likely be fought with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Unlike the last Korean War, the new war would also be limited in terms of time, likely starting and ending within a 3 month span, given the nature of the war we can expect.

North Korea’s military capabilities are often understated in North American mainstream media. Their actual capacity to wage war remains a bit of an unknown, particularly with regards to the effectiveness of their medium and long range missiles and nuclear capabilities. Certainly the North has promised to nuke Japan in the event of a war. Given the strategic circumstances on the ground, the North would almost certainly have to follow through on that promise (taking out the U.S. air base in Okinawa for starters), even though it would mean nuclear retaliation from the U.S.

North Korean Hedgehog

If the North is going to have any hope of surviving as a political entity, it knows that it must use everything that it has at its disposal during the first few days of the war. Expect a North Korean “hedgehog” to bristle forward with conventional, commando and nuclear attacks. When it’s a “use it or lose it” situation, the North knows that it must give the U.S. everything it has, and this includes nuclear attacks.

For those familiar with the game "Diplomacy", the "hedgehog" is the classic opening manuever for Austria-Hungary, which sees Fleet Trieste move to Venice; Army Vienna to Galicia; and, Army Budapest to Rumania, in an effort to expand fast and furiously. Austria, surrounded by four other great powers, has the unenviable task of choosing a successful survival strategy: use diplomacy to play the powers off against one another (which is the reactive strategy); or force the issue, call the shots, and have the other powers react to its provactive opening. That's the hedgehog. In a real war situation, North Korea doesn't really have any other strategy, other than to go full tilt right away, once it's clear that it's to be war, and not just a limited engagement. North Korea must maintain the initiative in the opening few days of any war.

U.S. Nuclear Response

The U.S. would likely find itself constrained in the use of nuclear weapons, opting for the use of tactical battlefield nukes over larger city-killers, because the U.S. would not want to bring China into the confrontation by targeting civilians (not to mention its ally, Japan, being downwind of radioactive fallout). For the most part, China would likely sit back and watch things develop for a little while before choosing to intervene. While the war would likely be short and extremely sharp, the notion that the North could ever be liberated by the South and the U.S. would simply be an unacceptable situation for China. Therefore, it would not happen.

More likely, after a few days of nuclear exchanges, which could see South Korean and Japanese cities (and perhaps Seattle) wiped off of the map, the South and the U.S. and South Korea would find their conventional forces well into the heartland of the North, while fighting small rear-guard actions against North Korean commandos along several locations of the South Korean coast. Ultimately, China and/or Russia will say “enough” before North Korea collapses (but after most of the North’s nuclear arsenal has been used up), and begin to negotiate an end to hostilities, which could see Chinese occupation of the North. I wouldn’t imagine that there would be outright conflict between China and the U.S., because I think that the U.S. position on the Korean peninsula, despite physically gaining ground, would be irrevocably weakened in the long run.

Bringing the Conflict to an End

The U.S. would clearly have received a bloody nose from North Korea, and would face the global consequences from having initiated a nuclear exchange (even if the U.S. doesn’t fire first, it's going to take the heat for provoking a nuclear conflict). In this situation, a further stalemate on the Korean peninsula arising from a negotiated settlement just isn’t going to sit right with Americans, especially given the use of nuclear weapons. We can expect more war-mongering from the U.S. in this circumstance, especially if Americans believe that they did not receive the satisfaction of justice being meted out against the evil North Koreans before Chinese intervention concluded the conflict. Down the road, that spells very bad news for U.S.-Chinese relations.

Essentially, none of the main parties involved in the conflict would emerge the winners here. The true winner would ultimately prove to be China. A bloodied, if belligerent U.S., which acquiesces to peace in the face of potential Chinese aggression, will begin to lose its foothold in Korea and eventually Japan. In the long run, with a disengaging U.S., both Korea and Japan will begin falling into Chinese orbit in a way which would not be possible if there is no war. As long as there remains tension in Korea between the North and South, the status quo guarantees the U.S. a place of prominence. Change that status quo, even with a new and uneasy peace, it’s all going to change.

Who is going to finance the rebuilding of South Korea (which in a war is going to suffer massive economic collapse, due to the North’s intense artillery bombardment)? The U.S. will hardly be in a position to do so, especially with Japan reeling from its own nuclear attacks. Only China (and possibly Russia) will be able to lend a hand.

Conceivably, the North might find itself under some form of military occupation, potentially shared by the U.S. and China, or maybe NATO or the UN. Whatever the outcome, the days of an independent North Korea will be over, and whatever is left will either become a puppet state of China or something like Cyprus on a massive scale. It will not be another U.S. protectorate, like Iraq (except maybe for portions in the south, along the DMZ).

Do you believe that the United States would be a lot less likely to call a halt to the war? I'm relying on the notion that the US does not want to become engaged in a military conflict with China. I believe that if the Chinese sent their military into North Korea to stabilize the situation on the ground, and for humanitarian purposes, that would signal an end to the war. It is possible, however, that something unforeseen could happen which puts the U.S. and China on war footing with one another, which would be very bad news indeed (especially if nuclear weapons had already been used). I continue to believe, however, that the U.S. would avoid armed conflict with China at all costs, and that the Chinese would not let the U.S. and South Koreans occupy the North in its entirety. There would be intervention, and it will end the war.

A Limited Role for NATO and Canada

Yes, NATO could be drawn into the fray, if the U.S. is attacked by the North. However, NATO’s own role will be limited if the conflict is as short as I believe it would be, given the lack of NATO assets in the East Asian theatre. However, NATO troops, including Canadians, could be used once the military exchange ends in an armistice. These troops would occupy key North Korean military bases and facilities (the ones which didn’t get nuked anyway).

Humanitarian Crisis

The appalling humanitarian crisis which would erupt as a result of this sort of war is one which would have to be handled quickly. Expect China to step up to the plate to assist North Koreans facing a nuclear aftermath. Keeping North Koreans in North Korea (rather than having them cross the border into China) would be another reason why China might be forced to intervene with its military and move into North Korea.

While Japan probably has the resources to tend to itself, if there are more than 3 or 4 nuclear strikes on Japanese soil, it's possible that the humanitarian crisis might require some sort of international intervention. Certainly the United States would support its ally.

The brunt of the humanitarian crisis would be felt in Korea itself, and a large-scale international effort would no doubt be mobilized to assist South Koreans (and maybe those Koreans who find themselves within U.S. occupied territory at the conclusion of hostilities).

The Economy

With Korea (both North and especially the South) shattered, and with a few Japanese cities nuked, along with one or two cities in North America, we can all expect a devastating economic collapse to occur during the war itself. This might seem counter-intuitive at first glance, as we have been told that war often contributes economically, especially in their early stages, as nations gear up for a prolonged conflict.

But this war is going to be different. First, it will be over sooner rather than later, as nuclear weapons will almost certainly be used. Second, no new weapons will need to be manufactured in order to bring this conflict to an end. If things go nuclear, the war could conceivably be over in a matter of days. Only U.S. restraint in the use of nuclear weapons will prolong it. And the U.S., with ally Japan downwind from Korea, will be restrained in its use of nuclear weapons.

War in Korea will bring global economic collapse on the scale of the 2008 recession, and it will be as sharp as the conflict itself, triggered by an immediate increase in fuel prices. This will lead to inflation which will be felt over the quarter. Eventually, confidence will begin to be restored as the conflict winds down and peace ensues. However, we can expect another jolt to the global economy as it begins to become clear that an occupation force might be staying on in parts of North Korea for some time, along with an appropriate force to address the humanitarian crisis on the peninsula and in Japan.


Faced with a nuclear war which he did not win, and with a crumbling economy (and maybe with the loss of an American city, such as Seattle, to nuclear attack), Obama’s days as President will be at an end, likely in 2012 (although it is conceivable that he might choose to resign, but I don’t think that would be likely). It’s also possible that his own Party might look to replacing him, and begin the process of nominating someone new for the 2012 presidential contest. In this scenario, it’s possible that Hilary Clinton might emerge as the Democratic Party's spear-carrier. But whoever the Democrats go with in 2012, they will have assuredly handed the Presidency to the Republicans.

Can you imagine the field day Fox News and other mainstream North American media will have with Obama if American lives are lost in a nuclear exchange, and the war ends with anything less than the unconditional surrender of North Korea and its outright occupation by U.S. troops? If the war were to end that way, it would take longer than the 3 months I’ve predicted. Almost certainly, though, it won’t end that way, given China’s own strategic interests. Such a victory for the U.S. in Korea will be a clear and present danger to China, which is why it won’t happen that way. And that’s why Obama and the Democrats will be toast domestically.

The only good news here is that the Republicans might feel that the time is right to go with another nominee for President besides Sarah Palin, for whoever the GOP puts forward will be assured of a win in 2012. Palin would be a disaster as President, presiding over an America seething with anger. I hesitate to imagine how President Palin, in this future scenario, would find a way to approach U.S.-Chinese relations.


The above war scenario could conceivably get underway anytime between tomorrow and the end of the year. Speculation is that the North will continue to provoke the South, either through limited small-scale engagements, or perhaps through nuclear testing. The reasons for the North to behave this way have to do with its own internal political situation, as an ailing Kim Jong-Il is passing the torch to his son, Kim Jung-Un, who has to show North Koreans that he is a great political and military leader, unafraid to take on the fascist Americans.

The risk for a wider conflict comes from the South’s potential for reaction, rather than from the provoking incident itself. South Koreans remain distraught over the deaths of civilians on Yeonpyeong Island after a North Korean artillery attack back in November. Further attacks could foment additional rage in South Koreans, who will demand from their government a more commensurate response. Such a response, which could take the form of air strikes or naval shelling, would almost certainly escalate the situation beyond anyone’s control, and end up triggering the North to hedgehog in response.

No War

For all of the reasons above, I do not believe that there will be a war in Korea in 2011. Obama stands to lose too much should the U.S. become engaged in hostilities. Both North and South Korea realize that their nations would be devastated in a war. The destruction of the South Korean economy, along with the massive loss of civilian life, should be enough of a deterrent for cooler heads to prevail in the South Korean government. The North must also realize that it can not win a war, and that the best it can do is to cease to be a nation and fall under Chinese protection (and that’s the best case scenario for the North).

While Russia and China would likely gain directly from the conflict, they stand to be losers in a global economic collapse (particularly China) which would almost certainly accompany a war (although not the biggest losers). Further, nuclear fallout risks poisoning parts of China, and certainly Japan.

No, the stakes are too high for all of the players to go to war in Korea. Nothing will ultimately be gained, except for a change in the status quo which will see Korea and Japan fall under Chinese hegemony. For this reason alone, I do not believe that there will be war in Korea in 2011 or 2012.

If war is to come to Korea, it will be in 2013 or more likely 2014, and it will have everything to do with domestic U.S. politics, with a Republican President flexing his or (more likely) her muscles to show Americans that U.S. imperialism is not on the wane, and to influence the 2014 mid-term election. I can see President Palin not taking North Korean bull in the same way that Obama and President George W. Bush did when Pyongyang dished it out to them. Palin won’t compromise with the North; she’d rather fight the Patriotic Holy War against the communists (and damn whatever China might think about that!).

If the North doesn’t collapse during the transition between father and son, I believe that there will be war in Korea by mid-century. But it will only happen in 2011 if South Korea’s response to the North’s aggression gets a little too heavy-handed. Let's all pray for restraint in 2011.

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2011, Part 2a: The World

Here’s Part 2 of my crystal ball-gazing appraisal of what 2011 has in store for us. In Part 1, I looked at Canadian politics. In Part 2 today, I’ll look at the international situation, but I’ll do it in two parts, just to be confusing!

The reason for this approach is that I want to include a significant caveat in my predictions. While I don’t believe that there will be war in Korea this year, I want to emphasise that, if war does come (and despite my belief that it won’t, I know that I’ve been wrong before), it’s going to be a game changer.

So, in Part 2a, I’ll make predictions based on a no-war scenario. In Part 2b, I’ll focus on what might happen if there is war.

The Economy

Yes, the economy is going to remain the biggest story of 2011. Small gains made in the last year are going to be wiped out due to rising oil prices. We can expect triple-digit oil in the first part of 2011, which will lead first to economic stagnation, and eventually to recession. I don’t think that the recession will be as sharp as what we experienced in ’08 and ’09, but it will stifle economic growth in Europe and North America (and to a lesser extent in Asia).

Rising food prices will also contribute to inflation, which is going to be the watchword for the first half of 2011. As we ease into a new recession, however, prices will start to come down, and we can expect a recovery to occur in mid-2012. It’s going to be a bumpy ride over the next few years, and it’s all because of oil.

Yes, we’ve passed the peak of global oil production. Last year, I predicted that the term “peak oil” was going to be experience a break-out year in terms of use. It did. In 2011, however, it will become top of mind for everyone, busting down the last hurdles erected by a right-wing mainstream media that doesn’t want to tell consumers the truth. However, since even right-wing economists won’t be able to ignore the impacts of oil prices on a past-peak economy, the concept of peak oil will finally be front and centre, and talked about in the past tense (given that the peak actually appears to have occurred in 2005-06).

Globally, the fallout from the U.S.’s decision to use “quantitative easing” to keep artificially deflate the value of the dollar will continue to have international implications. Along with economic stagnation (which will contribute to the expected mild recession), it will lead to political stagnation amongst G20 nations. We heard about how a “currency war” was heating up during the second part of 2010; expect the “war” to continue, although kinder, gentler terms will be applied. China isn’t going to come around with regards to raising the value of the yuan. Therefore, the biggest losers in this currency shell-game will be Europe and Canada.

Here at home, we can expect the value of our dollar to continue to rise, in part as a result of U.S. quantitative easing, but also because of rising oil prices. As increased tar sands production comes on line, the dollar will continue to climb. The mid-summer recession might knock it back a little bit. I’ll predict that the dollar will climb to $1.20 U.S. by the end of July, but will fall back and end the year at $1.10 U.S.

This rise in the strength of the dollar, along with economic stagnation and a mild recession, will throw thousands of Ontarians out of their jobs in 2011, particularly those who hold well-paying manufacturing jobs. The auto sector stands to be hardest hit, as Canadians will stop buying cars as gasoline prices rise. Here in Ontario, we can expect very troubled times ahead relative to the rest of the country. As provincial unemployment increases, voters will be counting the days until it is able to throw Dalton McGuinty out of office in favour of Conservative Tim Hudak, who will promise a war on the public sector expenses. There won’t be any talk of “service cuts” in 2011, but we can expect the inevitable (along with more downloading to municipal governments) to occur in 2012.


In Canada, Afghanistan is going to be quiet, as the Canada’s role shifts from Kandahar to Kabul and from offence to training. The good news is that there will likely be fewer Canadians killed in Afghanistan throughout 2011.

The overall course of the war itself, however, is likely to be a bit of a different story, although I’m predicting that it’s largely going to be more of the same throughout 2011. And that means that we can expect to hear more good stories in the media about what the U.S., Canada and our NATO allies are doing for average Afghanis, interspersed with the odd story about road side bombs or Predeator drones blowing up wedding parties in the mountains.

The strategic situation for allied forces on the ground is likely to continue to get worse, but you’ll only find out about that if you follow non-North American media. Don’t expect any major breakthroughs by the Taliban in 2011, however; they’ll continue to bide their time until a disinterested U.S. decides to call it quits, which could start to happen at the end of 2011 or early in 2012. U.S. support for the corrupt Karzai government will continue to wane, and even the U.S. right-wing media might start to raise some issues about why Americans are supporting one of the most corrupt governments on the planet (if only to make Obama look bad!).

In Canada, the committee tasked with reviewing redacted documents regarding abuse and torture will report back to parliament. The committee will determine that while Canada should have been doing more to ensure that detainees rights were respected, that really there wasn’t much that Canada could have done once the handover occurred. While it will become clear that one or a small handful of Afghan detainees were tortured after being handed over to government forces by Canada, the Conservatives will claim vindication that this was all just a non-story anyway. The Liberals will try to score modest political points by suggesting that the Conservatives should have been less cavalier and more decisive in their actions. The NDP might say that we should have built our own prisons there in the first place to avoid having to hand anyone over (or maybe just that we should have never been involved in the invasion). The Canadian public will largely remain disinterested.


It’s difficult to predict what might happen with Iran this year. There’s been talk of a new security estimate being released by the U.S.’s myriad security agencies, which will point to Iran and claim that it is not a threat to Middle Eastern regional stability, and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Despite this, though, we can expect that discussions will continue at all levels throughout the year regarding what is to be done with Iran.

I will make a bold prediction: nothing is going to happen in 2011. Look to some form of military involvement in 2012, as President Obama tries to cast himself in a positive light before the 2012 Presidential election. Democratic Party pundits might believe that a successful little bombing campaign (by U.S. or Israeli proxy warplanes) or outright war against Iran might be just the ticket for Obama’s re-election, especially since Americans have been clamouring for action against Iran for years (decades, really) now. We can expect Obama to start upping the anti-Iranian rhetoric during the last part of 2011.


Last year, I predicted that the government of President Zardari would fall by mid-year. I blew that prediction, as Zardari remains in control at the end of 2010. Can he hold on throughout 2011? That’s a big question, and I’m going to speculate that it’s likely Zardari will not be in charge at the end of 2011. Who, then, will be? It’s quite possible that we can expect to see a palace coup occur under the direction of General Ashfaq Kiyani, sponsored by the United States. Replacing the democratically elected Zardari with the popular General Kiyani (who would not be the lap dog the U.S. might want for the region, but who is likely the only one who can hold things together in Pakistan) will be a sensible move, and lead to a calming of tensions with India.

Pakistan is in turmoil at the end of 2010, still reeling from the devastating floods from the end of last summer. Hostilities within its own borders have left Pakistanis simmering over the impotence of the Zardari government, which has been trying to tread a fine line between American and Pakistani expectations (and which, for the most part, has done a decent balancing act). Things will come to a head with more U.S. attacks inside of Pakistan (whether through the use of conventional U.S. forces, CIA controlled drones, or the increasing and alarming use of U.S. sponsored mercenary forces).


Expect more unrest in Europe, as fall-out from the economic crisis continues to spread. Last year, Greece and Ireland required massive bail-outs. Pundits are saying Portugal and Spain are next. The only question: will the bail-outs on the Iberian peninsula trigger the sort of civil unrest we’ve seen going on in Greece, or the relative civility of Ireland? I’m thinking that Portugal risks a Greece-like meltdown, while things will be more staid in Spain.

Watch for unrest throughout Italy in 2010, and not just because of the recent Anarchists bombings in Rome. The governing coalition held together by Prime Minister Silivio Berlusconi is ready to fall apart, and a little violence might be enough to push it over the edge. Berlusconi will do whatever he can to cling to power. And then there’s the Italian economy, also highly at-risk. All in all, 2011 is going to be a bad year for Italy.

In the UK, Prime Minister Cameron will hold things together with his coalition partner Nick Clegg, although the popularity of the lap-dog Liberal Democrats will sink to an all-time low. Labour will continue their rebuilding process, and with an election still a number of years away, the government will enjoy relative peace. Not so for the British, as the UK will be wracked by unrest and protests, due to the imposition of austerity measures.

Expect free trade talks between the European Union and Canada to drag on with no end in site in 2011. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing.

Climate Change

Although labelled a modest success, the COP-16 climate summit in Cancun revealed what was really no secret: the major governments of the world aren’t ready to make necessary sacrifices to do anything at all to combat against global warming. Next year’s summit will be taking place in Durban, South Africa. It’s the last hope that we have for renewing or replacing the Kyoto Protocol. It’s going to end in failure. Expect the G20 to move into the vacuum left at the UN level as the only legitimate forum for future climate change negotiations. This will, of course, doom humanity to ever-increasing temperatures, as politicians will opt to be seen to be taking action rather than to actually take action.

In Canada, whether there is an election or not, climate change and the environment will take a back seat again. Harper and Ignatieff are largely on the same page when it comes to action on climate change: do as little as possible and wait for the U.S. to make the first move. And if you don’t believe me about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, you’re not paying attention to the sorts of things he’s been saying about the Alberta “oil” sands and the economy. Neither the Conservatives or the Liberals want to do anything to get in the way of oil extraction or globalization. Therefore, Canada will continue to be a corporatist team-player against the environment.

Expect public opinion in Canada to continue to marginalize those who are demanding that action be taken to address climate change. The percentage of Canadians who believed in the reality of climate change has continued to decrease over the past couple of years. With the tar sands oil producers launching a warm and fuzzy media campaign to entice Canadians into believing that our future lies on the extraction of dirty oil, we can expect fewer Canadians to want action taken to address climate change in 2011 than there were in 2010. As the need for economic growth continues to occupy centre stage in Canada’s media narrative, those talking about climate change as a political issue will be marginalized.

However, expect a growing awareness regarding climate change as a moral issue, and the synergies between climate change and social justice to continue to emerge throughout 2011. These conversations, however, will largely be predicated on the notion that a changing climate is inevitable, and will leave out the need for urgent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Perimeter Security – we’ll be hearing a lot more about North American integrated border security in the coming year, and unlike with the Security and Prosperity Partnership, this less-ambitious (but still problematic plan, from the point of view of Canadian sovereignty), will actually go somewhere.

Polygamy – expect the government’s case in British Columbia against the Bountiful community to begin to collapse, which will lead to talk amongst politicos for the need to legislate some sort of statement that marriage can only be between two partners.

G20 Fall-Out – although most charges will eventually be dropped by the courts, and class action suits will proceed against the police, and federal and provincial governments, nothing much is going to change (aside from maybe some minor revisions to the Public Works Protection Act). Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair isn’t going to go anywhere – except perhaps on the lecture circuit to discuss unique police tactics employed at the G20. No, I’m not talking about “kettling” here; I’m referring to how the courts have been able to intervene with arrested individuals in such a way that havoc is being played out in social justice and anti-poverty organizations, as key individuals are shut out by bail conditions which prohibit political activism. What a great coup for the Powers that be: arrest all the protesters, impose bail conditions which prevent them from doing anything in the future, draw out hearing dates for as long as possible before dropping the charges. Do you think that there might come a time when this approach to managing dissent is universal in Canada?

The Rich get richer, the Poor get poorer (ok, that’s hardly a difficult prediction to make).

And the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2011, Part 1: Politics

It’s time to dust off my old trusted Crystal Ball for my third attempt at predicting the future. My past two attempts have made me realize that my powers as an oracle are more than a little on the weak side. I’m not even quite Batman in comparison to Superman. More like Robin. Or maybe Robin’s ex-girlfriend. But, ‘tis the season for predicting, so here goes nothing!

In Part 1, I’ll explore the political theatre. In Part 2, I’ll take my predictions on the road, and look at some other issues which are only somewhat political (and not at all theatre).

Federal Election

I keep predicting a federal election, and I keep coming up short (both in 2009 and 2010). This year, though, I have to think that I’ll hit the jackpot, despite lacklustre polling numbers for all parties. What’s more telling for me is a recently released poll which suggests that about half of Canadians won’t mind an election in 2011, and only a little over 1/3 against the idea (and most of those are Conservative Party supporters). Michael Ignatieff has said it’s time to pull the plug, and even though he’s “been there, done that” before to no effect, I think that the Bloc and NDP are going to have a difficult time with the spring budget.

I say “difficult”, however, and not “impossible”, which is a word that I might have used to describe the budget situation a few short weeks ago. However, since then, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been suggesting that the budget might be a little more “stay the course” than “austerity in your face take that sucka” than he had previously been leading us to believe. Stimulus spending, which wasn’t rushed out the door to the Cons up-tempo pace (and which apparently didn’t seem to create much in the way of jobs, which was what this multi-billion dollar expense was supposed to do) will continue to be spent at least during the first part of 2011.

Some believe that Flaherty might include a poison pill in the budget, in order to get the other parties to vote against it and defeat the government. That’s possible. Goodness knows that the Conservatives like to throw everything they can into their budget bills, whether it has anything to do with financing or not. We’ve seen environmental legislation gutted by a budget bill in the past. Why not pick on something else?

But I’m not 100% on a spring election, because the Conservatives polling numbers just aren’t as strong as they might be. While I’m sure that the Cons believe that they can increase their numbers during a campaign in which they’ll unleash the most negative attack ads ever seen in Canada against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff (which will be successful), they just might not feel that they’re “there” yet.

However, dawdling on the election might put the Cons into some hot water. Have you checked out the price of oil lately? At the pump here in Sudbury, it’s up to almost $1.20 a litre this weekend. $100 a barrel is expected to be just around the corner. Remember what happened last time the price of oil got a little out of hand? We had that little recession thing. If oil prices continue to go up, and economic growth remains weak or declines, the Conservatives will increasingly find themselves at risk.

Plus, with so many Conservative volunteers already spoken for in battleground Ontario for the fall provincial election, I believe that Harper will bow out early. My prediction: an 80% chance of a spring election, 10% for the fall, and 10% for holding things over to 2012.

Federal Election Outcome

You heard it here first. I’m predicting a spring federal election outcome of a Conservative Majority government, with a Liberal Opposition, and a slightly increased presence of Bloc legislators. The NDP, I believe, is going to be squeezed out of a few seats in an electoral battle which the media will shape into a contest between Harper and Ignatieff. Despite the NDP’s message on a number of issues finding resonance with Canadians (Afghanistan, for one), their waffling on the long gun registry is going to hurt them, as will the campaign rhetoric flying fast and furiously.

This election won’t be about issues, or a vision for Canada. It’s going to be a clash of personalities, and with Ignatieff in the running this time (as opposed to the completely grey Stephane Dion), the media is going to get milk this clash for all its worth. Of course, Ignatieff will be completely outclassed by Harper and the Conservative campaign machine (which will spend the most money ever in the next election), and that’s why I’m predicting a Conservative majority.

If it’s to be a fall election, however, I’ll revise my prediction slightly: Conservative minority government.

The Green Party, marginalized even more than the NDP, and shut out of participating in the televised leader’s debate, will see its percentage of the national vote share recede to less than 5%, and despite a hard-fought battle in Saanich-Gulf Islands, Green Party leader Elizabeth May can not win that seat. She faces Liberal Party environmentalist Renee Heatherington along with Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn. Heatherington’s support just isn’t going to collapse enough to allow May to consolidate, and Lunn will emerge victorious.

Here in Sudbury and Nickel Belt, NDP Claude Gravelle’s seat is safe in Nickel Belt, while Sudbury NDP Glenn Thibeault’s isn’t. I predict that Sudbury will elect Fred Slade of the Conservative Party to parliament – something unheard of in this union town of ours (and very bold prediction for me to make, I realize). Thibeault is increasingly disliked in this community as a result of his flip-flop on the long gun registry, and as a result of his Party’s stagnation nationally. He might be able to hold on, but with a weak Liberal opponent in Carol Hartman, the anti-NDP vote will coalesce around Slade.

Voter turn out in the next federal election will be an all-time low: less than 56% of eligible voters will cast their ballots. Fewer than 38% of those under 25 years of age will vote.

Federal Election Fall-Out

Stephen Harper – contrary to popular pundit opinion, I just don’t see Harper going anywhere, even if he can’t secure a majority. He’s been one of the most successful Prime Minister’s Canada has ever had in terms of controlling the legislative agenda. He’s made his Party, and the other Parties, dance to his tune repeatedly. He’s still young, ambitious, and wants to play a larger role on the world stage. He can still fight off any knives which those in his own Party might want to draw against him.

Michael Ignatieff – will resign on election night in disgrace, to the joy of his Party. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by Ralph Goodale. Look for (oh no!) Justin Trudeau to emerge as the leader-in-waiting (or Justin the Unready).

Jack Layton – gone by year’s end. Thomas Mulcair will replace him, and will keep the NDP alive.

Gilles Duceppe – will make the jump to provincial politics and be the next Premier of Quebec. I have no idea who will replace Duceppe at the federal level.

Elizabeth May – despite failing to win her seat or having a Green MP elected anywhere, will easily win a leadership review through a mail-in ballot or online vote of Party members. Less than 30% of members, however, will bother to vote. She will stay on as Leader, and by December, 2011, that might be all she wrote for the Greens nationally.

Ontario Provincial Election

Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals are finished as a government. Ontario voters will turn to Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives, handing them a decent majority in the upcoming October 2011 election. The Liberals will throw some money around over the next 10 months in an effort to woo voters, and a scandal might erupt in Hudak’s own Party due to a putsch by neo-cons in Eastern Ontario, but I just don’t see any way of the Liberals recovering from all of the negative press they’ve received this year.

From the HST, to eco-fees, to expense scandals in hospitals and arms-length government agencies, to the G20 (with likely more bad news for the Liberals on its way in the first half of 2011), the Liberals just don’t have much room left for recovery. The best that they can hope for, really, is that Hudak shoots himself in the foot during the campaign, in the same way that previous PC Leader John Tory did. Hudak, though, isn’t going to let that happen, and will run on a platform of saying nothing much about anything. Hudak knows that the provincial election isn’t going to be about him; it’s going to be about Dalton McGuinty.

The NDP, under Andrea Horwath, isn’t going to have much of an impact in the next election. Expect a gain of maybe one or two seats. Horwath, who is focussed on bringing good ideas to the table instead of the politics of personality, will prove to be a loser for the NDP. She doesn’t understand that voters don’t have the time for nuanced policy discussions. Check that: she doesn’t understand that the media doesn’t have the time for nuanced policy discussions, and therefore will suffer from the media’s storyline for this next election. And that storyline is going to be Dalton McGuinty’s self-destruction.

As for the Green Party of Ontario, despite running some very credible candidates under the leadership of affable Mike Schreiner, the GPO is going to come up short again. Simply put, the GPO will suffer from the same side-lining which the NDP will experience, only for the GPO, a lack of media coverage is going to be a death sentence. One of the biggest problems for the GPO to overcome is finding an issue which resonance for voters and the media. Don’t misunderstand me: I think that the Green Party of Ontario has the absolute best policies for this province. What the GPO doesn’t have, however, is the ability to sell itself. Again, the media doesn’t really care about policies, and the media will influence voters. If the GPO is to have any success, it must find one or two mega-star candidates, and compete with the others through personality politics.

Here in Sudbury, Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci will be returned, although his victory will not be the first announced on election night. Indeed, this is going to be the hardest battle Bartolucci has ever fought. Watch for PC Gerry Labelle to play foil, and a strong NDP candidate to emerge as well. Prospects for the Green Party in Sudbury are good (due to vote splitting) if we nominate the right candidate. Bartolucci’s local popularity, though, will send him back to Toronto.

Nickel Belt isn’t even worth writing about. The NDP’s France sGelinas could take a holiday for the four weeks of the campaign and still win. But Frances Gelinas would never think about taking a holiday from anything. Which is why she’ll win easily.

The second-biggest winner in the provincial election (after Tim Hudak) will be…Rob Ford. In an effort to woo Toronto voters, we can expect the provincial Liberals to give Mayor Ford just about everything he wants, including tearing up Transit City and agreeing to fund the Sheppard subway expansion to the Scarborough Town Centre. Rather than gaining the Liberals new supporters, however, this will simply alienate Torontonians, and show the rest of the province that the Liberals aren’t above engaging in populist politics when they think it’s to their advantage. Ford will reap the benefits of the Liberal melt-down and will end the year on a personal high note. However, what’s good for Rob Ford isn’t going to be good for Toronto in the long run.

Voter turn-out will be at an all-time low, maybe as low as 50%

British Columbia Politics

I’ve taken a bit of an interest in what’s been going on in BC, because it’s just so damn entertaining. I don’t claim to know all of the personalities involved, or the intricacies and nuances of ballot-box recall questions and whether a three-letter acroynym should count as one word or three. But it’s going to be an interesting year in BC, now that both Premier Gordon Campbell and NDP Opposition Leader Carole James have stepped down.

Look for Christy Clark to emerge victorious in BC, and to call that snap election at the end of 2011 (despite the fixed election date law in place), in order to capitalize on the NDP’s just having emerged from their own leadership review. Who the NDP might put forward as leader is anybody’s guess. What about…Carole James? In the bizarre world of BC politics, stranger things have happened.

And whither the Green Party of BC? I’ve kind of been hoping that maybe some of those dissident NDPer’s would think about crossing the floor to the BC Greens, but I realize that the dissidents are more likely to consider themselves as the true spear-carriers of the NDP. Maybe when the leadership race concludes, there may be some disaffected dippers who’d consider moving over, but only time will tell.

I haven’t been seeing anything about the BC Greens in the media, even in stories about the possible need for a new centrist political party. I guess with all of the shenanigans going on between the Liberals and NDP it’s been difficult to force their way into coverage. However…that’s also just an excuse. The absence of the BC Greens from the political equation in BC at this critical time is just plain bad news for Greens throughout Canada.

The United States of America

When all of those climate change denier, neo-conservative, ultra-right-wing Tea Party congresspeople take their seats in January, expect paralysis in the U.S. government. Sure, President Barack Obama has been reaching out to moderate Republicans these past couple of weeks and has found some support for arms limitation treaties and tax cuts. That’s all going to come to a grinding halt, however.

Sure, there are some who are saying that the Republicans need to find a way to become something other than the Party of “No”, or they risk alienating centrist supporters. I’m not so sure that they do, however. With the U.S. media firmly in the grip of the right-wing corporate elites, American voters will be told how best to cast their ballots in 2012, and paralysis in the government over the next couple of years will serve the media narrative that an ineffectual liberal Obama just has to go.

A more interesting question is just what is the Republican Party going to evolve into over the next year, now that it’s seen such an influx of ultra-right tea partiers? Conventional thinking is that the tea partiers are going to have to either tone it down a little and accept that they can’t have everything that they want, or maybe think about taking themselves out of the Grand Ol Party altogether, and starting something new. I think that those financing the Tea Party know that a new Party just can’t be sustained. So better to continue to work on moderate Republicans from the inside. And I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

In a few years time, the term “moderate Republican” will likely be as dirty as the word “liberal” in the mouths of the US media. Those who currently self-identify as moderates are going to be pushed to the edges by Republican Tea Partiers and the big money behind the Tea Party movement.

Nominations for the presidential election will also begin to heat up in 2011. Will someone challenge Obama from within the Democratic Party? While I think a good case could be made for a challenger to do so, I don’t see it happening. The most credible challenger, Hilary Clinton, is certainly not going to stick her neck out and take herself off of Obama’s team. Better for Clinton that she watches the good ship Obama sink in 2012, and runs for President in 2016. If she does so, I believe that she will become the second female President of the United States.

You heard it here first: President Sarah Palin. Watch Palin to emerge as the odds-on favourite of the Republican Party throughout 2011. I don’t think that any other Republican is going to be able to step forward with the kind of financing needed to take her on in a serious way. Palin is all over the US media, and is achieving a cult-like status. When she announces that she’s in the running (which she’ll only do at the last minute, unless she feels that she’s forced), it’s likely going to be game over for anyone else interested in the position.

Can she beat Obama in 2012? I think that she can, and that she will. Obama will largely be defeated as a result of self-inflicted wounds, but it will help that Palin has become a media darling, a political super star. Her message of tax cuts and small government will continue to resonate with the media and voters. The Republican Party’s dirty tricks squad might not even have to engage all that heavily for success to come her way (but the Democrat’s only dirty tricks people will be doing everything they can to make stuff stick to Palin).

Look for Marco Rubio, newly elected Republican Senator of Florida, to emerge as a potential challenger to Queen Sarah.


Bold prediction: the Labour-led government of Australia under Prime Minister Julia Gillard will fall in late 2011. Gillard is tasked with holding together a coalition primarily composed of Labour parliamentarians, with one Green and a few independents along for the ride. Expect the Greens in Australia to start thinking that they should be driving the Labour bus, which is going to ultimately lead to the desertion of one or several of the independents (or even a Labour MP). Since Gillard’s coalition is poised on a knife’s edge anyway, the whole thing is going to come tumbling down.

The new election will see Julia Gillard returned as Prime Minister with a stronger mandate, and no need for coalition partners. The Greens will gain seats, but not many.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Upon Sitting Down to Revisit My Predictions for 2010

It’s time to revisit the predictions I made at the end of last year for 2010 (“Gazing into my Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2010”, December 29, 2009), just to see whether I can successfully moonlight as an oracle. Like last year, I’ll grade myself on performance (if only everything in life were this way!).

This year, though, I’ll add a twist. Not only will I look at what I predicted, but I’ll also take a short look at what I failed to predict and probably should have!


On the 29th of December, I was reporting that Stephen Harper was considering pro-roguing parliament over the Afghanistan detainee scandal, which I said would continue into 2010. We now know that prorogation took place, in order for the government to “recalibrate” before the budget was released (does anyone remember that the government actually offered that up as the rationale for prorogation?). I further predicted that this story would be “muted” in 2010. I’m going to give myself half marks on that, as the story was anything but “muted” when parliament returned in the spring of 2010, and the Speaker had to rule on an NDP question regarding the release of documents related to the scandal.

But what happened afterwards? The Liberals and Conservatives got together and agreed to form a committee which would look at the documents in secret. The NDP, wisely, said this wasn’t good enough, and determined not to participate. But after mid-summer, when the committee was announced, the whole detainee scandal was sidelined, and we’ve heard nothing more about it.

I also predicted that no one would rock the boat on the 2011 troop withdrawal date. I blew that one completely, as first the Liberals and then their coalition partners in blue decided that our armed forces are going to remain in Afghanistan on a “training” mission past the originally agreed to withdrawal date. No debate in parliament, no fuss no muss. So the boat wasn’t ever really rocked, it all just kind of happened.

I also predicted the fall of the Zardari government in Pakistan. Hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s something to continue to look for, especially as U.S. intervention in that country continues to grow, much to the displeasure of ordinary Pakistanis. In some ways, Zardari might have been saved by a bigger crisis, the massive floods, which left Pakistan in turmoil throughout the end of summer and into the fall.

I’ll give myself a C-.

Double Dip Recession

I predicted a sputtering economy in the fall of 2010, after the pump price of gas spiked to a $1.20 a litre. That hasn’t happened….yet. However, I note that I’ll be travelling to visit with my family in Brampton over the Christmas holidays, and gas prices are at $1.18 here in Sudbury now, the highest they’ve been in 2010. I believe that we’re going to continue to see a climb in gas prices, for although the economic growth has been quite tiny here in Canada in the last quarter (after a little more robust growth in the previous two quarters), the recovery in Asia will continue to drive oil prices upward.

I also predicted that there would be a growing understanding that the recession of 2008 was actually caused by high oil prices, and not a bursting housing bubble or bank meltdowns, which were actually just a symptom of $147 barrel oil. That hasn’t really happened, and most economists continue to lay blame elsewhere.

I do believe, however, that the term and concept of “Peak Oil” has entered the mainstream in 2010, as I predicted.

I’ll give myself a C- on this one too.

North American Cap and Trade

I ambitiously predicted that, by the end of 2010, we’d have a North American Cap and Trade agreement in place, ready to be executed, and talk that Mexico would eventually join the U.S. and Canada. I based that prediction on the notion that President Obama would use some of the momentum gained from the Copenhagen Accord to actually do something about climate change. Boy, did I blow this one.

Cap and Trade, at the end of 2010, is deader than a doornail. Even the voluntary Chicago Climate Exchange announced that it will cease trading credits at the end of this year. With the surge of climate change deniers who will now be occupying seats in the U.S. Congress, most of whom took a pre-election pledge not to raise taxes to deal with climate change, things are looking pretty grim for this method of carbon pricing in North America.

I say good riddance to a bad idea. I have never been a supporter of Cap and Trade, believing that such a carbon pricing scheme will be open to significant corporate manipulation and achieve questionable results in actually reducing carbon. I much prefer a straight-forward tax and tariff system to address carbon pricing, which will put money back into the pockets of average citizens and create new green jobs here in North America. There’s been some talk of “Fee and Dividened” lately, mostly from the environmental community, but it’s starting to enter the mainstream debate. I’m not sold on that approach either, as I would rather tax dollars stayed with governments to help build much-needed infrastructure. Return my income taxes, sure, so that I can choose to spend my hard-earned pay more wisely, and use my carbon tax-generated revenue to build communities.

I have to give myself a big, fat F on this one.

Elizabeth May

I predicted that Elizabeth May would continue to largely be in absentia on the national political scene, and that the Green Party would run the risk of continuing its slide into irrelevancy. Harsh words from a Party supporter, but with merit, I believe.

May has maintained her absence from the national political scene for most of the year. With the exception of a few weeks in August leading up to the BGM in Toronto, when a (predicted) scandal erupted over leadership (which was maybe good for us Greens that no one was really paying attention), May has all but vanished from the national political consciousness. May and the Green Party didn’t even warrant an end of the year comment from Chantal Hebert this year (who last year said that May and the Greens were one of the biggest non-stories of the year. I guess we were such a non-story this year that we weren’t a story at all).

Recent by-elections in Vaughan and Manitoba had some of the poorest showings for our Party ever. In Winnipeg North we barely beat the upstart Pirate Party (who certainly received more coverage than the Green candidate), capturing a pathetic 0.7% of the vote. We had an emerging star, Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain, running in Vaughan, who was endorsed by her NDP opponent, achieved only 1% of the vote.

These numbers should be a wake-up call to the Green Party, but it appears that the Party was largely content to sleepwalk through 2010, focussing instead on internal power-related issues, and rebuilding finances and the administration after a devastating year in which a number of party organizers were let go. At one point in the summer, there were but 2 party organizers available for all ridings across the country. We here in Northern Ontario are now onto our 5th different personality as organizer in the past 11 months.

And then there are the declining membership numbers which we keep hearing about.

However, the Party continues to poll reasonably well nationally, between 8% and 10% (and higher and lower in some polls). And yes, it’s true: voter turn-out in these by-elections were abysmal, and the media focussed only on the controversial (Fantino in Vaughan; all of the other parties in Winnipeg North; no focus at all on Dauphin-Swan River where we achieved a GPC-respectable 5% of the vote). And sure, without an election, membership numbers would be expected to decline. And May’s lack of exposure on the national scene means that she has more time to devote to winning her own riding in Saanich-Gulf Islands, which is our Party’s strategy after all. Sure, those are some valid excuses. Or are they maybe just excuses?

With a federal election around the corner, we’re going to have to do better as a Party. We can expect to see our federal vote share decline nationally – which means that May and her local campaign in SGI is going to be on the hot-seat. If we can help her win in SGI, that will change everything. Another loss…well, I’ll explore these scenarios in my next post.

Reluctantly, I’ll give myself an A+ on this one. Wish I would have blown it.

Fall Federal Election.

OK, so I was off on this one, but likely only by a few months. We did have those by-elections this past fall, though, and I had also predicted that in an election, the Green Party’s message wouldn’t find any resonance. Given that the by-elections were driven only by controversy and personalities, there was little opportunity for any Party’s message to resonate (oh, and the fact that none of the other Party’s had much in the way of a message to begin didn’t help the cause. Only the Conservatives can receive anything close to credit in the message department, given Fantino’s constant thumping of the “law and order” agenda, whatever that is).

A big F for me on this one, too.

Election of Greens to Municipal Councils in Ontario

Yes, a few Greens were elected to municipal councils, including Bob Bell in Guelph. At one time, Bell was listed as the nominated candidate for the Greens in Guelph, but I note that the Party’s website no longer records him as being such. Not sure whether he stepped down to run municipally, or maybe there just issues with the website. We’ve had a nominated candidate in Nickel Belt for some time now, in the person of Christine Guillot-Proulx, but the Party’s website fails to identify her as such, so maybe it’s just a “glitch”…kind of like the Party’s non-posting of Federal Council minutes, but I digress. Or do I digress? No, I’m not going to digress; instead, I’m going to use this space to complain about the sad state of the Party’s online culture. The lack of updates to the website are very troubling, but more so is the fact that we seem to have lost a number of active bloggers since the August BGM.

Where have all the green bloggers gone? Normally, I would rely on the bloggers to write about Greens elected to municipal councils in their communities, but there has been little appearing on blogsites since the November elections. Bloggers across the land appear to have largely gone silent, including those who remain very involved with the Party. For me, this is yet more bad news.

So I don’t know how many Greens were elected municipally, but I understand that there were some. I’ll give myself a B on this because I feel like it.

The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.

Well really. Who would have predicted the Chicago Black Hawks to win back in December of ’09? I’ll give myself a D- because I still maintain that Chicago should have never won.

Missed Opportunities for Predictions

The U.S. Mid-Term Elections

It’s not like I didn’t know that this was going to happen in 2010. I guess I failed to comment on it because I didn’t believe it was going to be much of a game-changer for us here in Canada. Boy, was I wrong about that. With the incredible rise of the Tea Party in the States, and of Tea-Party politics both there and here, the pro-corporate populists have really set Obama back, and the fallout from what happened south of the border will continue to impact us here for the next several years.

As a result of the corporate-sponsored Tea Party astroturf campaign, a significant number of climate change deniers and radical conservatives have been elected to Congress promising to cut taxes, take no action on global warming, and continue expensive wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, the Sudan, Iran and wherever else U.S. enemies of the state need a good lickin. Lately, that apparently includes Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and the latest “terrorist” to enter U.S. gunsights.

I can not under estimate the importance of the sea-change which swept across the American political landscape this past November. Obama, despite some very recent successes with arms limitation talks and tax cuts, is gravely wounded. Unless he can find himself a good war to fight (and FYI, a “good war” won’t be found on the Korean peninsula; I’m thinking maybe Yemen or Pakistan), he’s being set up as a one-term failure. And I think that’s going to be the case even if Sarah Palin gets here Party’s nomination for 2012.

The fallout for Canada has offered the Conservatives the ability to continue to do nothing about just about everything. With the U.S. gripped by legislative paralysis, Canada will continue to follow suit, doing as little as possible in parliament.

The Democratic Deficit

I should have said something about this issue, which was really on display in Canada throughout 2010. From the G8/G20 (which was on my mind back in December of ’09), to the killing of parliamentary approved climate change legislation in the unelected Senate, to the unsourced $18 billion purchase of stealth fighters, to the long form census, to Afghanistan, to muzzled parliamentary watchdogs…Our Conservative government, aided by the Liberals (and recently the NDP as well, if rumours of the imminent demise of Bill C-12 are to be believed), has been doing its darndest to ensure that parliament continues to slide into irrelevancy. With power being increasingly consolidated in that bundle of sticks in cabinet and especially in the Prime Minister’s office, some have started to use the dreaded “F” word to describe what appears to be going on in government today.

The BP Oil Spill

OK, I couldn’t really have predicted this one, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless, for what this story has become. When the spill was taking place, it was being described as “the Three Mile Island of deepwater oil exploration” or “oilpocalypse”. What happened? If you recall, the spill was capped, we were told that a good percentage of the stray oil had been rounded up by skimmers, and the rest just seemed to have disappeared, no fuss no muss. And the story went away. And the spill disappeared from the public’s consciousness. We moved on to the next disaster scene (well, maybe not the next, which would have been in Pakistan, but since there weren’t any TV cameras on the ground there to capture the misery, we just kind of glossed over that one).

What the spill continues to show me is that the mainstream media continue to have incredible power at their disposal. This power shapes every facet of our society, and can not ever be under estimated. And with the mainstream media’s right-wing bias permeating so much of its reporting, and with the changing nature of journalism itself, moving from fact-based information reporting to opinion-based infotainment, the media’s power may represent one of the biggest obstacles we face in the next decade which will stand in the way of our taking action on the things which we need to do. The media will continue to support the status quo of the brown economy, and the vested interests of the corporate world at the expense of the middle class. What happened with the BP is illustrative of their power to both inform (albeit with considerable bias) and to cast a spell on us to forget.

Report Card

So what’s that…two C minuses, three F’s, a B and a lone A+, along with a few missed assignments. Not exactly a Report Card to be proud of. Thank goodness that mom doesn't have to sign off on this. All in all, I think I’ll have to stick to my day job.

Next week, I’ll offer my predictions for the new year. And maybe I’ll get ambitious and offer predictions for the new decade as well (yes, I’m one of “those guys” who insist that the decade starts with the year numbered “1”, and not at zero like a car’s odometer. The good news for me is that I’ll be celebrating the end of the first decade of the millennium next week, while you’ll just be ushering in another odd-numbered year).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Royal Society of Canada Report on the Tar Sands: Critiquing the Critique

An article appearing in this morning’s Globe & Mail, “Oil sands report criticizes all stakeholders” caught my eye. The article discusses a new report issued by the Royal Society of Canada, “Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry (December, 2010)”

The Report itself is quite lengthy. There is an Executive Summary which you can peruse. If you’re interested in what’s going on in the tar sands, I strongly suggest that you take a look, as I believe that this document is going to play a significant role in future conversations about the tar sands.

Now, I’ve not had a chance to go through this Report in any comprehensive way. Based on my read of the story appearing in today’s Globe & Mail, however, it seemed that this study seriously attempted to explode myths about the tar sands as advanced by all parties. Governments, the oil industry, environmental organizations: no one appears to be spared, and a significant amount of “spin” is countered with facts. This is the sort of thing that I normally like to see.

The Globe & Mail reports that the Alberta Ministry of Environment appears to be taking the report seriously, coming as it does from academics, rather than environmental organizations. In my quick review of the document, it does appear that Royal Society really has attempted to provide facts to the best of its ability (which can be tricky, given the situation with data), and often in a way which counters some of the jargon and spin being advanced by all parties.


I’ll just quickly reproduce the last little section of the G&M article, subtitled “Mythbusting”, to highlight some of the Royal Society Report’s findings.

Myth: Regulatory oversight is strong.
Report: Alberta hasn't “kept pace with rapid expansion” and has a confusing process prone to “political interference” and lacking scientific rigour. Ottawa isn't doing any better and needs “to show some leadership.”

Myth: The aboriginal community of Fort Chipewyan, which is downstream of oil sands development, has an elevated cancer rate.
Report: “There is no credible evidence to support the commonly repeated media accounts of excess cancer in Fort Chipewyan.”

Myth: Oil sands operations are draining the Athabasca River, and polluting what's left.
Report: Current extraction levels are sustainable and there is no “current threat to aquatic ecosystem viability.”

Myth: Land is being reclaimed, or returned to normal, after mining.
Report: The province is on the hook for unfunded reclamation liabilities and “no tailings pond has yet been completely reclaimed.”

Myth: The oil sands are an environmental catastrophe of international scale.
Report: The claim lacks any “credible quantitative evidence.” The James Bay hydro project has destroyed 15 times as much boreal forest as the oil sands; coal power is responsible for 17 per cent of Canadian carbon emissions, more than three times the oil sands' total.

Myth: Environmentally, open-pit mining is the worst form of bitumen extraction.
Report: Open pit is messy, but “in situ,” or underground mining produces as much as 20 per cent more greenhouse gas.

Interesting stuff for sure. And it does well from a media-story perspective, as the Report appears to offer incredibly balanced coverage of the issue, skewering all sides as it seems to do in its simple presentation of the facts. That's another reason why I believe this Report is going to contribute to the tar sands dialogue.

I’m not going to take issue with any of the above statements. Truth is, I don’t know enough about the supposed health impacts of bitumen processing or Alberta’s regulatory regime to write knowledgeably about this topic. I do, however, have a few issues with the Report which I think are worth pointing out.

Dirty Oil

First, with regards to the “Mythbusting”: I note that the Globe & Mail doesn’t say much about whether tar sands oil is “dirty oil” or not. The Report itself, in Section 6.4.6, “Life cycle Emissions from Petroleum Sources”, touches on this subject, and concludes with the following statement: “In summary, comparisons of GHG emissions from oil sands with other petroleum sources is very dependent on the petroleum source that is used for comparison and the specific details concerning the processing of bitumen. Nonetheless, life cycle GHG emissions from oil sands are in the upper part or at the top of range for all petroleum sources. In situ bitumen recovery is the highest for GHG emissions, and its proportion of bitumen production is increasing.” (emphasis added by me)

In other words, it’s dirty oil. And it’s getting dirtier. Keep this in mind.

Tar Sands Production: A Rising Percentage of Total Canadian GHG Emissions

The Report indicates that the tar sands share of Canadian GHG emissions counts for just 5.2% based on 2008 data. Dirty oil from the tar sands accounts for 19% of emissions from the transportation sector (a sector which itself accounts for 29% of Canada’s overall GHG emissions). 5.2% really doesn’t seem like so much, especially when expressed as a global percentage: just 0.08% of the world’s total emissions come from the production of tar sands oil.

As the Globe & Mail indicated, more greenhouse gases are generated through the burning of coal in Canada than through the production of bitumen. Of course, coal-related emissions from Canadian sources are anticipated to decline significantly in the next decade, as Ontario begins the process of shuttering its coal fired generating stations. The tar sands, on the other hand, can expect significant increases.

The Report suggests that the intensity of emissions from the tar sands is in decline, however total emissions will increase considerably over time. The Report highlights that, with regulation, a low end estimate for increase would see total GHG emissions rise from a current (2008) total of 37 million tonnes to 55 million tonnes by 2020. That’s a 49% increase. A high end estimate for a regulated environment could see totals as high as 91 million tonnes by 2020 (146% increase).

If the status quo situation is maintained with regards to regulations, the Report estimates that, based on federal government data, we can expect emissions of 110 million tonnes by 2020 (an increase of 197%). Other scientific sources offer a more realistic estimation for growth to 127 million tonnes by 2020 (an increase of 243%). So although emissions from production today (well, in 2008) accounted only for 5.2% of Canada’s total, with fewer emissions from coal, and more emissions from the tar sands due to growth, we can expect the tar sands to be responsible for a higher percentage of Canada’s total emissions by 2020.

However, the Report itself doesn’t come right out and say this, nor does it attempt to answer the question regarding what percentage of Canada’s emissions will tar sands production account for in 2020. Why is this?

Scope and Underlying Assumptions

Well, here’s the rub of the whole exercise. The Report clearly identifies that it is a scoped assessment, looking only at impacts from the production of bitumen in the tar sands (oil sands) in isolation of most other considerations. The Report indicates that it would run the risk of becoming too large in scope and other, broader environmental and health impacts were taken into consideration.

And therefore some pretty significant impacts were left out of the Report, in my opinion. I’m not a scientist; I’m just some guy who blogs about climate change, amongst other things. But even I, layperson that I am, can see that the Report has a pretty serious flaw. Although the Report is very likely a credible and useful tool for conversations about how the tar sands can generate economic growth in a more environmentally friendly way, there does not appear to be any discussion regarding the ethics and merits of tar sands expansion in the context of holding global warming to a 2 degree Celsius increase.

In other words, the Report itself starts from the perspective that the tar sands will grow, so how best can we manage that growth.

Climate Change and the Oil Economy

For many, this may appear to be a responsible position, particularly in light of the fact that the Report concludes that the tar sands total contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is quite small when taken on a global scale. Of course, that’s just from production. Full life cycle, “well to wheel” emissions are considered by the Report, but not in a comprehensive manner with regards to their overall contribution to climate change. However, even if they were, likely we'd still end up with what appears to be a small-ish percentage.

A shortcoming of the Report’s scope, along with its starting point of assuming that growth will occur, is to look at the tar sands in isolation and not as part of a bigger picture where oil drives our global economy. In this bigger picture, even a fairly large and dirty project, such as the tar sands, is only one relatively small piece of the puzzle (even if it will grow in importance over time). Some might say that recognizing this fact justifies the argument that expansion and growth can occur, because the scale of the tar sands is ultimately not significant on its own. Of course, no single project in a global context would in and of itself be “significant”. No one piece of the puzzle is going to be all that large relative to other pieces.

But the overall picture of oil production certainly is significant. We know that we must leave about 80% of existing known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground if we are going to hold global warming at 2 degrees Celsius. Oil locked up in Alberta bitumen may have to stay locked up, along with “significant” deposits elsewhere. In fact, when it comes to looking at which oil really should stay in the ground, from a GHG emissions perspective, it would make much more sense that the “dirty oil” be left alone, due to the fact that it will release more emissions.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that a lack of discussion around climate change is a flaw in the Royal Society’s Report. No. The Report was always intended to be scoped and limited to looking primarily at the direct impacts of bitumen extraction in the tar sands. It seems to perform that task quite well.

I’m worried, however, by the fact that this Report probably will begin to play an increasingly significant role in the dialogue regarding tar sands development. It will be used by politicians and others to justify the continued growth and expansion of the tar sands, albeit in a more environmentally friendly manner than may be currently happening. And this justification will take place without any further context, such as the need to leave reserves in the ground or risk a rise in warming above 2 degrees Celsius.

So when people start talking about developing the oil sands in an environmentally friendly manner, based on the Royal Society’s Report, keep it tucked away in the back of your mind that the Royal Society didn’t address the issue of whether it made sense to develop the tar sands at all, given the contribution of tar sands dirty oil to furthering global warming. The bigger picture, whether we can afford to continue to extract oil for economic growth, was not assessed.

And frankly, neither were the very real threats posed by a warming planet on our economic, environmental and social health.

Even if we can reclaim open pit mines, address tailings ponds, and ensure that air and water quality issues are better addressed as part of the bitumen extraction process, it’s not going to make the tar sands an “environmentally friendly” project, given the significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions production and life-cycle dirty oil will make to our atmosphere.

Can we really afford to pay this price? The Royal Society can't answer that question, because they didn't look at it. We, however, need to continue to ensure that these questions are part and parcel of any dialogue about the tar sands.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Greater Sudbury and the Green Economy: Poised for Success

Greater Sudbury is strategically positioned to play a significant role in the emergent green economy. Due to geographic circumstances, demographic make-up, and past investments in business and infrastructure, Greater Sudbury has an opportunity to capitalize on economic opportunities which could arise from efforts to reduce our collective reliance on fossil fuels. To do so, however, careful and considered planning will be necessary. Investments which further the perpetuation of the status quo, fossil fuel driven brown economy must begin to be phased out in favour of spending our money smarter.

Our City consists of a highly educated and skilled workforce. We have two community colleges and a University within our municipal boundaries, and a number of technical schools. And although we have an aging community, there exists opportunities to turn that around if we are able to capture the imagination of the leaders of the green economy. We have one incredible advantage which we must capitalize on: our quality of life. It’s one of our best kept secrets that we can’t afford to keep a secret any longer!

What is the “green economy”? You’ve likely heard this term before, or others like it, such as “green collar jobs”. While there is no wholly-accepted definition of “green economy”, most agree that certain key sectors play a role in its composition. I’ll explore each sector below in the context of opportunities for Greater Sudbury.

1. Clean Transportation. It may not seem obvious at first glance that Greater Sudbury, a city which is very spread out within our own geographic boundaries, and somewhat isolated from neighbouring municipalities of any size, would have a lot to offer with regards to clean transportation. But we do. Greater Sudbury is situated at the junction of both CP and CN rail lines. Rail transport offers a cleaner alternative for bulk goods than does truck transport. With gasoline prices expected to increase, rail will play a more important transportation role in our future. Infrastructure already exists in this City which can be used to our advantage to increase our share of rail-generated wealth. Expansion and relocation of significant rail infrastructure may also be something for Greater Sudbury and the rail companies to imagine.

Investments have been made municipally in improving our public transportation system. Although there is still a ways to go, we can expect to see the increased use of transit, with improved connections running between the former City of Sudbury and the outlying centres. There already exist significant opportunities for intra-community public transit routes in places such as Hanmer and Valley East, and Chelmsford. With an aging population interested in downsizing, and with higher gasoline prices, we have opportunities here to build on our growing transit successes.

Our road network has a number of opportunities for upgrade to accommodate the anticipated growth in alternative means of transportation. Park and ride features to assist transit, as well as high occupancy vehicle lanes, could be easily implemented with little cost in many parts of the City, especially on those major streets which currently have middle turning lanes. Priority can easily be given to vehicles (buses, car-pools, bicycles) which use our transportation system in a more sustainable manner, which (along with rising gasoline prices) will lead to changes in personal choices regarding transportation.

2. Green Buildings. Greater Sudbury already has made a significant investment in building stock, and unlike other areas of the Province, we’re not likely to see more investment in new buildings. Retrofitting existing buildings will actually make more sense and save money in the long run, as many of our older buildings were constructed to stand up to the tests of time. Green retrofit programs will benefit businesses and homeowners, and will lead to energy and water conservation. Investing now in retrofits will save money down the road.

The adaptive re-use of existing, under-utilized or abandoned buildings is also something which Greater Sudbury can take advantage of. These buildings tend to be located in areas where servicing already exists. New businesses (especially green businesses) can be encouraged to re-use existing buildings and save money in the process. The recent purchase of the old Northern Breweries property on Lorne Street by Sookram Bus Lines of Chelmsford is an excellent example. Further, municipal programs can offer tax incentives for businesses choosing to use a brownfield site over a greenfield location (and that’s about the only time “brown” beats “green” in my opinion!).

During the municipal election campaign, through her “Green Vision” release, Mayor Marianne Matichuk, talked about the need to upgrade and use existing facilities to both save money and the environment. Strong leadership in this area will assist Greater Sudbury in becoming a green building champion.

3. Managing our Water. If there’s something Greater Sudburians know a lot about, it’s how to co-exist sustainably with our water resources. While our impacts on existing water sources have not always been light (think here of Kelly Lake and Junction Creek), the fact is that even where we have failed in the past, we can today speak about our growing successes. Today, we have an enhanced understanding of the important role that water plays in our lives and in our economic opportunities. Indeed, as Greater Sudbury is blessed to be the home of over 300 lakes, the quality of life we experience here in Greater Sudbury is second to none. That alone is a significant attraction for new businesses who will be looking for homes in the future, and one which we can all do our part to hype.

Maintaining and improving the quality of our water resources needs to be a priority. The City is currently on track to build a new biosolids plant by 2012, which will greatly assist in improving water quality.

Having more residential homes currently on septics and wells hooked into municipal systems, those systems become more financially sustainable. Since many of these homes exist on lakefront properties, the value of getting these homes off of septics will also be realized through better water quality. The City can also easily improve lake water quality by progressively banning the use of phosphates in residential lawn fertilizers, as several North American jurisdictions have already done.

Our water resources benefit our community in so many ways. We are very lucky to have them, and we can not take them for granted.

4. Renewable Energy. There exists significant opportunity within Greater Sudbury for the locating of small-scale renewable energy projects, enough to service our own needs. We often hear about the need for a mega-grid to connect far-flung areas of the province to one another, but instead what we need to start doing is thinking about local energy needs in a local setting. When we begin to look at energy production and distribution in this way, the opportunities present in Greater Sudbury quickly come to light.

Geothermal energy and biomass are two renewables sources of energy which Greater Sudburians can take significant advantage of in the coming years. Waste products from industries, both local and regional (remember those rail lines), can be used to generate heat and electricity.

Energy will also be increasingly produced in ones home or business for consumption. It’s not unreasonable to believe that backyard or roof-mounted solar and wind will make contributions to our local energy mix in the future.

5. Waste Management – Greater Sudbury continues to develop its recycling and organic waste management programs. We can capitalize on the growing success of these programs by extending them to our business community. We can no longer afford to view our garbage as waste; instead, we need to understand that even our cast offs have value.

There is the potential for growth here for the mining sector, through the recycling of important metal products. We have already made significant infrastructure investments here in Sudbury which could be upgraded to accommodate an aggressive metals recycling program, if there is the will to do so. That will might eventually be expressed in higher metal prices. Why not look beyond the existing ore bodies in the Sudbury basin and towards the opportunities which exist in recycling and re-use?

6. Managing Our Land. Greater Sudburians continue to have a bit of that pioneering spirit leftover when it comes to land. While manicured lawns might be the rage in suburban southern Ontario, we here in Greater Sudbury tend to have a greater appreciation for trees and rocks. Indeed, when it comes to managing our land, we in this community can hold our heads high as we have accomplished something unparalleled in the world: we’ve brought our natural environment back from the brink of death.

We can continue to build on our past successes. A thriving agricultural community in the Valley can be supported by prioritizing local food purchases, and creating opportunities for local food to enter the marketplace (already we have the Farmer’s Market at Market Square and Eat Local Sudbury. Can a farmer’s market in Hanmer be up and running in five years, possibly at the Place Bonaventure Mall – reusing an existing, underutilized structure?).

Our City has already made significant investments in sewer and water infrastructure to accommodate anticipated growth. We must now get serious about focusing growth within existing urban areas, and saying no to expensive ex-urban subdivisions. Our communities are poised to grow upwards if only we can resist growing outwards simply because it might be cheaper for a land owner. In the long run, every resident of the City pays more for unsustainable suburban and rural growth.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Change is Upon Us, Part 5: The Cost of Inaction

There are those who believe that climate change is happening, but advocate for inaction, citing that any sort of action which Canada might take to reduce emissions or put a price on carbon will economically disadvantage us. They are concerned about factories closing up and moving overseas to countries which don’t price carbon. Of course, there are economic actions which can be taken to put a price on carbon when goods are imported. These economic tools, called “tariffs”, have been around for a long while, and their use makes sense when one nation under-prices its manufactured goods for whatever reason.

A better argument yet against the do-nothing approach is that the cost in the long run to our economy should we continue to do nothing is that ultimately Canada will be at an economic disadvantage, because we have not invested wisely in green technology and renewable resources. Instead of creating a positive economic environment for green jobs, our continued investments in the brown economy, powered by increasingly expensive and depleted fossil fuels, will ensure that the benefits from an emergent green economy pass us by. If we continue to invest in the brown economy, we run the risk that the future will pass Canada by.

There are those who acknowledge the need to begin to make some small changes to our current economic situation, so that we can start taking action to reduce our emissions. For those who advocate a “go slow” approach, often the sorts of changes discussed have to do with subsidizing emergent renewable energy technology, or imposing modest carbon pricing. We are seeing the “go slow” approach at work in places such as the European Union (which has established a cap and trade system which has not been effective at reducing emissions, given the very low price put on carbon). Ontario, through the creation of the Green Energy Act, can be put into the “go slow” category as well.

A “go slow” approach seems like a very typically Canadian action to take. The use of incremental changes to address problems is very much a part of our national character. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, these incremental changes will prove to be too little, too late. Climate scientists are warning world leaders gathered this week in Cancun that international carbon emissions must peak within the next 5 to 10 years, and that we must begin to reduce emissions significantly after 10 years if we are going to hold warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

The 2 degrees C level of warming is an important marker, because climate modelling shows that we risk triggering positive feedback loops should we exceed this threshold, and thus face runaway climate change. The 2 degrees C level of warming roughly translates into 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Pre-industrial levels of C02 in our atmosphere were approximately 260-270 ppm. Scientiests believe that while we can peak at 450 ppm, it is important to then return to a level of approximately 350 ppm. Currently, there are about 390 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that’s rising by almost 2ppm per year, although the rate is accelerating with increased emissions, making 450 ppm a likely outcome about 10 year’s time.

Folks, that’s the timeframe that we’re talking about to get our collective acts together if we’re going to have much hope at staving off climate catastrophe. That’s not a doom and gloom prediction, by the way; first, it’s based on science. Second, instead of doom and gloom, what we have here is an opportunity for our exploitation. Instead of building a future for the world of the past, we can use the next decade to construct for ourselves a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

We must spend smarter. That applies to both governments and individuals. The choices we make will greatly impact our level of emissions. These choices will not be easy to make in many circumstances, given that there are those out there with a vested economic interest in perpetuating the status quo, despite the status quo being ill-suited for our anticipated future.

We must disinvest in fossil fuels and invest in the green economy. The brown economy is not sustainable, and indeed if we continue to invest in the increasingly expensive fossil-fuel reliant economy of the past, we can absolutely expect to see more poverty and fewer jobs. Continued investment in the brown economy is a recipe for disaster for all but the wealthiest amongst us.

We must put a price on carbon. Carbon pricing will help ensure that we spend smarter, and will level the playing field when it comes to energy. Currently, we subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of dollars a year. That must stop, and indeed the fossil fuel industry and those reliant on it must begin paying the price for their pollution. Their pollution is bad for our climate’s health and bad for our own personal health.

We must allow people to make better choices with their own money. Put money back into people’s wallets so that they can choose which products and services to purchase. They may a premium for a low-carbon home, or a higher price for a downtown condo unit, yet in the long run, such an investment will pay for itself. One of the barriers to investment, however, is the entry price of purchase. If you give people back more of their hard-earned money, entry price might no longer be such a barrier.

We must encourage smarter investments at all levels. We can no longer afford to subsidize wasteful spending. This means that we have to reign in urban sprawl (one of the most expensive and wasteful projects ever undertaken). We must stop building expensive highways and roads for a future where there will be fewer cars. We can no longer invest in government-sponsored mega-projects from which we derive little net benefit (example: nuclear power, one of the most expensive forms of electrical generation out there).

We must look for opportunities for smart spending. Instead of roads and cars, it’s time for public transportation and rail. Instead of mega nuclear projects, invest instead in small-scale local energy projects, built at the community level. Instead of massive mono-cultured crops which rely on pesticides and oil-derived fertilizers, invest instead in sustainable local agriculture, and make farming and food production a worthy career choice.

Certainly, we are going to continue to need non-renewable resources, such as nickel and copper, in our future, and oil to power our industries. A change to renewables and prioritizing sustainable transportation and building complete communities will actually help the resource extractive sector by keeping the price of oil down. Think about it: if there is less demand for oil from other sectors, those sectors of our economy which require its use will benefit from relatively lower prices.

Right now, we can’t live without oil. But we can certainly live comfortably by using less oil, and by using energy smarter. The benefits of reducing our reliance on oil are many-fold, and will ultimately lead to healthier lifestyles.

However, if we continue to with a “business as usual” scenario, we can expect to blow through the 2 degrees Celsius warming threshold quite handily and without the ability to look back. Right now, even if all of the international agreements made under the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord are achieved, we will still find ourselves at about 750 ppm of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere three quarters of the way through this century. Many who are reading this blog today will still be alive at that time. They’ll be living on a radically altered planet if those international agreements are the only ones to be honoured.

What type of world are we talking about at 750 ppm? Globally, that’s a rise of between 3-7 degrees Celsius, which might not seem like much. However, that’s a global average. Warming isn’t going to impact every part of the planet equally. It will be felt most at the poles, where it may translate to as much as 10 degrees. That kind of warming will spell the end to Arctic Ocean sea ice, and likely to the West Antarctic ice sheet as well. With less ice, albedo effects will speed up warming (as light coloured ice reflects sunlight, while dark-coloured open ocean waters absorb it). Sea levels would be expected to rise between 3 and 8 feet, necessitating expensive damns and dykes around major coastal cities, or abandoning them altogether should expenses be too high.

Increased desertification at mid-latitudes is also expected. Drought in areas which currently are “breadbaskets”, such as the North American plains, will sharply limit food production. Southern Europe, Central America, the Middle East, southern China and Inida will experience drought, and drought’s associated impacts to crops. This means that in a hotter world, there is going to be much less food to go around.

What sorts of economic impacts might Canada face in such a world? Perhaps we’ll lose a million jobs, or more, because things will have fallen apart so badly and comprehensively for many of our trading partners. What might the level of unemployment in Canada be in this future? What about poverty and homelessness? Where will the middle class be?

Some might consider that inaction, in this scenario, actually represents an irresponsible use of our resources. I’m certainly one of them. And this “scenario” is where we are headed unless we can start turning things around.

The very real security threats created by global warming are well documented. The military planners of many nations have been war-gaming various scenarios based on expected outcomes of climate change. This isn’t a secret; in fact, a lot of this information is available to the public, despite it not being widely reported by the mainstream media (for a good read, try Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer’s “Climate Wars”, published in 2008)

This doom and gloom world of the future, however, need not become our actual future. If we undertake transformational changes to our economy, we can avoid some of the worst impacts we can expect to experience from climate change, and avoid the negative economic impacts from the end of cheap energy. We must begin taking those steps now; they must be bold and assertive steps, however. Baby-steps are not going to help in the long-term. That’s why I’ve used the term “transformational”.

The cost of inaction is too high for Canadians to bear, much less the rest of the world which is, for the most part, sitting in a far less pretty position geographically speaking than is Canada when it comes to the anticipated impacts of a changing climate. Canada, though, in our globalized world, will not prove to be immune from connected and cascading impacts felt elsewhere in the world. That’s why it’s important for Canada to become a leader in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The health of our collective future depends upon us taking action to address climate change in the next decade. We can and we must undertake this venture.