Free course on climate change: Climate Insights 101

Learning is good.

If you are not solid in your ability to facilitate dinner table talk about climate change, let the fine folks at the Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions help you out.

Their free series of on-line courses will get you right up to speed. And if you’re not into the full meal deal, check out Climate Insights: Mini Lessons:

Climate Insights 101

A trilogy of animated and interactive courses that provide a comprehensive understanding of the causes of climate change, of how society can adapt, and the options for mitigation.

Each course contains 3-4 lessons with test-your-knowledge sections.

1) Climate Science Basics

This course covers the scientific basis for changes in Earth’s climate, both natural and human-induced, common misconceptions about global warming and more….

2) BC Climate Impacts and Adaptation

Climate change is already here and will speed up over time. This course is a how-to guide for projecting future climate within British Columbia and preparing for those changes.

3) Mitigation

This course explores and assesses the practical methods, technologies and policy options being used in BC and around the world to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Lego commits to 100% renewable energy goal

LEGO logo

LEGO logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Superb news!


This makes me feel waaayyy less guilty for supporting my child’s Lego habit – a tradition in our family and almost every family I know.


Thanks to WWF partnering with Lego, one more giant, recognizable and valued consumer good is having less impact on our planet.


Commenting on the new partnership, the LEGO Group’s CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, said: “We have experienced strong growth for eight consecutive years and, as we grow, we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact we leave on the planet. Partnering with WWF is an important step in our efforts to get the best out of our sustainability initiatives. We are proud to contribute to WWF’s overall vision of 100% renewable energy by 2050 and already now they have played a part in the targets we have set – and how we can achieve them.”

More information about this…


For the Sports Fans

I am NOT a sports fan.  Let’s just get that out of the way now.

I love the concept of sports: health, friendly competition, self improvement. I even like to watch the occasional match of almost anything (UFC and probably cricket excluded). I cycle nearly every day (though won’t be caught in fancy branded spandex). I have even lent myself to coaching mini minors soccer and baseball, and to being laughed at on a court/field/pitch for adult purposes occasionally.

However, don’t ask me to recite team names and associated locations or playbook rules.

At most, I could describe a sports figure scandal or two.

My aversion to sports has developed slowly over the last 10 years from watching some people around me lose sight of more important things and sit on the couch for more hours than (in my opinion) are reasonable.

And then there is the “opiate of the masses” concept, in which my field of sustainability, sports has been a detractor from more important things… like rallying around car share coops and community gardens. *Sigh.

But the push for sustainability is slowly being outweighed by the pull. 

Organizations of every size, type and objective are existing on the same planet, in the same human  society myself and friends are trying to save. The truth is, if your clients need mobility, to eat and to have a disposable income, they will need a low carbon and climate resilient community/economy/society.

So join the team. The Green Sports Alliance team.

The Green Sports Alliance is a non-profit organization with a mission to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance. Alliance members represent over 170 sports teams and venues from 15 different sports leagues.

We’re talking carbon neutral games, partnerships with transit authorities, and competition crushing waste management strategies. *the crowd goes wild*

Here’s the call to action

Friends of mine are organizing a conference (September 26-27, Vancouver) to facilitate peer-based learning about greening sports operations (facilities, teams, matches). If you fit this profile:

  • Athletic directors, administrators, sustainability officers, researchers, recreational programmers, facility managers
  • Professional sport teams, sport venues owners, amateur sport bodies, government and non-government sport organizations, sustainability organizations

Or know someone that does, check out “Think Tank 3 – Sports & Sustainability: Universities as agents of change

If you are a sports team representative of any kind:

 If you work in the world of sports, please join us to share your insights and learn valuable strategies that will accelerate the environmental evolution of professional and collegiate sports.

And for the sports fans:

  • Make your home based sports watching energy efficient
  • Take transit/cycle to live games.
  • Find a local sports team to join/watch and spend your time cheering on your community members.

Go greenies go!


Reality Drop: Spread Science about Climate Change, Global Warming

Reality Drop: Spread Science about Climate Change, Global Warming.


I have saved this to my desktop.

Introducing Reality Drop from Climate Reality on Vimeo.

UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis in 2013

Percentage of national population suffering fr...

Percentage of national population suffering from malnutrition, according to United Nations statistics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the most pressing concern we ALL have right now. Your financial budget (household or corporate),your ability to travel, your investments… all these things and more will change and be stressed as people the world over struggle with food price and/or availability.

Read more here:

I know that for many of us in North America (who are well fed)  this is hard to digest (pun in tended… though it is no laughing matter.) It is a big challenge with numerous points of impact. The impacts on our daily lives will be both indirect and direct. For example:

  • The price of meat will be noticeably higher.
  • The “Future Shops” of the world will experience a noticeble decline in sales, leading to lower stocks and lay offs.
  • Local and provincial governments will find their social programs oversubscribed, leading to fiscal challenges.
  • School teachers and administrators will be faced with additional challenges as children lack proper nutrition (low quality foods high in sugar and salt will be favored due to lower cost).
  • Your federal government will face pressure to redirect funds from Canadian-centric programs, to international aid and development (and probably refugee programs), meaning cuts to things like Environmental monitoring.

So what can you or I do? How do we prepare?

  1. Supporting a local food system is one thing we can all do directly. This includes planting your own garden, or getting involved in local agriculture or community gardens.
  2. Support organizations such as Oxfam, which deliver aid to nations most directly impacted.
  3. Support initiatives and organizations that enhance community cohesion, with your time or money.

This third point is critical – the more connected and engaged people are with their communities (the places where they live) the more responsive and nimble we can be in addressing socio-economic challenges that food insecurity will induce.

Every community/neighborhood has  unique circumstances and unique opportunities to create wellness for the people that live there. This is the case with or without food insecurity… but under stress, those opportunities become more visible and valuable.

Organizations like Transition Towns, and an initiative such as Transition Streets is a good example of real action that is demonstrating good results today. About Transition Streets:

We all need to find ways to save money and reduce our energy use these days. And thankfully, on a Transition Street, the two go hand in hand. A Transition Street is a place where neighbours have reduced their household costs and their energy use. It is a place where people are taking steps to transition toward greater self-reliance, at the same time as they are finding ways to live in balance with the world’s diminishing resources. And they are doing it together.

I’ll likely expand on examples of this in future posts… but until then, if you have other suggestions for how we can all prepare for food shortage impacts, I’d love to read about them in the comments section below.

To a new world waiting,


#Offsets: like doing the dishes at a restaurant to pay for your meal

Offset credits earned for consumption and carbon emissions

Offset your impact cause there’s a cost to consumption. Photo credit to Aaron Molina on Flickr.

I recently posted about carbon neutral government (CNG) and why I think it’s a policy that, overall, is solid climate action. But I didn’t get to offsets. I promised a post on this, so here it is.

Offsets are the one part of the policy that really twist up the masses that would, if they paid attention to the results the policy is getting, be singing praises of CNG. Instead, they complain about three main things:

  1. Offsets are like paying for sin. That’s lame, and you should just not sin.
  2. Offsets cost money and the public sector should not spend tax dollars that way.
  3. Offset projects cannot be trusted to deliver reductions. Only evil people that sin would create such a thing.

I’ll get to these in another post, but for now, here’s an analogy that might help you understand offsets the way I do:

Let’s say emitting carbon emissions (consuming fossil fuel) is like eating at a restaurant. You’ve chowed down on the steak and prawns and there is a cost to that. The bill comes and it’s hefty. Maybe you shouldn’t have ordered the appy? Or that extra crantini?

Getting the bill is like measuring and reporting out on your emissions – you can see the damage. And next time you might make decisions that will make your consumption less expensive/more efficient.

Now let’s say that, to get the bill to zero, you can pay directly for reductions on the tab (similar to, perhaps, investing in your own operations to reduce energy use), but you’re shy of the total. You still owe a debt.

I’m not sure how often this actually happens, but I’m going to imagine that washing dishes is an option. And washing dishes will offset the remainder of the bill  – it will get you to zero.

After all, there is a cost to your consumption borne by the restaurant (the planet). And it’s not fair that you should eat for free when everyone else likes to eat at this restaurant too. If you do dine and dash, you’re passing on your costly impact to others and likely, the prices on the menu will go up or the restaurant will go out of business and screw us all over.

Wash the dishes. By doing so, you are reducing an equal amount of cost to the restaurant via the labor you are supplying. Like carbon offsets, the impact is the same no matter how it happens – a tonne reduced here is the same as a tonne reduced there. We get to zero.

The beauty of washing dishes: it is cheaper. You just spent $50/hour to pay for the consumption of your meal (reduce your own emissions), but you’re time is only worth about $30/hour and one hour of washing dishes is all it’s taking for the restaurant to recoup its costs and get your tab to zero.

In the real world, CNG requires that organizations do everything they can to reduce emissions first – because that is one of the goals: to make the public sector more efficient with energy in the long run. But this can also cost big bucks. To reduce a tonne of emissions through retrofits or renewable energy, it might cost $55+ per tonne of CO2, whereas offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust are costing $25 per tonne.

Why are they cheaper? Because the opportunities to reduce emissions across BC in the private sector are more plentiful and diverse that just those in the public sector, and many of the cheaper reductions still remain.

At this point you are probably wondering, “why the heck don’t we just buy offsets then?”… as if there were a linear argument for carbon neutral government. There isn’t. It is a multifaceted approach to reducing emissions in BC. And paying more to reduce public sector emissions directly, rather than offsetting, reduces the need to offset or spend gobs of money on energy in the future.

It’s a process people. And getting a significant portion of our emissions to zero (buildings, fleet, paper, travel) is a framework for getting it done.

If you’re still not sure why we need to get to zero, read my preceding post on this again. If you are a climate change denier, bugger off and watch this: The science is as settled as it needs to be for us to be sure reducing carbon is a priority for human society to be sustainable.

I’ll get into the three reasons why people don’t like offsets in a future post. Stay tuned.


My 2 cents on neutralizing carbon

In BC we have this little program called Carbon Neutral Government. As a compliment to the broader climate action plan suite of policies, CNG, as it is lovingly referred to by gov speakers, was meant to inspire awe and respect for BC’s commitment to climate action leadership (i.e. we’re walking the talk) among other things.

Those other things happen to be what are really worth blogging about.

For a really quick summary of the policy:

  • As of 2010, all provincial public sector organizations measure, reduce, offset and report on their carbon emissions from buildings, fleet and paper. These are emissions that are feasibly measured, at a reasonable cost (you could measure more, but it is difficult and costly).
  • Government supports reducing emissions from operations as much as possible by hiring people to do this work and supplying funds for worthwhile projects.
  • Emissions are measured and reported yearly. Any emissions not reduced are “neutralized” with the purchase of offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust.
This last bit is the tricky part.

What you’ve probably read most about, given the sharp angled media attention, is the “unfair payment of offset dollars by poor school districts to the private sector.” Don’t be fooled… the emotional plea about schools is the angle AND the substance. Most of this negativity is about getting angry at the current government during the heat of union bargaining… not so much about the policy itself.

For starters, if you look at the trend towards higher energy prices, it is clear that paying attention to energy use (where most of the GHGs come from) is a good idea. In fact, Public Sector organizations like the Vancouver School Board have reduced their energy use by 8 percent or more since 2008  just by managing power on computer work stations. Delta School District is saving $500k per year. The total offset payment for 2010 emissions was $18.2 million. For the entire public sector.

We are preparing organizations that are fundamental to citizens well-being for a low-carbon and energy distraught future (great TEDx YouTube video).

Even if you get past the angry unions and the climate change deniers (the other vocal bunch in the news), you`ll find rants by environmentalists about the “shady character” of carbon offsets. Some call it a “sin tax”, suggesting that somehow, organizations should be able to reduce all their emissions to zero with today’s current technology, or should steer clear of attempting carbon neutrality all together.

These people are failing to have regard for two things:

  1. Reality – most organizations (and by most, I mean practically all) can’t get to zero alone.
  2. The value of a damn good goal.

I agree the term “Carbon Neutral” isn’t 100% honest without a footnote. Really, what we mean is that we are “Neutralizing carbon from the parts of our operation we are measuring.” But that’s a mouth full and “CNG” is a nice label for something more complex… as most policies, or things labelled for that matter, are.

Zero is a good, no, great goal. If we know the public sector emitted 814 thousand tonnes of CO2 in 2010 (after reducing what they could since the policy was announced in 2007), and we can get to zero, we know we have reduced 814 thousand tonnes of CO2. It also creates a clear signal to those operating public sector organizations: there is a cost to inefficiency and carbon pollution – get with the sustainability program.

Right. So that cost is offsets. Why pay for offsets again?

  • Emissions in the atmosphere don’t care where they come from – a tonne is a tonne. There’s nothing sinful about reducing atmospheric CO2.
  • In BC, the projects are helping to foster a green economy, which includes expertise in low carbon technologies and approaches. This means jobs and  a healthier environment.
  • They are produced by the Pacific Carbon Trust, which follows the most rigorous standards we can get our hands on (and BC’s hands reach internationally).
  • They are cheaper than what it would actually cost to reduce emissions to zero, because the low-hanging fruit/cost effective emission reduction opportunities are far greater in the broader economy, than in the public sector.
    •  It might cost a school $25/tonne to purchase offsets, and 10 times as much to undertake a retrofit to get an equivalent amount of reductions. Sure it makes sense to do the retrofit anyways, but we’re still committed to reducing BC’s emissions 33% by 2020, and we can’t afford to do it all at one time.
  • Money talks. Try getting the attention of the Health Authority CEO on the topic of carbon emissions without a clear and relevant incentive…. offsets provide that incentive.

This last point is only in effect in the beginning. What we have seen with CNG, is that people come around pretty quickly once they have measured their emissions and see the opportunity for savings  – not just in offsets, but in energy, which saves money in the long run. Offsets soon are not the only incentive.

In any case, my peers and I have struggled to really communicate why the public sector should pay for offsets. My next post will attempt to describe offsets with an analogy: Paying for your restaurant meal with dish duty.

I’d also be more than happy to converse on this here blog about Carbon Neutral Government  – as I surely did not cover every aspect of the policy and you probably still have more questions (caveat: I’m not the foremost expert, but I have friends who come close.)

In the mean time, please enjoy this fancy video which does a pretty decent job at explaining carbon neutrality and offseting as it was applied to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

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