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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
I’m Rebecca Tucker, a programming editor with the arts and life section at The Globe. While Sierra is away on fellowship, I’ll be taking over the climate newsletter.
Earlier this month, congressional Democrats gathered outside the U.S. Capitol building to urge U.S. president Joe Biden to seek legislative approval for a climate package – even if it’s significantly slimmed down from the original $550-billion version that has repeatedly failed to get through the Senate, Adam Radwanski writes this week.
Biden’s inability to prioritize climate policy has been owing to a number of factors, not least of all a series of more immediate crises – COVID-19, Ukraine, inflation and now the rollback of abortion rights – that have taken precedence. But with midterm elections looming, Democrats are concerned that the party could lose control of Congress to climate change action-resistant Republicans, adding a level of urgency to the need to pass climate-focused legislation.
However, others believe that growing incidences of climate-related disasters – “what’s happening literally in every part of this country, from droughts to wildfires to floods to hurricanes,” Florida Congressman Ted Deutch says – will make it harder for Republicans to ignore the issue.
For now, eyes on both sides of the political fence are focused on whether Biden’s $550-billion plan can make it over the finish line.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Arctic farming: Backyard chickens in the Arctic? How one woman took a crack at chicken farming in Inuvik.
- Arts and culture: Behind the scenes with filmmaker Edward Burtynsky, whose newest project is In The Wake of Progress, an immersive, critical look at the environmental impacts of human industry.
- EVs: The spike in gas prices has many Canadians shopping for electric vehicles, but supply has not caught up to demand. Luckily, Globe Drive columnists Mark Richardson and Petrina Gentile make a solid case for opting into a plug-in hybrid over an EV.
- B.C.: A year after the heatwave that killed more than 600 residents of the province, many residents still don’t have air conditioning.
- G7: On Sunday, Group of Seven leaders pledged to raise US$600-billion to finance needed infrastructure in developing countries and tp counter China’s Belt and Road project.
- From The Narwhal: In Toronto, a new, manmade island, Villiers Island, is being built to ease flooding and house the city’s first-ever “climate positive” community.
A deeper dive
Important research in the Yukon
Ivan Semeniuk is The Globe and Mail’s science reporter. For this week’s deeper dive, Ivan discusses how a pair of important scientific developments in Canada’s Far North demonstrate the impact our present choices can have on the future of the planet.
This past week brought two unrelated Canadian science stories with a common theme: unlocking doorways to North America’s climate of the deep past.
In one story, The Globe and Mail reported the successful retrieval of a record-breaking ice core from the summit plateau of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. To succeed, a team led by Alison Criscitiello of the University of Alberta first had to climb and ski up the mountain for 10 days and then endure another dozen oxygen-deprived days atop the plateau, which sits more than five kilometres above sea level.
In the end they were able to fulfill Dr. Criscitiello’s goal of drilling out an ice core that is 327 metres long — equivalent to the height of the Eiffel Tower. The core has now been transported down the mountain in one-metre sections and is awaiting analysis at the Canadian Ice Core Lab in Edmonton.
Mount Logan’s summit glacier has been in place since well before the end of the last Ice Age. Dr. Criscitiello estimates the core she and her team retrieved could include ice that was deposited (as snow) some 30,000 years ago. Trapped air bubbles in the ice therefore contain tiny samples of Earth’s atmosphere stretching back to that time. These provide a unique and essential record that can help scientists better understand what was happening to the climate in the Pacific Northwest then and project into the future under climate change.
Meanwhile, a crew of gold miners working last week at Eureka Creek, Yukon, about 300 kilometres north of Mount Logan, made the stunning discovery of a mummified baby woolly mammoth in a layer of newly exposed permafrost. Like the ice core, the specimen is estimated to date back to about 30,000 years ago, when mammoths roamed freely across the land bridge that once connected Siberia with Alaska.
While adult mammoths were enormous, comparable in size to African elephants, the baby that was unearthed on Tuesday measures less than a metre and a half long and is thought to have been only about one month old when she became trapped in mud and died. But early reports indicate she is the most complete and best-preserved example of a mammoth ever found in the New World. Studies of the frozen carcass are expected to yield a rich trove of ecological information about the Canadian Arctic long ago.
Both the ice core and the mammoth are the product of natural archives that are under threat as the climate warms. In the Western mountains, many glaciers are shrinking as temperatures rise owing to climate change. Across the North, the permafrost that once stayed solidly frozen year round is disappearing too, undermining the stability of the landscape and changing the nature of Northern ecosystems.
Both phenomena are big stories that affect the way people live. They are also a focal point for scientists who are helping to put climate change as we experience it today in the context of Earth’s geological and evolutionary past. By allowing us to peer back in time they speak to our present and to the choices that will determine the state of the planet decades and centuries from now.
What else you missed
- The National Crown Commission, Ottawa-Gatineau’s largest landowner, may become overwhelmed by damage caused by climate change
- As a global energy crisis looms, the International Energy Agency has called for a shift to renewables and clean technology
- The Alpine Club’s hiring of women leaders for the first time marks a culture shift in the world of mountaineering, experts say
- Why increasing Indigenous representation in STEM fields may be integral to reconciliation.
- Early heatwaves and drought conditions have increased the wildfire risk in Europe.
- Jason Kenney and several oil sands executives are in Washington in a push to rehabilitate the reputation of Canada’s fossil fuels.
Opinion and analysis
Konrad Yakabuski: As the G7 Summit kicks of in Germany, Western governments should blame their own myopia for the current energy crisis.
Gary Mason: The antics of Save Old Growth protesters on Vancouver Island could set other environmental movements back years.
Sam Anderson: In B.C., glaciers have long offered environmental stability. If, in the future, they are no longer able to provide this resilience for us, we should learn from their example.
Peter Kuitenbrouwer: Bugs will continue to win the war on insects until humans accept that we, in fact, are the problem.
Juliette Kayyem: How we measure our success in facing climate disasters should evolve to include failing safely.
In recent months, companies boasting strong ESG credentials have struggled to maintain and, in many cases, reclaim legitimacy, as widespread claims of greenwashing have stripped credence from environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing practices. Critics have included Elon Musk, who claimed ESGs are a “scam” after Tesla Inc. was dropped from the S&P 500 ESG Index.
But the continuing backlash and criticism are signs of a maturing industry, according to a group of experts who participated in a recent panel discussion on responsible investing hosted by The Globe and Mail. “The recent pushback against ESG is a sign not only of a maturing market but that these things are actually affecting real change,” David O’Leary, founder and principal at Kind Wealth in Toronto, said at the event. “We should all be willing to turn a mirror on ourselves and evaluate our own complicity in the process and the ways in which we can make changes.”
The pushback, too, comes as more standardized ESG metrics are being established to regulate the industry and combat legitimate concerns of greenwashing. In Canada, the Canadian Securities Administrators came out with proposals last fall that will require Canadian-listed issuers to begin reporting climate-related risks and opportunities per a standardized framework, as well as their greenhouse gas emissions.
- Analysis: Why responsible investing could have a marketing problem.
We will be taking a break from publishing profiles this summer! But we’re still looking for great people to feature. Get in touch with us to have someone included in our “making waves” section for after Labour Day.
Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Guides and Explainers
- Want to learn to invest sustainably? We have a class for that: Green Investing 101 newsletter course for the climate-conscious investor. Not sure you need help? Take our quiz to challenge your knowledge.
- We've rounded up our reporters' content to help you learn about what a carbon tax is, what happened at COP 26, and just generally how Canada will change because of climate change.
- We have ways to make your travelling more sustainable and if you like to read, here are books to help the environmentalist in you grow, as well as a downloadable e-book of Micro Skills - Little Steps to Big Change.
Catch up on Globe Climate
- Bringing the climate fight to your kitchen
- Saving the song of Quebec’s chorus frogs
- Globe analysis reveals which cities are most at risk of flooding
- How to grow a climate change-fighting garden