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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources.

Last week we wrote about how the Arctic hit a new record temperature of 38C. In Russia, the high temperatures have fuelled massive wildfires, set the normally moist peat bogs ablaze and thawed permafrost.

This week, we’re connecting some dots. A new study shows that these dramatic changes would be almost impossible without the influence of human-induced climate change.

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Back in Canada, a reminder of climate change came in the form of a lost barracuda fish. A commercial fisherman knew the fish, normally found in Baja California in Mexico, was out of place when it landed in his net on Vancouver Island.

“It’s more evidence of the impacts of climate change on our marine ecosystems.” said Jackie King, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.


Noteworthy reporting this week:

  1. We are all plastic people now, in ways we can’t see – and can no longer ignore. Our global plastics problem has been steadily growing for decades, polluting the planet in obvious ways. Less obvious are the microplastics that we eat and breathe, and the impacts they have on our health. Rick Smith experimented on himself to find out more.
  2. Will Ottawa use its purchasing power to boost Canadian clean-tech firms? Adam Radwanski spoke to Navdeep Bains, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. Bains was speaking about how to support Canadian clean-technology companies during the global race to address climate change when he brought up the prospect of a policy lever that Ottawa has long stepped carefully around.
  3. A Northern Alberta First Nation is planning to develop an oil sands project after sitting on a lease for two decades, counting on a continued global appetite for crude and improved market conditions to bolster the proposal. But Fort McKay First Nation also advocates for operations that are as sustainable as possible.

From the mesh bag of tea, to ketchup and mustard bottles to a bowl of instant soup, everything Rick Smith ate on this January night was packaged in some form of plastic. He tested himself to understand how it affected him.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail


A deeper dive

Arctic scientists look to local support for projects sidelined by COVID-19

Ivan Semeniuk is The Globe’s science reporter. For this week’s deeper dive, he talks about Arctic Change in the Time of COVID-19

One of the untold science stories of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is the effect that it’s having on areas of research that have little to do with infectious disease. Of course lots of projects and plans are delayed when research labs are shuttered because of the need for individuals to maintain a distance from one another. But this situation is vastly complicated for Arctic researchers because of the cost and long lead time needed to mount a field expedition and the limited window of time that scientists typically have to operate.

Normally, at this time of year, scores of researchers and students would be spending their time at remote sites all over the Far North. Many are focused on trying to document the sweeping environmental changes currently taking place in the region.

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However, this year scientists are staying away to avoid carrying the pandemic to vulnerable communities in the North. To find out how researchers are adjusting, I spoke to the organizations and facilities that support most of Canada’s Arctic research efforts.

What I discovered is that COVID-19 may be transforming the character of Arctic research for years to come, in part by involving northern communities more directly in gathering data.

- Ivan

Canada’s Arctic waters are awash with microplastics — tiny particles and fibres that are derived from plastic products and that have an unknown effect on the environment and human health. Researchers detected microplastics in 85 percent of sediments they collected from the seafloor and in 90 percent of samples from surface waters and in the bodies of microscopic marine organisms known as zooplankton.

Chelsea Rochman/University of Toronto


What else you missed

Ottawa green lights funding for eight more projects aimed at wild salmon restoration: Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan addressed the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, saying climate change and increasing demand for seafood products has put unprecedented pressure on Pacific wild salmon.

Planning group envisions cargo cycling will bolster small businesses in Toronto’s northwest: The organization is pursuing two linked messages: that cycling can work meaningfully outside of downtown, and that cycles – either three-wheeled or four-wheeled, with electric motors – can be useful tools for moving freight across a neighbourhood.

After 50 years on Richmond city council, Harold Steves is hanging up his gloves: Thousands of council meetings and public hearings have not dampened his crusade to enhance B.C.‘s food security and protect the natural environment.

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Brazil fires official after soaring June deforestation data: Lubia Vinhas was general-co-ordinator of a Brazilian space agency, which is an umbrella for divisions that monitor the Amazon and panels to debate climate change with civil society organizations.

BlackRock cast tougher climate votes, environmentalists want more: It voted against management at 53 companies worldwide, most of them energy companies, for “lack of progress” on climate concerns during the 2020 proxy season, and warned another 191 companies to take faster action.

More than 1,000 eco-friendly projects line up for EU’s US$1.25-trillion COVID-19 relief fund: The projects would support over 2 million jobs and require investment of around €200 billion, the research shows.

Joe Biden to unveil ambitious US$2-trillion climate plan: The plan signifies a more aggressive approach on climate policy than he adopted during the Democratic presidential primary – a nod to progressives within the party who have been clamouring for swift, bold action.

This file photo taken on August 24, 2019 shows an aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil.

CARLOS FABAL/AFP/Getty Images


Opinion and analysis

The alarm about climate change is blinding us to sensible solutions

Bjorn Lomborg: When false climate alarm makes us insist on invoking climate at every turn, we end up helping the world only a little at a very high cost. Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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Is Alberta selling its soul for a lump of coal?

Stephen Legault: “The torpedoing of Alberta’s coal policy is the most recent – but by no means the only – casualty in the government’s war on nature.” Legault is a political and communications strategist who lives in Canmore, Alta.

I saw a Chilean red wine advertised as ‘dry-farmed.’ What does that mean?

Christopher Waters: “Dry-farming practices have become more common as climate change and the need for water conservation force the hands of wine growers to become more sustainable, especially in arid areas prone to drought conditions.”


Here’s what readers had to say

In response to Adam Radwanki’s column last week on Trudeau hesitating to seize the best opportunity to fight climate change, readers had a lot to say. Here are a few of their comments.

  • Curiousgeorge: Going back to the way it was before Covid is not going to be possible, or if possible not for quite awhile. Why not do the things that are increasingly urgent to slow climate change while “the way we have always done things” is in increasing disarray/failure. Hasn’t “embracing change” been a business mantra for quite awhile?
  • Barmon DuMonet: Some people have grown complacent of climate change because of its apparent slow creep. They think we have lots of time. But the oceans are absorbing a lot of heat. We don’t have so much time.
  • Excimer: To be successful, green energy has to generate another kind of green, and that’s where engineering and technology come in.

Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of Sophia Sidarous speaking about Indigenous youth.

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Sophia Sidarous

Handout

I am a part of the La Rose et al v. Her Majesty The Queen youth climate lawsuit, which is demanding the Government of Canada take immediate – and adequate – action on climate change: the greatest global threat my generation will collectively face.

Although all youth experience the impacts of climate change disproportionately than older generations, Indigenous and Black communities are subjected to environmental racism and have systemically less resources to adapt to and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. This is why my activism often intersects with social issues like systemic racism against Indigenous peoples, and specifically Indigenous youth like me. Indigenous lands (whether part of a treaty, unceded territory or bearing traditional significance) are not being exploited, degraded and ruined by coincidence. Canada continues to steal land that belongs to Indigenous peoples of all different nations.

Canada continues to target Indigenous peoples, Indigenous youth predominantly. We are the next generation of traditional healers, protectors, gatherers, hunters, crafters, dancers, singers and leaders. But Canada is robbing Indigenous youth of our potential to fulfill our traditional roles and our likelihood of survival. Colonialism in 2020 looks like governments forcing unsafe pipelines through Indigenous territories without consent or regard for Indigenous youth who will have to grow up with poison in our waterways. This makes it nearly impossible to be, well, Indigenous. When Canada steals Indigenous lands, Canada also robs Indigenous peoples of our ancestral knowledge and identities.

The best way to take action is to acquire accurate information from people on the ground, and to donate to grassroots land and water protectors on the frontlines of climate change and systemic racism.

To support Indigenous peoples and youth on the frontlines, there’s lots you can do.

Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.

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Photo of the week

An aerial view taken on June 27, 2020 shows orange-coloured rivers fanning out over the forested landscape near a disused copper-sulphide mine near the village called Lyovikha in the Urals.

SERGEY ZAMKADNIY (ZAMKAD_LIFE)/AFP/Getty Images


Guides and Explainers


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