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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
The modern agriculture and farming industries are major creators of greenhouse gas emissions, so one company is hoping to help farmers minimize their impact by tracking a significant source of methane: cow burps.
Data imaging company GHGSat has used satellites to measure methane emissions from a California feedlot, marking the first time that methane emissions from livestock has been measured from space. Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide, and the global cattle industry is responsible for 3.7 per cent of methane emissions, with an individual cow burping up to 500 litres of methane a day.
Methane emissions have, historically, been difficult for farmers to measure. GHGSat hopes that its satellite imaging tech will allow farmers to set enforceable targets for methane gas reduction.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Canada: The U.K.-born No Mow May movement, which encourages homeowners to avoid mowing their lawns in an effort to encourage wildflower growth for pollinators, is gaining traction here.
- EVs: As more motorists make the switch to electric, some local auto shops are struggling to keep up with new training, equipment and diagnostics requirements.
- B.C: On the Gulf Islands, where almost all potable water is sourced from rainwater or wells, residents are experiencing serious water shortages due to climate change and a recent spike in population.
- The Decibel: This week’s episode of The Decibel investigates how (and why) cities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and how municipalities can safeguard their infrastructure and populations against erratic weather patterns and natural disasters.
- Interview: Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix discusses his aspirations to drive the oil and gas producer’s carbon emissions to net zero.
- From The Narwhal: In Edmonton, a solar farm development is raising questions over whether green development should take precedence over green space.
A deeper dive
Climate change-fighting gardens
Gayle MacDonald is a features writer at the Globe and Mail. For this week’s deeper dive, she talks about how our home gardens can help make the world a greener place, literally and figuratively.
In October last year, the World Health Organization issued a special report citing the climate crisis as the “single biggest health threat facing humanity.” I remember reading that dire warning and feeling so much despair, especially since it was dedicated to the memory of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, a British girl who died after an asthma attack caused by air pollution.
In that moment I remember thinking: How could we have botched things so badly, and what can I do to make my tiny little corner of the planet a little greener and cleaner?
While researching a recent story about climate change-fighting gardening techniques, I realized part of the solution just might lie in how we plant, maintain and landscape our front and back yards. Thanks to tips from avid Canadian gardeners like Niki Jabbour and Sean James, I learned that our outdoor living spaces —whether they are large or small — can be transformed into eco-friendlier habitats for plants, pollinators, wildlife, and people.
Gardeners can function as first-line responders when it comes to climate-change threats by doing simple things like planting drought-resistant plants, swapping seeds, sharing plant cuttings, and buying soil that is free of peat moss (peat lands store more carbon dioxide than all other vegetation types in the world combined and they have been decimated).
James, who is a master gardener in Milton, ON, likes to say that gardeners have the tools at their disposal to “fix all the problems in the world.”
“I was walking in [downtown Toronto neighbourhood] Roncesvalles recently and saw my first monarch of the year, laying eggs on milkweed in someone’s front lawn-less garden,” he says. “You would not have seen that 10 years ago.”
He’s right. A decade ago, most front yards in Canada were a sea of perfectly-manicured grass. No longer. On my own street in Toronto at least one-third are now artful displays of native plants, perennials, shrubs and raised beds recently planted with flowers, vegetables and herbs. I am not sure gardeners have the power to save the world. But it makes me happy when I walk my neighbourhood to see so many gardeners trying to do their part.
What else you missed
- Canada’s first rare-earth mine delivering concentrated ore has started shipping from the Northwest Territories.
- At the World Economic Forum, leaders debate the extent to which oil and gas companies can be part of a transition to lower-carbon fuels.
- As the provincial election approaches, Ontario’s political parties have been pressed to take on the issue of municipal housing sprawl.
- Also ahead of the election, climate activists have been speaking out against the Ontario Conservatives’ proposed Highway 413 project.
- A restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, has piloted aprons for its staff that capture carbon dioxide directly from the air.
Opinion and analysis
Britt Wray: Climate anxiety and grief are uncomfortable, but that might be a good thing: We have lots of uncomfortable things to do before it’s too late.
Chris Turner: Climate optimism, too, is a good thing — and, despite (many of) the headlines, a sunny outlook about the state of the environment is more than possible; it’s reasonable.
This month, Tesla Inc. was dropped from the S&P 500 ESG Index, the basis for its inclusion in several passive investing funds. The exclusion has only worsened the fall of Tesla stock, which has dropped 43 per cent in the past month and a half. Tesla’s mercurial CEO, Elon Musk, is no fan of the environmental, social and governance scores used to evaluate companies for inclusion in investment funds, and seeing his company booted from a major ESG index hasn’t exactly tempered his criticism.
The exclusion of Tesla, considered a vanguard in the EV industry, from the ESG Index has also bolstered rising backlash against ESGs overall. Now, more than ever, there’s onus on industry and its associations to improve their messaging and educational efforts to explain what ESG is and what it isn’t.
- Also: Indigenous action plans lack prominence in corporate ESG efforts
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Elizabeth Coulombe helping bring compost straight to the kitchen.
My name is Elizabeth, I am 29 years old, and I am the CEO and co-founder of Tero, a small countertop appliance that turns food scraps into a natural fertilizer within only a few hours.
I was recently honoured by The Globe and Mail as one of 50 changemakers who are making a difference with their ideas, accomplishments and impact. I am very proud to be recognized for my active involvement in finding solutions to food waste.
Since the beginning of Tero, I have realized that even when facing a major challenge like climate change, it’s possible to make a difference as a person. We have to find the solution that fits best with our lifestyle and learn to include it in our daily routine. Today, I can say that taking part in change doesn’t have to be difficult, you just have to know where to start and equip yourself in the right way.
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
- How two chefs are rethinking the local seafood supply chain in Ontario
- Scientists embark on their annual trek to measure glacier loss
- Inuit knowledge and science skills fight climate change in the Far North
- Across the African continent, climate crises inflict suffering on millions