Climate scientist and Green party MLA Dr. Andrew Weaver: The politics and suppression of science

Dr. Weaver is lecturing at the University of Victoria for the next two weeks in a climate change and society environmental studies course. He exudes passion like you wouldn’t believe and has not let the wear of politics affect his sense of humour.

He displayed the most recent (2008-2012) public opinion polls on climate change. 26% of Americans and 14% of Canadians do not believe in the existence of global warming. This clearly infused an eagerness in Dr. Weaver and he flared up a little. He laughed, frantically gestured, and said

 ‘This question wasn’t asking are humans causing this? it was simply do you believe it! This is like asking do you believe in thermometers!!’

Scientists have done their part. Research persists and climate models increase in accuracy with time but results are conclusive. The fact that climatic temperatures are rising is no longer contested, it is known. Human contribution to global temperature changes is a whole other, much more complicated topic but the fact that 14% of Canadians (or 5 million people: roughly the population of Norway!) are so against the concept of climate change that they don’t believe in thermometer readings shows that global warming is now a matter of politics, not science.

Dr. Weaver discussed two very interesting publications to emphasize the problem:

1. (Boycoff, 2004) investigated a random sample of 636 articles containing the word ‘global warming’ to investigate how the media portrays this issue. 53% of articles placed equal blame on natural cycles and human activity. Boycoff concludes that media in the U.S ‘has contributed to a significant divergence of popular discourse from scientific discourse’. Meaning that by trying to remain unbiased by reporting that global warming is occurring half the time, and that it is a natural cycle the other half, this leads the public to believe that scientists are still 50/50 on this issue, they are undecided and unsure. This becomes even more interesting when one considers the article below.

2. (Oreskis, 2004) investigated 928 published, peer reviewed, scientific articles to see if  climate scientists really are uncertain about this issue. Results: Not a single scientist actually argues that humans are not contributing greenhouse gases that result in climate change. A similar study by Anderegg 2010 looking at 1372 acclaimed climate scientists and their publications revealed similar results as Oreski’s, concluding that 97-98% support guidelines outlined by the IPCC, who’s most recent publication quotes ‘ emissions of greenhouse gases are chiefly responsible for global warming’ and ‘science has spoken, and time is not on our side’.

The media is introducing a bias by portraying a 50/50 perspective while 97-100% of acclaimed climate scientists unequivocally report that global warming is occurring. This is a matter of alternate motives of advertisers and governments affecting public opinion. It is ineffectively communicated science or, more accurately, suppressed science (especially if you are discussing our situation in Canada).

‘We need evidence-based decision making, not decision based evidence making’ said Dr. Weaver.

We must believe in science, not the media, and certainly not what our current government is trying to portray. Theres a whole book on this if you want to learn more, I’m reading it for another class of mine, its called ‘ The war on Science: Muzzled Scientists and wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada‘.   If your still unsure, get your facts straight. Believe in thermometers!

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If you too are one of those crazy people who believes one person can make a difference

If you too believe in the power of one here are some things that you can do that will change the world, I promise.

If its Yellow Let it Mellow: Ew right? Yes, I know, there are situations where one simply cannot let it mellow. For example: you are on a first date, finishing off the night by having your first heart-to-heart over a glass of wine. I get it, in this case it is simply not cool to let it mellow. We have impressions to keep up here. But in your own home every saved flush makes a huge difference.Yellow mellow

The american water works association has found that an average person flushes 5 times a day. Each flush uses 3-6 litres of water. A typical person will then flush away 22 litres of water every day. Per person! What is most disturbing about this is that the water in the back of every toilet comes from the exact same water source as our tap water does: we are literally flushing drinking water down the toilet. The world health organization reports that an average person needs 2- 4.5 litres of drinking water per day to survive. The water that each one of us flushes away every day is then enough to provide 8 people with clean drinking water. So look at it this way: each of us can’t completely eliminate this impact but each time its yellow and you let it mellow, you, yes you, just saved enough drinking water for the daily survival of a human being. You just made an immense difference. And I love you for it. 


Compost: 60% of waste created in every household is organic. That means you can decrease your waste contribution by a whole 60% simply by composting! It’s not hard. All it takes is finding a bin (I use an old plastic cake container, if you have a family I’ve seen a kitty litter container work like a charm), whatever you use, it is the easiest thing you can do to separate out your organics, and it makes a huge difference.

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Starting Jan 1st, here in Victoria the Capital Region District (CRD) has banned household organic wastes from entering our regional landfill. Composting is then officially mandatory in all regions of Victoria. This is not surprising to me. Landfills all over the world are beyond their capacity and trust me it is a very political thing to create new ones (who wants that near their property, really!). It’s also important to consider the impacts that municipal wastes have on surrounding environments: I spent a year and a half testing this and trust me it’s not pretty. Such impacts would entirely change if organics were not part of the equation (they have a huge role in the decomposition of all other forms of landfill waste). You can help to mitigate these impacts by composting.


Carry a Coffee Mug: I get it. I’m a serious coffee addict too. So much so that my last term I developed a slight eye twitch when I decided I was overdoing it and attempted to live in its absence. Loosely estimating, I would say I drink a coffee or 2 a day at school, so maybe close to 250 a year. The image below is just a typical garbage can here on campus, and I think it shows that a lot of other students on campus likely have the same caffeine addiction as I do.

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In one day, add all of these cups up in this bin alone, or expand to considering all the bins on campus filled to the brim every day, or further, contemplate total annual coffee consumption for an entire country. You are now considering an immense impact. Just from coffee cups! For example, annual coffee consumption in the U.S uses so many cups that, if placed end to end, they would wrap around the earth 55 times. Thats just one country in one year! One person can make a difference: buy a mug and actively carry it around to become a coffee addict with a conscience.


Turn Off the Taps When You’re Brushing Your TeethI’ve gotten into all sorts of trouble for this when my parents came to visit me in Belize last year. I get it. My poor step dad is trying to brush his teeth, walking away in between rinses to do little tasks and every time he comes back to the taps they have magically been shut off. I couldn’t help it!

To figure out if I had any justification for my annoying actions I did a small experiment one night to find out what percentage of total water use can be reduced by shutting off the taps in between brushing. My total brushing time was 1m and 44s. On a separate stopwatch I found that 1m and 20s of that time it wasn’t actually necessary to have the taps on (77%)! Considering average flow rate of a typical faucet at 4.73 litres per minute, that’s 6.3 Litres of water that I save each time I brush my teeth. Add that up over a year and an average person will save nearly 4.5 thousand litres of fresh water, enough for the daily needs of 10 thousand people. We are so lucky we have access to so much of this precious resource in Canada, many countries are struggling with water shortages. Make this wee shift and feel great about it because the little things really do add up.


Recycle: I left this one for last because it seems so standard right? but the environmental protection agency reports that still 66% of recyclables still end up in landfills (this number is much higher in developing countries like Belize where only glass beer and soda bottles can be recycled). My own brother doesn’t recycle, and he’s far from dense. He’s aware that it’s not a good thing, he just hasn’t developed the habit. I’ve even made recycling bins for him, labeled them and put lists of exactly what to put in each one and it still didn’t stick. I’ve tried to encourage it, in fact every time I visit him I say something along the lines of ‘It literally takes no extra effort, simply put it in a separate bin. Yes plastics you have to give a quick rinse but to just not bother is just a sad, uncalled for, slap in mother nature’s face.’ And then he laughs, makes fun of me and proceeds to discuss electricity.

We have access to this wonderful service and yet cumulatively we are failing at recycling 66% of what is possible. I get it, sometimes it can be a little confusing. Why can’t I recycle my milk cartons? whats the difference between hard and soft plastics? These are questions I had to ask at one point too and heres a guide of what can and cannot be recycled that makes things simple. Print it out and you will have a good guide until it becomes second nature.

basic recycling guide


These things do make a difference. And if you too make these your pet peeves. I assure you, it’s o-so satisfying and your actions will influence those around you.

‘It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’

-Mahatma Gandi

Canada’s Role in the Global Climate Puzzle

Here is an Op-Ed written for one of my courses last semester. It was published in the Times Colonist on  Dec 19th. 14. Seems the link I posted doesn’t connect so here it is below :

Canada Must Help Solve the Climate Puzzle

Climate change is a global puzzle, and one of the most complicated that human history has ever had to solve. Canada needs to do its part in solving that puzzle.

Deciding where each country fits into this enormous jigsaw, what the finished product will look like, and which corner to work at first, has so far left governments turning over the table in frustration.

Countries need to unite and pick up the pieces, starting with those still most intact.

The world’s biggest economies are trying to lead by example. They want to collaborate, to build solutions and encourage other players, such as Canada, to join.

Currently, we’re the player saying the puzzle isn’t worth solving and bumping elbows with those who are diligently working and investing in a solution. Canada needs to pick up some pieces and contribute.

On Nov. 1, the world received a dire warning from the United Nations, a report signed by every country in the world with a clear message: Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 if warming is to stay below 2 degrees C, a level where human societies can still adapt.

The UN’s secretary general commented at the report release “science has spoken, and time is not on our side.”

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference offers the last opportunity to shake the foundations of global environmental policy, the last chance to piece together the climate puzzle. In September, 125 countries met at the summit conference in New York City to strategize and ensure the success of next year’s conference.

Leonardo DiCaprio even spoke, pleading to nations to stop “pretending that climate change doesn’t exist.”

As for Canada, we didn’t attend. We don’t worry about climate change up here; in fact, a couple of degrees of warmth would be appreciated.

Canada remains a pretender despite our vulnerabilities: Increased temperatures as high as several degrees have dried wetlands, melted permafrost and reduced sea ice. The mountain pine beetle has been able to spread in warmer winters, killing millions of trees while increasing the frequency and severity of forest fires.

Still, Canada is a small piece of the puzzle next to the world’s largest economies, the U.S and China. On Nov. 12, they came to a momentous agreement, not out of stewardship, but out of necessity.

Considering the health implications of China’s smog and the disastrous U.S. droughts, the two longtime heavy polluters are beginning to realize their options: Commit to a green economy or collapse.

Unfortunately, while these giants are adapting, Canada is busy pushing an outdated agenda: dirty energy. Under Conservative government, serious green energy initiatives have been abandoned, as we shift focus to extraction from oilsands and claiming of Arctic sovereignty to stake ownership of offshore oil resources.

Canada’s largest trading partner, the U.S., is pushing to reduce oil consumption by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, while Canada is busy designing the Keystone XL pipeline to push oil down their throats. It’s no wonder U.S. President Barack Obama has rejected this, twice.

It’s also no wonder Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t attend the summit conference. One can imagine it would be embarrassing to attend such a meeting representing our current policies.

“But oil is going to create a prosperous Canada,” says every government-approved advertisement.

Tax dollars have heavily subsidized the industry, yet oil development is a job-poor sector, and the few that are created are temporary or seasonal. Further, the petroleum industry is vulnerable, subject to frequent boom/bust cycles of falling and rising oil prices.

Wealth that is generated is certainly not distributed fairly among Canadians, or even the communities directly affected, often First Nations.

Today, Canada is a climate-change denier and oil producer. To the world, we are no longer a peaceful Eden of natural abundance and prosperity. We are no longer the polite northerners, relaxing with maple syrup and beer in our igloos after a long game of pond hockey.

The idealized Canada has been blanketed with a black film. We are an oil nation, a fossil-fuel giant seeking profit, and now one of the top 10 worst polluters per capita.

The perception of Canada has become that of the crudely stereotyped Albertan, a province in which 21 per cent proclaim that the climate is not warming.

Our environmental policy today is diverging from the U.S. more than ever, but not in the positive and progressive way that has come to be expected of us.

Harper is being urged by world leaders to do what he always said we would do: “Follow the U.S in climate policy.” Canada must declare serious emission-reduction targets and renewable-energy initiatives for the 2015 Paris climate conference.

We must contribute to the climate policy puzzle or fall behind.

Introductions to the new Woman at Mile 0

The torch of Woman at Mile 0 has officially been passed. I am her daughter and am very excited to have adopted her long- unloved blog and make it my own.

If your curious who I am, I’m presently a student at the University of Victoria in Environmental Science and Geography. I came back from working in Belize to finish my final year of of my undergrad, which I complete in April.

My work in southern Belize was in the research and monitoring department under science director James Foley. Our project was to determine impact of an open dump site on the Rio Grande river, using stable isotope and trace elemental analysis of aquatic species of multiple trophic levels. I’m still discussing and considering publications with my supervisors, particularly Dr. Nikolaus Gantner.

Future plans are to find work in my field here in Canada while carefully selecting a fitting masters program in renewable energy.

Heres a link to Dr. Gantner’s website and his ongoing projects, including our work in Belize: http://www.nikolausgantner.com/projects.html

And, in case your curious, here is the link to my Linkedin account if you are seeking more information on myself or my work experience: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=328151268&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile