European Contact Killed So Many Indigenous Americans It Changed The Climate, Says Study

Columbus’ first set foot in the Americas in 1492.  

More than 50 million indigenous people perished after Columbus’s arrival

Prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492, the area boasted thriving indigenous populations totalling to more than 60 million people.

A little over a century later, that number had dropped close to 6 million.

European contact brought with it not only war and famine, but also diseases like smallpox that decimated local populations.

Now, a new study published in the journal Quarternary Science Reviews argues that those deaths occurred on such a large scale that they led to a “Little Ice Age”: an era of global cooling between the 16th and mid-19th century.

Researchers from University College London found that, after the rapid population decline, large swaths of vegetation and farmland were abandoned.

The trees and flora that repopulated that unmanaged farmland started absorbing more carbon dioxide and keeping it locked in the soil, removing so much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere that the planet’s average temperature dropped by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

Typically, experts look to the Industrial Revolution as the genesis of human-driven climate impacts. But this study shows that effects may have began some 250 years earlier.

“Humans altered the climate already before the burning of fossil fuels had started,” the study’s lead author, Alexander Koch, told Business Insider. “Fossil fuel burning then turned up the dial.”

More than 50 million indigenous people perished by 1600

Experts have long struggled to quantify the extent of the slaughter of indigenous American peoples in North, Central, and South America. That’s mostly because no census data or records of population size exist to help pinpoint how many people were living in these areas prior to 1492.

To approximate population numbers, researchers often rely on a combination of European eyewitness accounts and records of “encomienda” tribute payments set up during colonial rule.

But neither metric is accurate – the former tends to overestimate population sizes, since early colonizers wanted to advertise riches of newly discovered lands to European financial backers.

The latter reflects a payment system that was put in place after many disease epidemics had already run their course, the authors of the new study noted.

So the new study offers a different method: the researchers divided up North and South America into 119 regions and combed through all published estimates of pre-Columbian populations in each one.

In doing so, authors calculated that about 60.5 million people lived in the Americas prior to European contact.

Once Koch and his colleagues collated the before-and-after numbers, the conclusion was stark. Between 1492 and 1600, 90 percent of the indigenous populations in the Americas had died.

That means about 55 million people perished because of violence and never-before-seen pathogens like smallpox, measles, and influenza.

According to these new calculations, the death toll represented about 10 percent of the entire Earth’s population at the time. It’s more people than the modern-day populations of New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing combined.

The disappearance of so many people meant less farming

Using these population numbers and estimates about how much land people used per capita, the study authors calculated that indigenous populations farmed roughly 62 million hectares (239,000 square miles) of land prior to European contact.

That number, too, dropped by roughly 90 percent, to only 6 million hectares (23,000 square miles) by 1600.

Over time, trees and vegetation took over that previously farmed land and started absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide traps heat in the planet’s atmosphere (it’s what human activity now emits on an unprecedented scale), but plants and trees absorb that gas as part of photosynthesis.

So when the previously farmed land in North and South America – equal to an area almost the size of France – was reforested by trees and flora, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels dropped.

Antarctic ice cores dating back to the late 1500s and 1600s confirm that decrease in carbon dioxide.

That CO2 drop was enough to lower global temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius and contribute to the enigmatic global cooling trend called the “Little Ice Age,” during which glaciers expanded.

Lingering doubts

“The researchers are likely overstating their case,” Joerg Schaefer from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, told Live Science.

“I am absolutely sure this paper does not explain the cause of the carbon dioxide change and the temperature change during that time.”

Koch said that some of the drop in carbon dioxide could have been caused by other, natural factors like volcanic eruptions or changes in solar activity.

But he and his colleagues concluded that the death of 55 million indigenous Americans explained about 50 percent of the overall reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“So you need both natural and human forces to explain the drop,” he said.

Koch said the findings revise our understanding of how long human activity has been influencing Earth’s climate.

“Human actions at that time caused a drop in atmospheric CO₂ that cooled the planet long before human civilization was concerned with the idea of climate change,” he and his co-authors wrote.

But they warned that if a similar reforestation event were to happen today, it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the Earth’s current rate of warming.

The drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide that happened in the 1600s only represents about three years’ worth of fossil fuel emissions today, Koch said.

“There’s no way around reducing fossil fuel emissions,” he said, adding that reforestation and forest restoration remain crucial, too.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

[SOURCE]

The Trudeau Government Has Betrayed Us

PM Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Reader Submission:

Whistler Question (Opinion) | October 3, 2016 

Stephen Harper must be chuckling in his beer. The Trudeau government has managed to approve two LNG pipelines and plants in record time: Woodfibre LNG in Squamish and Pacific Northwest (Lelu Island) on the north coast. Increased fracking in northern B.C. will supply this industry, and the gas, after energy-intensive liquefaction, will be shipped in LNG tankers down Howe Sound and out from Lelu Island to Asian markets.

Indications are strong that the Trudeau government will also approve the Kinder Morgan/TransCanada pipeline to Vancouver, to be filled with increased bitumen extraction from the oil sands. If approved, bitumen-carrying tanker traffic to Asia out of Vancouver harbour will increase by nearly seven times.

The Trudeau government has succeeded in accomplishing what Harper tried to do for 10 long years and failed. The light between the Conservatives and the Liberals has disappeared.

These decisions make the grandstanding of the Trudeau government at the climate gathering in Paris last fall a joke and a lie.

New research states (again) that the world must NOT build any new fossil-fuel infrastructure or increase extraction if we want to avoid run-away climate change. First World countries must help developing countries deal with this reality. Retraining for those who have relied on the fossil-fuel industry for jobs must take place. Renewables must be encouraged. Investment in fossil fuels must not increase, lest that money be wasted. (See Oil Change International’s 60-page report at priceofoil.org.)

We are on track to set a dangerous and alarming new precedent: 400 parts per million of green house gases in our atmosphere for 12 months in a row, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Ridiculously, the Trudeau government is still acting as if we have a choice regarding new fossil fuel development.

Scientific facts make no difference to the Trudeau government as it presses on to prop up a dying industry desperate to save itself from the inevitable. Canadian banks, which are on the hook for enormous sums of money they lent to the industry, are surely having their say. The Trudeau government is demonstrating who really runs the show, and it’s not us. We don’t stand a chance against the Eastern Establishment.

Maybe the Trudeau Government is betting the fossil fuel projects they approve won’t actually be built due to economic conditions and coming climate change. How dare they take that risk and make disingenuous and cowardly decisions that could prove disastrous, just to please the people who did not vote for them.

The actions of the Trudeau government are shameful, hypocritical, deceitful, and in the end, harmful to us all.

The Trudeau government has shown no courage, no leadership, no vision and no attempts to move on to a future reality.

The Liberals will pay for this cynical “follow-the-money” policy at the ballot box. The rest of us will pay for it with climate change.

The Trudeau government has betrayed us completely.

Sincerely,
Jane Reid

Whistler

http://www.whistlerquestion.com/opinion/letters/the-trudeau-government-has-betrayed-us-1.2357039#sthash.MBlGxXZ3.dpuf


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Climate Activists Arrested After Blocking Railroad Tracks To Oil Refineries

Environmental protest in Anacortes, Wash. KIRO-TV_2

Environmental protest in Anacortes, Wash. KIRO-TV

By Red Power Media, Staff, May 16, 2016

52 Climate Activists Arrested After Railroad Tracks Shutdown

Authorities cleared the railroad tracks of protesters and arrested 52 climate activists Sunday morning in Washington state, after a two-day shutdown.

According to Newsmax.com, climate activists were arrested in Skagit County for trespassing on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks leading to oil refineries. The activists camped out on the tracks and one was charged with resisting arrest.

“We believe strongly that the only thing that historically and consistently brought about the kind of social change of the rapid pace that we need to confront the threat of climate change is mass disobedient movements,” said Ahmed Gaya, a BreakFreePNW organizer.

Environmental protest in Anacortes, Wash. KIRO-TV

Environmental protest in Anacortes, Wash. KIRO-TV

KING-TV reports about 2,000 protesters came together near Anacortes to try to prevent oil from being transported to the state’s refineries on land and water. Of those, 52 were arrested as authorities removed their protest campsites from tracks near Mount Vernon, which led to the refineries.

“We’ve been in communication throughout the weekend with protesters to let them know that they risked arrest for trespassing on the railroad tracks,” said Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt. “Prior to making any arrests, we did advise protesters that they could move to designated locations near March’s Point and lawfully demonstrate.”

Dozens of protesters, described as “kayaktivists,” appeared in their boats near two Skagit County oil refineries as part of the climate change protests.

“If I get arrested for my Mother Earth, then I will do it,” protester Kayah George, a member of the Tulalip Tribe, told KIRO-TV. “It is a sacrifice I have to make.”

The Associated Press reported that activists in Albany, New York targeted crude-by-rail trains and oil barges at the Port of Albany on the Hudson River for its protests on Saturday. About 40 activists tried to line up across the river in kayaks Friday to practice blocking oil barges but were broken up by police and several U.S. Coast Guard boats.

NPR says, the protest in Washington was part of a coordinated effort called Break Free 2016, which included protests and marches in Australia, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and Nigeria, among other places.

The organizers say that between May 3 and May 15, tens of thousands of people participated around the world.

Trudeau Attacked From All Sides Over Pipeline Stance

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons. Photo from PMO

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons. Photo from PMO

April 12th 2016

This article was originally published by nationalobserver.com

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government was criticized from all sides on Tuesday in response to a published news report that alleged he had instructed key officials to prepare a strategy to approve major new pipeline projects.

While opposition Conservative MPs criticized Trudeau in the House of Commons for not doing more to cheerlead for the oil and gas industry, a leading climate change scientist and several environmental groups reacted to the news with disbelief.

John Stone, a former climatologist with Environment Canada, and vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II, said that building more pipelines is scientifically incompatible with meeting Canada’s climate change commitments.

“If you build a pipeline, you’re going to fill it with tar sands that’s going to increase our emissions and that’s not going to allow us to meet our climate change commitments,” said Stone, in an interview with National Observer.

He said it was impossible to burn the fossil fuel reserves currently available and meet the government’s objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Industry woes

Canadian industry advocates have said that new pipelines are now more important than ever to help them reach new markets and compete with other producers from around the world. They say the needs are particularly pressing for Alberta’s oilsands producers, which face higher costs to extract oil compared to most of their competitors.

The industry has been hammered in recent months and some tens of thousands of workers have lost jobs in Alberta since the fall of 2014 when global oil prices began to plummet. The bad economic news continued on Tuesday with Calgary-based Cenovus, a major oilsands producer, announcing that it was eliminating 250 jobs as it completed a wave of layoffs.

But environmental groups, who have warned about the consequences of rising heat-trapping carbon pollution from the industry, say new pipelines – such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project to British Columbia and TransCanada Corp’s cross-country Energy East project – are not the solution.

“I think ultimately the thing I can’t get my head around is why they think these pipelines make any economic sense,” said Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager for Environmental Defence.

“If you look right now, there’s very little economic case for the construction of these projects.”

Coy and shy

In the Commons, Conservative MPs, led by natural resources critic Candice Bergen, attacked Trudeau for not doing more to promote more oil and gas expansion. Bergen also suggested that some of Trudeau’s advisors should not be trusted since have publicly taken strong positions that show they care about the environment.

“The people in Alberta are looking for a government that will proudly stand up for Canadian oil and gas, not act coy and shy when it becomes convenient for it,” Bergen said.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr responded in the Commons by stressing the importance of improving market access for producers and slamming the federal Conservatives for suggesting that projects should be approved without a federal review.

“The prime minister has said there is no contradiction between building wind turbines and pipelines,” Carr said. “He has said it is a principal responsibility of the government of Canada to move our natural resources to market sustainably. That is why we are following a process that will consult with Canadians and give people the chance to understand that in this day and age we develop the economy sustainably with one eye on the environment and the other on job creation. That is the way we will move forward sustainably.”

The criticism followed a column published by the National Post on Monday that reported the prime minister has ordered staff to draw up plans to push the pipelines through.

Finance minister Bill Morneau and others in cabinet convinced Trudeau that the pipelines must be built to achieve the government’s ambitious economic growth targets, John Ivison reported in the National Post.

Government won’t prejudge any project

Following a morning federal cabinet meeting, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna dismissed the National Post report, without explicitly denying it. She noted that the government had already announced new measures to improve the review process for pipeline projects, including efforts to improve consultations with all affected communities and First Nations peoples and a review all evidence.

“For the projects that are already under review, we have a process – a process where we will make decisions based on the facts and evidence. This includes pipelines,” she told reporters. “So I don’t know where this (National Post) story came from, but it’s not what our process is.”

McKenna said the government won’t prejudge any project. It understands that resources need to get to market, she said, but recognizes that this will only happen if it’s done in a sustainable manner.

“I don’t get the feeling that we have to do this fast. We have to do this with a process that respects science and evidence. And we must take the time to evaluate each project and that’s what we’ll do.”

B.C. and Quebec unlikely to support pipeline development

Last week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told the province in a televised plea for approval of Energy East that every Canadian benefits from a strong energy sector.

“But we can’t continue to support Canada’s economy unless Canada supports us. That means one thing: building a modern and carefully regulated pipeline to tidewater,” Notley said.

She also stressed that her government had introduced a comprehensive climate change plan that would introduce an economy-wide carbon tax, shut down the province’s coal power plants, and set a limit on the annual carbon pollution allowed from oilsands producers – Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We now have a balanced framework to develop our industry, and every government in Canada understands this issue must be dealt with. We must get to ’yes’ on a pipeline.”

Scott said it’s unlikely either British Columbia or Quebec would support pipeline development and the federal government would face a challenge to win their support.

“I don’t know how they’re going to get either of those governments onside when there’s overwhelming opposition to both projects in those provinces.”

From Quebec, Steven Guilbeault, co-founder of the environmental group, Equiterre, wrote on his Facebook page: “If the contents of this article are true, the Trudeau government will find an awful lot of people on his trail, and I will be one of those.”

The Quebec group, along with Toronto-based Environmental Defence and the Alberta-based Pembina Institute are co-hosting a reception, Thursday night on Parliament Hill, with McKenna, the federal environment minister.

The purpose of the reception is to “celebrate a new era of climate change in Canada” as well as a new alliance between the three environmental groups.

Public trust

Graham Saul, executive director of Ecology Ottawa said that if the allegations in the National Post column are accurate, it would “fundamentally undermine” the “sincerity of the Trudeau administration when it comes to climate change and environmental integrity.”

Saul’s non-profit group – a group opposed to TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline – sent out letters to all local Ottawa-area Liberal MPs on Tuesday, including McKenna, who represents the Ottawa Centre riding.

The letter asked the Liberal MPs to publicly deny the allegations in the National Post column to reassure Canadians that the government hadn’t already made up its mind to approve new pipelines.

“If true, this initiative brings into question the sincerity of the federal government’s statements regarding its intention to apply a meaningful climate test to fossil fuel expansion, and to ensure that the environment is adequately taken into consideration,” Saul’s letter read.

Trudeau’s government has pledged to help Canada move toward a low-carbon economy. He has also said that the country must make strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure, while continuing to “generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”

As well, Trudeau gave Carr a mandate letter last November with instructions that noted that the federal government had a “core responsibility” to help get Canadian resources to market.

“But that is only possible if we achieve the required public trust by addressing environmental, Indigenous Peoples’, and local concerns,” Trudeau told Carr in the mandate letter.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, said if Trudeau wants to be a climate leader, he can’t approve more pipelines.

“I think Trudeau has a big job ahead of him if he actually wants to act on what he’s saying, and what he has said, and what he was actually elected upon.”

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/04/12/news/trudeau-attacked-all-sides-over-pipeline-stance


Red Power Media contains copyrighted material. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair dealing” in an effort to advance a better understanding of Indigenous – political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to our followers for educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair dealing” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

Quebec City Climate-Change March Draws 25,000 People

A climate-change march drew about 25,000 people to the streets of Quebec City on April 11, 2015, as protesters try to encourage premiers to take a tougher stance on climate and pipeline regulations. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

A climate-change march drew about 25,000 people to the streets of Quebec City on April 11, 2015, as protesters try to encourage premiers to take a tougher stance on climate and pipeline regulations. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

CBC News

A climate-change march drew about 25,000 people to the streets of Quebec City on Saturday, as protesters try to encourage premiers to take a tougher stance on climate and pipeline regulations.

The march was organized by Act On Climate — a coalition of groups including environmental groups, unions, students and aboriginal groups.

It’s in preparation for a premiers’ summit on climate change which will take place on Tuesday, April 14.

The focus is a greener strategy for Canada’s provinces and territories.

About 100 buses were driven to the rally with many passengers from different parts of Quebec. Once there, they marched for about three kilometres to the National Assembly.

Protesters wore red and arranged themselves so that from the sky it looked like a bursting thermometer.

Protesters against pipelines

High on the list of demands from the group is stopping the building of new pipelines, including Keystone, Energy East, and Northern Gateway.

Serge Simon, the grand chief of Kanesatake, said Quebec environmentalists should look to British Columbia.

“You could take the example of the B.C. premier [Christy Clark]. The B.C. premier had a lot of pressure brought to them and they put these conditions that stopped Northern Gateway,” he said.

“The premier of Quebec [Philippe Couillard] can do the same thing if he stops catering to big corporate interests. I don’t see why he can’t do this.”

Saturday’s march concluded with a concert featuring Les Respectables, Yann Perreau and Sarah Harmer.

On Monday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will sign a deal with Quebec on a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions.

Canadian mounties’ secret memo casts doubt on climate change threat

 A tar sands mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta.The memo presents continued expansion of oil and gas production as an inevitability. Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

A tar sands mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta.The memo presents continued expansion of oil and gas production as an inevitability. Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian

Intelligence report identifies anti-petroleum movement as a threat to Canadian security and suggests those concerned with climate consequences occupy political fringe

The US security establishment views climate change as real and a dangerous threat to national security. But Canada takes a very different view, according to a secret intelligence memo prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The memo, stamped “Canadian eyes only”, repeatedly casts doubt on the causes of climate change – the burning of fossil fuels – and its potential threat.

The 44-page intelligence assessment of Canada’s environmental protest movement was prepared for the government of Stephen Harper, who is expected to roll out new anti-terror legislation.

In the memo, obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian, the RCMP repeatedly departs from the conclusions of an overwhelming majority of scientists – and the majority of elected leaders in the international arena – that climate change is a growing threat to global security.

Instead, the memo on the “anti-Canada petroleum movement” presents continued expansion of oil and gas production as an inevitability, and repeatedly casts doubt on the causes and consequences of climate change.

It mentions the “perceived environmental threat from the continued use of fossil fuels”. It suggests that those concerned with the consequences of climate change occupy the political fringe.

“In their literature, representatives of the movement claim that climate change is now the most serious global environmental threat and that climate change is a direct consequence of elevated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which, reportedly, are directly linked to the continued use of fossil fuels,” the memo says.

Excerpt from RCMP memo

Excerpt from RCMP memo Photograph: Guardian

It does not refer to the findings of the United Nations’ climate science panel, the IPCC, and its exhaustive reports on the causes of climate change and its consequence.

The language and tone of the RCMP memo are strikingly at odds with perceptions of climate change within the security establishment of Canada’s closest ally, the US, and with the current findings of the world’s best scientists.

Scientists have known for decades that the burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of global warming, and parts of Canada are in line for some of its gravest consequences. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

In terms of security perceptions, Barack Obama in a national security assessment earlier this month called climate change “an urgent and growing threat”.

The CIA and Pentagon both view climate change as a serious threat to international order, and factor sea-level rise, drought, and extreme weather into their future security planning.

The US military has been tasked with reducing its carbon footprint at all of its military bases and in war zones.

RCMP excerpt

RCMP excerpt Photograph: Guardian

The Globe and Mail, which was the first to report on the memo, said the tone of the RCMP memo reflects the hostility of the Harper government towards environmental activists.

The memo warns: “Violent anti-petroleum extremists will continue to engage in criminal activity to promote their anti-petroleum ideology”.

The memo also echoes the accusations of former Harper officials of foreign funding of environmental protesters.

“There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels,” the memo says.

“If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.”

The RCMP did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

RCMP excerpt

RCMP excerpt Photograph: Guardian