U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership

| March 11, 2016 | Leave a Comment

On March 10, 2016 US President Barack Obama and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put forth a joint statement on climate, energy, and arctic leadership. Included in the statement were support for the COP 21 Paris agreement, recognition of the Arctic communities on the front-lines of a rapidly changing environment, and a call for regulating existing sources of methane emissions —a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to local air pollution— in the coal and gas sector.

You can find the full statement here.


What is your reaction to President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau’s joint statement? What issues were you happy to see raised? Which do you think were lacking in the statement? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Thank you for your comment, MAHB Admin; and for your query. The primary obstacle here is politics itself, which relies on the expectation of constituencies. Because some of the latest good polling suggests that no more than 2% of the U.S. population enjoys a vegetarian or vegan diet (Asher, Kathryn (1 Dec 2014). “Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans” (PDF). https://faunalytics.org. https://faunalytics.org, Retrieved March 15, 2016), with said dietary preferences suffering from retention loss – a subject little discussed in the non-animal consumption literature – that would indicate that some 315 million Americans are eating animal flesh. Of those, approximately 24% are under 18 and cannot vote. (http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00. Accessed March 15, 2016) so that leaves, we may assume, a correlated figure of some 231 million eligible voters, 57.5% of whom voted in the 2012 elections (minus the population growth/statistical regression in the last 4 years). So, from a politician’s perspective far more than half of her/his supporters are going to vote, and fewer than 2% of them are vegetarian or vegan. Hence, the obvious absence of strong motivation to take on the far easier status quo, in terms of what has been characterized in the prevailing mindset of American (and global cultures) as a fringe or significantly marginalized diet, with the exception, in India, where approximately 110 million people, or more than 10% of that nation’s population, are allegedly vegetarian or vegan.

    When we made the film “Mad Cowboy” for American public broadcasting, we discovered that at that time, 2004, there was exactly one member of Congress who was vegetarian and very concerned about TSE’s (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies), and of course aware of the fact a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into prions had been awarded in 1997. Nonetheless, even in Great Britain (primarily the region of Cumbria, in 2001) within six weeks of the terrible fall-out resulting from the major outbreak of the epizootic hoof-and-mouth disease, the general public had calmed down, and the market for meat consumption began to re-stabilize. How quickly people forget.

    So would sitting down with a President to have a frank discussion about environmental ethics, biodiversity preservation, and the critical need for putting an urgent spotlight on animal consumption make a difference? It would certainly help. But the list of known vegetarian/vegan politicians in the United States is pathetically short. (http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?catId=1&pageId=2568) Clearly this places the onus on other communication modalities to exert the massive cultural suasion needed among the grass roots and populist abyss to ameliorate the vast holocausts of suffering our species continues to mete out. Nor does it help when candidates for high office espouse the 2nd Amendment as if it were the Gospel.

  • Thank you all for sharing your perspectives and linking to those resources.

    The limitation of the proposed methane regulations to the coal and gas sector definitely had me asking “what about animal agriculture’s contribution?”. Even when the EPA does raise reducing methane emissions from animal agriculture, the prospect of scaling back animal agriculture itself if not proposed. “Methane Emissions, Climate Change”.

    Reducing methane emissions is only one of the many reasons to move away from animal agriculture that you all have provided –to which I would add potential human health benefits– but it could provide an entry point, and be as David Wagner stated “politically useful, I think, in de-polemicizing such a polemic issue.”

    I agree that a cultural shift is desperately needed. I would love to hear your thoughts on how that can be accelerated. I also have a few questions more on the political side of things: How can we get the detrimental effects of animal agriculture included in political conversations? What barriers exist and how can concerned citizens either break them down or work around them? Is there one, or two, effects that can be used to open the door?

    Thank you again for sharing your perspectives.

  • Mark Causey

    I must agree with Michael Tobias here. As important as it is to rein in the gas and oil sectors, by the most conservative estimate [the UN FAO Report Michael cites] animal agriculture is a major–although rarely addressed–contributor of methane emissions at 18% (already more than the entire transportation sector). The World Bank and World Watch Institute climate scientists, the late Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, were critical of the FAO Report and place that percentage at closer to 51% making animal agriculture the single largest contributor [http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294]. Even conservatively splitting the difference, we can easily see that animal agriculture is a major factor here that no one seems to want to address–not even most of the environmental protection groups [http://www.cowspiracy.com/].

    I am glad to hear of the commitment in the joint statement to indigenous rights and to biodiversity. We also know, however, that animal agriculture is one of the main factors in deforestation and desertification which is driving indigenous communities off their lands and is destroying biodiversity as well.

    I see this as a fundamental environmental justice issue, both in terms of justice for the animals themselves and justice for the rest of us animals who are so adversely affected [the poor more than any other group] by our species’ seemingly insatiable appetite for animal flesh and secretions. There is no justice in allowing a single species who has arrived so late on the scene to despoil the environment and take so greedily that it forecloses the chance for myriad other beings to even survive.

    Mark Causey

    • Mark, yes indeed the numbers have most certainly risen dramatically since that FAO report and I am glad you cited the link. Our species, as you point out, are newcomers, and not very good at fulfilling the mandate and the opportunity life has vested in us. Hopefully there is still time for us to figure it out and start behaving like a rational and virtuous collective.

  • In my opinion, if the U.S. and Canada want to save the Arctic, not only must both countries help ensure that this EarthDay, April 22, all the signatories to COP21 own up to their pledges in Paris and actually sign the document, but those same countries must pledge to phase out the killing of animals throughout the myriad labyrinths of their agribusiness styles of ecocide.

    As early as 2006 the popular press [for example: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissions-more-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html%5D had reviewed the 400-page FAO document, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” which implicated cow eructation as contributing 18% of all climate change. Those numbers since then have increased as the human population’s ever growing rapacious appetite for dead animals continues to wreak havoc on the environment (just in the Huff Post, there are have been at least six articles about “cow burps”). Killing animals for food injects a much heftier load of GHG damage to the global environment than automobiles, for example.

    It is my deeply held opinion and conviction, that if the admirable goals of the U.S. and Canadian administrations working together on their various Arctic models of protection are to succeed, they need to add deeply-weighed considerations of all the scientific data that has unambiguously come forth in support of phasing out Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations, the “growing” of vertebrates (especially members of the Bovidae family – whether in corporate or family farm so called “free range” operations) and the subsequent supply chains of corpses fueling the heating up of Earth.

    Aspirations to the increase of habitat protection – terrestrial and marine – are indeed admirable and long-overdue and I assuredly applaud the respective US and Canadian governments’ initiatives. This will slow down the Anthropogenic effects on Arctic wildlife and the deleterious impacts upon ecosystems and the peoples of the First Nations who depend on such biomes, to be sure.

    But unless multi-national agribusiness is invited to participate in global warming mitigation at fundamental levels – viewing the reduction in the killing of animals as a great opportunity for the amelioration of suffering, but also as an economic incentive for backing R&D into benign alternative meat production [artificial meat, research for which has been thus far funded by NASA, PETA and even a co-founder of Alphabet] and promises eventual windfalls in commercialization) – we will not solve the problem of climate change.

    Big Farma must come to view the senseless slaughter of some 50 billion+ terrestrial vertebrates (not to mention nearly 2 trillion wild and farmed riparian and marine vertebrates and invertebrates annually) with the same zeal and understanding in terms of economic theories and opportunities and the final blow to the obsolete “broken window fallacy” (Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 essay Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas [(That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen)] as investment in alternative energy by a multitude of global partners in those sectors have come to recognize such profound changes in the way corporations think and feel and operate. Since they already enjoy the legal benefits in many countries of “corporate personhood” then let them and their shareholders start “feeling” like real persons. Let then be imaginative, creative, and serve as true stewards for their children and grandchildren.

    We cannot save the planet by killing her ecological citizens – wild and domestic life (who are the same -emotionally, spiritually and physically). And, as Ms. Ingrid Newkrik has eloquently declared for decades: They are Us.

    This cultural and corporate shift is inevitable, just like the “Square-Cube Law” of expansive mitigation, in this instance. Until such time as we culturally embrace non-violence against other animals, we cannot possibly succeed at anything serious, substantive, virtuous or long-lasting. If the status quo prevails amid our agricultural extractive modalities, this and future generations will view our alleged commitment to saving the earth from climate change as sheer hypocrisy compounded by our blind-spots concerning other fellow denizens of Earth; and we will but continue to flood the atmosphere with methane, the most aggressive of all known GHGs, and one with the most potentially damaging synergistic biochemical effects.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Beautifully stated. It must become a cultural meme that responsible parents raise children to love animals and value nature.

    • David Wagner

      Michael – Your essay makes me think of the USDA Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, and the contradiction therein. Can slaughter be humane? But you take the argument much further, by citing the environmental implications of livestock slaughter which are often overlooked, and politically useful, I think, in de-polemicizing such a polemic issue.

      • David, quite right: the HMLSA is an insult to our humanity. The implications of any government sanctioning vast holocausts that go on 24/7 is unimaginable. And since we are all voters, we can only watch with degrees of true horror as our well intended votes get tossed into the winds and quagmires of political infernos – in which all political parties are complicit. These holocausts never come up for public vote or significant discussion. They are fabricated on the premise that civilization hinges upon mass murder for food. There are no political preconditions for changing this situation, other than those community-based vegetarian cultures that have brilliantly chosen on ethical grounds to expunge from the record of their own histories such practices. And it should be pointed out, in my opinion, that candidates for any elected office who go around touting the benefits of hunting and of guns are unwittingly adding fuel to the tragic paradox of all those democracies -trapped in delusional 2nd Amendment psychobabble – that consider themselves somehow enlightened.

        • Mark Causey

          Social psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy has a great take on the psychology behind our carnistic culture. Her book is “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.” You can find her TED talk and presentation at http://www.carnism.org.