Connect with us

Technology

Years ago, Canada and the U.S. came together to end the acid rain threat. What changed?

Published

on


Nobody talks much about acid rain anymore.

But the one-time scourge of North American lakes and forests got a mention yesterday at the funeral of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush.

Delivering a eulogy for his old colleague and friend, former prime minister Brian Mulroney singled out Bush’s environmental record as a lasting part of his legacy.

“President Bush’s decision to go forward with strong environmental legislation, including the Clear Air Act, that resulted in the Acid Rain Accord with Canada, is a splendid gift to future generations of Americans and Canadians to savour in the air they breathe and the water they drink,” Mulroney said.

The fact that the acid rain threat has been mostly eliminated testifies to how effective Canada and the U.S. once were in responding together to a complex, shared environmental problem.

After years of prodding and lobbying, the U.S. updated its Clean Air Act in 1990. New rules cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, key elements in the creation of acid rain. The reductions were achieved in part by introducing the United States’ first national cap-and-trade system aimed at major polluters.

That was followed by Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement signed by Mulroney and Bush in Ottawa in 1991. The agreement was aimed at reducing pollution on both sides of the border that caused acid rain.

And it worked. “It was, by and large, a success,” said John Smol, a professor in the Department of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen’s University.

“I’m not saying acid rain is now completely no longer a problem. But (the agreement) actually did make major changes to the environment. And, in many ways, it’s a good example of how you can actually do this type of legislation, not devastate the economy, and help the environment.”

Climate change

Nearly three decades after Canada and the U.S. agreed to address the problem, Smol said, Canadian lakes are still in the process of recovering from acid rain.

“I think we caught it in time. With many environmental problems, if you wait too long you can’t go back,” he said.

Looking back on the fight against acid rain, Smol said he can now see it as a practice run for the much more daunting battle against climate change.

“Climate change is much more complicated and the consequences are far worse,” he said.

The comparison between the two environmental threats only goes so far, however. While acid rain was a relatively straightforward cross-border matter, climate change requires global action. And while acid rain was curtailed by reducing certain emissions, slowing down climate change likely will require much more: a complete phase-out of fossil fuel use.

Pulling out of Paris, reviving coal

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, said he still believes there are important similarities that give him hope for progress on climate change.

“Acid rain was, relative to climate change, easier to solve,” he said. “But the key lesson from acid rain, I think, was when we stopped listening to industry lobbyists telling us this would destroy the economy.”

Stewart acknowledges one major difference between the fight against acid rain and the fight against climate change. The political climate in the United States has shifted dramatically since the days of the first President Bush — and the current White House tenant is much less interested in environmental causes.

President Donald Trump announced last year he was pulling his country out of the Paris climate accord. He also has actively campaigned to bring America’s coal industry back to life — the industry ultimately responsible for the emissions that contributed to acid rain in the 1980s.

Stewart calls Trump “a genuine problem” but said there’s still at least one good reason for hope:

“Donald Trump is keen on reviving the coal industry, trying to burn more coal. The silver lining is that he has proven remarkably incompetent at doing this, largely because the economics are against him.”

While Stewart questions the late president’s overall environmental record, he says there can be no doubt on this issue he was a success.

“On acid rain, he proved that conservatives can take environmental issues seriously and be part of that solution. And I think that’s something conservatives in Canada need to learn.”
 



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Technology

Millions of Facebook users may have had their photos exposed due to privacy flaw

Published

on

By


Facebook’s privacy controls have broken down yet again, this time through a software flaw affecting nearly seven million users who had photos exposed to a much wider audience than intended.

The bug disclosed Friday gave hundreds of apps unauthorized access to photos that could in theory include images that would embarrass some of the affected users. They also included photos people may have uploaded but hadn’t yet posted, perhaps because they had changed their mind.

It’s not yet known whether anyone actually saw the photos, but the revelation of the now-fixed problem served as another reminder of just how much data Facebook has on its 2.27 billion users, as well has how frequently these slip-ups are recurring.

The bug is the latest in a series of privacy lapses that continue to crop up, despite Facebook’s repeated pledges to batten down its hatches and do a better job preventing unauthorized access to the pictures, thoughts and other personal information its users intend so share only with friends and family.

In general, when people grant permission for a third-party app to access their photos, they are sharing all the photos on their Facebook page, regardless of privacy settings meant to limit a photo to small circles such as family. The bug potentially gave developers access to even more photos, such as those shared on separate Marketplace and Facebook Stories features, as well as photos that weren’t actually posted.

Facebook said the users’ photos may have been exposed for 12 days in September. The company said the bug has been fixed.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, in San Jose, Calif., in May. Friday’s bug is the latest in a series of privacy lapses that continue to crop up. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

The company declined to say how many of the affected users are from Europe, where stricter privacy laws took effect in May and could subject companies to fines. Facebook said it has notified the Irish Data Protection Commission of the breach.

The problem comes in a year fraught with privacy scandals and other problems for the world’s biggest social network.

Revelations that the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data from as many as 87 million users led to U.S. congressional hearings and changes in what sorts of data Facebook lets outside developers access. In June, a bug affecting privacy settings led some users to post publicly by default regardless of their previous settings. This bug affected as many as 14 million users over several days in May.

With each breakdown, Facebook risks losing credibility with both its audience and the advertisers whose spending generates most of the company’s revenue.

“It’s like they keep getting these chinks in the armour that is causing this trust deficit,” said Michael Priem, CEO of Modern Impact, which places ads for a variety of major brands.

User base strong despite issues

Although Facebook doesn’t appear to be losing a lot of users, Priem said some advertisers have been seeing data indicating that people are spending less time on the social network. That’s raising concerns about whether the privacy breakdowns and problems with misinformation being spread on the services are taking a toll.

But it’s difficult to know how much Facebook’s recent wave of headaches has been affecting the service because its growth, particularly among younger people, had been slowing even before the problems began to crop up, said Nate Elliott, an analyst with the research firm Nineteen Insights.

Advertisers are unlikely to curtail their spending significantly as long as Facebook is able to maintain the current size of its audience, Elliott said. So far there has been little evidence a significant percentage of the users are worried enough about privacy to get off the service.

“Even if people don’t trust Facebook, as long as the value that the service provides is worth more than the cost of the privacy violations, then that may be a trade-off most people are willing to make,” Elliott said.

On Thursday, to counter the bad rap it’s gotten around privacy, Facebook hosted a one-day “pop-up” to talk to users about their settings and whatever else may be on their mind. Chief privacy officer Erin Egan gave Facebook’s work on privacy a “B” when asked by a reporter for a grade. By 2019, she said she hopes the improvements will result in an “A.”

Privacy experts might call it grade inflation. In any case, the company has its work cut out before it makes the top grade. The company has had to increase how much it spends on privacy and security, which put a dent in its bottom line and in August contributed to a stock price plunge .



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Technology

UN climate talks extended as island countries demand action

Published

on

By


Weary officials from almost 200 countries faced another day of negotiations at United Nations climate talks to bridge their last remaining differences as small island countries on Friday demanded an ambitious stance against global warming.

The talks in Poland were supposed to end Friday but Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the negotiations, told delegates they would resume talks on a revised draft text at 4 a.m. Saturday.

“All parties, with the support of the presidency, are working very hard right now in order to solve outstanding issues and in order to find the balanced package here in Katowice,” Kurtyka told reporters.

After two weeks of talks in the southern Polish city, diplomats have come closer to agreeing on the rules that govern the 2015 Paris climate accord. These include how countries should transparently report both their greenhouse gases emissions and their efforts to reduce them.

Scientists say global emissions need to drop dramatically by 2030 and reach near-zero by 2050 in order to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences for life on Earth.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 C higher by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times. That’s the lower end of the 1.5 to 2 C scale mentioned in the Paris accord.

But this would require a drastic overhaul of the global economy, including ending the use of almost all fossil fuels.

The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have refused to “welcome” the IPCC report, angering other countries and environmentalists.

Emerging, industrialized economies clash

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed warned that countries such as his, which consider themselves on the front lines of global warming, would veto the current draft because it lacks a clear commitment to the 1.5 C target.

“If necessary, we will rebel against the negotiations,” Nasheed told reporters.

Another issue haunting negotiators is the rules for an international market in carbon credits.

Participants take part in a plenary session, during what was supposed to be the final day of the climate conference. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

The clash pits emerging economies such as Brazil — which amassed large piles of carbon credits under the 1997 Kyoto treaty’s rules — against industrial countries such as those in the European Union, which believe the older credits aren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

Economists believe a functioning carbon trading system could be an effective way to drive down emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.

Alex Hanafi, lead counsel at the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, said Brazil was trying to weaken the rules in such a way that would allow countries to count their emissions reductions twice, undermining the carbon markets.

“This loophole needs to be closed so zombie credits from the old [Kyoto] Clean Development Mechanism cannot infect the climate integrity of the Paris Agreement,” he said.

Brazil’s delegation rejected the claim.

“Brazil is currently working with other parties on a bridging proposal,” said the country’s chief negotiator, Antonio Marcondes.

Trump defends pulling out of Paris accord

Aid for poor countries — and whether they could benefit from a levy on the carbon market — is another key issue at the talks.

Poor countries insist they should get financial support not just to lower emissions and adapt to climate change, but also to make up for the global warming damages that have already occurred, largely because of emissions from industrial nations.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday waded into the debate over the costs of tackling climate change, telling Fox News that if he had remained in the Paris climate accord the U.S. “would be paying trillions of dollars, trillions of dollars for nothing, and I wouldn’t do that.”

Trump announced last year that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris climate accord unless he can get a better deal — a possibility that others such as the EU and China have dismissed.

Germany’s environment minister said the failure to curb climate change would cost the world a lot more than the trillions Trump claims that he’s saving.

A group of participants leaves before the end of the final session of the summit on Friday. The Katowice summit is the biggest UN climate conference since the Paris climate accord was reached in 2015. (Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press)

“If we let entire stretches of this planet become uninhabitable, then it will trigger gigantic costs,” Schulze told reporters, adding that developing technology to lower emissions would give Germany a competitive economic advantage.

With climate delegates hoping to clinch a deal on Saturday, they were able to agree on one thing Friday: that next year’s climate talks will be held in Chile.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Technology

Webcams and wearable tech are going to the dogs, literally

Published

on

By


Canadians will spend an average of $65 on their pets this holiday season, according to accounting firm PwC’s holiday outlook.

Some of the hottest gifts are new devices to help us monitor and better understand our pets when we aren’t home.

The Furbo is a dog camera that holds treats inside and allows the user to see their pet, speak to them and hit a button to release a treat, all from a smartphone.

It’s just one of many similar tech products available for pets.

CleverPet is designed to activate a dog’s mind and keep them busy throughout the day. The device sits on the floor and offers sequence and memory games using lights and sounds to stimulate their brains.

There are also tracking devices that attach to collars like Findster Duo+, a tiny, smart wearable device to monitor a pet’s location, and how much they’re moving or resting, in real time on a smartphone.

Customer worries new tech would confuse her pet

Jessi Grigor owns a dog and two cats in Toronto. She’s thinking about buying a device to observe them when nobody’s home.

“My partner was actually talking about getting the Furbo for Christmas,” said Grigor. “He’s into it; I’m still trying to decide whether it’s worth it or not.”

Though she’s intrigued, she worries about how her dog, Indy, might respond.

Jessi Grigor, with her dog Indy, is weighing the pros and cons of purchasing a dog camera. (Jason Osler/CBC)

“I like the technology. I like that we can give her treats. I like that we can see what she’s up to,” said Grigor. “[But] I feel like she would be very confused, personally. I think if she heard our voice, [she] couldn’t understand that we’re not there.”

Grigor says she wants to do some more research before spending the money on a web camera that dispenses treats.

“I think I still need to read more reviews and kind of get a better idea of what the experience is like,” said Grigor. “I think the way companies market things, they can sound perfect but, in theory, is it actually what it says it’s going to be?”

Tech can help identify issues of separation anxiety

Rebecca Ledger is an animal behaviour and welfare scientist in Vancouver who uses some of the technology professionally.

“I like using these webcams, because it really does give us a very independent look into what dogs are actually doing when they’re on their own,” said Ledger. “It helps us to implement treatment protocols for those dogs, as well.”

Treatment could address issues like separation anxiety a pet might experience when their owner is away from the home.

Rebecca Ledger lives in Vancouver with her husband, three children, two rescue cats, Gilly and Sisko, and her English springer spaniels, Pippa and Poppy. (Rebecca Ledger/Twitter)

“There’s a lot of stories of people who, until they got these products, had no idea how distressed their animals were when they were left on their own,” said Ledger.

Still, she cautions consumers to approach these products with a critical eye.

“I obviously see some value in knowing what our pets are doing when they’re by themselves, but these devices aren’t panaceas.”

‘Potential for your pet to become more anxious or frustrated’

Ledger is concerned that acquiring too much information about our pets could lead us to make assumptions about how they feel.

“We have to look at the whole animal — look at the whole context of what these devices are recording,” said Ledger. “And not necessarily assuming, that just because we observe these very key behaviours, that our dogs are suffering and need some kind of device.”

Ledger says it’s best to take the information acquired from a device to a veterinarian who is trained to diagnose a problem.

And most of all, she says to remember the tech may or may not appeal to all pets.

“If you are thinking of getting one of these devices, just bear in mind that it’s not that there’s something wrong with your pet if it isn’t for your pet,” said Ledger. “Know that there is the potential for your pet to become more anxious or frustrated as a result of being able to hear you, but not interact with you in any other way.”

Still, consumers appear to be lapping up the latest pet tech trends. Global market research company Technavio says the pet monitoring camera market will grow by 26 per cent annually over the next few years.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending