The National Today

Canada among worst offenders as world falls short of climate-change targets

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: scientists point finger at Canada as world falls short of climate-change targets; can Jack Dorsey's wish help fix Twitter; As It Happens co-host Carol Off reflects on the show's 50 years on the air.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia were judged the worst performers in a report by Climate Transparency when it comes to limiting emissions, but the group's report card for Canada is hardly better, citing the absence of 'ambitious renewable energy targets and policies.' (Miguel VillagranGetty Images)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • Scientists say Canada is one of the worst offenders as the world falls short of its greenhouse-gas emission reduction targets.
  • It's tough to live on a Canadian author's average salary, and things are only getting worse.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is calling for people to ignore the number of followers they have and pay more attention to other indicators of social "success," but will it help solve social media's deep-rooted problems?
  • Carol Off, co-host of CBC Radio's As It Happens, reflects on what drew her to the show as it celebrates 50 years on the air.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.


Climate change

The world is falling dangerously short of its global warming reduction targets and Canada is among the worst offenders, say scientists.

A new study published today in the journal Nature Communications finds that current emission reduction efforts in Canada, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia would result in a 5.1 C warming of the planet by the end of this century, if all other nations set similarly unambitious targets.

The paper, by two Australian climate researchers, tries to reconcile the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5-to-2 C by 2100, with what it terms the "self-interested bottom-up" approach being taken by individual nations.

The city of Toronto skyline is framed by power lines, smoke stacks and storage tanks. The emission levels of Canada's buildings, transportation and agriculture are all well above the G20 average. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Looking at emission targets through the lens of equity or fairness, the authors find that all industrialized nations, and particularly major oil exporters, are radically downplaying their role and responsibility in climate change, with India the only such country close to being on track to meet the 2 C target.

Australia, the United States and Brazil are all pursuing policies that will push the planet towards a 4 C temperature rise, while most European nations are producing emissions that would warm the planet by 3 C.

The gap between government pledges and their actual measures is now so wide, that the authors say warming targets should be set to "aspirational levels" of 1.1-to-1.3 C to compensate for all the fudging.

The findings echo another report released yesterday by the group Climate Transparency, which says that no G20 nation is on track to come anywhere near their 2030 Paris Agreement targets. These large economies, which are responsible for 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, are instead steering the world towards at least a 3.2 C temperature rise.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia were judged the worst performers — on track for emissions that would contribute to more than 4 C warming.

But the group's report card for Canada is hardly better, citing the absence of "ambitious renewable energy targets and policies." It says Canada's emissions level would contribute to global warming of between 3 C and 4 C if the rest of the world behaved similarly.

The emission intensity of Canada's buildings, transportation and agriculture are all well above the G20 average, and overall the country produces almost three times more greenhouse gas per capita than the average bloc member.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks prior to signing the Paris Agreement For Climate Change at the United Nations on April 22, 2016, in New York City. (Jemal CountessGetty Images)

All of this comes a little over a month after a dire warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the planet is warming even faster than projected, with the 1.5 C threshold likely to be surpassed as early as 2030, greatly increasing the risk of devastating droughts, wildfires, floods and food shortages.

For those who wonder what global warming's concrete consequences might be, the European Union's Joint Research Centre has released its own study on the human and economic consequences of a 2 C shift.

The report predicts an additional 132,000 heat-related deaths across Europe every year, as well as widespread water shortages in southern regions and a potential doubling of the continent's arid climate zone. On the flip side, northern nations are expected to experience much more rain, with flood damage anticipated to rise from 5.3 billion Euro a year to 17.5 billion.

Canada was slammed in a new report for failing to set aggressive renewable energy policies. ( Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

If there is any bright spot, it comes in the form of an embarrassing math error.

Late last month, a group of oceanographers published a paper in the journal Nature that applied a novel new method to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It came to the conclusion that the world's seas were absorbing 60 per cent more heat than had been estimated, suggesting it might already be too late to halt global warming.

But another researcher pointed out a fundamental error in their calculations, and they are now working up a correction. The new calculations are expected to show that the oceans are warming at a rate closer to what the IPCC had already determined.

The fact that it was a climate science critic who discovered the mistake won't make it any easier to persuade deniers that the Earth is indeed in imminent danger.

However, it does mean that the emission reduction targets won't have to be radically revised upwards, placing an as-yet-unattained goal even further out of reach.


Writing for passion, but seldom big profit

It's tough to live on a Canadian author's average salary, and things are only getting worse, writes reporter Deana Sumanac-Johnson.

The tale of an impoverished writer, pouring coffee or scrubbing floors to make ends meet, is one of the most pervasive stereotypes of the literary world.

The story generally has the same, triumphant ending: a single mom on welfare writes the story of a boy wizard that wins over readers around the world (J.K. Rowling), or a loner who works as a janitor writes a scary novel about a bullied teenage girl with telekinetic powers and becomes one of the most popular writers in the world (Stephen King).

Now, imagine if J.K. Rowling was still in need of financial assistance three Harry Potters in.

That seems to be the reality for many mid-career Canadian writers — and that includes successful ones who've won major prizes and scored deals with major publishers, but still need a full-time job to survive.

Stories like this are nuanced and complex, but they are important to tell, partially because they hit upon one of the great taboos among artists: talking about money.

Charles Foran, for example, whose 11 books earned him the Order of Canada, until recently supported himself through a full-time job that had nothing to do with writing.

Charles Foran is the Toronto-based author of several books, including Mordecai, an award-winning biography of Mordecai Richler. (James Lahey)

Two years ago, he wrote an essay in which he outlined his tough financial situation (making about $20,000 a year from his writing), despite having written a popular and award-winning biography of Mordecai Richler. The essay was the talk of the town among writers.

"These were conversations that were being had in private, over inexpensive alcohol, in less-than-fancy bars, but they're not generally had on the page. So I thought, it's time to sort of be a grown up here about this, and speak frankly," Foran told me in an interview.

Our piece on The National tonight looks at why Canadian writers are poorer now than they've been in the past (spoiler alert: e-books have little to do with it, but educational copying does).

We also look at why a healthy literary culture, comprised of writers from all walks of life, is essential to all Canadians — not just to the tuxedoed set you see at the literary award galas. (P.S.: Most of those tuxes are borrowed anyway...)

  • WATCH: Deana Sumanac-Johnson's story tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online


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A more meaningful Twitter?

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is calling for people to ignore the number of followers they have and pay more attention to other indicators of social "success." Tonight's Pop Panel will focus on whether it will do anything to fix the social media giant's problems, producer Tarannum Kamlani writes.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was on a charm offensive in India this week, meeting with all kinds of people, including the Prime Minister and Bollywood super-mega-star Shah Rukh Khan.  

During a fireside chat in New Delhi on Monday, Dorsey appeared to express regret for a feature that arguably made Twitter into a social media juggernaut: the follower count.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 12. (Anushree Fadnavi/Reuters)

According to Slashdot.org, Dorsey explained that it seemed like a great idea when he and Twitter's fellow co-founders were starting out — list your number of followers and have it stand out by making the type a bit bigger than the rest of the text on the page: "We did not really think much about it and moved on to the next problem to solve. What that has done is we put all the emphasis, not intending to, on that number of how many people follow me. So if that number is big and bold, what do people want to do with it? They want to make it go up."

Dorsey added that rather than focusing on followers, he thinks the more important numbers are things like how many "meaningful conversations you're having on the platform. How many times do you receive a reply?"

The comments seemed to echo some unsolicited advice he got a couple of months ago from none other than Kanye West, who called out Dorsey, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and others over the way their platforms play up follower counts:

Is Twitter's slide into a never-ending game of building a bigger list of followers — by any means necessary — responsible for its reputation as a forum for harassment, public shaming and fake news?

Can social media really ever be a place for "meaningful conversations" — particularly Twitter,with its 140- to 280-character limits?

Our Pop Panelists this week will hash it all out, along with a look at Forky (the newest character in the the Toy Story franchise, a spork dealing with an existential crisis), and a tribute to the late Stan Lee.

Andrew Chang hosts the Pop Panel this week. Joining him in The National's studio are Donnovan Bennett, host and writer at Sportsnet, as well as freelance writer and digital strategist Bee Quammie, and Chatelaine senior writer Sarah Boesveld.  

I hope you'll join us!

- Tarannum Kamlani

  • WATCH: The Pop Panel tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

As It Happens turns 50

Carol Off, co-host of CBC Radio's As It Happens, reflects on what drew her to the show as it celebrates 50 years on the air.

A half-century ago, a quirky national radio program hit the airwaves with the premise of being a call-out show instead of a call-in one.

Over five decades, its producers have dialled or punched the phone numbers of tens of thousands of people, persuading them to come on the air to tell their stories.

Barbara Frum, left, and the As It Happens staff at CBC's Jarvis Street studios in Toronto in 1984. (CBC)

As It Happens  quickly became a must-listen-to show that entertained and enlightened Canadians while they cooked dinner, washed the dishes and got kids ready for bed. It was the show that kept people sitting in the driveway, unable to leave the car during a story of woe or wonder; a story that made you cry our howl with laughter; a story you knew everyone would be talking about the next day.

For many, the iconic theme music was the sound in your house as dad got home from work or as you got in the car to go to hockey practice. Or the sound that meant your mom would soon tell you to shush so she could hear a voice coming from South Africa or Berlin, El Salvador or Saskatoon.

That theme became the sound their own kids and grandkids heard.

It was, and is, the sound of Canada.

I first came across As It Happens when I was a student, listening to AM radio, bored with pop music and looking for something else. As I spun the dial (yes, we had dials back then), I came across something I had never heard before: The voice of a woman talking to people in such a captivating way.

She was asking hard questions of politicians, funny questions of cabbage farmers, skeptical questions of people in power. She was cheeky and irreverent and her name was Barbara Frum.

She had a sidekick, some man with a droll voice and a refined sense of irony — Alan Maitland.

From then on, I was hooked.

As It Happens co-host Carol Off goes over some notes for a show in her office at CBC in Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

If someone had told me then that one day I would go to live on Mars, I would have shrugged and said, "Entirely plausible." But if someone had told me I would one day sit in the place of that woman and ask those hard, amused, skeptical questions, I would have said "You're out of your mind."

Over the past 12 years of co-hosting the show, with Jeff Douglas doing an admirable job in the role of Alan Maitland, I have thought about Barbara a lot. I met her only once, when she was host of The Journal. But when I'm stumped for how to proceed with an interview, I ask myself, what would Barbara do now?

I channel my inner Frum. And know that I will happily never live on Mars.

  • WATCH: The story of As It Happens' 50-year celebration tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online


A few words on ... 

Michael Jackson's young Alberta heir.


Quote of the moment

"I think there's a lesson we learn about just following through with what you said you're going to do."

- Dana Meise of Sherwood Park, Alta., on his 10-year project to hike all 21,000 kilometres of the Trans Canada trail, which he completed in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT this week.  

The final leg of Dana Meise's journey was tough. He suffered frostbite, took a nasty fall and his tent was shredded by ravens. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

What The National is reading

  • Death toll reaches 63 in California fires, with 630 still missing (CBC)
  • U.S. preparing indictment against Wikileaks' Julian Assange (BBC)
  • North Korea touts new 'ultramodern tactical weapon' (CBC)
  • Israel's Netanyahu takes over defence job as coalition falters (Reuters)
  • 7 UN peacekeepers killed in fight against rebels in DRC Ebola zone (Al Jazeera)
  • Anatomy of a mass-shooting conspiracy theory (Politico)
  • Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon (CBC)
  • Moonshine apparatus explodes in apartment, injuring 3 (Moscow Times)

Today in history

Nov. 16, 1993: Glendon's giant perogy

How do you put a small Alberta town on the map? With an 8-metre-high steel-and-fiberglass perogy, of course. Johnnie Doonanco, the local mayor and school bus driver, came up with the idea (and an accompanying dumpling-themed parody song that he won't stop singing in this On the Road Again clip). The only problem was that no-one knew what the giant white lump was supposed to be — until he added a fork.

The mayor of Glendon, Alta. took a symbol of the town's Ukrainian heritage, and stuck a fork in it. 6:11

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.