The May 2021 global surface temperature was 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F). This value tied with 2018 as the sixth warmest May in the 142-year record. May 2021 was also the 45th consecutive May and the 437th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.

Global Climate Report – May 2021 NOAA
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Ottawa to conduct environmental reviews of new coal projects that could release selenium

The contaminant, common in coal-bearing rocks, is toxic to fish in large doses

The federal government will step in to conduct an environmental review of any new coal project that could possibly release the contaminant selenium.

The decision, announced Wednesday, will capture any proposals that emerge from the eight steelmaking coal exploration projects in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain foothills, said Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

“For those projects that do have the potential to release selenium into waterbodies, I will be designating all such projects going forward for a federal review and assessment,” he said.

“I think most Albertans would expect an issue like selenium and its impacts on watercourses and fish to be assessed.”

Alberta’s coal controversy

Coal mining has been controversial in Alberta for more than a year, since the province’s United Conservative government revoked a 1976 policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mines.

Several First Nations, as well as municipalities and many Albertans, have asked the federal minister to step in.

Environmental groups consider federal reviews to be more rigorous than their provincial counterparts and offer more chances for public input.

Selenium is common in coal-bearing rocks and is found throughout Alberta’s coal beds.

In large doses it is toxic to fish and is difficult to manage once it gets into groundwater. It has caused major problems in British Columbia’s Elk Valley.

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As Canada’s cities race against climate change, the urgency of finding solutions intensifies

Over the last six months, Canada’s National Observer has been looking into what’s working and what’s failing in cities across Canada as they rise to the challenge of tackling climate change. In a 13-part series, we will be taking you across the country, province by province, for a look at how cities are meeting the climate emergency with sustainable solutions.

As a species, we are facing an unprecedented crisis. I’ve spent the last 20 years tackling climate change within Chicago and Vancouver city governments and I know change is already upon us. To reduce global warming, cities have become leaders in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. They are on the front lines dealing with floods, heat waves, extreme storms and rising seas, and must be ready for the changes that are coming. The lives of their residents rely on it.

Since the 1980s, we have recognized human activity is changing the climate. In 2015, national governments around the globe reached the Paris Agreement, which set the target of reducing carbon pollution to ensure we don’t increase temperatures on the planet by more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrialization levels. We are already at 1.2 degrees C. Unfortunately, with the pledges made under the agreement, we are on track for about 2.8 degrees C by the end of the century.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states: “Without increased and urgent mitigation ambition in the coming years, leading to a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, global warming will surpass 1.5 C in the following decades, leading to irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies.”

There is scientific consensus that we need to limit temperature increases by 1.5 degrees C. Based on a 2018 IPCC report, keeping below a 1.5 C increase in temperature will require a 50 per cent reduction in our climate pollution by 2030 and getting to near-zero emissions by 2050.

Recently, our prime minister joined the U.S. president to announce the two countries would work together to tackle climate change. The national commitment is critical, but without harnessing, empowering and supporting local communities, it won’t bear fruit.

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The world’s most powerful defence alliance agreed on Monday to step up efforts to tackle climate change for the first time.

Nato – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – said its members have pledged to “significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from military activities” in a way that does not impact personnel safety or the effectiveness of their operations.

In a statement released after a summit in Brussels, the group also asked the organisation’s leader to develop a realistic, ambitious and concrete target for reducing Nato emissions and to assess the feasibility of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The statement described climate change as “one of the defining challenges of our times”. It said Nato wanted to be a leading international force in understanding and adapting to the ways climate change will impact world security.

How much do Nato allies pollute?

Nato is a powerful political and military alliance between 30 European and North American countries.

It is no secret that militaries use arsenals of gas-guzzling equipment – like armoured vehicles and aircraft – which are sometimes hauled along with troops around the world. But getting accurate data on their environmental impact is notoriously difficult.

A report commissioned by some members of the European Parliament earlier this year said that because militaries are often exempt from publicly reporting their greenhouse gas emissions, it can be difficult to accurately measure how big their environmental impact is.

One study published in 2019 suggested that if the US military were a country, it would rank as the 47th largest emitter in the world on fuel usage alone. But this is not a uniquely US issue.

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