The issue of how to deal with climate change in Canada is a controversial one, with various levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — all taking different approaches to tackling this important issue.
(Image credit: 10 10 on Flickr)
Up until the election of the new Trudeau federal government in October 2015, Canada had been roundly criticized both domestically and internationally for its lack of action on climate change.
While progress was stymied at the federal level, there has been progress over the last few years at the provincial government level, namely in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which have both committed to a cap-and-trade system.
Up until recently, British Columbia was heralded as a leader on climate change, introducing the first carbon tax in the world in 2008. A study by researchers at the University of Ottawa found that the B.C. carbon tax had reduced fossil fuel use in the province by 19 per cent since its inception, when compared to the rest of the country.
However, in 2013 the B.C. government froze planned increases in the carbon tax, calling into question the government's commitment to climate action. The B.C. government now says it plans to keep the freeze on the carbon tax until at least 2018.
Climate change and environmental protection remain hot topics in Canada, with polls for many years consistently showing these issues as top-of-mind. DeSmog Canada reports regularly on the issue of climate change in Canada and we index all of that news in the section that follows below.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on Climate Change in Canada
Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.
The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.
In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.
While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.
The fossil fuel industry has spent many millions of dollars on confusing the public about climate change. But the role of vested interests in climate science denial is only half the picture.
Interest in this topic has spiked with the latest revelation regarding coalmining company Peabody Energy. After Peabody filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, documentation became available revealing the scope of Peabody’s funding to third parties. The list of funding recipients includes trade associations, lobby groups and climate-contrarian scientists.
This latest revelation is significant because in recent years, fossil fuel companies have become more careful to cover their tracks. An analysis by Robert Brulle found that from 2003 to 2010, organisations promoting climate misinformation received more than US$900 million of corporate funding per year.
Federal and provincial climate policies unveiled over the last year are paving the way for Canada to massively increase the amount of energy the country gets from renewable sources, according to a new analysis released today by Clean Energy Canada.
“For the first time the federal government and the provinces are working together to establish a national climate plan,” Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, said. “A big piece of the puzzle is not just cleaning up the grid, but electrifying other parts of the economy reliant on fossil fuels.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is drafting a ‘pan-Canadian clean growth and climate change framework’ to be released this fall. Meantime, last year Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s main oil and gas producing provinces, set ambitious renewable energy targets. And Ontario recently announced one of the most cutting edge greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction plans in Canada to date.
All of that means things are finally looking up for clean energy in Canada. Federal and provincial politicians now need to make good on their climate pledges for the country to reap even bigger benefits from this $500 billion global industry.
While the B.C. government may like to claim it’s a “climate leader,” the province has quietly become a climate laggard compared to Canada’s other most populous provinces according to a new analysis released by the Pembina Institute on Tuesday.
The analysis indicates that eight years after B.C.’s Climate Action Plan was implemented, B.C.’s emissions are projected to continue increasing — standing in stark contrast to Ontario, Quebec and even Alberta.
Between 2011 and 2014, B.C.’s emissions increased by the equivalent of adding 380,000 cars to the road — putting B.C. on track to blow past its legislated 2020 emissions target.
Meantime, carbon pollution in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec is expected to decrease by 26 per cent, 22 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, over the same period.
This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
Politicians who advocate for more bitumen pipelines and LNG exports are making a “have your cake and eat it too argument” because there is no way Canada can meet its climate change commitments under such a scenario says David Hughes, one of the nation's top energy experts.
Even building just one LNG terminal coupled with modest oilsands growth would increase oil and gas emissions from 26 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 to 45 per cent by 2030.
Under such a scenario, as forecasted by the National Energy Board, the rest of the economy would be forced to contract its emissions by 47 per cent in order to meet promised greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the Paris talks.
“This level of reduction is near-impossible without severe economic consequences,” concluded Hughes in a new report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
This is a guest post by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club B.C.
The wildfires currently raging uncontrolled in Alberta are not within the range of what’s normal.
As of May 29, 854,984 hectares have burned this year in Canada, mostly Alberta — almost 10 times the 25-year-average amount of forest lost by this date (89,391 hectares).
And summer hasn't even started.
Warm temperatures and low humidity mean that, for the time being, there is no end in sight. A similar situation is taking shape in British Columbia.
The correlation between higher average temperatures and wildfires in Canada has been well-researched, but the extremes now underway still come as a shock. Leading climate scientists have compared the urgent need to prevent further overheating of our planet to a person with a dangerously high fever. Our body temperature is normally about 37 degrees. If it increases by two degrees to 39, you have fever. If it goes over 41, you might die.
Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 per cent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.
Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 per cent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes. According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues, and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.
Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.
That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.
Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.
That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
“These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.
It might not have packed quite the same visual punch as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in the House of Commons on Wednesday, but the Saskatchewan government’s throne speech — delivered just the day prior — may be remembered for being equally as bizarre.
Specifically, because of the implicit rejection of climate change science, which was described as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”
The throne speech, delivered by Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield, pointed to “oil and gas, coal and uranium, livestock and grains” as allegedly victimized sectors.
“They look at those jobs like they are somehow harming the country and the world,” she read. “To those people, my government has a message. You are wrong. You could not be more wrong.”
When you stare at climate change, sometimes climate change stares back.
So what happens when one refuses to look away?
That’s the challenge taken on by filmmaker Josh Fox in his new film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.
Like its title, the film is a long and artful look at an almost too-familiar topic, but one that takes you to unexpected places.
Fox, celebrated for his award-winning documentary GASLAND that charted the impacts of prolific fracking in the U.S., including near his home in the Delaware river basin, begins How to Let Go of the World by celebrating a local success against the gas industry in Pennsylvania.
But his celebration, which is marked by some impressive dad dancing, is cut short by the realization that a beloved family tree has been overtaken by woolly adelgids, an insect infestation prompted by the warmer winters of climate change.