Keith Stewart

July 2015 is Officially Hottest Month on Record. Ever.

Raging wildfires and apocalyptic smoke. Huge algal blooms visible from space turn seafood on the Pacific Northwest toxic. California’s drought. Alberta’s drought. Alberta’s floods.

There’s no doubt: it’s hot and weird out.

According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) July was the hottest month ever recorded, putting 2015 well on track to beat out 2014 for the hottest year on record. Records date back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientists Jake Crouch said the new data “just affirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming.”

The warming is accelerating and we’re seeing it this year.”

Stephen Harper Forgets Stephen Harper’s Pledge to End Fossil Fuels

If the recent frufrah over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig’s comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground” is indicative of anything, it’s that Canada’s election cycle is in full spin. May all reasonableness and sensible dialogue and accountability be damned.

Perhaps that’s the blunt and singular reason behind the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outrage at McQuaig’s entirely non-contentious assertion that, because of our international commitments to curtail global climate change, Canada won’t exploit the entirety of its oil reserves.

Harper accused the NDP of having a “not-so hidden agenda,” saying the party “is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy.”

That’s why they…would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”

But Harper’s reaction seems conspicuously overwrought given the Prime Minister’s own pledge, along with the other G7 nations, to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2100.

At the time of signing — a whole two months ago — Harper said the plan would “require a transformation in our energy sectors.”

So You've Been Publicly Shamed Into Climate Action: On Harper’s Promise to End Fossil Fuels

Stephen Harper’s participation in the G7 leader’s declaration to decarbonize the global economy by 2100 was a massive headline generator in Canada, and not surprisingly so.

For a Prime Minister who has openly mocked the idea of carbon pricing, mercilessly driven an expensive (both financially and politically) energy superpower agenda and earned a reputation for pulling out of or stalling climate negotiations, the very idea of an ‘end’ to fossil fuels would seem … counterintuitive.

Although the shock of seeing Harper even touch something called ‘decarbonization’ is still reverberating, experts were quick to point out a long-term goal that shoves off concrete climate policy is likely just what Canada was hoping for.

Has Stephen Harper Helped or Hindered The Oil Industry?

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

Kinder Morgan CEO's TransMountain 'Hubris' Underestimates Pipeline Opposition in B.C.

Richard Kinder, Houston-based billionaire and CEO of Kinder Morgan Inc., told an industry audience last week the TransMountain pipeline expansion project “will go forward” if granted approval at the federal level, despite growing and very vocal opposition to the project in British Columbia.

Kinder said pipeline opponents are using “spurious arguments” to purposely strangle pipeline projects across North America as a means of fighting development in the Alberta oilsands.

I am sure there are legitimate concerns about any mega infrastructure development, but a lot of this is [about] the pipeline as a choke point to get at production of the oilsands, which there are people in Canada and the U.S. who want to strangle that altogether,” Kinder said.

Kinder’s comments seem to affirm criticism that the company is refusing to take local opposition seriously.

Rich Kinder's optimism shows he really does not understand B.C.,” Tzeporah Berman, adjunct professor of environmental studies at York University, told DeSmog Canada. “British Columbians love this coast,” she added, noting the recent bunker fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay “was a real wake up call.”

DeSmogCAST 12: Canada's Anti-Terrorism Bill, Who it Targets and How it Helps Kinder Morgan

Bill C-51, anti-terrorism, RCMP, Kinder Morgan

This weekend thousands of Canadians marched against the Conservative government's proposed anti-terrorism bill C-51. In this episode of DeSmogCAST we take a close look at the proposed legislation and discuss how it relates to the recently-leaked RCMP intelligence report that names pipeline opponents and First Nations “violent anti-petroleum extremists.” Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, discusses the significance of the internal intelligence report and Greenpeace's role in its release.

We also take a look at Kinder Morgan's secretive behaviour in the Trans Mountain pipeline review and how anti-terrorism laws meant to protect 'critical infrastructure' like pipelines may benefit oil, gas and pipeline companies unwilling to disclose information to the public.

DeSmogBlog contributor Farron Cousins hosts this episode and is joined by Greenpeace's Keith Stewart, DeSmog Canada's Emma Gilchrist, and yours truly.

Derailments Raise Questions About Volatility of Oilsands Diluted Bitumen

Oil train explosion in Gogama Ontario

When a CN train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire last weekend near Gogama, Ontario, it became the fifth loaded oil train to leave the tracks in North America in the past two months — and it's raising new questions about the volatility of diluted bitumen from Alberta's oilsands.

In the March 7th accident, several cars slid into the Mattagami River and ignited, leading local officials to issue a drinking water warning for the Mattagami First Nation.

The accident comes less than a month after another CN tanker train carrying crude derailed in the same region, about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury, spilling an estimated more than one million litres of diluted bitumen into local waterways. Twenty-nine cars left the tracks, causing an explosion that left fires burning for six days.

Energy East Opposition Fund Swells Past $300K After Crowdfunding Campaign Makes Headlines

Energy East fundraiser Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Perhaps it’s the charming student activist, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who donated his $25,000 Governor General’s Literary Award to the pipeline fight, or perhaps it was the scandalous documents leaked last week that showed pipeline company TransCanada has teamed up with one of the world’s most powerful PR firms, Edelman, to manipulate public opinion surrounding the Energy East pipeline.

Or maybe it’s the fact that at least two-thirds of Quebecers oppose the construction of a 4600km pipeline that will carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands crude through their province (and five others) for export. Maybe onlookers, disturbed by the 50 arrests on Burnaby Mountain, have felt compelled to prevent a similar situation from erupting east of Alberta.

Who knows?

But what is becoming clear is the firestorm of public opposition that is committing to the fight against Energy East. Twelve hours after Nadeau-Dubois announced his $25,000 donation on the Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle on Sunday donations surpassed $140,000.

After Years of Intensive Lobbying, EU to Drop Oilsands’ Dirty Fuel Label

oilsands alex maclean

The European Union will not label fuel from Alberta’s oilsands as highly polluting despite years of efforts to distinguish the crude and other unconventional fuels for their high environmental impacts.

A proposal released Tuesday by the European Commission lifts a requirement forcing refiners to identify when supplying fuel from unconventional sources such as oilsands or oil shale. The commission will lift the requirement even though internal estimates show these fuel sources contain higher carbon emissions than conventional sources.

The dropped requirement within the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) comes after years of intense lobbying on behalf of the Canadian and Albertan government.

“The Harper government, in collaboration with the major oil companies, unleashed an unprecedented assault on clean fuels legislation in Europe even as they gutted environmental laws at home,” Keith Stewart, energy and climate campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, told DeSmog Canada. 

I think the question Canadians should ask themselves is: Do we want our diplomats to operate as a lobbying arm of Big Oil?” he said.

Stewart also noted the federal government's Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy labelled oil companies as “allies” while environmental and Aboriginal groups were listed as “adversaries.”

Critics Call Harper Government’s New Climate PR Campaign ‘Orwellian’

environment canada, climate change, pr campaign

Facing criticism in the lead up to today’s UN Climate Summit, which prime minister Stephen Harper is not attending, the Harper Government released a new public outreach campaign through Environment Canada, praising the country’s action on climate change.

The campaign points to four pillars of Canada’s climate progress including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, investing in climate adaptation, “world-class scientific research to inform decision-making,” and international leadership in climate action.

Already critics are pointing to the apparent disparity between the Environment Canada campaign and Canada’s waning reputation on the international stage for its climate obstruction, the muzzling of scientists, the elimination of environmental legislation and massive cuts to federal research and science programs.

Reading the Harper government’s claims about its climate efforts is like reading one of Orwell’s books,” Mark Jaccard, professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environment Management, said.

Eliminating policy is to implement policy. Blocking and abandoning global negotiations is to lead global negotiations. Muzzling scientists is to have science inform decision-making. Working hard to increase carbon pollution is to decrease it. Black is white. Dishonesty is truth.”

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