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Wed, 2014-08-06 10:01Guest
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Canada Needs Some Serious Climate Honesty

climate oilsands, kris krug, mark jaccard, harper government

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University. 

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government asked me and four other economists if we agreed with its study showing huge costs for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. We all publicly agreed, much to the chagrin of the Liberals, NDP and Greens, who argued that Kyoto was still achievable without crashing the economy. It wasn’t.

As economists, we knew that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien should have implemented effective policies right after signing Kyoto in 1997. It takes at least a decade to significantly reduce emissions via energy efficiency, switching to renewables, and perhaps capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oilsands. Each year of delay jacks up costs.

Mr. Harper’s government knew this too. Years later, when environment minister Peter Kent formally withdrew Canada from Kyoto, he charged the previous Liberal government with “incompetence” for not enacting necessary policies in time to meet their target.

Mon, 2014-07-28 17:22Carol Linnitt
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Canada Among Top 7 Countries Least Likely to Agree with Climate Science. But Why?

stephen harper, climate change, desmog canada, climate denial

Canada ranks among the world’s countries least likely to agree that climate change is a result of human activity, according to recently released Ipsos MORI research. The study, “Global Trends 2014,” posed a number of survey questions to individuals in 20 countries and discovered agreement with climate science is lowest in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Russia, Poland, Japan and Canada, respectively.

Agreement with climate science was highest in China, of all the countries surveyed, a fact that Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, attributes to high environmental concerns in China as a result of alarming environmental pollution in the country. “In many surveys in China, environment is top concern,” he said. “In contrast, in the west, it’s a long way down the list behind the economy and crime.”

Science and political journalist Chris Mooney, points out the survey results show an interesting correlation between climate denial or skepticism and speaking English.

He writes: “Not only is the United States clearly the worst in its climate denial, but Great Britain and Australia are second and third worst, respectively. Canada, meanwhile is the seventh worst. What do these four nations have in common? They all speak the language of Shakespeare.”

Mooney outlines two possible explanations for the pattern: political ideology and media ownership.

Thu, 2014-07-24 13:26Guest
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Is B.C.'s LNG Plan Destined to Fail?

christy clark bc lng

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and a convening lead author in the Global Energy Assessment. 

During B.C.’s 2013 election campaign, at a conference of energy economists in Washington, D.C., I spoke about how one of our politicians was promising huge benefits during the next decades from B.C. liquefied natural gas exports to eastern Asia. These benefits included lower income taxes, zero provincial debt, and a wealth fund for future generations. My remarks, however, drew laughter. Later, several people complimented my humour.

Why this reaction? The painful reality is that my economist colleagues smirk when people (especially politicians) assume extreme market imbalances will endure, whereas real-world evidence consistently proves they won’t. For B.C. Premier Christy Clark to make promises based on a continuation of today’s extreme difference between American and eastern Asian gas prices was, to be kind, laughable.

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:04Carol Linnitt
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New Poll Suggests LNG Development at Odds with B.C.’s Incredibly High Climate Action Support

Rich Coleman, bc LNG, climate

Last year B.C. joined Washington State, Oregon and California in an effort to limit the causes and effects of climate change. A new poll released today shows British Columbians are eager to see the government keep its commitments under the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

The climate plan was designed to respond to “the clear and convincing scientific evidence of climate change, ocean acidification and other impacts from increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which threaten our people, our economy and our natural resources.”

The plan was signed in 2013, with little fanfare. Yet, residents of B.C. strongly support the initiative, and the government’s commitments to limit carbon pollution.

But with the B.C. government’s big ambitions to develop and export liquefied natural gas (LNG), there appears to be a conflict brewing within the province’s own objectives.

Fri, 2014-07-18 19:57Carol Linnitt
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New Report Says Kitimat Airshed Can "Accommodate" Increased Industrial Pollutants

kitimat airshed, pollution

The Kitimat airshed can “accommodate” increased industrial growth and pollution according to a new Kitimat Airshed Study released Friday.

The study, commissioned by British Columbia last year to assess the impact of industrial pollutants on the Kitimat airshed, was released one month after lawyers representing Kitimat locals asked the Environmental Appeal Board to force the province to make the report public.

The province previously claimed cabinet privilege and refused to release the report to two women, Emily Toews and Elisabeth Stannus, who are fighting to overturn a 2013 ruling to allow increased sulphur dioxide emissions from Rio Tinto Alcan’s smelter ‘modernization project’ in Kitimat.

The government-funded report concludes the Kitimat airshed, if properly managed, can safely accommodate industrial expansion, including the expanded aluminum smelter expected to increase levels of sulphur and nitrogen oxide in the area.

The study took into account Rio Tinto Alcan’s existing smelter, the smelter’s modernization project, four proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities, one proposed oil refinery, a potential BC Hydro gas powered turbine facility and increased emissions from tanker traffic.

Environment Minister Mary Polak, attending a press conference in Vancouver today, said “the study tells us that with proper management there is significant capacity in the Kitimat airshed to safely accommodate industrial growth, while still protecting human health and the environment.”

Fri, 2014-07-04 12:15Carol Linnitt
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New Poll: Canadians Overestimate Oilsands Contribution to Economy, Yet Still Want Clean Shift

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

A new poll released Friday shows the majority of Canadians assume development in the Alberta oilsands has a much larger impact on nation’s economy than it actually does.

According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country’s economy.

The oilsands, according to Statistics Canada, account for only 2 per cent of the national GDP.

Despite the misconception, however, 66 per cent of Canadians still support a transition to a cleaner economy that would limit dependence on the oilsands.

In addition, 76 per cent of Canadians believe that, in light of climate change, the country should shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Tue, 2014-07-01 10:51Chris Rose
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U.K. Shows Renewable Energy Possible Even in Tough Economic Times

wind energy, renewable energy, desmog canada

Despite political infighting and a flagging economy, electricity generated from renewable energies in the U.K. met almost one-fifth of the nation’s electrical needs during the first three months of this year, an increase of 43 per cent compared to the same period in 2013.

U.K. energy statistics compiled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and published Thursday show that the share of electricity generation (hydro, wind and other renewables) increased from 12.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 to 19.4 per cent in the same quarter of 2014.

The statistics show that wind power generation was up 58 per cent, due to increased wind generation capacity as well as large increases in wind speeds.

They also revealed that coal accounted for 37 per cent of electrical generation, natural gas made up 23 per cent and nuclear power produced 18 per cent of total U.K. electricity generated in January, February and March.

RenewableUK, which represents wind power and marine energy in Britain, noted in a media release that the total renewable electricity generation was a record 18.1 terawatt hours in the first three months of this year, enough to power more than 15 million homes for the quarter. Coal, gas and nuclear production all fell in the same period.

Thu, 2014-06-26 12:19Stephen Leahy
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Experts Call for Moratorium on New Oilsands Development Until Climate, Environmental Impacts Assessed

A moratorium on any new oilsands expansion is imperative given Canada’s failure to properly assess the total environmental and climate impacts Canadian and U.S. experts say in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Even with a moratorium it will be very difficult for Canada to meet its international promise to reduce CO2 emissions that are overheating the planet according to government documents as previously reported by DeSmog.

Continuing to approve pipelines and new projects guarantees Canada will not meet the Harper government’s Copenhagen emissions reduction target,” said Wendy Palen, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University. 

These are the plain facts Canadians need to be aware of,” Palen, a co-author of the Nature commentary, told DeSmog.

Canadians also have no idea of the overall ‘big picture’ of the impacts of oilsands production and transport because each project is assessed in isolation.

Mon, 2014-06-16 09:46Chris Rose
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Global Wind Day Celebrates Wind Energy as Major Player Worldwide

wind energy

It may not rank in popularity with the World Cup but a growing interest in Global Wind Day (June 15) continues to underscore the significant contribution that the emissions-free electricity-generating technology is making to mitigate the worst excesses of burning fossil fuels.

No longer considered an alternative energy source, the wind power sector is now present in more than 80 nations and had generated a global cumulative installed capacity of 318,105 megawatts (MW) by the end of last year.

Despite having to still fight the NIMBY factor in some places, or craven politicians beholden to the business-as-usual coal, oil and gas lobbies, the wind power industry is proving it is already a dependable component of the low-carbon economy that humankind needs to embrace if it is to survive.

The statistics are indisputable.

Tue, 2014-06-03 14:39Carol Linnitt
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Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

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