pollution

Thu, 2014-04-17 10:30Guest
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This One Change Would Make the Oilsands No Longer Worth Developing

oilsands, carbon emissions

This is a guest post by Andrew Leach, Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta. The article originally appeared in Maclean's magazine and is republished here with permission.

It was reported recently that Exxon-Mobil will begin disclosing the degree to which its assets are exposed to future greenhouse gas policies. This risk is at the heart of what has become known as the carbon bubble, a term advanced by UK group Carbon Tracker, which suggests that assets may be over-valued as a result of not accounting for potential future limits on fossil fuel extraction imposed to fight climate change.

The so-called carbon bubble should be a concern to investors in oil sands stocks, and you only need to consider two numbers to understand why: 80 and 320. First, the number 80: oil sands producers and the Alberta government are quick to tell you that up to 80 per cent of the life-cycle emissions from oil sands occur from refining and combustion, not from extraction and upgrading.

That’s comforting, until you consider that this means that most of the carbon policy exposure for these projects comes from emissions-control policies and innovations far beyond the jurisdictions and markets in which oil sands companies operate.

Fri, 2013-09-27 10:31Guest
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Dan Kahan: We Need to Reframe Climate Change

Polarization photo by Andrew Davidhazy

To overcome polarization on the issue of climate change, Yale professor Dan Kahan says in an interview with e360, scientists and the media need to frame the science in ways that will resonate with the public. A message that makes people feel threatened, he says, simply will not be effective.

By Diane Toomey

It’s a common refrain: If people only knew more about the science, there wouldn’t be so much polarization on the issue of climate change. But Dan M. Kahan’s groundbreaking work has gone a long way to prove that idea wrong. In fact, he’s found, it’s not the lack of scientific understanding that has led to conflict over climate change, but rather the need to adhere to the philosophy and values of one’s “cultural” group.

Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School, says “individualists” — those who believe individuals should be responsible for their own well-being and who are wary of regulation or government control – tend to minimize the risk of climate change. On the other side, he notes, those who identify with the “communitarianism” group favor a larger role for government and other collective entities in securing the welfare of individuals and tend to be wary of commercial activity – he sees them as likely to favor restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

Thu, 2013-07-11 08:00Adam Kingsmith
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Pretty Little Industrial Liars, Pt. 2

Emissions Stacks Smoking Away

Big Industry has committed some of the most atrocious crimes against the environment in Canada and around the world with little fear of reprisal. This is Part Two of a two–part series highlighting some small and large-scale instances of industrial–environmental greenwashing and misdirection in an attempt to better hold conglomerates accountable to the Canadian public.

The Industrial Bait and Pollute
 
Like an environmental fairy tale, it has been thrust into our consciousness for more than a generation – carpool, recycle, take shorter showers, unplug electronics, and shop green, we’ve all got a part to play in conserving the planet for future generations.
 
The Citizen’s Guide to Pollution Prevention – a report from the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy published in collaboration with the federal government, is a perfect example of this institutionalised emphasis on the role individuals are to play if the devastating effects of climate change are to be mediated.
Fri, 2013-01-25 13:09Carol Linnitt
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Two Oil Spills in Alberta Due to Inadequate Monitoring

Companies responsible for two separate oil spills in Alberta failed to provide adequate oversight for their operations, according to federal government documents released by Environment Canada through Access to Information legislation.

The documents detail how Devon Canada and Gibson Energy violated environmental laws, including the federal Fisheries Act, when their operations cause two oil spills into fish-bearing waterways in 2010.

Gibson Energy, a midstream pipeline operator, spilled a few hundred litres of oil into an Edmonton creek after failing to properly abandon an unused pipeline. According to a warning letter issued to the company from Environment Canada, “Gibson Energy ULC made a business decision to keep the Kinder Morgan lateral full of crude oil and to not purge it with nitrogen.”

Thu, 2013-01-24 11:52Carol Linnitt
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Environment Canada Issues Warnings to Industry, Forgoes Prosecution, Documents Show

The federal government has repeatedly decided to forego prosecution for oil, gas and pipeline industry violations, according to Environment Canada documents released to Postmedia News through Access to Information legislation.

According to the documents the federal government issued 'warning letters' to companies like Devon Canada, a tar sands oil producer, and Gibson Energy, a midstream pipeline operator, after two separate oil spills proved the companies' respective facilities were in violation of the federal Fisheries Act. Violations of this sort can attract fines of up to $1 million, or three years imprisonment, the letters warned.

According to Postmedia's Mike De Souza, letters of this kind were sent to several companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec for various offenses including the pollution of air and water as well as inadequate emergency preparedness and shoddy record keeping.

Environment Canada indicated warning letters are effective in gaining industry's attention. Prosecutions, on the other hand, are both expensive and time consuming. Yet, the released documents suggest that when it comes to monitoring and enforcement of industry's actions, the government may not be acting in the public's interest.

Mon, 2013-01-21 08:54Carol Linnitt
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Retreat from Science: Interview with Federal Scientist Peter Ross Part 2 of 2

On April 1, 2013 Canada will lose its sole marine contaminants research program. The loss comes as a part of a massive dismantling of science programs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced in May of 2012. 

Peter Ross, lead researcher at Vancouver Island’s Institute for Ocean Sciences, is a recent casualty of the sweeping science cuts moving across the country.
 
In this second installment of DeSmog Canada’s interview with Ross, he discusses the importance of the scientific method as a bulwark against bias in policy-making, the danger of industrial pollutants in marine habitats, and what killer whales can tell us about our society.
Wed, 2012-11-14 21:04Carol Linnitt
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Toxic Tar Sands: Scientists Document Spread of Pollution, Water Contamination, Effects on Fish

Today federal scientists from Environment Canada presented research at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. that indicates contaminants from the Alberta tar sands are polluting the landscape on a scale much larger than previously thought.

A team lead by federal scientist Jane Kirk discovered contaminants in lakes as far as 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations. The federal research confirms and expands upon the hotly contested findings of aquatic scientist David Schindler who, in 2010, found pollution from the tar sands accumulating on the landscape up to 50 kilometers away.

“That means the footprint is four times bigger than we found,” Schindler told Postmedia News.

Senior scientist Derek Muir, who presented some of the findings at Wednesday's conference, said the contaminated region is “potentially larger than we might have anticipated.” The 'legacy' of chemicals in lake sediment gives evidence that tar sands pollution has been traveling long distances for decades. Samples show the build up of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, known to cause cancer in humans and to be toxic to aquatic animals, in 6 remote and undisturbed lakes up to 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations.

The pollutants are “petrogenic” in nature, meaning they are petroleum derived, and have steadily and dramatically increased since the 1970s, showing the contaminant levels “seem to parallel the development of the oilsands industry,” Muir said.

Wed, 2012-10-17 14:23Carol Linnitt
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China Investment Treaty "a Straitjacket" for Canada: Exclusive Interview with Trade Investment Expert Gus Van Harten

This post is the first of a series on the Canada-China Investment “Straitjacket:” Exclusive Interview with Gus Van Harten.

I recently picked up a copy of Francis Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order. Sitting on the bedside table at the house I was staying at, the book made for some 'light' bedtime reading. I heaved the enormous tome onto my lap and, opening it to a random page, read this alarming passage: 

There is no rule of law in China today: the Chinese Communist Party does not accept the authority of any other institution in China as superior to it or able to overturn its decisions. Although the People's Republic of China has a constitution, the party makes the constitution rather than the reverse. If the current Chinese government wanted to nationalize all existing foreign investments, or renationalize the holdings of private individuals and return the country to Maoism, there is no legal framework preventing it from doing so (Pg 248)

My concerns with China's treatment of foreign investments arose in light of China's recent bid for Nexen, a Canadian company with large holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Since Canada is having trouble with the management of the tar sands now, what would it look like if we had Chinese state-owned enterprises like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in the mix?

It turns out the problem is of magnitudes greater than I had originally conceived, and concerns not only Canada's management of its resources, but its sovereignty, its democracy, and the protection of the rights and values of its citizens.

Perhaps most strikingly, Canada is embracing this threat, showing telltale signs the real culprit in this dangerous deal isn't China at all.

In order to untangle the web of an international trade deal as complex as the China-Canada Investment Treaty, which establishes the terms of the Nexen deal - the biggest overseas takeover by a Chinese company -  I spoke with Professor Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Law School, an expert on foreign investment deals of this sort.

Below is Part 1 of our interview:

Mon, 2011-05-30 10:12Emma Pullman
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Canada Hides 20 Percent Tar Sands Annual Pollution Increase from UN

The Canadian federal government deliberately excluded data documenting a 20 percent increase in annual pollution from Alberta's tar sands industry in 2009. That detail was missing from a recent 567-page report on climate change that Canada was required to submit to the United Nations.

According to Postmedia News, Canada left the most recent numbers out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. The numbers are used to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastropic climate change. It is certainly not the first time that Canada has dragged its feet on its international climate obligations, but omission of vital information is a new low, even for them.

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