climate change

Will This Be Remembered as The Summer North Americans Woke Up to Climate Change?

Lizard Lake wildfire

Smokey haze, intense heat, encampments of evacuated residents next to the highway: these were the conditions that greeted Renee Lertzman when she recently drove through Oregon. It’s no wonder why the environmental psychology researcher and professor resorts to the term “apocalyptic” to describe the scene.

It was a surreal experience,” says Lertzman, who teaches at the University of San Francisco and Victoria’s Royal Roads University. “We’re all driving along and it’s so smoky and it’s terrifying. Yet we’re all doing our summer vacation thing. I couldn’t help but wonder: what is going on, how are people feeling and talking about this?”

It’s really the question of the hour. Catastrophic wildfires and droughts have engulfed much of the continent, with thousands displaced from their homes; air quality alerts confine many of the lucky remainder behind locked doors (with exercise minimized and fresh-air intakes closed).

Firefighters have been summoned from around the world to battle the unprecedented fires, which are undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change. Yet the seemingly reasonable assumption that witnessing such horrific natural disasters may increase support for action on climate change is vastly overestimated, Lertzman tells DeSmog Canada.

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.”

New Water Use Restrictions Highlight Influence of Climate on Oilsands, Need for Stronger Rules

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is restricting water withdrawals for oil and gas operators in several river basins across the province due to extremely dry summer conditions and low water levels.

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.”

Nova Scotia Pulls Plug on World’s First Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff

A popular feed-in tariff program in Nova Scotia is being cancelled by the provincial government, according to a recent announcement stating the program “had achieved its objectives.”

The program, the Nova Scotia community feed-in tariff (COMFIT), was the world’s first feed-in tariff system for local energy producers plugging into the grid.

COMFIT was designed to provide an incentive for independent, community-based energy production and guaranteed a stable kilowatt-hour rate for energy fed back into the provincial grid from local renewable energy projects.

As the province describes it, through COMFIT “smaller producers are able to supply renewable energy to their specific community.” But now “no new COMFIT applications will be considered.”

The Climate News Network argues the decision will negatively impact both Nova Scotians and the climate.

The decision, which will initially mean lower prices for energy users, is at odds with widespread warnings that renewable energy must rapidly replace fossil fuels.”

Agriculture, not Energy, Will Fuel Canada’s Economy in Coming Decades: Experts

The agriculture sector will rise in importance in coming decades as the world warms and moves away from fossil fuels.

That’s the most recent prediction from Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, whose latest book, The Carbon Bubble, forecasts a not-so-distant future in which climate change will open up the possibility for cultivating crops, historically grown in places like Kansas and Iowa, much further north. At the same time, Rubin argues, global dependence on fossil fuels will drop, freeing up capital to migrate to crops like corn and soy.

There could be some tremendous opportunity for Western Canada, in the same provinces that are likely to be victims of the carbon bubble,” Rubin told DeSmog Canada. “Food is the only real sector in the commodity field that has been resilient, that’s kept its pricing power. You could argue that just that alone is sufficient.”

Agriculture has always played a major role in Canada’s economy. Rod MacRae, associate professor of environmental studies at York University and national food policy expert, notes the food sector trails directly behind energy and automobile manufacturing, employing one in every eight Canadians.

10 Things We Learnt From Reddit About Understanding Climate Change

Two professors of cognitive psychology – Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, and Klaus Oberauer, from the University of Zurich – did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) this week.

The topic up for discussion was: “The conflict between our brains and our globe: How will we meet the challenges of the 21st century despite our cognitive limitations?”

David Suzuki: Premiers' Energy Strategy Falls Short

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

On July 15, a state-of-the-art new pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alberta, ruptured, spilling five million litres of bitumen, sand and waste water over 16,000 square metres — one of the largest pipeline oil spills in Canadian history. Two days later, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Montana, spilling 160,000 litres and forcing evacuation of nearby homes.

At the same time, while forest fires raged across large swathes of Western Canada — thanks to hotter, dryer conditions and longer fire seasons driven in part by climate change — Canadian premiers met in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to release their national energy strategy.

The premiers’ Canadian Energy Strategy focuses on energy conservation and efficiency, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. But details are vague and there’s no sense of urgency. We need a response like the U.S. reaction to Pearl Harbor or the Soviet Sputnik launch!

Facing the Simple but Hard Truths of the Alberta Oilsands

This is a guest post by Tzeporah Berman, Adjunct Professor York University Faculty of Environmental Studies and longtime environmental advocate. A shorter version of this piece originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

The debate over energy, oilsands and pipelines in Canada is at best dysfunctional and at worst a twisted game that is making public relations professionals and consultants on all sides enormous amounts of money.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information routinely show our own government hiding scientific reports or meeting secretly to craft PR strategies with the companies they are supposed to regulate, while millions of dollars are spent on ads trying to convince Canadians that the oilsands are like peanut butter and that without them our hospitals will close. *(See change notice at end of article.)

On the other side we march, we rally and we point fingers creating a narrative of exclusion and moral high-ground while acting as though a low carbon transition is going to be a walk in the park.

 Enough.

Nexen’s Brand New, Double-Layered Pipeline Just Ruptured, Causing One of the Biggest Oil Spills Ever in Alberta

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about five million liters (32,000 barrels or some 1.32 million gallons) of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters (almost 4 acres). The emulsion leaked from a “feeder” pipe that connects a wellhead to a processing plant.

At a press conference Thursday, Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologize[d] for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen's new system and that the line's emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection. 

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