Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Film Review: “Blue”

with one comment

No, I am not reduced to promoting blue movies.

This was an offer I got in my email. I have been allowed a preview of a new movie that will be in theatres on June 8, World Oceans Day. It will be shown at 40 cinemas throughout Canada on that day at 7pm (except in Calgary, 8pm) and to see it you have to book on line in advance. The link is at the end of this post.

unnamed (18)

We saw it on the screen of my MacBook Pro, which isn’t bad, but the first thing I thought was that this will look so much more impressive on a big cinema screen rather than a 15″ retina.

In recent years I have been able to travel and visit a number of ocean sites where we have swum with turtles and stingrays. We have seen the abundance of life on the reefs off the coast of Mexico both in the Caribbean and the Baha California. I have eaten freshly caught tuna in American Samoa. And when I lived in Victoria, my landlord would drop a huge oyster on my grill while I was cooking supper. I am a great fan of sushi and of fish and chips.

And all the while I have been conscious of decline. I have heard about coral bleaching and great plastic gyre. Of the collapse of fish stocks – first cod in the Atlantic off Newfoundland and the decline of the salmon here. Everywhere we have been there have been people warning of the dire situation. And it just seems to be getting worse.

unnamed (17)
This still comes from a sequence about the scourge of shark’s fin soup. Not something I have ever tried, and now never will.

It is true that the whales seem to be recovering, but that only seems to encourage the Japanese to expand their utterly bogus “scientific” whaling.

I hope that this film is successful. We certainly need to change direction and there are – at the end of the film – some suggestions.

The following section is copied from the information about the movie I was sent.

Half of all marine life has been lost in the last 40 years.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

The way the ocean operates is different to how we thought of it 100 years ago. We can no longer think of it as a place of limitless resources, a dumping ground, immune to change or decline.

BLUE takes us on a provocative journey into the ocean realm, witnessing a critical moment in time when the marine world is on a precipice. Featuring passionate advocates for ocean preservation, BLUE takes us into their world where the story of our changing ocean is unfolding. We meet those who are defending habitats, campaigning for smarter fishing, combating marine pollution and fighting for the protection of keystone species.

This feature documentary comes at a time when we are making critical decisions that will decide the legacy we leave for generations to come.

BLUE shows us there is a way forward and the time to act is now

CREDITS
KARINA HOLDEN – Director, Producer, Writer
SARAH BEARD – Producer
SUE CLOTHIER – Executive Producer
JODY MUSTON – Cinematographer/DoP
VANESSA MILTON – Editor

FILMING LOCATIONS – USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia

MAIN DIALOGUE LANGUAGE – English

AWARDS

Festival International Du Film Documentaire Océanien 2018| Winner – Le Prix Okeanos

New York Wild Film Festival 2018 | Winner – Best Impact Film

Vancouver International Film Festival 2017 | Winner – Best Impact Film

Byron Bay Film Festival 2017 | Winner – Best Environmental Film

Australian Screen Sound Guild 2017 | Winner – Best Sound in a Documentary 2017

AACTA Awards 2017 | Winner – Best Cinematography in a Documentary

“The Ozzies” Ozflix Independent Film Awards 2018 | Winner – Best Cinematography

So now how to get tickets

BLUE is a World Oceans Day event that takes place throughout Canada ONE SHOWING ONLY — on Thursday, June 7 at 7:00 pm (exception – Calgary at 8:00 pm).

This is a cinema-on-demand screening from Demand Film, and
ALL SEATS MUST BE RESERVED IN ADVANCE, ONLINE AT
Demand Film Ticketing.

You can see the trailer and find the map of events in Canada at that link.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

with 3 comments

There are still some glaciers

I took this picture out of the window of a plane flying from Vancouver to Terrace last week. It was a beautiful day, and I spent most of the flight staring out of the window at the Coast Mountains. There are still some glaciers there. Not as many now, and they are probably somewhat smaller than they used to be, though apparently that is not the case everywhere. However, the reason that I am posting this picture here, now is that it is very unlikely that we will be able to take photos like this in the future.

This is not a matter of belief. Climate change is an established fact. What is worse, climate change denial means that we are putting off the necessary actions to meet that challenge. Most disappointing in that regard are the actions of the present governments in Canada and British Columbia. Justin Trudeau was elected to change the policies of the previous conservative government. He said that he would live up to commitments to reduce ghg emissions and signed the Paris accord. But at the same time he was determined to see the expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands – and that includes building a new TransMountain pipeline to feed a much expanded export terminal in the Burrard Inlet. He claims that this is necessary to fund the development of newer, cleaner alternative energy sources. The Premier of British Columbia opposes that idea – but not because of its impact on climate but the probable impact of a spill – either on land (which would be the responsibility of Kinder Morgan) or at sea (which would be the responsibility of the federal government – which is to say all Canadians). He is also promoting a completely unnecessary hydroelectric project called Site C on the Peace River near Fort St John.  I say “unnecessary” because it is only needed if there is more development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export. Fracking the gas for export releases methane, and makes LNG a worse case of greenhouse gas increase than coal.

In both cases, there are short term political gains because so many people have been taken in by the promise of economic growth and jobs from the tar sands and LNG expansion. But both rely on developing markets in Asia – and that is also unlikely. Because there they are developing wind and solar power far more rapidly than we are. China is determined to be the leader in electric car production. Most of the previous climate change agreements failed to deliver simply because western politicians refused to accept that China and India would do their part to reduce carbon emissions, due to their determination to increase their own economic status. In fact both are benefitting from the rapidly dropping cost of renewables. They also have access to much closer and more convenient fossil fuel resources. There is plenty of natural gas there, for instance, and Chinese oil refineries are not designed to cope with heavy oil feedstocks.  The latest news about a new BC LNG plant is that it will be designed and built in Japan. So much for all those new jobs we were supposed to be getting. Another unlikely prospect.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

Oilsands research “game changer”

leave a comment »

This is a story I saw on the CBC News web page this morning. The short version is that it is possible to recover vanadium from bitumen, and this may have a commercial future in battery production. It is about time that this kind of attention was paid to raw materials in general and mining in particular. One of the first stories I recall reading when I was new to BC (and working for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources) was how new technologies were making mining spoil sites worth re- processing to capture valuable minerals missed in early extractions. The oil sands tailing ponds are currently viewed as simply something to be ignored, and quite probably left for someone else to clean up, once the current “gold rush” approach to exploitation of the tarsands as fast as possible is over.

What caused me to open a new browser window was this bit from the CBC story

“Without storage capabilities, renewable energy production still has to be backstopped by natural gas or other types of traditional power plants.”

That is simply not true. There are all sorts of storage capabilities that can be employed with existing technologies. Elon Musk’s battery project is just one example, but actually it is also recently been reported that one big change has been the re-use of older electric vehicle batteries as longer term off-vehicle storage of power once the initial life in the battery has been completed.

UPDATE

In its first four months of operation, Tesla’s mega-battery system in South Australia was faster, smarter, and cheaper than conventional gas turbines, according to a new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The performance milestone has observers and analysts excited about a breakthrough in grid security and resilience that could be a death knell for natural gas peaker plants.

 “The 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve (HPR), was officially switched on December 1,” RenewEconomy recalls, “with 70 MW providing network security for the grid operator, and another 30 MW operating energy arbitrage in wholesale markets.”

A particular highlight was the battery’s “virtually immediate” response to “a major outage of a fossil fuel generator in [New South Wales] on December 18,” prompting AEMO to conclude that “commissioning tests and simulations confirm that the HPR is capable of responding more rapidly to a contingency event than conventional synchronous generation.”

 

Perhaps the most obvious example of available storage is the current hydro installations. Just pump the water back uphill, refill the reservoir and then run it through the generation cycle again. Pumped storage was in use in North Wales at the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station  since 1965! (It has since been decommissioned.) Nuclear power stations have a similar problem to renewables. The power they produce cannot be turned off. The reactor runs all the time including times when there is no need for the electricity. That is just a different way of looking at the intermittent power production of wind and solar power.

Pumped storage is the largest-capacity form of grid energy storage available, and, as of 2017, the United States Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database reports that PSH accounts for over 96% of all active tracked storage installations worldwide, with a total installed nameplate capacity of over 168 GW.[3]

Pumpstor_racoon_mtn

source

“the study shows the huge advantage to both the United States and Canada of working together to supply much of the zero-carbon energy from Canada’s hydroelectric potential, and to store excess flows of renewable energy in Canada’s hydroelectric reservoirs (just as Denmark stores its excess wind power in Norway’s hydroelectric reservoirs)”

Jeffrey Sachs oped in the Globe

 

There are also proposals to to provide power storage by driving a heavy electric train up a hill when power is available and then letting it run down again using regenerative braking when power is needed. SkyTrain in Vancouver – and trolleybuses – both do this now! And electric motor is a generator run backwards.

The CBC seems far too ready to promote natural gas.  It is actually a worse greenhouse gas producer than coal simply due to the volumes of methane released due to fracking and subsequent processing.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2018 at 11:50 am

STEP UP AND SAVE ELEPHANTS

with 2 comments

#ivoryfreecanada PR Image - Mark Drury

© Mark Drury Photography (@markjdrury)

Vancouver, BC, March 14, 2018 – The poaching of elephants has reached unprecedented levels, threatening their very survival. In the face of this crisis, Elephanatics, a Vancouver elephant advocacy non-profit group, claims Canada is not supporting the worldwide initiative to save both African and Asian elephants.

At the last meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress, it was overwhelmingly decided that globally, governments must close their legal domestic markets for elephant ivory as a matter of urgency. Canada was one of only four countries to vote against it.

 A coalition of 95 Canadian and international scientists, politicians and animal conservation organisations have co-signed Elephanatics’ letter urging the government to ban the domestic trade of elephant ivory. They include the BC SPCA, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Mike Farnsworth, the Solicitor General of BC, International Fund for Animal Welfare, WildAid, Born Free Foundation, Humane Society International and African Wildlife Foundation.

 In addition to the global signatories, Elephanatics created an #ivoryfreecanada online petition that garnered over 120,000 signatures – and hundreds more each day – from concerned citizens wanting to see an end to elephant ivory sales in Canada. Even though elephants are not native to Canada, elephants are still important to many Canadians. The petition accompanied the letter sent today to the Minister of Environment & Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

It is estimated there were 12 million elephants in Africa in the early 1900s. Today there are approximately 415,000. That equates to a 97% decline in a century. Asian elephants are even more endangered with less than 40,000 left. Conservationists and scientists agree that at this rate the world’s largest land animal will disappear from the wild within our lifetime.

Fran Duthie, the President of Elephanatics claims, “The Canadian government has a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in elephant conservation by closing its domestic elephant ivory trade, thereby eliminating all legal loopholes. Ignoring this opportunity would put Canada at odds with the growing international movement to save elephants from extinction.”

The international trade of elephant ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 1990. However the domestic trade of ivory within a country is only regulated by national and local governments. Illegal ivory – ivory stolen from an elephant from 1990 onwards – flows through legal domestic markets because it is difficult to differentiate between old and new ivory without extensive and costly testing.

“That really is the history of the ivory trade,” says Peter Knights, Chief Executive Officer of WildAid and a signatory to Elephantics’ letter to the government. “When there’s been legal ivory trade, it’s served as a cover for laundering of illegal ivory.”

Several countries have changed their laws to protect elephants. In June 2016, the United States imposed a near total ban in domestic ivory sales. Two months later, France became the first European country to ban its domestic trade. China shut down its domestic ivory trade at the end of 2017. The United Kingdom recently solicited public feedback on a proposed domestic ban and 85% of the public supported it. In January 2018, Hong Kong’s legislature voted in favour of banning all ivory sales by 2021. Taiwan is expected to announce a ban on domestic ivory sales starting in 2020. Singapore is considering a full ban.

Due to the US Administration over-turning their ban on elephant trophy imports last week, there is additional onus on the rest of the world to increase their efforts to protect elephants.

The loss of elephants causes significant negative environmental effects. Elephants are a keystone species as many plants and animals rely on them to survive. They trek through the jungle, creating a path for smaller animals from mice to cheetahs. More than 100 plant species rely on elephants for propagation as they spread the seeds great distances via their dung.

In addition, international security is compromised by the scourge of elephant poaching. The price of unprocessed ivory in China reached its peak in 2014 at around US$2,100 per kilogram. This has made the ivory trade very attractive to terrorist groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army.

For three weeks in 2017, Canada participated in “Operation Thunderbird”, a global wildlife enforcement investigation involving 60 countries. It was organized by INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and CITES. Globally, 8.2 tons of elephant ivory was confiscated in the three week operation. Some of it came into Canada.

Julie MacInnes, Wildlife Campaign Manager of HSI/Canada states, “CITES has recommended that all nations with ivory markets that contribute to poaching and illegal trade close these markets. Multiple seizures of illegal ivory in Canada in recent years clearly indicate that an elephant ivory market closure is warranted, particularly given the items seized likely represent only a small fraction of the problem. It is time Canada respect the CITES recommendation and protect elephants by prohibiting ivory trade.”

By closing domestic elephant ivory trade, Canada would join a growing number of countries that are leading the path towards the long-term survival of this significant and iconic species. The public may sign the #ivoryfreecanada petition at http://bit.ly/ivoryfreecanada.

*     *     * 

Elephanatics is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 in Vancouver. It aims to help the long-term survival of African and Asian elephants through conservation, education and action. For the last 4 years in Vancouver, Elephanatics hosted the Global Walk for Elephants and Rhinos, an international event involving over 120 cities.

elephanatics

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

The true cost of Fracking

leave a comment »

This Eye-Opening Infographic May Surprise You
There are significant pros and cons, making fracking a highly controversial issue.
By Reynard Loki / AlterNet May 23, 2016,

the-true-cost-of-fracking-dv3

Written by Stephen Rees

February 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Tagged with

Study confirms B.C. oil and gas industry, government underreport fugitive methane emissions

leave a comment »

methane dsf

Photo credit: Flux Lab, St. Francis Xavier University

This is one of those announcements that did not surprise me at all. I have long suspected that BC was not counting all the methane that got released here. Now the work of the David Suzuki Foundation confirms my suspicions. The rest of this post is simply copied from their email today.


Allowing methane to go into the air is one of the worst things we can do if we want to stop climate change.

Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is responsible for 25 per cent of the already observed changes to Earth’s climate.

That’s why we’ve shed light on one of the biggest sources of methane emissions in B.C.: fugitive emissions from the province’s fracking industry.

Yesterday, we released Fugitives in our midst: Investigating fugitive emissions from abandoned, suspended and active oil and gas wells in the Montney Basin in northeastern British Columbia.

The report shows of 178 oil and gas sites investigated:

  • 35 per cent of inactive wells had measurable and, in some cases, significant methane leakage; and,
  • More than 85 per cent of active gas wells vent methane gas directly into the environment daily

The new research corroborates findings from a spring 2017 study by the Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University, which found that methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry are at least 2.5 times higher than industry and government report.

This work has already helped show Canadians that fugitive methane emissions in the oil and gas industry are much higher than anyone previously anticipated.

The report makes additional recommendations to reduce and eliminate fugitive emissions, including asking government to:

  • Mandate that all oil and gas companies immediately undertake leak detection and repair, starting with the sites we identified
  • Immediately develop and implement recommendations for leak detection, infrastructure replacement and repair, and transparent reporting
  • Make industry provide resources for on-the-ground monitoring and enforcement
  • Move forward with the government’s commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement to apply the carbon tax to the oil and gas industry’s methane pollution

The federal government’s draft methane regulations are currently out for public consultation. Final regulations are expected this year.

What you can do and how you can help:

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2018 at 12:03 pm

A Conversation with BC’s Minister of the Enviroment

with one comment

SFU Carbon talks just sent me this:

Two weeks ago, Renewable Cities invited you to “A Conversation with B.C.’s Minister of Environment.” Due to exceptional demand, capacity was exceeded within 24 hours. Renewable Cities is pleased to announce that a larger venue has been secured. Clearly, there is an enormous appetite to discuss B.C.’s climate plan and the urban opportunity.

Please join Renewable Cities on Friday, February 9 from 12:30-1:30 pm at the Asia Pacific Hall at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at 580 West Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC.

The public dialogue requires prior registration. If you have already signed up, no further action is required. Individuals on the wait list will now be able to join the event.

Otherwise, register to attend the event or watch the online stream here.

Please share the event with your network:

So I am doing that, but I won’t be going. BC has decided to go forward with Site C which makes very little sense, but also is based on the idea that there will be a market for LNG exported from BC to Asia. Economically, LNG exports are nonsense on stilts. They require huge amounts of subsidies from us. We already collect next to nothing in terms tax and royalties from gas frackers, and this will only get worse if any one of these plants actually gets built. But in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, this plan is a disaster. GHG emissions in BC have been rising and the idea that we will hit any of our self imposed targets is unlikely. The LNG export boondoggle ensures that we won’t.

I see very little point in listening to a discussion about a “climate plan” that has already been undermined. I hope that the reason for the exceptional demand is that the people who are going will be making some very forceful comments about the recent NDP flip over its GHG commitments.

From Vaughan Palmer in the Vancouver Sun

“If B.C. starts to focus again on trying to land an LNG industry given all that has happened, I can tell you I am voting government down,” the Green leader vowed in a Dec. 31 interview with Carol Linnitt of DeSmog Canada, the online news service.

He repeated his line in the sand this week on Twitter: “If the B.C. NDP caucus continue their generational sellout embodied in the LNG folly of the B.C. Liberals, their government will fall.”

What about it? Horgan was asked Tuesday. The premier confirmed that during the coming trade mission, he has every intention of exploring support for the LNG Canada export terminal that Shell and its Asian partners are proposing for Kitimat.

I’ll be meeting with partners of LNG Canada just to let them know that we’re OK with LNG development, provided that there are benefits to British Columbians through jobs, there’s a fair return for the resource, our climate action objectives can be realized, and that First Nations are partners.

“You’ve heard this from me before, and you’ll hear it from me again,” Horgan added and he’s right about that.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 23, 2018 at 1:49 pm