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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Book Review

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This review has been removed.

The representative of the PR firm pushing the publicity campaign for its publication  has a different view of the meaning of “Fair Use” which, if followed, would have made this review incoherent. I am not willing to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Fighting the climate wreckers

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The article that I am going to point you to is concerned about the fight against fossil fuel companies in the United States.

“The Climate-Wrecking Industry—and How to Beat It” appears in Sierra Magazine copied from The Nation

While acknowledging that there is strength in numbers, some legal observers say the magic number for success is one: A single judgment against the oil companies would be enough to change their political calculus about the value of continued intransigence. “I think, in some respects, it’s less about how many cases are filed, [and more about] whether a judge rules in favor of a city or county or state. That will open the floodgates,” says Ann Carlson, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has followed the climate-liability cases closely.

Well, we may just have seen that success here. The decision by The Federal Court of Appeal at long last recognises that the approval process for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was fundamentally flawed. The case did not, however, turn on climate change but on two other considerations – the failure to consult First Nations adequately and the impact of the project on the resident orcas of the Salish Sea. And it was not an American Company (Kinder Morgan) that lost, it was the governments of Canada and Alberta. In fact the Premier of Alberta was so angry that she withdrew her province from the federal climate plan. As though that makes any real difference.

Kinder Morgan of course is jubilant. Justin Trudeau bought their old, leaky pipeline and lumbered himself with the apparent obligation to complete an expansion which they long ago realised was not only very risky environmentally but also highly unlikely to be viable. They get pockets full of our cash and slide away from the liabilities.

Trudeau and Notley between them have both – in post decision speeches – announced their determination to proceed with pipeline expansion which immediately throws huge doubt on their ability to convince anyone that their subsequent commitments at the negotiations over First Nations rights and the long term survival of the orcas are being conducted in a fair or objective manner. It seems that they are adopting the negotiating tactic adopted by 45 over NAFTA known as Boulwarism. Whenever anyone sits down at the table to talk about the pipeline they will have to accept the precondition that the government has committed to seeing it built no matter what.

Sooner or later the realisation has to dawn in Edmonton and Ottawa that they are both wrong. There cannot be action climate change and tarsands expansion at the same time. The tarsands are one of the worst fuels in terms of emissions. Equally, just getting the dilbit to saltwater does not solve the issue of the low price that diluted bitumen achieves on the world market. There are plenty of other sources of petroleum that are easier to deal with and currently the market is over-supplied. In future the rapidly declining costs of solar and wind alone will make renewables even more attractive, and better technologies than burning liquid fuels are going to take over the transportation industry as well as many others. If other places do want heavy oils, there are better placed suppliers. After all, only relatively small vessels can load at Burnaby and get under the Second Narrows Bridge. The project plan was actually to tranship into larger vessels on the west coast somewhere – as though that were an attractive option for preserving fragile marine ecosystems.

Much of the current mainstream media is, of course, trying to play down the significance of the decision – and I am not going to point to any of it. The big players are all in the same game, and outlets like PostMedia recognise their dependence on big oil and the related organisations. These are the same people who maintain the fiction that we are dependant on fossil fuels.

the ultimate responsibility lies with the general public and its appetite for energy. The rhetorical sleight of hand perfectly captures the climate wreckers’ classic talking point: Since you can’t live without us, we’re innocent.

Actually we can live without you and many are already moving convincingly in that direction. It is sad that the Government of Canada has decided to invest so much in a pipeline that is not needed, but then governments both provincially and federally continue to subsidize fossil fuel production: we are just throwing good money after bad. Jack up the the royalties to the same level as Norway and insist on adequate protection of the sources of water that get destroyed by tailing ponds and fracking and the market would start to transform at a much faster pace. All that is happening right now is that North America is falling ever further behind the rest of the world (except Australia) which is showing us how we can tackle climate change.

We have had a terrible summer – and the fires are still mostly burning even if the local smoke has blown away for now. The ice is melting in places where we have never seen it melt before. The weather is getting worse faster than anyone predicted.  Even the oil companies themselves are asking government to commit to building dykes to protect the refineries which are actually creating the sea level rise they are worried about. Climate change is not a problem for the future, it is a major problem here, now. Yet we are currently committed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions – not the reductions we signed up for in Paris, which were anyway wholly inadequate to deal with the problem.

Perhaps the next court victory will actually deal with the broader issue of environmental protection rather than just the sorry state of the resident orcas. Because it seems clear that at the moment neither Notley nor Trudeau has a grasp on reality, and not only will the big fossil fuel companies be in court on these issues, but so will our governments.

Yes, that includes BC since we are still committed to Site C, which is designed mostly to promote LNG exports to Alberta to melt more tar.

The Answers for the “Skeptics”

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I am putting this here mainly for my own convenience.

I am getting tired of people who ask questions or keep requiring data who turn out to be after an argument about humans causing climate change. This is a thread that was on Twitter this morning that I turned into a blog post using Spooler

I also used Thread Reader App (belt and braces) since I had not experience of either.

I have put the word skeptics in quotation marks. I seriously doubt the motivation of most of these people since the real scientists have no longer any doubt that what we are experiencing has been caused by humans using fossil fuels. However, the fossil fuel industries have a lot at stake and since they can’t actually find any real facts to back them up, they are doing their best to sow uncertainty instead. This is exactly what the tobacco industry did – and it did not work for them in the long run.


A thread by Katharine Hayhoe

At the hearing for the deputy @NASA administrator today, nominee Jim Morhard was asked by @EdMarkey if he agrees with the scientific consensus that humans are the dominant influence on climate. He said he couldn’t say.

Well, I’m a scientist, and I can. Here’s why. (thread)

When we see climate changing, we don’t automatically jump on the human bandwagon, case closed. No, we rigorously examine and test all other reasons why climate could be changing: the sun, volcanoes, natural cycles, even something we don’t know yet: could they be responsible? .. Could it be the sun? No: the sun’s energy has been going down at the very time that the average temperature of the planet continues to rise. For more info, read: and no, even a Grand Minimum wouldn’t save us. See: (skepticalscience.com/solar-activity…)(realclimate.org/index.php/arch…)

Could it be volcanoes? No: though a big eruption emits a lot of soot and particulates, these temporarily cool the planet. On average, all geologic activity, put together, emits only about 10% of the heat-trapping gases that humans do. For more, read: (agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.102…)

Could it be orbital cycles? Are we just getting warmer after the last ice age? No: warming from the last ice age peaked 1000s of yrs ago, and the next event on our geologic calendar was another ice age: was, until the industrial revolution, that is. Read: (people.clas.ufl.edu/jetc/files/Tze…)

Could it be natural cycles internal to the climate system, like El Nino? No: those cycles simply move heat around the climate system, mostly back and forth between the atmosphere and ocean. They cannot CREATE heat. So if they were responsible for atmospheric warming, . … then the heat content of another part of the climate system wd have to be going down, while the heat content of the atmosphere was going up.

Is this what we see? No: heat content is increasing across the entire climate system, ocean most of all! See: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…)

Could it be cosmic rays? No. See:

How about the magnetic pole moving? Planet Niribu? Geoengineering? No.

What about an unknown factor we don’t know about yet? Nope, covered that here: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…) (journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.117…)

The bottom line is this: We’ve known since the work of John Tyndall in the 1850s that CO2 absorbs and re-radiates infrared energy, and Eunice Foote was the first to suggest that higher CO2 levels would lead to a warmer planet, in 1856. Read it here: (books.google.com/books?id=fjtSA…)

No one – NO ONE – has been able to explain how increasing levels of CO2, CH4 and other heat-trapping gases would NOT raise the temperature of the planet. Yet that must be done first, if we are to consider any other sources as “dominant”. Moreover, when @RasmusBenestad + I + others examined dozens of published papers (so much for the ‘we are suppressed like Galileo!’ myth) claiming to minimize or eliminate the human role in climate change, guess what we found? Errors in every single one. (theguardian.com/environment/cl…)

So in conclusion: if you don’t think humans are the dominant source of warming, you are making a statement that does not have a single factual or scientific leg to stand on. Yet leaders of science agencies are saying exactly that today. This is the world we live in.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Book Review: Seaweed Chronicles

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I usually put book reviews on my other blog but in this case I think there is enough coherence with the ostensible reason for this blog to put it here.

I was offered the book to read – more than once – by email. What surprised me when I got the advanced reading copy to see on its back cover that I could have got it from NetGalley. As it was I was happy enough to curl up in a chair and spend a few hours with the hard copy. Unusually for me, I had a pen in my hand, as there were no page numbers shown in the table of contents, so I was writing them in as I read. I also found myself marking up the pages – in ink! – which is something I would never do with a book whether I had borrowed or bought it. One reason for that is that my copy also has no index, which makes going back to find stuff really time consuming. For instance, I was pretty sure she must have considered sea level rise, but it is going to take a while to thumb through to find the references.

While the author is based in Maine her coverage does range widely and one of the early chapters deals with the interrelationship of bull kelp, otters and orcas in the Pacific Northwest which I found fascinating. If a book doesn’t get your attention in the first chapter or two, you are unlikely to finish it. This one won me over early and kept me reading.

There is also quite a bit about Acadain Seaplants Limited of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia “the biggest seaweed harvesting, processing and research company in the world”. Naturally this company gets quite a lot of coverage not least because of its expansion into the waters off New England. It is quite often referred to as a Canadian company, and not just because of the alliteration. The book is very much about the people “who work and live at the shore”. Most of these communities started as fishers and whalers, and as those resources became exhausted worked their way down the food chain and the seaweed – being algae – is pretty much as low as you can get.

“As seaweed harvests take the place of lost fisheries in many areas of the world, they present some of the same issues we have here [Maine]: the growing desire of coastal people to take good care of what’s left, a need for more education and study, and an acknowledgement that the oceans in our lives are in trouble.”

This theme recurs throughout the book.

“the more we perfect our capacity to harvest wild nature, the closer we come to destroying what we seek.”

There is a great deal about the tragedies of the commons – and the framework of rules and sanctions for breaking those rules – that are essential to ensuring the commons continue.

“… our environmental history includes species that are gone forever: the passenger pigeons…,the Labrador duck, the sea mink, the great auk …the schools of cod once stretched from bays outward fifteen miles or more…they seemed limitless.”

And we are now looking at the extirpation of the resident orcas in the Salish Sea and the woodland caribou both victims of the indecent haste to get as much of the tar sands exploited while the subsidies last (they aren’t worth much without). And as long as we go on electing politicians like 45 and Ford – or Trudeau and Notley come to that – we look like “succeeding”.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book and felt I learned a lot: after all as is common to those educated in Britain in the 1950s and 60s we had to make a choice between arts and science in school. Ever since I have been conscious of the need to make up for my scientific ignorance – and how difficult that is when so many people resort to “Well, I’d explain it but you haven’t got the math.” This book is not like that. What did surprise me is how much of it is actually familiar. Yes, I know we need seaweed. I have learned how to read nutritional labels and I did know that there is a lot more than just sushi wrappers. I also realise that we need to come up with much better frameworks of regulation not just of the shoreline people but of the big corporations which seem to continue to escape every constraint placed upon them.

What must remain wild for the health of the planet, and what can we take, as we face climate change and diminishing natural resources?

 

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge
by Susan Hand Shetterly
Algonquin Books
On sale August 7, 2018
ISBN 978 1 61620 574 4

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Environment

Alaska Trip: Part 1

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We returned to Vancouver on Wednesday from a trip to see glaciers, railways and the history of The North. We flew up to Anchorage and then took the train to Denali, and from there went on to Fairbanks by bus. Air North flew us to Dawson City then it was back on the bus for Whitehorse and Skagway where we joined our ship, MV Volendam. We had expected to ride on the White Pass and Yukon railway, but a huge boulder on the tracks was blocking traffic, so we had to stay on the bus. The ship took us to Glacier Bay (also a National Park) and Ketchikan (quite the opposite), and then traversed the Inside Passage. That was also a bit of a nonevent, as the first section was overnight and the day was socked in by the weather.

I will be posting pictures to flickr, but I have learned that little attention is paid when a large quantity of images get posted there all at once. It is also necessary to do some editing, adding map tags and commentary. But this morning I was in my storage locker looking for the screen I used to use for slide shows. That was in the days when my pictures were transparencies on film, but they were rarely seen by more than a small audience. I thought a slideshow here might get some more attention

Since the way slideshows work on WordPress also requires some effort, and I am sure you will appreciate at least some indication of what you are looking at, I am going to try a series of short slide shows with a little text. Feedback is encouraged, if not a comment then at least a “like”. If this works for the first day or so, then I will post more.

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Flying in to Anchorage one of the first things you see is the wind farm on an off shore island. Alaska has huge amounts of oil and coal, yet they are also under threat from rising seas and melting permafrost.

The stuffed moose is in the middle of the airport lobby – as is the float plane which is unique. 

The little locomotive was used in the building of the Panama Canal and subsequently on the construction of the Alaska Railroad. Both of these were US federal government initiatives, back in the day when this was about the only feasible way to achieve such results.

“People Mover” is a term of art in the transportation business and usually refers to rail based, driverless vehicles in airports and theme parks. I quite like the use of the term by the local transit agency: it does not just cover full sized buses but also vans and shuttles.

The large locomotive was built for the use of the US Army in the second world war and then worked on the Alaska Railroad for another ten years.

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We arrived in Anchorage a day before the start of the land tour to give us more time to explore the town. This meant we were able to rent bikes for a couple of hours to ride the shore line trail which includes a very interesting area where we found the explanation of the very strange topography of the waterfront.

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That evening we were staying in the Captain Cook, the best hotel in Anchorage, and far better accommodation than the Ramada. We had a room near the top floor with a view over the ocean. The hotel naturally features a portrait of the great explorer – and there is a lovely piece of public art between the hotel and the car park of the small fleet of ships he commanded on three round the world voyages

Our after dinner walk enabled me to get some shots of the Alaska Railroad – and we also visited the area where most of the townspeople were fishing for salmon. The next morning we joined the train – just two dome cars – with at seat service of drinks and snacks throughout the day and lunch served in the lower deck dining room. The views are spectacular – with glimpses of passing trains in the loops – and the ability to move around and a lower deck open viewing platform.

Part two will cover the Denali National Park and our Tundra Wilderness Tour.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

Film Review: “Blue”

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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.

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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.

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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

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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