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

Archive for the ‘greenhouse gas reduction’ Category

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

OMG

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I am seriously contemplating leaving the Green Party of BC because of this tweet from our beloved leader

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 7.04.09 PM

And because that link won’t work here is one that will

Now here are three images I have downloaded this weekend

Daily Arctic TempIce extentSea Ice bering

Now I am not a climate scientist like Andrew Weaver. But I did watch that video on the NP link. I thought the estimates of the world’s potential refinery capacity for heavy oil was very informative. The calculations of how much oil is in the tar sands – and how long it will last – terrifying. And the idea that there will still be gas stations, but there won’t be any arctic ice appalling.

And I have one question for Andrew Weaver. What part of “keep it in the ground” did you not understand?

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.34.59 AM.png

This from the Washington Post via Clean Energy Review – the Post is, of course, behind a paywall; sorry about that.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 25, 2018 at 7:13 pm

BC Budget 2018

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Thumbnail_Highlights

You can read the whole thing on the BC Gov website or Justin McElroy on the CBC ‘s summary. Basically a commitment to increase necessary spending in the right areas which is being funded by increases in taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. So I am generally in favour.

But what is missing is a much needed correction of former BC Liberal policies which saw a giveaway of our natural resources. Once upon a time oil and gas revenues from leases and royalties made a significant contribution to our provincial budget. That is no longer the case, and ought to have been corrected by the new NDP (+ Green) government.

Two reasons leap out. Horgan retains Christy’s silly obsession with LNG, as well as Site C (which will increase GHG emissions) and, quite possibly, given the federal Liberals commitment the potential TMX pipeline expansion too. Our emissions are not going down even though it is quite clear from the state of the Arctic ice alone that this is a problem we are not tackling. Melting permafrost, with consequent releases of methane and mercury, are immediate threats, not something in the future.

But secondly the whole budget rests on a somewhat hopeful outcome of the ICBC debacle. I think the idea that somehow economic growth and a reasonable approach from personal injury lawyers is going to be enough is overly optimistic. We are going to need the revenues from oil and gas royalties and leases sooner rather than later.

But also, the whole fight with Alberta over the pipeline starts to look a bit different  when you consider how much diluting bitumen for pumping down the pipe depends on BC natural gas and its condensate. (For that thought I acknowledge the twitter feed of Eric Doherty.) The entire project is based on a falsehood, that there will be a market in Asia for dilbit at a higher price than the US refiners are currently willing to pay. It becomes less attractive to the US market (where nearly all of the exports go now) if the BC fuels it depends on have to pay some fairer share of the costs on our local environment and the fact that the resource is not renewable. There is a real reason to fear the loss of jobs at the Burnaby refinery if TMX is all about exports. We need to make sure that we are getting money for value. That isn’t case at the giveaway prices set by Clark.

AFTERTHOUGHT

Yeah, well there was something else that wasn’t in the budget. It would have been really welcome if the NDP had reversed some of Christy Clark cuts to the Public Service Pension. Of course, when these were announced they came with the message “these changes protect your pension” but what they actually meant was that the government was going to stop picking up the tab for some essential health services – so the pension paid out now has to pay for the things that are no longer covered. First up was MSP, of course, but at least that will be going if not immediately. Then there was extended health care, where coverage is now distinctly chintzy. A couple of fillings today cost me $200. And I will need either a denture (over $2,000 – some coverage) or an implant (near $7,000  – no coverage at all) soon. More of that would have been covered under the old plan.

And of course many Canadians have no dental coverage at all.


“As announced in September, starting on April 1 the carbon tax will rise by $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. It will be the first of four annual increases and will bring the price on carbon to $50 per tonne of emissions in 2021.”

source: The Tyee

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm

The National Interest

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“It is the national interest to move forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and we will be moving forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, today, in Nanaimo

The national interest requires that we adhere to our international commitments. The rest of the world (with the notable exception of the United States) is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada signed on to the Paris agreement – which I thought meant that we shared that commitment.

“We don’t have a plan to meet Paris target, and reduction shortfall is about same as GHG growth from tar sands, which account for vast majority of national emissions growth”
Kathryn Harrison, Professor of Political Science UBC via Twitter (By the way, Jason MacLean of USaskLaw also chipped in to the Twitter conversation with this paper – but it is in draft and warns “do not cite or quote”)

To be clear, that idea that we can avoid a 2℃ increase in the global average temperature seems to be shrinking in the rear view mirror. If we were reducing emissions then perhaps that would not be the case but since we have now passed 400ppm it seems to me very unlikely. It is the “tipping point” that catches us. It really was a deadline, because once past that the permafrost starts melting and that releases more carbon than we have released since the industrial revolution. It is not clear if that can be stopped. We talk about this being a threat to human civilisation, but it is an existential threat to life itself as we know it. The planet will survive, and adapt. In aeons of time. But we won’t be around to see it and much of the life with which we share so much of our DNA will be gone. So will many low lying islands in the Pacific, and much of the current coastline. Because the methane from our fracking was ignored, our emissions weren’t getting better as we thought, but very much worse. And what has already been emitted is now the problem. And “carbon capture and storage” is mostly a pipedream. And the carbon contribution from oil sands extraction is not trivial even if we do not count burning the stuff we manage to export.

Digging up bitumen for export to Asia is an unlikely economic venture, since the market is currently awash in better, cheaper, easier to deal with oil. And other sources of energy have now proved to be cheaper than fossil fuels in many applications. But we are convinced, against all evidence to the contrary, that somehow expanding extraction of the oil sands is necessary for Canada’s well being. The current extraction is uneconomic. It would not be happening without billions in subsidies from us, the hard pressed citizens. Somehow, the profits of a few corporations are far more important than the well being of ordinary Canadians.

In the more immediate future, the local resident orcas will be gone. Even if we actually manage to stop the pipeline, the lack of salmon that they feed on is already an issue. I do recall when we were campaigning against freeway expansion that we lamented the lack of charismatic megafauna to feature in our arguments. (The Nooksack Dace didn’t quite fit the bill despite the “don’t diss de dace” plea.) Well, if the most intelligent mammals on the planet don’t fit that description, I don’t know what does. But apparently the survival of the resident orcas isn’t in the National Interest, even though tourism is one of the most economically significant issues of the Pacific coast – along with fishing – and the people who depend on the health of its ecosystem.

There will be a spill. There has already been one, but that was at the terminal, so that was actually cleaned up. Quite what happens when the spill is out in more open waters, in worse weather isn’t clear. The idea that somehow the diluent (condensate from natural gas) is going to hang around long enough so the rescuers can scoop up the bitumen seems far fetched to me. It wasn’t the case in the Kalamazoo River. And “world class spill response” that we have seen so far for other kinds of spills has been less than impressive.  Which is why the province is saying that we need to get that right before the spill happens, which seems only reasonable to me. Because, once again, once the bitumen hits the bottom of the sea it is almost impossible to recover and the long term impacts, while we cannot be precise, are not going to be good.

The pipeline crosses the traditional lands of several First Nations. Prime Minister Trudeau has made a large number of speeches about reconciliation. Apparently that too is a National Interest only for as long as it does not butt up against some generous contributor to party funds.

Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley and John Horgan all share in the same ethos. They were elected because they represented change from former conservative governments. The conservatives were wrong about nearly everything. None of the outcomes they predicted for their policies have come about. Instead we have seen an increase in the wealth of very few at the expense of the many. Wealth did not trickle down from tax cuts. Wages remain stubbornly low – except for CEOs. Housing remains unaffordable for many. In too many places there are still totally unacceptable threats to clean air, clean water and edible food. We keep being told we cannot afford essential services like health, education and childcare. All three of these politicians, elected to bring about change, are stuck in the past, clinging to outdated ideas and technologies. The National Interest is that we join the leaders in clean energy and renewable resources. We can no longer simply cut down more trees or dig up more minerals when we need more money. We have a huge legacy from these outdated industries – asbestos, tailing ponds, poisoned land and water are problems in nearly every part of the country. Trains blow up in the middle of towns, cars continue to kill thousands every year, schools cannot withstand expected earthquakes – the list is long and daunting. Keeping jobs in the oil sands does not seem to be one of the best ways forward – especially in a week when one of the largest operators announces that it is laying people off and buying self driving trucks. Given these problems, clinging stubbornly to a failed philosophy seems to me to be indefensible.

It is really sad that the people who went to Nanaimo to bring these problems to the Prime Minister’s attention failed miserably – and are now charged with the worst imaginable Canadian sin. Being impolite.

For more about the National Interest and how NEB defends its decisions you should really read this oped by Elizabeth May  

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm

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

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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

200 Top Scientists Urge American Museum of Natural History to Kick Climate Denial Funder Rebekah Mercer off its Board

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The following is a Press Release received from The Action Network on behalf of The Natural History Museum. It has not been altered or edited in any way.


Last night more than 200 leading scientists–including former NASA head James Hansen, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning psychiatrist Eric Chivian and the former director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum James Powell–released a letter urging NY’s American Museum of Natural History to cut ties to donor and board member Rebekah Mercer.

“The most important asset any museum has is its credibility. This can be damaged by ties to donors and board members who are publicly known for investing in climate science obfuscation and opposing environmental solutions,” the letter reads.

The scientists refer to billionaire Mercer as an “anti-science propagandist and funder of climate science misinformation.” While Mercer’s unmatched support for Breitbart.com and the Trump campaign are well known, her funding of climate science denial campaigns is starting to garner more attention.

The Mercer Family Foundation, led by Rebekah Mercer, has ramped up its funding of groups who attack climate science and policy solutions over the past decade. The foundation gave tens of millions of dollars to a list of organizations that include ringleaders of climate denial such as the Heartland Institute, which received $5.9 million from the Mercers from 2008-2016, more than the $4 million donated by the Mercers to the American Museum of Natural History.

Previously unreleased tax filings procured by researchers at the Climate Investigations Center show grants to Heartland Institute for $800,000, the CO2 Coalition for $150,000 and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide for $125,000.  All of the organizations maintain that carbon dioxide pollution is beneficial for ecosystems, agriculture and humanity, a position in clear conflict with the international scientific consensus on climate change.

The Mercers have also been big supporters of climate denier Arthur Robinson, whose Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine dismisses climate change as “false religion”. The Mercers donated at least $1.6 million to the institute, and Rebekah Mercer nominated Robinson for a National Science Advisor position while she was a member of the Trump Transition Team.

“The science tells us climate change is more and more urgent every day, the Mercer-funded network says the opposite. Science deniers should not be in leadership positions at science museums,” said scientist Sandra Steingraber, a signatory on the letter.

The letter was organized by The Natural History Museum, a nonpartisan nonprofit traveling museum that collaborates with scientists, major public museums, educators, artists, and community groups. In 2015 the mobile museum coordinated a similar effort urging the American Museum of Natural History to cut ties to then-trustee David Koch. More than 550,000 people signed a petition, including dozens of top scientists. Mr. Koch resigned from the board a few months later amidst controversy, after serving for 23 years.

“At a time when science itself is under attack, trusted institutions of science are needed now more than ever. The museum’s ties to Mercer risk undermining the credibility of the institution and eroding the public’s trust. That’s a high price to pay,” said Beka Economopoulos, Director of The Natural History Museum.

Climate scientist Michael Mann said, “Rebekah Mercer is a top patron of Breitbart.com, a mouthpiece for the alt-right and a megaphone for alt-facts. The platform’s assault on truth and science undermines everything the American Museum of Natural History is about.”

Earlier this week, activists organized a demonstration outside the American Museum of Natural History to protest the museum’s ties to Mercer. And a new petition campaign has been launched calling for the museum to kick Mercer off its board, warning the institution that it could suffer a “loss of public trust” through its association with Mercer.

This month thousands of people shared a twitter comment by environmental economist Jonah Busch about misleading information on climate science on outdated panel in an Exxon-funded exhibit the American Museum of Natural History. To the museum’s credit, the institution’s response was swift: it committed to updating the panel to reflect the best available science. But the initial online public anger showed that trust in the museum is undermined by the museum’s association with known climate science opponents.

“This country is having a crisis of trust, museums are the last bastions of trust and we have to be very careful of preserving that,” said Jon Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, which doesn’t accept money from fossil fuels. “Science has never been more important to the country, yet it’s under more attack than we’ve seen in decades. It’s worrisome to see prominent ― not just donors but trustees ― of major museums on the one hand supporting science, but on the other undermining it by funding groups that are deliberately trying to sabotage science on things like climate change.”

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For Reference:

New York Times, Scientists Rebel Over a Trump Ally at the Natural History Museum (Jan 25, 2018)

The Guardian, Museum of Natural History Urged to Cut Ties to ‘Anti-Science Propagandist Rebekah Mercer (Jan 25, 2018)

Written by Stephen Rees

January 26, 2018 at 9:43 am

A Conversation with BC’s Minister of the Enviroment

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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