Accelerating clean energy innovation is key to solving the climate crisis

Our nation has a history of tackling big challenges and leveraging the ingenuity of American entrepreneurs to develop solutions that have changed the world – from curing diseases to exploring space to launching the internet.

Today, climate change is one of our most urgent global challenges, for which there is little time left to prevent the most destructive impacts. To combat it, we must bring every bit of our nation’s entrepreneurial creativity and scientific excellence to bear. That means accelerating the deployment of existing low-carbon technologies as well as investing in new and emerging innovations that can transform our economy to 100% clean energy. And we have to do it quickly.

Fortunately, there are recent indications that a clean energy innovation agenda can attract bipartisan support in Congress, even as the debate over broader climate policy remains gridlocked. Recently, in the Republican-controlled Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing focused on a bipartisan bill that would invest in research on cutting- edge approaches such as direct air capture (DAC), a “negative emissions technology” (NET) that might someday be able to suck carbon pollution directly out of the air and store it or recycle it into fuel, fertilizer, and concrete.

A complement to conventional approaches to climate mitigation that reduce emissions, NETs remove carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. They range from technological options like DAC to natural sequestration techniques such as replanting and vitalizing forests and adopting sustainable farming practices that put more carbon into the soil. The Committee also looked at the state of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which can capture carbon pollution from industrial smokestacks, including at power plants, and store it underground. MORE

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The Climate Roulette: Are We Ignoring Climate Risks?

The Climate Roulette: Are We IgnorIng Climate Risks, Below2C

“The science is clear: the future damages from climate change will increase significantly as we emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere.

The most recent report by the International Panel of Climate Change finds a huge difference between warming of 2ºC compared to 1.5ºC,” writes Jonathan Arnold in his Risks Too Big To Ignore blog post.

“The seemingly small 0.5ºC difference will mean extreme weather events will become more frequent, stronger, nastier, and costlier.” MORE

Are more tall wood buildings on the way in B.C.?

Provincial government changes B.C. Building Code to allow for mass timber buildings of up to 12 storeys

Brock Commons UBC student housing

Brock Commons is an 18-storey student residential building at UBC made out of cross-laminated timber. Image via YouTube

Would you like to live in a tall building made out of engineered wood?

There could soon be a rise – literally – in wooden residential buildings across the province, after the B.C. government announced changes to the provincial Building Code to allow for mass timber structures of up to 12 storeys, up from the previous limit of six storeys.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said housing minister Selina Robinson in the March 13 announcement. “The faster we can deliver the homes that people need, the better for communities right across B.C.” MORE

 

The Green New Deal Isn’t Global Enough

The resources Democrats want Washington to appropriate and use domestically instead need to flow elsewhere in the world.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has led the charge. 

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has led the charge.  Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

At the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya this past week, experts and officials from around the world debated how to come up with the investment and innovation needed for countries to grow without dooming the planet. National leaders, NGOs and others discussed, among other things, how to create more “sustainable patterns of consumption and production.” What really struck me in Nairobi, though, was what wasn’t discussed: the Green New Deal being pushed by Democratic Party politicians in the U.S.

This is surprising, in a way: It was the United Nations Environment Programme that first called for a “Global Green New Deal” in 2009, hoping to revive the world economy through investment in climate change-related sectors

That extra word, “global,” suggests why international players today aren’t terribly enthused by the Democrats’ plan. The program — or what little of it can be adduced from what’s now largely a slogan — is focused entirely on green investment in the U.S. The basic notion that climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution seems to have been forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong: De-carbonizing the U.S. economy would be a big deal. A lot of good work can be and is being done. The Beyond Coal campaign supported by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News) has already helped shut down 285 of the country’s 500-plus coal-fired power plants and is aiming to close the rest by 2030. And getting climate change back onto the political agenda is important in and of itself. Nor should Republicans be allowed to use concerns about the growth of emissions in the developing world to stymie work on carbon mitigation at home.

Yet, fawning coverage of the Green New Deal rubs many in the developing world the wrong way. We’ve long known that an economy transitioning to a low-carbon growth path will both require investment and create jobs. But, the New Deal of the 1930s is simply not the right analogy. Then, economies across the world had enormous amounts of unused capacity that just needed to be put to work.

By contrast, a global low-carbon transition will require laying claim to resources that are productively employed in carbon-intensive sectors of the economy. It will be expensive. It will require sacrifice. And resources will need to flow more freely across national borders. MORE

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ON HOPE, HOPELESSNESS AND WINNING THE WORLD WE NEED: FIVE INSPIRING STORIES

March 2019

Fifty years ago Sierra Club BC was formed by a handful of people determined to defend old-growth forests. As we look forward – still defending the remaining big old trees! – it’s a time for deep reflection on where our organization, and our planet, is at.

There is so much work to be done, so many losses already suffered. There’s no hope at this point of stopping climate change—it’s already here—and there’s no hope of reaching our goals without an abrupt transition of our entire economy. Maybe it could have been smooth if we started decades earlier, but no longer.

And at the same time, there is definitely still hope that we can reduce emissions rapidly and do what the IPCC says is needed to stay below 1.5 degrees warming.

In reflecting on climate change, we experience a difficult tension between hope and hopelessness. Somehow we need to hold both at the same time. How do we honour important emotions like grief, while staying motivated to take critical actions that will make a difference?

The Big Stall: How big oil and think tanks are blocking action on climate change in CanadaIn December, Sierra Club BC’s Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon spoke at an event hosted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). It was the launch of a book by Donald Gutstein called The Big Stall. The book reveals how Canada’s energy sector and think tanks connected to Big Oil have systematically blocked action on climate change.

We’ve been told Caitlyn’s stories inspired hope and action. So we’ve adapted her words into a blog post to share her thoughts here with you. HERE

 

Think we should be at school? Today’s climate strike is the biggest lesson of all

We are among the young people striking against climate change in every corner of the globe – adults should join us too

Schoolchildren take part in a nationwide student climate march in George Square on February 15, 2019 in Glasgow.

 ‘This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice.’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It started in front of the Swedish parliament, on 20 August – a regular school day. Greta Thunberg sat with her painted sign and some homemade flyers. This was the first school climate strike. Fridays wouldn’t be regular schooldays any longer. The rest of us, and many more alongside us, picked it up in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Uganda. Today the climate strike will take place all around the world.

This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. We knew there was a climate crisis. Not just because forests in Sweden or in the US had been on fire; because of alternating floods and drought in Germany and Australia; because of the collapse of alpine faces due to melting permafrost and other climate changes. We knew, because everything we read and watched screamed out to us that something was very wrong.

That first day of refusing to go to school was spent alone, but since then a movement of climate strikers has swept the globe. Today young people in more than 100 countries will walk out of class to demand action on the greatest threat humankind has ever faced.

These strikes are happening today – from Washington DC to Moscow, Tromsø to Invercargill, Beirut to Jerusalem, and Shanghai to Mumbai – because politicians have failed us. We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit. We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coalmining continue. Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence. MORE

Some Ontario environmental watchdog employees, including Saxe, to be axed, despite Ford’s election promise they would not be

Some provincial employees at Ontario’s environmental watchdog were informed Thursday they will be laid off, despite Premier Doug Ford’s election promise that no workers would lose their jobs in his push to trim the province’s budget.

The Ontario PC government announced in November, as part of its fall economic statement, that it planned to merge the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario into the auditor general’s office in an effort to cut costs.

 Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, has seen her department folded into the Office of the Auditor General by the Ford government. Six people, including Saxe, have lost their jobs.Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, has seen her department folded into the Office of the Auditor General by the Ford government. Six people, including Saxe, have lost their jobs. (FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 

In an email Thursday, Christine Pedias, a spokesperson for the auditor general, confirmed that five full-time, non-management employees were not offered positions as part of the transition, which is scheduled to take place by May 1. The commissioner’s office has a full-time staff of about 25. “As of today, the Office of the Auditor General has offered positions to most of the technical, specialized staff of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office, including its management team,” Pedias said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to offer positions to the remaining staff because they duplicate our existing in-house resources, or their specific roles are not required under our expanded mandate.” SOURCE

B.C. approves 314 new cutblocks in endangered caribou habitat over last five months

Image result for B.C. approves 314 new cutblocks in endangered caribou habitat over last five months
As more caribou populations flicker out, and pressure mounts on the province to protect the species’ habitat, logging approvals have almost quadrupled since mid-October

The B.C. government approved 314 new logging cutblocks in the critical habitat of southern mountain caribou over the past five months, while simultaneously negotiating conservation plans to protect the highly endangered species, according to maps released Thursday by the Wilderness Committee.

The new cutblocks cover almost 16,000 hectares in total, an area almost eight times the size of the city of Victoria.

The Wilderness Committee discovered a sharp spike in logging approvals in the critical habitat of B.C.’s eight most imperilled caribou herds, where last October the group documented an additional 83 new cutblocks covering an area the equivalent of 11 Stanley Parks in size.

“On the one hand B.C. says it’s protecting caribou while on the other they’re handing out permits to log habitat as fast as they can,” said Charlotte Dawe, the Wilderness Committee’s conservation and policy campaigner.

“It’s as if the B.C. government is holding a clear out sale for logging companies to ‘get it while you can!’ It’s the great caribou con from our very own B.C. government.” MORE

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‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ book sheds light on everyday exposure to toxic chemicals

The new 10th anniversary edition of the book ‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ examines health impacts and calls for stronger regulations against toxic chemicals in Canada and around the world.

“Bruce and I poisoned ourselves so you don’t have to,” joked Rick Smith, speaking at the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Ten years ago, Smith and co-author Bruce Lourie set out to write a book about the insidious, invisible toxic chemicals found in the products consumers handle every day, from shampoo and shaving cream to non-stick frying pans.

They took an unconventional approach, and decided to become guinea pigs themselves.

Through a dozen experiments, Smith and Lourie examined the impacts of chemicals including Teflon, triclosan, and bisphenol A — better known as BPA — on their own bodies.

They sat in a new car for six hours to measure levels of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. They slathered themselves in products containing phthalates and parabens. Lourie ate tuna for a day to see if it would lead to higher levels of mercury in his body.

Across the board, Smith and Lourie measured increased toxins in their bodies.

“If we took the science related to these toxic chemicals seriously, this would be a huge societal priority,” said Smith, who is also executive director of the Broadbent Institute, an independent research organization founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent that promotes democracy, equality and sustainability. “We’ve created an enormous problem for ourselves that’s at the root of a lot of the diseases our families experience.” MORE

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B.C. audit blames ‘gaps’ in provincial law for growing oilpatch liabilities


Oil and gas infrastructure is seen behind a chain link fence in this undated file photo by Louie Villanueva

The number of abandoned oil wells in British Columbia almost doubled between 2007 and 2018 and funds collected from operators to cover cleanup costs for a growing number of orphaned wells are insufficient, the province’s auditor general said in a report issued on Thursday.

A major reason for that is that the industry’s regulator, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), lacks the power to compel operators to decommission and restore well sites in a timely way, said Carol Bellringer.

“We found that gaps in the provincial legislation governing the OGC meant operators weren’t required to decommission or restore their inactive well sites unless the OGC explicitly ordered them to do so because of specific safety or environmental issues,” she said.

The provincial government has created a new law that will give the regulator more coercive powers, she said in a phone interview, but the regulations that would allow it to be enforced are still being drafted. MORE

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