Oilsands lobby speechless as government scientists point to higher pollution

“Air samples collected above four oilsands operations in 2013 show GHG emissions much higher than the companies operating them are require to report. The findings could derail Canada’s 2030 reduction targets.”

Image result for Oilsands lobby speechless as government scientists point to higher pollution
Pollution from oilsands facilities near Fort McMurray waft into the skyline on Feb. 11, 2012. Photo by Kris Krug on Flickr

A major oilpatch lobby group appears to be speechless after government scientists published new research showing that major oilsands facilities appear to be producing far more pollution than what they have reported publicly.

“Thank you for your request, but we won’t be providing a comment,” said Elisabeth Besson, a spokeswoman from the lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), in a brief email to National Observer.

In their research, scientists collected data showing that four major oilsands facilities in northern Alberta emitted far more pollution than what they actually reported.

Besson’s response follows months of public criticism from CAPP about the federal government’s efforts to toughen Canada’s environmental laws. The oilpatch lobby group has also been running an aggressive online marketing and public relations campaign that claims the country’s environmental laws are already among the toughest in the world.

But the new research suggests that there are some holes in what Canada is telling the rest of the world about the climate-warming impacts of its vast reserves of crude oil. MORE

Evidence for man-made global warming hits ‘gold standard’: scientists

Scientists say humanity cannot afford to ignore these clear signals. However Canada’s entrenched neoliberal politicians seem to be tone deaf: massively subsidizing fossil fuel production and refusing to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The NDP and Greens are the only ones listening.

Illustration of earth melting because of global warming.

There’s a 99.9999 percent chance that humans are the cause of global warming, a new study reported Monday. Getty Images

OSLO (Reuters) – Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a “gold standard” level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said on Monday.

“Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals,” the U.S.-led team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change of satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years.

They said confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming.

Such a “gold standard” was applied in 2012, for instance, to confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, a basic building block of the universe.

“The narrative out there that scientists don’t know the cause of climate change is wrong,” he told Reuters. “We do.”

Mainstream scientists say the burning of fossil fuels is causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels. MORE

 

To Fix Climate Change, We Need to Understand Time

 

Vonnegut was right: We need a “secretary of the future.”

Vonnegut was right: We need a Secretary of the Future
ILLUSTRATION BY SAM ROWE

As a geologist and a professor, I speak and write rather cavalierly about eons. One of the courses I teach is The History of Earth and Life. It’s a survey of the 4.5-billion-year saga of the entire planet—in a 10-week trimester. But as a human—and more specifically, as a daughter, mother, and widow—I struggle like everyone else to look time honestly in the face.

Most humans have no sense of temporal proportion—the durations of the great chapters in Earth’s history, the rates of change during previous intervals of environmental instability, the intrinsic timescales of “natural capital” like groundwater systems. As a species, we have a childlike disinterest in the time before our appearance on Earth. This ignorance of planetary history undermines any claims we may make to modernity. We are navigating recklessly toward our future using conceptions of time that are as primitive as a world map from the 14th century.

In these dark times, it is empowering (or at least therapeutic) to imagine what a time-literate society might look like. In his last public interview, Kurt Vonnegut said, “I’ll tell you . . . one thing that no cabinet has ever had is a ‘secretary of the future,’ and there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.” Let’s adopt Vonnegut’s suggestion as our first proposal: a representative for the yet-to-be-born.

I struggle like everyone else to look time honestly in the face.

The Department of the Future would set in motion a realignment of priorities. Resource conservation would be a patriotic virtue. Tax incentives would be rebalanced to reward long-term stewardship over short-term exploitation. Putting a price on carbon might help us prepare for natural disasters that will happen without our assistance—like the hundreds of large earthquakes that will occur in the next century—without needing to expend resources on self-created climate catastrophes. MORE

 

 

 

Canada leads G7 in oil and gas subsidies: new report

 

In spite of Canadians’ objection to fossil fuel subsidies, Justin Trudeau always backs the fossil fuel corporations while, at the same time, pretending he has a robust environmental policy. His priorities are clear; but are they yours? Tell your MP you want environmental protection for your family and future generations.

New research shows vast majority of Canadians support phaseout of government support for fossil fuel companies

Justin Trudeau G7
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flanked by Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during 2017 G7 summit in Taormina, Italy. Photo: European Council President via Flickr

Canada provides more government support for oil and gas companies than any other G7 nation and is among the least transparent about fossil fuel subsidies, a new report reveals.

“Fossil fuel subsidies undermine carbon pricing, work against the achievement of Canada’s climate targets, encourage more fossil fuel exploration and production, and allocate scarce public resources away from other priorities like health care, education and renewable energy,” says the report, which ranks the progress of G7 countries in meeting their pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Accompanied by a new Ekos poll, the research found a large majority of Canadians are strongly opposed to using public money to support oil and gas companies and want to see billions of dollars a year in subsidies phased out.

The exception was Alberta — the heart of Canada’s oil and gas industry — where people polled were concerned about the economic impacts of removing government support for oil and gas corporations.

Even so, 48 per cent of Albertans polled disagreed with public subsidies for oil and gas companiesMORE

GETTING THE LAW IN ORDER

 

The article below is the last one Polly contributed to before her death on Easter Sunday.  She left peacefully, in the company of her devoted husband Ian and close friends, with a mischievous smile on her face.

Oliver Tickell meets barrister and activist Polly Higgins.

Stop ecocide: change the law
Polly Higgins departed this physical dimension on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, at the end of an extraordinary week that saw her life’s work begin to emerge into the awareness of thousands

Polly Higgins, barrister turned environmental campaigner, is a woman with a mission, and one thing she can’t be accused of is not thinking big enough. Her aim is simple: to create a new international crime of ecocide – the mass destruction of ecosystems, air, water and climate – mirroring the existing international law against genocide, the mass destruction of a people.

But why exactly do we need an ecocide law? After all, we already have a host of international environmental laws and treaties, like the Paris Agreement on climate change, or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “All these treaties are effectively civil law among states,” explains Higgins. “If one state has a dispute with another over a breach of treaty obligations, it has to go to court and seek justice at its own expense. There is no one to enforce the law, the penalties are often feeble, and no individual can be held to account as the proceedings are purely between states.

“Take the case of fracking. In 2017, I took a road trip through North Dakota and northern Montana to see the fracked fields and communities. It was like driving into hell. Huge tracts of land are now broken up with nodding donkeys [a kind of pump], flares, pipelines, roads, trailer parks… The atmosphere is acrid with the toxic chemicals and combustion products. You can taste it in your mouth. Flaring was going on day and night. It was truly horrific. Now, those fractured communities may have some scope for civil litigation against the fracking companies. But they cannot stop the activity itself. Going to law is very expensive, if there’s a payout it is always too little, too late, and the companies may have gone bust before they ever pay. And all the time the business carries on as usual.

“So civil litigation is not fit for purpose for environmental destruction. This is what is known as ‘missing law’ – law that is obviously needed but is not there. And where you have missing law you get injustice. In the first RBS meeting after the UK government bailed the bank out, there was a press conference and the CEO was asked, ‘Why are you financing the exploitation of the Athabasca tar sands?’ And he just laughed and said, ‘It’s not a crime!’ That’s what we have to change. And we have to go for ‘superior responsibility’ – holding the senior officials, CEOs, heads of state, ministers, directors to account where there has been a reckless disregard of climate and Nature, or even deliberate misinformation. We have to go one step above civil law and make fracking a crime!” MORE

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‘Her Work Will Live On’: Climate Movement Mourns Loss of Ecocide Campaigner Polly Higgins