A new study says there are ‘strikingly high’ rates of cancer in some Ontario industrial cities

“Recent federal air monitoring data released to Global News by Environment and Climate Change Canada shows that benzene levels in Aamjiwnaang First Nation, on the south side of Sarnia, were three times the regulated annual limit in 2017.”

Dermatologist Ivan Litvinov speaks about new scientific research in an interview with National Observer and Global News in Montreal on May 10, 2019. Photo by Global News

For years, residents in some of Canada’s largest industrial cities have wondered whether toxins from petrochemical plants and other manufacturers are making them sick.

A new peer-reviewed study has found “strikingly high” rates of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in Canadian border towns, including Sarnia, Ont., a city whose manufacturing sector is referred to as Canada’s Chemical Valley.

The study reviewed 18,085 Canadian cases of AML between 1992 and 2010. It found hot spots for this type of leukemia in several Canadian cities, including Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia and St. Catharines.

Sarnia was at the top of the list.

VIDEO: Journalist Megan Robinson reports on a new study about elevated levels of a type of leukemia in several industrial cities. Video by Global News

Local residents in Sarnia have long been raising public health concerns about the impacts of industrial pollution. The city is surrounded by 57 companies which are registered to emit pollutants, including oil refineries and other chemical plants on either side of the U.S.-Canada border. MORE

Cutting fossil fuels could save Canadians $24 billion a year by 2050

“We are still seeing efficiency standards for many buildings either weak or nonexistent.”

IEA executive director Fatih Birol speaks with attendees at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver on May 29, 2019 before he gave opening remarks to the gathering of 25 countries. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

Canadians could save as much as $24 billion annually by 2050 by scaling back the use of fossil fuels to heat and cool their buildings and deploying a range of low-carbon and energy efficient technologies, according to a new joint study by a federal regulator and an international agency.

These tens of billions of dollars a year in savings would come on top of cutting energy demand by as much as 35 per cent and could be achieved through the use of existing technology, say the National Energy Board (NEB) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their new research.

But in order to deliver on “the energy savings potential and related emissions reduction,” Canada will need “additional policy signals” like carbon pricing and tightened energy performance requirements for buildings, they say.

That’s in part because abundant and cheaply priced natural gas in Canada poses a “particular challenge” to cutting carbon pollution and reducing energy demand in homes and offices.

“Policy support is needed to encourage shifts to efficient heat pumps in regions where natural gas and electricity prices mean there may be little economic incentive to change equipment,” the report states.

The joint report was published the same day the IEA’s executive director delivered a sobering message in Vancouver about the state of the world’s clean energy transition, in remarks to a gathering of ministers from 25 countries. MORE

Premier Horgan walking a political tightrope on pipeline issue

“It has become quite clear the B.C. Greens will never take down this government.”

John Horgan

Absolutely no one should be surprised that Attorney General David Eby was quick to declare the B.C. government will appeal the decisive court ruling against it over who controls what can flow through an interprovincial pipeline.

But the lack of emotion attached to his pronouncement was telling, another indication perhaps of the B.C. NDP’s chief desire that this issue just goes away, even with that pending appeal.

The NDP continues to walk a political tightrope on the pipeline expansion issue as it tries to placate environmental anti-pipeline activists within the party while at the same time declaring support for the resource industry.

The party has long said it would use “every tool in the toolbox” to fight the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but as I have noted here before, the toolbox turned out to be a very small one containing a rather weak and tepid “tool.”

That tool was this court case, considered a bit of a Hail Mary pass pretty much from the start. The government provided no legal evidence that a province could control what is a federally regulated entity, i.e. an inter-provincial pipeline.

Nevertheless, the NDP had to do something – anything – to make it look like it was trying to block the pipeline. Environment Minister George Heyman sheepishly admitted early on upon taking office that there was absolutely nothing “legally” the government could do to stop its construction.

Hence, the rather novel court argument about jurisdiction over something the government had to live with. As expected, the B.C. Court of Appeal made short work of it, giving the argument a 5-0 drubbing.

Nevertheless, the NDP has to exhaust its legal options no matter how dim the prospects of ultimate victory are. It may all be a waste of tax dollars, but it is political capital that the NDP is more concerned about.

And an appeal will allow B.C. Premier John Horgan to be able to say, “I did what I could” to stop the pipeline and that will be the end of things.

Some environmental groups will be upset, but they were upset with the decisions to finish the Site C dam and woo the LNG industry into this province and that opposition mattered little at the end of the day.

Some have mistakenly thought that launching the appeal was designed to keep the B.C. Green Party in check to ensure it continues keeping the NDP in power. That is a misread of the reality that has emerged about the relationship between the two parties (for all their criticism and complaining, it has become quite clear the B.C. Greens will never take down this government). MORE


Uncertainty for clients due to carbon pricing

Putting a price on carbon means business will have to take seriously their carbon emissions

‘Businesses would be wise to quantify and verify greenhouse gas emissions’

Uncertainty for clients due to carbon pricing

Jennifer King says emitters will continue to be subject to greenhouse gas emission reporting requirements, whether that is through a provincial or federal pricing system.

On April 1, the federal carbon price backstop came into effect, which meant that a $20/tonne charge for greenhouse gas emissions is being applied in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government continues to wage a legal battle at the provincial Court of Appeal against the federal government, calling the carbon price legislation unconstitutional.

Lawyers say that, while their Ontario-based clients are advised to comply with the federal rules, there remains uncertainty as to what they should expect going forward.

Jennifer King, a partner at Gowling WLG in Toronto and a member of the firm’s environmental law group, represented the Canadian Public Health Association in both the Saskatchewan and Ontario courts of appeal during their respective reference cases on the federal carbon price.

The Saskatchewan government had asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal whether the federal price was constitutional, followed by a similar reference from the Ontario government at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

In early May, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in Reference re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act 2019, 2019 SKCA 40, that the federal price was constitutional in a 3-2 decision.

The court also agreed that the federal price was a regulatory charge and not a tax.

“It is likely that the decisions of the Ontario and Saskatchewan Courts of Appeal will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada,” says King.

“There are other provinces now who have indicated that they may challenge the [Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act] in some way or the other. The Manitoba government filed its own court challenge of the act in Federal Court.”

King says it’s important to remember that businesses in Ontario did have a cap-and-trade system, which was ended in July 2018.

The cap-and-trade system used emissions credits trading to impose a price on carbon in the province.

The uncertainty around the carbon pricing system in Ontario is not new, she says.

Tyson Dyck, a partner at Torys LLP in Toronto, says his clients in the energy, infrastructure and mining sectors are asking about both the short-term and long-term carbon pricing issues.

His clients tend to be industries that are subject to emissions regulations, he says. They have questions about the immediate compliance obligations required by the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, but the more difficult questions are about the long-term outlook of carbon pricing. MORE



Rosalind Adams: “Declare a climate emergency today.”

Prince Edward County Coun. Kate MacNaughton introduced a motion at the committee of teh whole last week in an effort to have the municipality declare a state of climate emergency. BRUCE BELL 

Adams demolishes objections of the fainthearted 

My name is Rosalind Adams and I am speaking to motion CW 181 2019.

I appeal to you not to declare a “climate urgency”.

To pick up from where the last discussion left off, Council downgraded the proposed declaration from “climate emergency” to “climate urgency”. This had nothing to do with science, but sprang from a disinclination to take the kind of action declaring a climate emergency would demand.

It is hard to fathom why, when hundreds of millions of people’s lives are in danger, when our own children’s and grandchildren’s chance of decent survival is threatened, Council wouldn’t want to do everything its power to change things.

I can only imagine two possible explanations. One is the belief that continuing the status quo is worth ending the world for everyone. The other is confusion about climate change and our responsibility to reduce our emissions. I hope that it’s the latter. So I am going to try to clear up some confusing statements made by Council at the last meeting.

Statement #1. We all produce carbon dioxide every time we breathe out, so how can we really reduce our carbon emissions?

The carbon dioxide we breathe out comes from how we use food and oxygen to get the energy we need. When we burn food in our bodies it is converted to water and carbon dioxide. All the carbon dioxide we exhale comes from food recently produced by photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process where plants use energy from the sun to make food from carbon dioxide and water. This creates a cycle. Plants are pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at the same rate that things that eat plants are releasing it. So we don’t disturb the carbon dioxide concentration by breathing.

On the other hand when we burn fossil fuels we are releasing hundreds of millions of years worth of sequestered carbon on a time scale of a few centuries, mostly over the last fifty years–far more carbon dioxide than all life processes on earth release, far more than what the biosphere can absorb. This excess is going into the atmosphere increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide, and warming the planet.

To reduce our emissions, we don’t need to stop breathing, we need to stop burning fossil fuels.

Statement #2. The entire country of Canada only contributes between 1.5 and 2 % of total global carbon emissions, so it won’t make much difference if we lower our emissions.

This is the “I’m only one person, so I can do whatever I want and it’s not going to matter in the big picture” mentality, but multiplied by 36 million.

Everyone in the world is only one person. What is pushing global carbon emissions over the threshold is the aggregation of carbon emissions made by individual human beings.

We each share the climate with almost eight billion other people, who are all our equals. So a good way to see if how we are proposing to act in the climate crisis is okay, is to ask the question, What if everyone does what we do?
We are already seeing what happens if only a small percentage of the world’s population have high levels of fossil fuel use: the aggregate carbon emissions of this group are changing the atmosphere in a life-threatening way.

And that’s not even with everyone acting the way Canadians do. Even among the world’s worst emitters, we stand out. The national emission level Greta Thunberg is protesting, Sweden’s, is 5.9 tonnes per person. Her young European Union comrades are protesting an average level of around 8 tonnes. Canada’s per capita emissions are 22 tonnes.

If everyone in the world had our size carbon footprint, and was following our emissions reduction plan, by 2030 global emissions would be 10 times higher than what is consistent with a survivable future. But that would not really matter, because we would have overshot that possibility by 2021, two years from now. Luckily the world cannot produce enough oil for this to happen.

But our continued ignoring of climate change, and continued high emissions create acceptability on the global scene for this kind of behaviour, and encourage others to adopt it, when we need to be doing the opposite. They also make it impossible for us to demand that other countries lower their emissions.

Which brings us to Statement # 3. China, India, The E.U., the U.S., and Russia all have far greater emissions levels than Canada. It is they who need to lower their emissions, not us.

Let’s look at India. India’s carbon dioxide emissions are 2455 million tonnes per year, about three and a half times Canada’s. Their greater emissions are not unexpected. India has a population of 1.3 billion, about 35 times as many people as Canada. India consumes lots more food than Canada too. That doesn’t mean the people of India eat too much, or that Canadians eat too little.

All the countries mentioned have populations at least 4 times greater than Canada’s. To make relevant comparisons, we have to factor in these differences. To see who really needs to lower their emissions, we must use per capita values and hold them up against the IPCC report’s livable-climate target of 2.1 tonnes per person by 2030.

India’s per capita level is 1.9 tonnes. To meet the 2030 target, they do not have to make any reductions. China, the E.U., and Russia all have considerably higher emissions levels: around 8 tonnes per person for China and the E.U. and 11 for Russia. These countries are responsible to make considerable cuts by 2030 to reach the 2.1 tonne per person target. But none of the so-called top emitters have anywhere near the same responsibility as Canada, where average per capita emissions are 22 tonnes.

Our personal carbon emissions do not have a lesser impact on the climate if we live in a country with a low population. The atmosphere and the climate do not recognize borders. We are all just people making emissions. Canadian people make bigger emissions than any other people in the world, and we need to cut our emissions more deeply than anyone else.

Statement #4. Declaring a climate emergency would be divisive.

This is true, but the question we need to ask here is, divisive compared to what?

Declaring a climate emergency might feel alienating to some people in the County because of conflicting ideologies.

But not declaring a climate emergency, not declaring and acting like our collective house is on fire, will cause this house to burn down, figuratively speaking.

Global temperatures forced higher will cause weather disasters to exceed our ability to deal with them. The cost of emergency response, clean-up, rebuilding, infrastructure repair, the social cost of large numbers of people incurring devastating losses, will cut deeply into communities’ ability to provide essential services like healthcare, education, child- and elder-care. Large numbers of people in need competing for depleted to non-existent resources will be far more divisive than differing ideologies.

Human caused climate change also poses an undeniable threat to both global and local food systems. Failing to address climate change will inevitably lead to food crisis. We have seen this situation in microcosm lead to civil unrest and war in other parts of the world. A climate-induced global food crisis has the potential to do this on an unprecedented scale. Talk about divisive.

There seems to be the impression that by not declaring a climate emergency, Council can choose not to have a climate emergency. This is not the choice. The choice you are facing is to declare a climate emergency and do all you possibly can to avoid catastrophe, or to do little to nothing about it and contribute to destroying the future for everyone.

In conclusion that I would like to remind Council that you all are part of “everyone”.

Do not declare a climate “urgency”. Declare a climate EMERGENCY today.


County committee opts for climate urgency (May 21)

Climate emergency by-law in Prince Edward County


Climate emergency by-law in Prince Edward CountyDebris comes up on the property at 10 S Front St, as water comes up over the boardwalk (Photo: John Spitters / Quinte News)

The words ‘climate emergency’ are back in, in Prince Edward County.

As water levels continue to rise on Lake Ontario to record highs for the second time in three years, council voted 10-3 to include the words climate emergency instead of climate urgency when it comes to reestablishing an Environmental Advisory Committee.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton pulled the motion for a second attempt to have her motion contain ‘the strongest wording possible’ as the municipality recognizes a very serious problem, a very serious emergency that requires immediate attention.

Rosalind Adams and Jim Gronau both made delegations to council regarding the importance of this issue, and four others spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting on Tuesday night at Shire Hall.

Federal Bay of Quinte NDP candidate Stephanie Bell spoke, stating she was appalled by their previous decision as “we urgently need to act on this emergency”.

Mayor Steve Ferguson says they have a situation they have to deal with and including language as strong as possible is important.



Council supports declaration of climate emergency