Prince Edward should emulate Bridgewater’s award-winning solution to energy poverty

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, plant, grass, outdoor and natureWhite Pines turbines, Prince Edward County, which successfully completed all provincial environmental checks, have been ordered speedly removed or face stiff fines by the Ford Government and the entire project has been cancelled. Photo: Rob Garden Photography

In Prince Edward County a large percentage of housing is unoccupied by actual owners. Houses and condominiums are seen as a lucrative investment opportunity. This has resulted in huge price increases in real estate, rents, and taxes. Businesses find it challenging to hire staff because  their staff can’t afford County rents.

Added to this dilemma, actual residents are faced with tax increases and face energy poverty. Prince Edward Council cerainly didn’t help this situation by declaring it was an “unwilling host” to a project that could have substantiallly reduced energy costs with renewable energy.

In Contrast

Bridgeport, Nova Scotia (population 8,700) set itself 3 accomplishments for sustainable energy:

    1. “Our community has reduced the energy needed to build, maintain, and power our built environment
    2. Our energy needs are met through secure sources of renewable energy
    3. All people can afford energy for their homes, businesses, and transportation means

The town entered the  Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge. In March, the community submitted a comprehensive proposal for an Energy Poverty Reduction Program designed to lift residents out of energy poverty, starting by reducing the energy poverty rate 20% by 2025.

Bridgewater submitted its Smart Cities Challenge Finalist application to Infrastructure Canada. Watch the following  video and you will understand why they emerged as winners and pocketed the $5M prize towards reducing energy poverty.

As you can see, this type of leadership required the appointment of a  Sustainability Planner/Project Coordinator  to guide the process.


The vision:

“Bridgewater envisions an Energy Poverty
Reduction Program that uses data and connected
technology to bring together and drive energy
savings to create financial returns for households and property owners. This system also provides coordinated access to community supports for households experiencing energy poverty. And finally, a financial system that supports extensive investment in energy efficiency solutions. Bridgewater’s impactful, comprehensive approach to community-based problem solving and transformational change is highly transferrable to communities across the country that are struggling with energy poverty challenges of their own.”

Prince Edward Councillors take note.


PEC’s Expensive art installment, formerly known as the White Pines Wind Project.

3 (and a half) Reasons for Climate Optimism

Why it might not be all bad

Photo by Charl van Rooy on Unsplash

You can’t turn on the news these days without seeing deadly wildfires, devastating hurricanes or record-breaking temperatures making the headlines. The seemingly never-ending cycle of negativity makes it very easy to adopt the “well, we’ve really fucked this” mentality.

But, I believe that if you wade through the negativity (and there is a lot of it), and briefly set aside the overwhelming sense of existential dread, there are a few reasons to be optimistic on climate change.

#1. Everyone is talking about it

Climate change is everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. ‘Single-use’ was even awarded word of the year for 2018. This is an enormous step in the right direction.

A few years ago climate change was littered with buzzwords like sustainability, carbon footprint and emissions but the masses did not really know, or care, what they meant. Now, even with the leaders of the U.S and Brazil in denial of the science, it is at the forefront of the international agenda.

We are constantly gaining a better understanding of both the causes and the threats of a warming world, allowing people to become more informed and make more mindful choices.

Knowledge is a prerequisite for action.

The more people that know, and understand, the dangers of a changing climate, the more people can help to reverse our current troublesome trajectory.

#2. Attitudes are changing

For a long time, it seemed as though the main message for mitigating climate change was for everyone to drive an electric vehicle and turn vegan.

While the actions clearly do help, they require very large changes in lifestyle that people are either unwilling or unable to make. The majority of people, myself included, do not have enough spare cash to buy a Tesla and I think pushing such extreme changes has actually been detrimental to the cause.

We do not need an all or nothing approach — either drive an EV and cut out meat entirely or remain exactly the same — but rather an approach that incentivises and facilitates many people to make small changes. Just like in investing, the power of compounding will be our best friend in fighting climate change.

If most people can make small adjustments to their lives, the sum of these changes in terms of emission reductions will be far greater than if a few people make extreme changes.

We are already beginning to see this. There has been a rapid rise in the ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle, allowing people the flexibility to enjoy meat when they feel like it but also being happy to make other choices.

There is an ongoing war with single-use plastic. Countless campaigns have highlighted the devastating consequences on the ocean and marine life, and there has been support from major players. Here in the UK, supermarkets charge for plastic bags and the fee is set to double, and coffee shops are giving money off for anyone that brings a reusable cup to avoid unnecessary waste.

These are only small steps, but they are progress nonetheless. MORE

Canada’s checkered history of arms sales to human rights violators

Image result for the conversation: Canada’s checkered history of arms sales to human rights violators
The controversial $12-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia has embroiled Justin Trudeau’s government in controversy. The vehicle in question is shown here at a news conference at a General Dynamics facility in London, Ont., in 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart

The Canadian government has been taking flak lately for its arms sales.

Helicopters destined for the Philippines could be used for internal security in President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh crackdowns, critics charge.

The $12-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia has also embroiled Justin Trudeau’s government in controversy.

In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to review both deals, suggesting Canada is toughening up arms sales restrictions based on human rights grounds.

But how did Canada get into the international arms trade, anyway?

A look at the history of how Canada started selling weapons overseas following the Second World War reveals that, contrary to Freeland’s implication, Canada actually used to be much more restrictive on arms sales than it is today.

Canada has not made human rights any more central to its arms export policy than it was in the 1940s — in fact, it’s reduced oversight and the consideration of human rights issues when it comes to selling arms. MORE

People ‘dying unnecessarily’ because of racial bias in Canada’s health-care system, researcher says

The genocide continues…

N.W.T. Health Minister Glen Abernethy says department plans cultural sensitivity training

Dr. Janet Smylie researches anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health-care system and says it’s a major factor in health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. (CBC)

While some people have raised concerns about anti-Indigenous racism in the Northwest Territories’ health-care system, an expert says it’s not just an issue in the territory.

Dr. Janet Smylie said it’s one of the biggest health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across Canada.

This isn’t something you can switch overnight.– Glen Abernethy

“To me, the most important impacts are that people are dying unnecessarily or experiencing disability,” she said.

Smylie has been studying the phenomenon in Canada’s health-care system for the past 15 years. She’s a researcher at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and a Métis physician who’s been practising for more than two decades.

Smylie said cultural bias can also lead to higher rates of commercial tobacco use among First Nation, Inuit and Métis people, because they’re not getting the same public-health messages as other Canadians.

That’s an example of what Smylie calls implicit — or unconscious — racism, rather than intentional. MORE





Clearcutting B.C.’s last old-growth leaves all of us poorer, forever

An old-growth forest clearcut in Schmidt Creek on eastern Vancouver Island in May 2019. (Mark Worthing/Sierra Club BC)

Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC responds to columns by Tom Fletcher and David Elstone

Earlier this month, hundreds of British Columbians visited MLA offices across the province demanding protection of endangered old-growth forests and improved forest management, during a day of action organized by Sierra Club BC.

In response, David Elstone, the executive director of the Truck Loggers Association, accused our organization of not acknowledging the economic importance of old-growth logging and claimed that clearcutting what little remains is sustainable (B.C. has most sustainably managed forests in the world, June 6).

He was joined by Black Press Media columnist Tom Fletcher repeating outdated claims about the climate benefit of replacing old-growth forests with young trees. Fletcher ignores modern science showing that clearcutting ancient trees results in the rapid loss of huge amounts of carbon accumulated over hundreds of years (Urban environmental “emergency” routine wearing thin, June 9).

Sierra Club BC is concerned about the economic, social and ecological impact of clearcutting endangered old-growth forests. True sustainability is leaving similar values and conditions for future generations. But B.C.’s ancient giants have been reduced to a fraction of their former extent, replaced by young, uniform forests cut in short rotation forestry, never allowed to grow old again.

Elstone claims B.C.’s forest management is the most sustainable in the world. However, satellite images show that on Vancouver Island, we are losing what little forest remains intact three times faster than Brazil’s primary rainforest in the Amazon is being destroyed. MORE 

Massive amounts of carbon have been added to the atmosphere as a result and only a tiny fraction remains stored in wood products. One study estimates the loss of carbon when comparing old-growth forest to a 60-year-old stand at more than 300 tonnes of carbon per hectare (more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide).

The current old-growth logging rate on Vancouver Island alone is about 10,000 hectares a year or more than 30 soccer fields a day. The inescapable conclusion is that old-growth logging there alone contributes millions of tonnes annually to provincial carbon dioxide emissions.


Five-year anniversary looms with no charges in catastrophic Mount Polley dam collapse

No ecocide law = no prosecution after 5 years. Still, who knows if justice will finally be rendered?

The joint federal-provincial investigation into the collapse of the Mount Polley mine's tailings dam continues. Contents from the pondraced down Hazeltine Creek, with some reaching Quesnel Lake, in 2014.
The collapse of the Mount Polley mine’s tailings dam in 2014 allowed toxic contents from the tailings pond to flow into Hazeltine Creek, with some reaching Quesnel Lake. JONATHAN HAYWARD / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Environmentalists and Mount Polley mine-area residents are anxiously waiting as one deadline approaches for federal agencies to lay charges over the 2014 collapse of the B.C. Interior mine’s tailings dam.

After a 4-1/2-year investigation, a team comprised of officials with Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, along with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, delivered a charge package to federal prosecutors this spring.

It is now up to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to determine if charges will be laid.

Under federal law, there is a five-year window that ends Aug. 4 to lay charges in a summary conviction under the Fisheries Act, where a large corporation faces fines up to $8 million.

However, if federal prosecutors were to lay more serious charges as an indictment — which come with higher maximum fines of $12 million — there is no timeline.

Another deadline already passed at the three-year mark, when British Columbia officials decided not to lay charges.

One of the largest mining-dam failures in the world in the past 50 years, the Aug. 4, 2014, dam collapse of Imperial Metals’ gold mine in the B.C. Interior shook the industry and caused concern among the public, First Nations and environmental groups that aquatic life would be harmed, particularly salmon that use the Quesnel Lake system to spawn.

“We are holding our breaths over the next couple of weeks to see what happens,” said Christine McLean, who has a home on the lake. “If charges are laid, we feel that we will finally get some justice.”

Looking upstream at the rehabilitated Lower Hazeltine Creek channel just upstream from Quesnel Lake. The nearby 2014 Mount Polley dam failure was one of the largest failures in the past 50 years, releasing millions of cubic metres of water and tailings into the creek, which flows into Quesnel Lake.
Looking upstream at the rehabilitated Lower Hazeltine Creek channel just upstream from Quesnel Lake. The nearby 2014 Mount Polley dam failure was one of the largest failures in the past 50 years, releasing millions of cubic metres of water and tailings into the creek, which flows into Quesnel Lake. PROVINCE OF B.C.

In a written response, Environment Canada said the investigation team’s charge report was delivered April 2, 2019.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada, with the help of the B.C. Prosecution Service, is assessing the charge file. “As the matter is now under charge assessment, (Environment Canada) is not in a position to provide further comment at this time,” ministry spokesman Mark Johnson said Friday.

Linda Nowlan, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, said the fact federal officials have mentioned there is no timeline for an indictment, may mean they are considering that route. MORE


Cabinet approves New Brunswick tungsten mine plan for tailings in salmon habitat

‘Biggest compliment yet’: Greta Thunberg welcomes oil chief’s ‘greatest threat’ label

Activists say comments by Opec head prove world opinion is turning against fossil fuels

 Greta Thunberg tweeted: ‘Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!’ in response to Mohammed Barkindo’s comments Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Greta Thunberg and other climate activists have said it is a badge of honour that the head of the world’s most powerful oil cartel believes their campaign may be the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.

The criticism of striking students by the trillion-dollar Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) highlights the growing reputational concerns of oil companies as public protests intensify along with extreme weather.

Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of Opec, said there was a growing mass mobilisation of world opinion against oil, which was “beginning to … dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry”.

He said the pressure was also being felt within the families of Opec officials because their own children “are asking us about their future because … they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry”.

Although he accused the campaigners of misleading people with unscientific arguments, the comments were welcomed by student and divestment campaigners as a sign the oil industry is worried it may be losing the battle for public opinion.

“Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” tweeted Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish initiator of the school student strike movement, which continues every Friday.

“Brilliant! Proof that we are having an impact and be sure that we will not stop,” said Holly Gillibrand, who was among the first students in the UK to join the global climate strikes.

Opec – which is made up of 14 countries with 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves – is planning to expand production, which is undermining efforts to slow global heating. The backlash is not just from students, Extinction Rebellion activists and climate scientists.

Insurance companies – which have the most to lose from storms, floods, fires and other extreme weather – are increasingly pulling investment from fossil fuel assets. The governor of the Bank of England has warned of growing climate risks to the financial sector.

Earlier this week, the London Stock Exchange reclassified oil and gas companies under a non-renewable energy category that effectively puts them on the wrong side of climate crisis. MORE

Electricity and water do mix: How electric ships are clearing the air on the B.C. coast

Shipping industry a big polluter, but electric, hybrid technologies making headway

The Seaspan Reliant is one of two natural gas/electric hybrid ships working on the B.C. coast. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The river is running strong and currents are swirling as the 150-metre-long Seaspan Reliant slides gently into place against its steel loading ramp on the shores of B.C.’s silty Fraser River.

The crew hustles to tie up the ship, and then begins offloading dozens of transport trucks that have been brought over from Vancouver Island.

While it looks like many vessels working the B.C. coast, below decks, the ship is very different. The Reliant is a hybrid, partly powered by electricity, the seagoing equivalent of a Toyota Prius.

Down below decks, Sean Puchalski walks past a whirring internal combustion motor that can run on either diesel or natural gas. He opens the door to a gleaming white room full of electrical cables and equipment racks along the walls.

“As with many modes of transportation, we’re seeing electrification,” said Puchalski, who works with Corvus Energy, a Richmond, B.C. company that builds large battery systems for the marine industry.

In this case, the batteries are recharged by large engines burning natural gas.

“It’s definitely the way of the future,” said Puchalski.

Corvus’s battery systems are specially designed for marine use, and must meet much tougher standards than batteries in automobiles. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The 10-year-old company’s battery system is now in use on 200 vessels around the world. Business has spiked recently, driven by the need to reduce emissions.

“When you’re building a new vessel, you want it to last for, say, 30 years. You don’t want to adopt a technology that’s on the margins in terms of obsolescence,” said Puchalski. “You want to build it to be future-proof.” MORE

The link between extreme weather and climate change

Over the last few years, record-breaking temperatures across Canada have been accompanied by unprecedented wildfire seasons and floods. The 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons were the worst two on record in British Columbia. Ottawa has experienced two one-in-100 year floods in only three years. While these events are indeed linked to climate change, direct attribution is often approached by media with hesitation.

Extreme weather attribution is a growing field of climate science, with an increasing number of studies dedicated to establishing the role that climate change plays in our changing weather patterns. It is now possible to attribute certain weather events to climate change with a reasonable degree of confidence, with one analysis suggesting 68% of all studied extreme weather events were made more likely by climate change.

While directly attributing extreme weather events to climate change is rarely possible given attribution science generally occurs after the fact, coverage of extreme weather events presents an important opportunity to educate the public about the relationship between extreme weather events and climate change, the field of attribution science, and conclusions that have been drawn regarding similar past weather events.

  • Wildfires: Several Canadian institutions have investigated the link between specific wildfire events and climate change and have established the following:
    • The Fort McMurray fire was 1.5 to 6 times more likely because of climate change. Another study found that pressure vapour defects, which increased the fire risk, were made worse by climate change.
    • The 2017 record-breaking B.C. wildfires were made 2 to 4 times more likely, while the area burned was 7 to 11 times bigger.
  • Heatwaves: Heatwaves will become longer and more intense because of climate change:
    • A new study found the 2018 northern hemisphere heatwave, which killed 74 people in Quebec, would have been “impossible” without climate change.
    • Other studies say it’s “very likely” that climate change contributed to temperature extremes observed since the mid-20th century.
    • Another study found that extremely hot days occur five times more often when compared to pre-industrial times as a result of climate change (where an extremely hot day is a one-in-a-thousand day event under pre-industrial conditions).
    • A rapid attribution analysis of the heatwave in Europe this June, which saw temperatures of more than 45C in parts of France, found it was made five times more likely because of climate change.
  • Floods: 
    • 1-in-100-year flood events in Toronto and Montreal are expected to become 1-in-15 year events by the end of the century as a consequence of climate change, according to a study by scientists from Western University and the National Research Council of Canada.
    • Research investigating the 2013 Alberta floods found that climate change may have led to an increased likelihood of extreme rainfall.
    • Another Canadian study, looking at the extreme flooding in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2014, found that climate change may have played a role in the significant increase in rainfall.
    • Another study found that extremely rainy days are 18% more likely now than they were in pre-industrial times as a result of climate change (where an extremely rainy day is a one-in-a-thousand day event under pre-industrial conditions). This is expected to climb to 65% if global warming reaches 2C.

For additional Canadian attribution studies, see page 175 of the Canada’s Changing Climate Report.



Montreal prepares for summer heat wave as Environment Canada issues warning

Bathers bob in the wave pool to beat the 30 C heat at the Super Aqua club, Tuesday, July 28, 2015 in Pointe-Calumet, Que.Bathers bob in the wave pool to beat the 30 C heat at the Super Aqua club, Tuesday, July 28, 2015 in Pointe-Calumet, Que.

Extreme weather may finally make climate change a ballot-box issue
Weather Extremes Are The New Norm For Canadians: Experts