LNG vs climate. Five charts show the burden on British Columbians

Image result for national observer: LNG vs climate. Five charts show the burden on British Columbians
LNG tanker. File photo from Royal Dutch Shell

British Columbia continues to approve major LNG projects but can the resulting climate pollution fit inside the province’s climate targets?

The provincial government says the LNG projects will be compatible with legislated climate targets — but the more LNG pollution, the faster the rest of B.C. will need to cut back.

To understand how much new LNG climate pollution could be coming, and what that means for British Columbians, I’ve created a visual survey of the data.

B.C. climate challenge before LNG

To start with, let’s look at the climate challenge B.C. faces before adding any LNG climate pollution to the mix.

My first chart below shows B.C.’s current emissions as a dark blue bar. It’s divided into the major sectors of the economy.

Chart of BC current climate pollution and climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050

You can see that the four biggest emitting sectors are roughly equal in size, at 10 to 11 million tonnes of climate pollution each (MtCO2e):

    • transporting people
    • transporting freight
    • natural gas industry
    • other industry

The chart also shows B.C.’s legislated climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

The upcoming 2030 target requires cutting emissions to forty per cent below 2007 levels.

So far, B.C. has cut emissions just three per cent. To meet the 2030 target B.C. will need to start cutting emissions more than ten times faster — a 37 per cent cut in the next decade. That will be extremely challenging even without adding a lot of new LNG emissions to the pile.

Adding LNG emissions makes a hard job harder

Emissions from LNG projects will come on top of B.C.’s current sources. These LNG emissions will increase the size of cuts the rest of B.C. has to make.

British Columbians would have to make every passenger vehicle electric and shut off the gas lines to every home — just to offset the increase in climate pollution from the new LNG industry

“The math is simple: adding a massive new source of pollution means we need to do far more to cut carbon pollution from our homes, from buildings, from our cars and trucks, and from other industries as well.” says Clean Energy Canada’s executive director, Merran Smith.

How “massive” could it get? Let’s take a look at the potential emissions from the LNG projects already approved. After that we’ll look at two more LNG projects that are lining up for approval.

LNG approvals so far

B.C. has approved four major LNG projects in the last few years.

In late 2015, B.C. approved a first major LNG facility — the LNG Canada export terminal near Kitimat. When fully built out it will produce 26 million tonnes of LNG (26 MtLNG) per year. In 2018, the project owners gave it the thumbs up, and construction has begun.

Then in 2016, B.C. approved two major pipelines to feed fossil gas from B.C.’s interior to future LNG facilities on the north coast — Coastal Gas Link Pipeline and Pacific Trails Pipeline. Combined, these pipelines are designed to carry enough fossil gas to produce roughly 45 MtLNG per year.

Chart of BC LNG major projects by volume

The Coastal Gas Link pipeline will feed the LNG Canada facility and has the go ahead from its owners. Construction has begun. The Pacific Trails pipeline is linked to the proposed Kitimat LNG facility which still needs one last major permit from the provincial government to proceed.

In 2017, B.C. granted approval for a second major LNG facility — the huge Pacific Northwest LNG facility near Prince Rupert. It was designed to compress 20 MtLNG annually while emitting nearly 11 MtCO2 per year. As we saw above, that’s equal to the climate pollution from all of B.C.’s passenger cars, SUVs, trucks, trains and domestic flights. However, soon after gaining approval the proponents suspended the project. It still has valid environmental permits but would need to re-apply for its facility permit if the proponents decide to move forward. MORE

Noted fossil-fuel backer Scotiabank announces $100B climate investment


File photo of a Scotiabank outlet in Ottawa on March 15, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Scotiabank, a major provider of fossil fuel financing, is investing $100 billion to reduce the effects of the climate crisis, and training staff to assess the climate risks of their commercial and corporate clients, the bank said Thursday.

The decision by Canada’s third-largest lender to make such a large environmental investment by 2025, and commit to a range of other green measures, is being seen as a big step in the right direction. The new policy took effect Nov. 1 and was announced Nov. 14.

The bank is also one of the leading providers of financing for fossil fuels, according to data compiled by the Rainforest Action Network, Oil Change International and others. Since the Paris accord, Scotiabank has provided $92.16 billion in financing to the industry, data show. As a result, these groups raised questions about how Scotiabank’s promise will fit into its overall approach.

“It’s good news that (Scotiabank) is wanting to invest $100 billion by 2025 in investments that will reduce climate change impacts,” Nathan Lemphers, senior campaigner at Oil Change International’s Energy Transitions and Futures Program, said in an interview.

Scotiabank, a major provider of fossil fuel financing, is investing $100 billion to reduce the effects of the climate crisis, and training staff to assess the climate risks of their commercial and corporate clients, the bank said Thursday.

The decision by Canada’s third-largest lender to make such a large environmental investment by 2025, and commit to a range of other green measures, is being seen as a big step in the right direction. The new policy took effect Nov. 1 and was announced Nov. 14.

The bank is also one of the leading providers of financing for fossil fuels, according to data compiled by the Rainforest Action Network, Oil Change International and others. Since the Paris accord, Scotiabank has provided $92.16 billion in financing to the industry, data show. As a result, these groups raised questions about how Scotiabank’s promise will fit into its overall approach.

“It’s good news that (Scotiabank) is wanting to invest $100 billion by 2025 in investments that will reduce climate change impacts,” Nathan Lemphers, senior campaigner at Oil Change International’s Energy Transitions and Futures Program, said in an interview.

“But you can’t, on the other side, invest tens of billions of dollars into fossil fuel expansion at the same time. You need to have coherence and consistency; otherwise, the investments in fossil fuel expansion will cancel out any goodwill or positive environmental impacts that you’d get from today’s announcement.”

Scotiabank’s announcement also came on the same day that the European Investment Bank, the largest multilateral financial institution on the planet, said it would end its own fossil fuel financing by 2022, underscoring the shift that is starting to take place in the financial world when it comes to propping up oil and gas operations.

National Observer asked Scotiabank whether it was coupling its announcement Thursday with a commitment to stop financing fossil fuel expansion. “We are committed to working with our valued partners across the energy sector as they navigate the energy transition,” said Erin M. Truax, senior manager of communications. MORE

Over 1M workers could lose their jobs to machines but can be retrained, says RBC


The financial district of Toronto is shown on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Doug Ives

A new report says some of the more than one million Canadian workers who could lose their jobs to machines could fill growing gaps in the nation’s health-care system with the right training now.

The issue is time and money for a sector that previous research suggests doesn’t invest as much as other industries do in skills training.

Health-services jobs account for 13 per cent of the country’s workforce and federal projections estimate the rapid pace of growth seen over the last decade will continue over the next.

A report from RBC Economics to be released Thursday makes the case that workers at high risk of losing their jobs due to automation have skills that could translate well to health care.

The report makes clear that doesn’t mean every truck driver displaced by a self-driving vehicle is going to become a paramedic, but those with the right combination of social and digital skills could find new positions in short order.

RBC’s report calls on educational and health institutions, as well as governments, to find ways now to train some of those workers to save costs in the future as the price of providing health care goes up.

John Stackhouse, an RBC senior vice president, said any plan or strategy needs to come together quickly.

“The approach that we’ve seen at the federal and provincial levels over the last few years has been impressive, but it’s not fast enough,” he said.

“The advancement of technologies, especially smart technologies, is significant and maybe more so than many governments appreciate and people know this.”

The findings in the report about the risk of automation in health care largely reflect findings laid out to senior federal officials who have studied the issue of disruption in the workforce over the past few years.

Retail workers, accountants and people with clerical jobs are among those considered most likely to be displaced by machines, although when that might happen widely is a guessing game. On the other hand, nurses, paramedics, doctors and medical technicians are all considered at low risk of being automated out of work by 2035 because of the “human” skills required to do the work.

But that’s not to say all the jobs in the sector are safe.

Using previous academic research, RBC calculated that almost one in five jobs in the health sector is at significant risk of automation, about half the proportion in the overall economy.

Federal officials estimate there will be an extra 370,000 health jobs by 2025 and RBC estimates that 330,000 of those jobs will require skills currently held by at-risk workers in other fields.

Among the positions that RBC says the health system will need are information analysts to use vast amounts of hospital data to help improve patient outcomes, 3D-printing technologists who may create anatomical models to help plan surgeries, and machine-learning specialists to help integrate artificial intelligence into health-care delivery.

“It’s fair to say that most, or a good many, Canadians who are not in health care have foundational skills that would be very beneficial in health care and set them up well in a career in health care,” Stackhouse said.

But Canadian employers lag behind the United States in skills-training spending, particularly in the health sector, with spending still below 2006 levels.

The key barriers to more investment are time and money, all of which was highlighted to top civil servants at Employment and Social Development Canada over the summer.

Retraining for some of the jobs in the sector takes more than a few weeks and can be expensive, even for someone with generally relevant skills. The federal Liberals are set to roll out a new tax credit late next year that workers can use against the cost of eligible training programs, valued at up to $250 per year and accumulating over time, along with a new employment-insurance benefit while someone is off work and in a class.

RBC estimates that Canada’s aging population will push health-care spending to $193 billion in 2030, up from $160 billion today.

The longer governments wait to invest in skills training — and helping people with the right skills transition into the health sector — the more it will cost to do and the fewer efficiencies will be found in the system, the report says.

Moving people into health care now may also help if the economy cools, because health care tends to be recession-proof, Stackhouse said.

“We don’t cut back wildly on health spending during slower economic times, and as we move into a period that will, according to most forecasts, be slower, the health sector has an even greater opportunity to take on some of that labour that may not have opportunities in other sectors.” SOURCE

 

These electric cars will project a sound that . . . makes plants happy?

As regulations require electric cars to make noise, Uruguay’s Toyota division is experimenting with a sound they hope stimulates plant growth, so each time you drive without gas, you’re giving the environment an extra boost. The science might be tenuous, but it does sound nice.

Image result for fast company: These electric cars will project a sound

As we try to find the find the answer to climate change, each eco-innovation may spur even more questions about their overall effects. Could the noise from wind turbines cause cancer? (Science says no.) Could the sound from an electric car stimulate plant growth, regenerating the environment we’ve helped destroy? Science says . . . maybe? Or at least, that’s the hope of Ayax Toyota.

Within the next two years, the U.S. and Europe will require electric cars to emit a noise in order to warn pedestrians of their approach, or else these quiet vehicles can take pedestrians and bikers by surprise. Instead of just installing a sound that mimics non-electric vehicles, Ayax, an independent, Uruguay-based manufacturer and distributor of Toyota vehicles, has partnered with digital innovation agency The Electric Factory, a sound designer and a “smart cities expert,” to create an audio that they say could go further to benefit the environment.

Called the HY Project (short for “harmony”), the sound is inspired by several amusing studies that have looked into the effects of audio frequencies on plants. In one out of India, researchers placed mung bean plants in soundproof chambers, one of which remained silent, another which had ancient chants piped in, and a third which scolded the beans with “discouraging words.” The chanted-to plants saw the “maximum elongation of the shoot,” showing, the scientists claim, that the mung beans picked up the audio vibrations.

In another, South Korea researchers compared different types of plants’ responses to a variety of frequencies and magnitudes, noting reactions like root-tip bending, an increase in the expression of “defense-related genes,” and a higher yield for crops from cotton to rice to tomatoes. They concluded though sound may be a “potential new trigger” for plant protection, there are still “some major concerns about the use of sound treatment in plant science,” including the fact that we still don’t know just how plants perceive sound.

The Electric Factory did not work directly with scientists to develop this sound but did reference that existing data to create an audio with bandwidths and frequency ranges that they say will generate “improvements in growth, biomass, stomata (which favors water absorption and light use), and favoring cell division, fluids in cell walls, and protective enzymes.” The result, for the human ear at least, is a calming, clear tone reminiscent of Tibetan singing bowls that undulates as the car is in motion.

Tenuous science aside, this project does point to a different perspective for approaching these issues. Other manufacturers are exploring electric car sounds that range from the classic gas-guzzler soundtrack to ones that represent space ships. “We’re starting from the nature angle more than the customer [angle],” says Ayax president Alejandro Curcio, explaining that instead of creating an electric vehicle sound that only matters to the person in the driver’s seat, they wanted to take into consideration how this sound would affect things beyond your four wheels.

Noise pollution from road traffic is a health issue for humans and wildlife, and the Hy Project sound does claim to reduce this, as well. Electric Factory cofounder Juan Ciapessoni says rather than creating a “sound traffic jam,” these unique frequencies can also overlap in a way that still allows “birds, frogs, everything in nature to talk to each other.” It’s not clear to what scale this sound will actually affect the surrounding flora—or how loud it needs to be to reach roadside plants—but less noise to annoy the fauna is always a good thing.  MORE

 

 

Promising Plant Sciences Breakthrough Could Lead to Photosynthesis 2.0


A corn field near Lichfield, UK.Image: Bs0u10e0/Flickr

By solving a complex protein structure, biologists have unlocked a critical mechanism in plants that could lead to improvements in how photosynthesis works, and by consequence, greater crop yields.

Photosynthesis is a brilliant invention of nature, but that’s not stopping scientists from trying to make it even better. New research published today in Nature describes how a team at the University of Sheffield has uncovered new insights into how an electrical chemical reaction in plants can significantly influence plant growth. The researchers are calling this mechanism the “beating heart” of photosynthesis. The reaction happens in a protein complex known as cytochrome b6f, which powers a plant’s ability to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates during photosynthesis. This inaugural model of cytochrome b6f could eventually be leveraged by plant biologists to augment the powers behind photosynthesis and create more robust plants, such as rice and wheat.

The University of Sheffield scientists created their high-resolution structural model of the protein complex using cryo-electron microscopy. By making sense of the complicated spaghetti-like shape of cytochrome b6f, the scientists were able to visualize the electrical connections between a pair of light-powered chlorophyll-proteins inside plant cells. Known as Photosystems I and II, these proteins work to convert sunlight into chemical energy.

By building the new model, the researchers could see how cytochrome b6f taps into the electrical currents passing through it, which it does to power-up a proton gradient, a process that’s analogous to plugging in a rechargeable battery. The stored energy in this “proton battery” is used by the plant to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the energy currency of cells.

The proton gradient “acts like a battery” that allows for the “synthesis of ATP—an essential metabolite needed for CO2 conversion to carbohydrate,” explained study co-author Matt Johnson in an email to Gizmodo. “We have obtained the structure of the plant cytochrome b6f complex by cryo-electron microscopy, and it shows how it processes its electron-carrying [molecule] in such a way to double the number of protons it moves across the membrane.”

Johnson calls it the “beating heart of photosynthesis” for its critical role in regulating the efficiency of the process.

“Ultimately this reaction provides the energy that plants need to turn carbon dioxide into the carbohydrates and biomass that sustain the global food chain,” said Lorna Malone, the first author of the study and a PhD student at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, in a statement.  MORE

How a ‘Smart Supermarket’ could do away with plastic packaging

supermarket produce
Public Domain Unsplash/nrd

A hopeful report by Greenpeace envisions a future where supermarkets have gotten rid of superfluous waste.

The supermarket of the future will use smart technology to eliminate plastic packaging, to incentivize the use of reusable containers, and to retain loyal customers. This is the message from Greenpeace in its latest report released on Tuesday, “The Smart Supermarket: How retailers can innovate beyond single-use plastics and packaging.”

The report asks what many of us have before: What exactly do supermarkets have to do to get rid of all the plastic? It spells out step-by-step solutions, from the moment a customer enters a store to when they get home, rethinking how each step is handled. While some features of the smart supermarket remain the same as the supermarkets we know now, others are radically different, and will require significant behavioral shifts.

For example, fresh food need not be wrapped in single-use plastic anymore. There are other ways to keep it fresh, such as misting, and to create barcodes, such as laser food labelling. Fresh foods in some parts of the world can be wrapped in natural plant materials. Not swathing fruits and vegetables in plastic has proven to reduce food waste (people can buy exactly the amounts they want) and to increase consumption (they can see it, and it looks delicious).

When it comes to staples, ingredients that we buy regularly, the key lies in reusable containers. From the report:

“In The Smart Supermarket, bulk-buying dispensaries and weighing scales allow customers to purchase the quantities they need and what they can afford. Customers dispense products into reusable containers that they have brought from home or that are supplied by the store.”

The same concept is applied to takeout food. We must transition either to bringing our own containers or to stores supplying reusable ones and having them cleaned by a third-party company. What I liked was the suggested use of rewards to get customers to bring their containers back and to keep shopping at a particular location, otherwise bringing back a container is just seen as an extra chore. The report says,

“Retailers should establish an effective deposit return scheme. The scheme needs to be easy enough to motivate customers and incentivise the return of containers without putting customers off with big deposits.”

Personal and home care products are another area to tackle, with an emphasis on package-free, ‘naked’ bar-based products, such as the ones offered by Lush and Unwrapped Life. There was no mention of my latest favorite, Blueland, which ships its cleaning supplies in dry tablet form (because everyone has water at home!), but it would fit right in.

At the checkout, the smart supermarket could offer a borrow-a-bag or rent-a-bag scheme, pay small deposits to take reusable bags home, and use online checkouts to increase participation.

The report is a hopeful one, offering solid and tangible examples of what is possible if we allow ourselves to think beyond the bag. Supermarket chains and owners must be willing to renovate their stores to accommodate these improvements, but the benefits would be felt quickly and broadly. SOURCE

Manitoba wage-freeze bill unconstitutional, removes ‘fair process,’ unions to argue in court

Court challenge against Bill 28, which government says is needed to fix province’s finances, begins Monday

Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck, seen here in a May 2018 file photo, says Manitoba’s Bill 28 violates the rights of public-sector workers to collective bargaining. Hearings in a court challenge of the bill begin on Monday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba unions representing thousands of public-sector workers are taking Brian Pallister’s provincial government to court Monday to fight a wage-freeze bill that the Manitoba Federation of Labour says removes the right of employees to collective bargaining.

The federation wants a provincial judge to rule Bill 28 unconstitutional.

“What we’re asking for is a fair process. We believe Manitobans believe in a fair process. We believe they deserve it,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck.

“There’s 120,000 workers and their families who have been left in the lurch because the Pallister government doesn’t want to do collective bargaining.”

Bill 28, which was passed by the Progressive Conservative government in 2017, mandated a two-year wage freeze for public-sector workers as each new collective agreement was negotiated. That would be followed by a 0.75 per cent pay increase in the third year and one per cent in the fourth.

The bill has never been actually been proclaimed into law, though, meaning it technically is not in effect — but public-sector unions say government negotiators have acted as though the wage freeze is in effect, and have refused to budge on wages in negotiations.

The unions, including those representing Manitoba nurses, lawyers, teachers and university faculty, argue the bill is unconstitutional, and point to the fact the Supreme Court of Canada has previously ruled collective bargaining process is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“This court case is not about outcomes of bargaining,” Rebeck said. “It’s not about a wage freeze. It’s about our ability to go to a table to problem-solve with employers to find solutions that we can mutually agree to.”

He pointed out that collective bargaining doesn’t necessarily mean employees will get higher pay.

“For some that may mean there’s wage increases or benefits. For others, it may mean they agree to zeros, and perhaps they get job security in exchange for that.”


Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to reporters in early November. His government will fight public-sector unions over a wage-freeze bill in court this week. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

Rebeck said about a dozen witnesses will be called during the case to show the provincial government isn’t respecting workers’ rights to collective bargaining. MORE