Powerful wind storm warning continues, residents urged to be careful around water

Tree and power lines were among the items knocked down in the wind storm in Prince Edward County on Nov. 1, 2019. Photo: OPP.

The Quinte Region remains under a wicked wind storm warning.
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement calling for strong winds and a sharp cold front to blast through the Quinte Region Wednesday.

This is coupled with a water safety statement from Quinte Conservation issued Tuesday warning residents of strong winds and high waves that could cause flooding and shoreline erosion.

According to the Environment Canada Marine Forecast, gale force winds exceeding 70 km/h are expected throughout the region Wednesday.  Waves in the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario could reach as high as four metres.  The Authority is urging people to be careful around water.

In its weather update Wednesday morning, Environment Canada said in Belleville, Quinte West, Northumberland County and Cobourg strong southwesterly winds gusting to 80 km/h are expected to develop in the afternoon/early evening.

The weather authority has issued a wind warning for Prince Edward County where strong southwesterly wind with gusts will near 90 km/h Wednesday night.

These damaging winds will persist into the overnight hours before veering to the west and diminishing.

Power outages are possible in the County.

Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage. Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions due to high winds. SOURCE

Carbon tax must hit $210 per tonne by 2030 to meet Paris targets, report concludes

The tax remains the most cost-effective tool for fighting climate change, says Ecofiscal Commission

Gas prices are displayed as a motorist prepares to pump gas at a station in North Vancouver on May 10, 2011. A new report says the carbon tax is still the most cost-effective policy tool for fighting climate change. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In its final report, a privately-funded policy group that calls for market-friendly solutions to climate change concludes that Canada needs a carbon price of $210 per tonne of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 to meet its Paris targets — assuming it relies on the carbon tax alone.

That would mean a 40-cent rise in prices at the pump in ten years’ time. When it introduced its carbon pricing plan, the federal government offered rebates to cover the added cost to households.

The federal carbon tax — currently in place in four provinces and soon to be imposed in Alberta, where an equivalent provincial plan is not in place — is set to increase to 50 dollars a tonne by 2022.

The Liberals haven’t said what might happen after that date, even as they’ve promised to meet and exceed their climate targets.

In its report, the Ecofiscal Commission concluded that, even though it’s more visible and politically controversial, the carbon tax remains the most cost-effective approach to fighting climate change.

Subsidies, regulations less cost-effective: report

The commission modelled various policy options — including carbon pricing, steeper regulations and subsidies — and found that a more stringent carbon tax, coupled with rising rebates, would inflict the least amount of economic damage on Canadians.

The fight over whether the Liberals intend to raise the carbon tax became a flashpoint during the recent election campaign, with Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives branding the measure a “job-killing tax” and promising to scrap it if elected.

“We do have options to get to 2030 but some of the options are, frankly, pretty ugly,” said Chris Ragan, economist and chair of the Ecofiscal Commission.

He cited the example of the “very expensive subsidies” that some have pitched as a response to climate change — corporate or industrial subsidies to fund things like carbon-capture systems, or household subsidies to lower the cost of purchasing electric vehicles or green renovations.

Lower profile, higher cost?

Such subsidies would have a lower political profile than a carbon tax. Ragan said they’d also demand personal or corporate tax increases to pay for them.

“The punchline really is, the more hidden your policy choices, the more expensive they are,” he said.

The report’s data show a scenario combining stricter regulations (requiring companies to cut the intensity of their emissions in half, for example) and substantial subsidies for electric vehicle purchases could end up forcing an income tax hike of roughly 1.5 to 2 per cent for Canadians and corporations, depending on the province.

The report also says a scenario relying on regulations and subsidies for industries alone would cost even more — roughly a 4 to 6 per cent spike in income taxes. The commission concluded that a industry-focused regulation-only model would end up depressing Canada’s GDP — and likely would fail to allow Canada to meet its current Paris target of a 30 per cent reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.

Ragan acknowledged that the modelling system does not take into account companies shifting toward more sustainable methods without government intervention, but said the report offers governments a realistic “menu of choice.”

“The menu items have a price tag,” he said.

Ragan said the carbon tax hike scenario laid out in the Ecofiscal Commission report would not lead to a “dramatic” rise in gasoline prices.

“That still puts prices below where they were in the summer of 2014, before the price of oil fell, and keeps prices well below where they are in France,” he said, adding that the debate over the carbon tax needs to take into account the rebates meant to offset the household effects. SOURCE

Q & A: The wildlife-climate connection

Mary MacDonald, WWF-Canada’s chief conservation officer, breaks down how climate change impacts wildlife loss — and why nature-based solutions can help us deal with these dual crises.

We’re a wildlife organization, so why are we talking about climate change?

The number one reason we’re focusing on climate change is because it’s a huge driver of habitat loss. Species live in sync with the natural ecosystems they’ve been part of for thousands of years. Climate change causes shifts in temperature, rain and snowfall along with increased numbers of severe storms and wildfires. These changes disrupt or destroy habitat, and wildlife then lose food sources and places to give birth or raise their young. Climate change also removes markers that migratory species depend on to find their way.

What will happen to wildlife populations in Canada if we don’t start tackling climate change?

We’ve already seen the evidence of habitat loss and disruption  reflected in the decline of wildlife populations throughout Canada. Our analysis has shown that over 50 per cent of monitored species in Canada have declined by an average of 83 per cent between 1970 and 2014. This an astonishing and deeply troubling trend.

What’s WWF-Canada doing on this front?

Habitat loss and the accelerating impacts of climate change go hand in hand, so we’re focusing most of our efforts on restoring, rewilding and stewarding habitat in areas where wildlife decline is high. Restoration and long-term monitoring of vital land, rivers and coastal habitats as well as complex forest ecosystems informed by long-held Indigenous knowledge not only improve the odds for wildlife but also help us fight climate change, because the destruction of plants, trees and carbon-rich soils releases greenhouse gases.

Do we still have a chance to get ahead of the wildlife losses that will result from climate change?

It will take tremendous commitment and resources but, over time, it is possible to reverse habitat loss in Canada. The great thing about restoration to healthy wildlife habitat is that the benefits of these actions increase over time, especially over the next 10 to 15 years. As plants and trees on land and in coastal areas grow, they pull in larger and larger amounts of the excess carbon from the atmosphere. We’re fortunate that what’s good for wildlife is also good for addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and for people as well.


Air pollution pushes mortality in Canadians: Study

This is despite the fact that the country has one of the lowest levels of air pollution in the world

The Toronto skyline. Photo: Getty Images
The Toronto skyline. Photo: Getty Images

Canadians are at higher risk of dying in areas that are highly polluted even though the country’s levels of air pollution are among the lowest in the world, a study has said.

The new research has been carried out by the University of British Columbia, in partnership with Statistics Canada, McGill University, Dalhousie University, University of New Brunswick and Oregon State University.

It is part of a larger international study commissioned by Health Effects Institute, a Boston-based non-profit that specialises in research on the health effects of air pollution.

In order to conduct the study, the researchers combined satellite data with a model of pollutant transport and chemistry, and ground-level air quality measurements, according to a press statement by the University of British Columbia.

They used the data to produce a pollution map which estimated Canadian air pollution levels by the square kilometre.

According to the press statement, the scientists also cross-referenced air pollution data with anonymous information of more than nine million Canadians as given in the national census.

The scientists found that there was a five per cent increase in the risk of deaths of Canadians when high- and low-pollution areas were compared.

This is despite the fact that Canada has one of the lowest air pollution levels in the world that are below national and international air quality guidelines. It is one of the few countries that meets World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines as well as those set by Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.

During the course of the study, the researchers also found that new immigrants to the country were as susceptible to the health impacts of air pollution as residents.

This, they said, further proved that air pollution was affecting everybody in Canada.

NAPS Stations 2009 map

The researchers are currently working on an analysis that will show whether moving from an area of high pollution to one that is cleaner reduces death risks. SOURCE

Our chance to avoid extreme warming is slipping away

A wildfire.

Nations are still pumping out more climate pollution despite their commitment to slashing emissions under the Paris climate agreement, according to the United Nations’ annual emissions gap report.

This means much “deeper and faster cuts” will be now needed to keep the planet from sailing past 2 ˚C of warming, the authors warn.

The numbers: Strong global economic growth drove up carbon dioxide emissions from energy use and industry by 2% in 2018, despite the increasing use of clean energy. That’s a record 37.5 billion metric tons, and there’s no sign these emissions will peak in the coming years, the report says.

Halting warming: We now need to take drastic action. To keep warming below 2 ˚C,  the world will realistically have to cut emissions 25% by 2030. Preventing 1.5 ˚C of warming would require a 55% reduction, a goal many energy and climate experts think is beyond reach.

The planet has already warmed by about 1 ˚C since the start of the industrial era. Every additional half a degree from this point forward only locks in greater dangers, ensuring increasingly severe heat waves, droughts, wildfires, species loss, sea-level rise, and more.

Transformational action: Most nations will need to commit to much faster rates of emissions reductions than they’ve agreed to so far—and, of course, actually follow through on them.

“Incremental changes will not be enough and there is a need for rapid and transformational action,” the report concludes. SOURCE


Are Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer Climate Criminals? You decide.

To protect the climate, most coal, oil, and natural gas must be left in the ground, a recent study reported.

Canada’s perplexing pipeline plans go unexplained

Bill Morneau, who remains Minister of Finance, arrives for a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Justin Tang

The federal government says the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will bring another $500 million a year in corporate tax revenue to be spent on fighting climate change, but the Liberals won’t say where they got that number.

The figure was cited by the government when it approved the project a second time last June and was also included in the Liberals’ campaign platform.

In 2018, the government stepped in to buy the existing pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion. The company and its investors got cold feet about proceeding as political opposition to the pipeline threatened unending delays, so Ottawa bought it. The government intends to see through the expansion and then sell it back to the private sector.

Under heavy criticism from environmentalists for pushing a major pipeline project at the same time as they’ve insisted on the need to slash greenhouse-gas emissions, the Liberals promised any new revenue from the expansion project, including corporate taxes, will be spent only on climate-change mitigation. That includes natural solutions like tree planting and clean technology projects.

…The existing Trans Mountain pipeline carries about 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil and related products from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The expansion project is to build a second, roughly parallel, pipeline to nearly triple the system’s total capacity. The expanded pipeline is primarily to carry diluted bitumen to be loaded on oil tankers for export.  MORE


UN report: Pollution from planned fossil fuel production would overshoot Paris climate goals

To protect the climate, most coal, oil, and natural gas must be left in the ground, a recent study reported.

How Los Angeles plans to get hundreds of thousands of people out of cars

The city has a new road map to drastically cut emissions by 2028. The key: finding alternatives to private cars.

[Photo: Flickr user Jonathan Riley]

L.A. has a reputation as a car-dependent city. But the city also now has the country’s most ambitious plan for cutting emissions from transportation. In less than a decade, it wants the majority of new cars to be electric and all city buses to be electric—and it wants 20% of trips that currently happen in single-occupancy cars to shift to public transportation or active transportation like biking.

Today, a set of partners released the Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap 2.0, a plan that outlines how the region can drastically cut transit emissions by 2028 to address both climate change and the health impacts of smog. Convincing Angelenos to drive less is a key part of the plan.

“In the modeling, we looked extensively at different scenarios for the number of electric cars and zero-emission trucks that would need to be on the road, and chargers to serve those vehicles,” says Matt Petersen, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which convened a group of partners last year to set initial targets, now spelled out in more detail. “And we recognize that one of the key ways we’re going to achieve the reduction goal for greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution is mode shift: How do we get people out of their cars into public transit or active transit?”

[Photo: egdigital/iStock]

If they do drive, the city wants them using electric vehicles. To help make the shift easier, the city, county, and other partners plan to blanket the area in 84,000 public and workplace charging stations and add chargers where they’re particularly critical, like at apartment buildings. It will also use incentives to help consumers, especially low-income drivers, afford electric cars. By 2028, 30% of cars on the road will be electric, and 80% of new cars sold will be electric. Larger trucks will also move to electric power, a major road from the port will become the first “zero-emissions goods movement corridor” in the country, and the city will test zero-emissions delivery zones for packages. But to stay on track to cut emissions, the biggest change the city will have to manage is making it easier not to drive at all.

Part of that means improving public transportation, both in the routes that are available and the quality of the experience. The shift to electric buses—which are quieter than rattling diesel or natural gas buses, and often come with amenities such as Wi-Fi and charging—can help. “Those are the kinds of things that are going to make discretionary riders more interested and eager and willing to get out of their cars,” says Petersen.

Expanding micromobility can also help; a recent report in Santa Monica found that 49% of the trips that people were taking on electric scooters and shared bikes were replacing short trips that otherwise would have happened in cars. Some projects now are working to expand access to micromobility in neighborhoods that don’t have many options. Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, for example, is running a pilot with a nonprofit building a solar-powered e-bike share project in the community of Huntington Park. (Other pilot projects are expanding access to electric car sharing in low-income neighborhoods; if residents use that option instead of owning cars themselves, they also may be likely to drive less.) Designing streets to make it safer to ride a bike—such as a two-way protected bike lane that was installed in downtown L.A. earlier this year—is also a key part of helping people shift away from cars. MORE


Yes, electric vehicles really are better than fossil fuel burners

‘Bleak’ U.N. Report on a Planet in Peril Looms Over New Climate Talks

A gas flare at a Shell refinery in Norco, La. 
Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With world leaders gathering in Madrid next week for their annual bargaining session over how to avert a climate catastrophe, the latest assessment issued by the United Nations said Tuesday that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising dangerously.

“The summary findings are bleak,” said the annual assessment, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program and is formally known as the Emissions Gap Report. Countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions despite repeated warnings from scientists, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, further increasing their emissions last year.

The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”

As if to underscore the gap between reality and diplomacy, the international climate negotiations, scheduled to begin next week, are not even designed to ramp up pledges by world leaders to cut their countries’ emissions. That deadline is still a year away.

Rather, this year’s meetings are intended to hammer out the last remaining rules on how to implement the 2015 Paris climate accord, in which every country pledged to rein in greenhouse gases, with each setting its own targets and timetables.

“Madrid is an opportunity to get on course to get the speed and trajectory right,” said Rachel Kyte, a former United Nations climate diplomat who is now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “What the Emissions Gap Report does is take away any remaining plausible deniability that the current trajectory is not good enough.”

The world’s 20 richest countries, responsible for more than three-fourths of worldwide emissions, must take the biggest, swiftest steps to move away from fossil fuels, the report emphasized. The richest country of all, the United States, however, has formally begun to pull out of the Paris accord.

Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5 percent every year over the last decade, according to the annual assessment. The opposite must happen if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, including more intense droughts, stronger storms and widespread hunger by midcentury. To stay within relatively safe limits, emissions must decline sharply, by 7.6 percent every year, between 2020 and 2030, the report warned.

Separately, the World Meteorological Organization reported on Monday that emissions of three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — have all swelled in the atmosphere since the mid-18th century.

“We are sleepwalking toward a climate catastrophe and need to wake up and take urgent action,” said Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, on a phone call with reporters Tuesday after the pub

Even if every country fulfills its current pledges under the Paris Agreement — and many, including the United States, Brazil and Australia, are currently not on track to do so — the Emissions Gap Report found average temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius from the baseline average temperature at the start of the industrial age.

According to scientific models, that kind of temperature rise sharply increases the likelihood of extreme weather events, the accelerated melting of glaciers and swelling seas — all endangering the lives of billions of people.

The Paris Agreement resolved to hold the increase in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit; last year, a United Nations-backed panel of scientists said the safer limit was to keep it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

There are many ways to reduce emissions: quitting the combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel; switching to renewable energy like solar and wind power; moving away from gas- and diesel-guzzling cars; and halting deforestation.

Wind turbines near Stanton, Tex.
Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times 

In fact, many countries are headed in the wrong direction. A separate analysis made public this month looked at how much coal, oil and natural gas the world’s nations have said they expect to produce and sell through 2030. If all those fossil fuels were ultimately extracted and burned, the report found, countries would collectively miss their climate pledges, as well as the global 2 degree Celsius target, by an even larger margin than previously thought.

A number of countries around the world, including Canada and Norway, have made plans to reduce emissions at home while expanding fossil-fuel production for sale abroad, that report noted.

“At a global level, it doesn’t add up,” said Michael Lazarus, a lead author of the report and director of the Stockholm Environment Institute’s United States Center. To date, he noted, discussions on whether and how to curb the production of fossil fuels have been almost entirely absent from international climate talks.

The International Energy Agency recently singled out the proliferation of sport utility vehicles, noting that the surge of S.U.V.s, which consume more gasoline than conventional cars, could wipe out much of the oil savings from a nascent electric-car boom.

“For 10 years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm — and for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions,” the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, said in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heat waves, storms and pollution.”

The pressure on world leaders to pivot away from fossil fuels and rebuild the engine of the global economy comes at a time when the appetite for international cooperation is extremely low, nationalist sentiments are on the rise, and several world leaders have deep ties to the industries that are the biggest sources of planet-warming emissions.

If there’s any good news in the report, it’s that the current trajectory is not as dire as it was before countries around the world started taking steps to cut their emissions. The 2015 Emissions Gap Report said that, without any climate policies at all, the world was likely to face around 4 degrees Celsius of warming.

Coal use is declining sharply, especially in the United States and Western Europe, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. Renewable energy is expanding fast, though not nearly as fast as necessary. City and state governments around the world, including in the United States, are rolling out stricter rules on tailpipe pollution from cars.

Young people are protesting by the millions in rich and poor countries alike. Even in the United States, with its persistent denialist movement, how to deal with climate change is a resonant issue in the presidential campaign. SOURCE


World’s emissions gap is growing, with no sign of peaking soon, UN warns

Conservative climate claims are a cover for LNG exports

Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau. File photo

In a recent speech at an oil industry conference, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney trafficked, as he often does, in climate inaccuracy. In itself, that’s not remarkable. The sun also rose and set that day.

What’s worth digging into is how Kenney revealed — perhaps accidentally — the real intent driving conservative thinking on climate policy in Canada right now. That intent is not to reduce greenhouse gases (except as a byproduct), but rather to preserve as much of the conventional energy industry’s status quo as possible for as long ago as possible. The language, policies and targets shift around; this baseline goal never does.

Let’s begin with the inaccurate statement itself. Kenney was singing the praises of new liquified natural gas (LNG) development as a climate-change-fighting tool, calling it “the single biggest thing that we could do to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.” He repeated the line a few days later on Twitter: “The single biggest action Canada can take to reduce global emissions is to expand and ship Canadian Liquefied Natural Gas to the world, especially in Asia to replace higher-emitting coal-fired power.”

Now, the glaring problem here is the phrase “single biggest action.” It begins from a much meeker truth: Replacing coal with natural gas for electricity generation does indeed reduce overall emissions — the International Energy Agency estimates that on average this fuel swap reduces a power plant’s emissions by about 50 per cent. Not too shabby. This is why using natural gas instead of coal is a significant part of the previous Alberta government’s climate plan, one of the few pieces of said plan Kenney’s government has not yet dismantled. You can even extrapolate from this and make the reasonable claim that exporting LNG to replace coal-fired power in Asia would have a similar impact if it were sent to a country engaged in a similar fuel swap.

But does replacing one fossil fuel for another in electricity generation represent the “single biggest action Canada can take”? Well, let’s see. In Alberta, some of that coal-fired power is being replaced by renewable power, which — hold on, let me just double-check my math here — yes, eliminates 100 per cent of the emissions. A larger number than 50 per cent. Twice as large. Obviously a much bigger action.

Perhaps the greatest inaccuracy here is that Jason Kenney supports LNG exports because they are good for the planet. And here is where we begin to see signs of the larger dishonesty at the core of not just Kenney’s climate plans but those of the federal Conservatives.

When Jason Kenney first started touting natural gas as a “real, practical solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions” back in October, he did so at the launch of a pipeline that delivers natural gas to two power plants west of Edmonton that are being converted from coal. Three years earlier, when he was running for the PC Party leadership that would vault him into a position to unite Alberta’s right, he appeared just a few kilometres away, at another coal-fired power plant, standing in front of his campaign-trail-prop pickup truck in the cold. Back then, Kenney celebrated “inexpensive, reliable and environmentally efficient clean coal technology” and railed against the NDP’s plan to phase it out in favour of natural gas and renewables. “It will do nothing in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

From “nothing” to the single biggest action the whole country could possibly take on climate is a pretty substantial shift in thinking. What changed? Well, among other things, Jason Kenney’s cousins in the federal CPC found themselves in an election campaign in which they desperately needed to string up some thin façade of a climate plan. Carbon pricing was obviously out, so Andrew Scheer and his crew started talking up the need to fight climate change “in a global context.” They filled their climate plan brochure with talk of “global emissions reduction” and “exporting emissions-reducing technologies.” And they remained vague on exactly what kinds of technologies they meant, though LNG was certainly in the mix.

Kenney has now provided the definitive answer. Lavish support for LNG with the promise that it can reduce coal use in places like China is the cornerstone of the Canadian right’s climate plan. Kenney just took it for a test drive around Alberta. Expect to see it roll out nationwide as soon as the new federal government looks wobbly.