Global climate summit. COP or Cop-out?

You’ve been hearing there’s a global climate summit happening in Madrid this week. If you’re wondering what these international negotiations are and whether they have been making any progress, you’ve come to the right place.

Every year, the countries of the world get together and try to figure out what to do about the accelerating climate emergency. In United Nations jargon, it’s called a “Conference of the Parties,” which is why you’ll hear it described as “COP.”


This is the twenty-fifth year of these meetings, so the Madrid meeting is called COP25. Governments have been meeting about climate change ever since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Back in Rio, the countries negotiated a climate treaty — called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It came into force two years later. And ever since, the 197 countries that are parties to the treaty have been meeting once a year.

Every year they meet and every year the climate emergency has gotten worse.

In 2015, they created the Paris Agreement aiming to keep “global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius … and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Sounds promising, but the actions required are voluntary and the agreement is toothless. Each country sets a target for how much pollution it will allow and agrees to update those targets every five years. If every country followed through on the targets they’ve set themselves so far, temperatures would rise as much as 4 degrees. And almost none of them are on track to meet their existing targets.

As you know, climate change is mostly caused by burning fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal. Fossil fuels create climate pollution when they’re burned, and the biggest problem is carbon dioxide (CO2). Increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere creates a thickening blanket around the earth that allows heat from the sun to get in, but less and less of it to get out. It’s like rolling up your car windows on a hot day.

Since governments are meeting again right now, it seems like a good time to dive into the history of the COPs compared to the amount of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere.

COPs vs CO2

“Whatever our world leaders are ‘doing’ to reduce emissions, they are doing it wrong” — Greta Thunberg

Cumulative CO2 from fossil fuel burning since 1960
CHART: Climate pollution from global fossil fuel burning since 1960 — with annual COP meetings marked. 

As you can see from this first chart, world leaders keep meeting about climate change, but they’re also allowing more and more burning of fossil fuels. Not only is climate pollution increasing, it’s actually accelerating.

Despite years of governments setting targets, promising to build clean energy, vowing to phase out fossil fuels and get more energy efficient, climate pollution just keeps going up.

Climate in chaos. Oceans 30% more acidic

Cumulative CO2 from fossil fuel burning and amount staying in the air since 1960
CHART: Climate pollution from global fossil fuel burning (black) — and amount accumulating in our atmosphere (red). Annual COP climate meetings are shown. 

On this second chart, we’ve added a red line which shows how much of that fossil fuel CO2 is accumulating in our atmosphere. This shows how quickly the heat-trapping CO2 blanket is thickening around our planet.

What you’ll notice right away is that there’s a big difference between the two lines. That’s how hard mother nature is working to save us from ourselves.

Roughly a third of our climate pollution gets soaked up by bacteria, algae and plants on land.

Another quarter of it dissolves into water, driving ocean acidification. We are current dumping into the oceans around one tonne of CO2, per human, every year — nine billion tonnes a year, in total. So far, the hundreds of billions of tonnes of our fossil fuel CO2 that has dissolved into the ocean has already increased sea water acidity by 30 percent. This is causing widespread harm to species ranging from corals to oysters. It will take nature thousands of years to remove the CO2 we are dumping into it in just a few decades.

As you’d expect, based on the increase in climate pollution, the pace of ocean acidification is accelerating as well.

Accelerating in the wrong direction

On this third chart, we’ve added dotted lines that show the trendlines for climate pollution in each decade. Not only is pollution increasing while governments hop from one global climate summit to the next, it’s increasing at an accelerating rate.

Cumulative CO2 from fossil fuel burning and amount staying in the air since 1960 -- with decade trendlines.
CHART: Climate pollution from global fossil fuel burning (black) — and amount accumulating in our atmosphere (red). Decade trendlines show average rate of increase each decades in parts-per-million (ppm). Annual COP climate meetings are shown.


There have been big changes in global politics since the Rio Earth Summit. China has grown to be the biggest climate polluter in the world as the country grew its economy and reduced poverty. The economic rise of “developing nations” is part of the story behind the rise in pollution. But, it’s not the whole story. Canada, for example, is now the ninth biggest polluter in the world. And we’ve grown to be the world’s fifth largest producer of oil and gas. The U.S. is the second biggest polluter in the world. Some industrialized countries, like the U.K, have been making serious cuts in their climate pollution. But most rich countries are still way off track.

Climate “change”: an understatement 2 miles thick

The current increase in CO2 is much, much higher than the changes that drove our planet from the last ice age to its present climate. It’s sobering to remember that just a few degrees Celsius made the difference between Canada today and a Canada buried beneath a massive ice cap. The ice was two miles thick over the Montreal region, and a mile thick over Vancouver. So much water was locked up in ice that global sea levels were 125 meters lower.

Annual increases in CO2 in atmosphere since 1960, with decade averages.
CHART: Annual increases in CO2 in our atmosphere (pale bars). Decade averages shown as red lines. Annual COP climate meetings shown by year. Natural CO2 increase that ended the last ice age shown as dashed red line for context.

In this final chart, we’re showing the annual change in CO2 instead of the cumulative change shown in red on the charts above. We’ve included the ice age melt line for context because scientists say that “… a giant ‘burp’ of carbon dioxide (CO2) … helped trigger the end of last ice age, around 17,000 years ago.”

If that was a “giant” burp, what would you call the trends we’re seeing now? All those climate negotiators in Madrid should stop and consider that, “… the rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age… A real shock to the atmosphere.”

So, perhaps it shouldn’t shock us that the World Meteorological Organization just warned that the planet’s temperature is rising more quickly than most scientists had realized. The world’s average temperature may go up as much as five degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

That’s almost triple the outer limit of safety defined by the world’s scientists and enshrined in the Paris Agreement. And, as we noted earlier, no industrialized country is on track with the Paris agreement.

A few degrees might not sound like much. But let’s remember those massive, mile-thick ice sheets. NASA describes it this way: “As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed … roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.”

No wonder our kids are rallying in the streets. SOURCE

Don’t ask Trans Mountain’s owner-operator for a cost estimate or timeline

Trans Mountain workers on the pipeline Anchor Loop Project in Alberta. Photo courtesy of Kinder Morgan Canada

And it has admitted that recently secured financing is only enough to cover the next few months.

Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDEV), the Crown corporation that owns and operates the pipeline and is overseeing the expansion project, revealed these details during its annual public meeting on Dec. 11, as well as in a recent financial report.

The details make clear that, despite being owned by the government of Canada and promoted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as being in the national interest, CDEV and its corporate entities still harbour a significant degree of uncertainty about the project’s timeline and long-term financing.

For years, the expansion project has faced questions over when it will be completed, how much it will ultimately cost and how much of that expense can be passed on to shippers via tolls.

“We’ll need more clarity on the project’s schedule before we can determine the costs,” CDEV chairman Steve Swaffield said at the annual meeting held at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.

“A revised toll will be made public closer to the in-service date.”

Meanwhile, in a recent financial report, CDEV admitted that “financial commitments have not been obtained to finance the entire project.”

The corporation negotiated a revised credit agreement with a federal fund called the Canada Account on July 30. The loan, or “credit facility,” has a limit of $2.6 billion through the end of 2019 that will increase to $4 billion in 2020 and will mature August 2023.

But this money “should be suitable to fund construction costs for (the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion) through the first half of 2020,” the report says, after which CDEV expects to negotiate again.

“It is imperative that continued and increasing financing sources are obtained in a timely manner,” the corporation wrote. The uncertainty, it said, is leading to “continued financial and completion risk for the project.”

Noreen Flaherty, corporate secretary at CDEV, confirmed to National Observer that the credit agreement was meant to fund pipeline expansion activities “in 2020.”

“CDEV does not expect that agreement to be of a sufficient size” to finance the construction of the entire expansion project, Flaherty said.

The former owner, Kinder Morgan, originally said the construction cost was $7.4 billion, but later filed documents showing it could cost between $8.4 billion and $9.3 billion. Economist Robyn Allan has estimated the current cost has reached $12 billion.

The construction completion date has been variously cited as between 2020 and 2023, depending on how legal and other issues play out.

At the annual meeting, CDEV said work at the Burnaby and Westridge terminals had started in August, pipe is on the ground in Alberta and expected to be “in the ground by Christmas” and the company was “looking forward to being underway with construction in every (section) by next fall.”

A ‘real thing’ or a ‘multibillion-dollar subsidy’?

The expansion project will roughly triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, sending up to 890,000 barrels a day of crude oil and other petroleum products from the Edmonton area to a terminal in metro Vancouver.

Advocates including the federal government say the expansion project will create jobs and open Canadian fossil fuel products to new markets, generating new economic prosperity.

“We know that no matter how much people talk about information technology or cloud-based whatever, Canadian prosperity has and will continue to be driven by those who know how to build things,” Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said at a gathering of politicians in a field near Edmonton last week to celebrate construction commencing along the pipeline route.

“Real things, tangible things, things built by people, helping, in this instance, to move our resources from Alberta to new markets where they are needed.”

But critics say the expansion will put Canada’s carbon-pollution-reduction goals out of reach, and comes at the worst time, as the country struggles to deal with an advancing climate crisis.

The oil and gas sector is proportionally the largest polluter by sector countrywide, and Canada’s 173 billion barrels of reserves is the third-largest in the world.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the government’s original approval in the summer of 2018, saying it had failed in its legal duty to properly consult with First Nations and had carried out an insufficient environmental review.

The Liberal government approved the pipeline project for a second time last June, saying it had fixed both issues. But the court agreed in September that six of 12 fresh challenges could proceed, related to the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate, and the Crown’s conflict of interest.

The Court of Appeal is now scheduled to hear fresh legal challenges this month from Coldwater Indian Band, Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and others.

“The Trans Mountain pipeline is already a massive multibillion-dollar subsidy and Canadians have the right to know how much the price has increased,” said Eugene Kung, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, in a Dec. 10 statement.

“Canadians were told this would be a profit-generating investment and the profits would be devoted to renewable energy. Instead, it’s operating at a consistent loss and it isn’t even clear the government will be able to sell it, without taking another loss of billions of taxpayer dollars.”

‘The existing pipeline remains full’

At the annual meeting, Trans Mountain Corporation chairman William Downe said there had been “significant progress” on the expansion project, and argued the current pipeline’s full capacity demonstrated that there was a case to be made for the expansion.

“The existing pipeline remains full each and every month, with demand from customers exceeding the capacity consistently for the past decade. This demand for space is evidence of the strong and clear business case supporting Trans Mountain expansion,” he said.

“Shippers have made long-term contract commitments ranging from 15-20 years that will underpin the cost of construction and the operation of the pipeline. The additional capacity offered by the expansion will be used to supply more crude oil and refined products to markets in British Columbia and Washington state, and to offshore markets in the Asia-Pacific.”

President Ian Anderson said Trans Mountain has secured 15- and 20-year contracts with 13 shippers in Western Canada that cover 80 per cent of the capacity of the expansion project.

“So we’re fully expanded at 890,000 barrels a day, 80 per cent of that capacity is fully contracted for 20 years. The remaining 20 per cent is available to shippers to access on a month-to-month basis,” he said.

“Long-term financial security for the asset is very well-established with those long-term contracts, and the tolling mechanisms within them.”

The new loan was handled by Export Development Canada (EDC), another Crown corporation that provides support for Canadian exports. Canada Account transactions are administered by EDC, but taxpayers ultimately assume the risk; they are deemed by cabinet to be in Canada’s interest.

Andrew Stafl, vice president of finance at CDEV, confirmed the third-quarter statement from the corporation corresponds to the Canada Account loan agreement, and replaces an earlier one signed on Aug. 29, 2018.

Stafl also confirmed that another transaction, a loan guarantee that the pipeline had with Royal Bank of Canada and TD Bank, was no longer active. SOURCE


Women Speaking And Leading Loudly On Climate Change – COP 25 & Greta

MADRID, SPAIN – DECEMBER 11: Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech at the plenary session during the COP25 Climate Conference on December 11, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. The COP25 conference brings together world leaders, climate activists, NGOs, indigenous people and others for two weeks in an effort to focus global policy makers on concrete steps for heading off a further rise in global temperatures. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

From teen climate activist Greta Thunberg being named Time magazine “Person of the Year,” to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leading a Congressional delegation to the 2019 United Nations gathering on climate change (aka COP25) in Madrid, Spain, to women “warrior” mayors of the Amazon, and COP25’s Gender Day, women are leveraging the global event to focus the world’s attention on their urgent and insistent demands for immediate and substantial action on climate. They are also demanding that women’s rights be properly addressed in those climate actions.

At COP25’s Gender Day, Women’s climate activist groups collectively advocated for a feminist Green New Deal and the presentation of toolkits and technologies to address climate change that reflect consideration of gender-specific needs and women’s rights.

Even the business leaders from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy happen to be almost all women, including Nanette Lockwood, Senior Director, Climate Policy at Ingersoll Rand;  Ashley Allen, Climate and Land Senior Manager at Mars, Inc.; and Sharon Tomkins, Vice President, Strategy and Engagement and Chief Environmental Officer at Southern California Gas Company.

Women naturally find novel solutions

This reminds me of how women lawmakers were the ones who finally found a settlement to the government shutdown in 2013.

Women are natural innovators, because they have had to find another way to solve challenges and get things done, since they have not historically had the reigns of power or the power of the purse (pardon the pun), as Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, Laura Liswood, told me on my podcast, Green Connections Radio.

Formally known as the 25th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP25 comes at a pivotal moment when critical forces are converging: this past July was the warmest month in history; “CO2 reached a record high” this November; the U.S. is on the brink of fulfilling Trump’s declaration to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord (which officially happens next year, in 2020);  2020 is also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day; and the world is watching Trump face impeachment from office while campaigning for reelection at a time when women vote in larger numbers than men.  And, 2020 is the centennial of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

Extreme weather events on an historic scale in 2019 “left trail of destruction and revealed climate change fingerprints,” as The Washington Post reported, reminding us of the stakes. “It (2019) was the fourth straight busier-than-normal hurricane season.”

Perhaps the silver lining in the Trump administration’s climate denialism and support of continued CO2 emissions, against the rest of the global economic and geopolitical community, is that people who have been quiet are speaking up and are finding other ways to stop climate change. They cannot depend on the U.S. government to lead on this issue so they have to find another way.

Female influencers driving change?

Since kids influence their parents (in everything from media habits to recycling), and since women drive 85% of consumer spending — and women are skilled at finding innovative solutions — maybe student activists like Greta Thunberg and women loudly demanding action will create stronger, more immediate steps to combat climate change across the globe.

After all, this is a multi-generational challenge that affects every single person on Mother Earth, no matter where they live or how much money they have.  Even Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida is at grave risk from sea-level rise. SOURCE

Agriculture needs changes to help save climate and farmers, says national agriculture group

‘The climate crisis and the farm crisis really share many of the same causes’

A worker carries an air filter during wheat harvest on a farm in Alberta. Agriculture generates about eight per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Farming needs to change to help save the climate and farmers themselves, says a national agriculture group.

A report released Wednesday by the National Farmers Union concludes that some elements of old-fashioned mixed farming combined with the latest technology can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep more farm families on the land.

“The climate crisis and the farm crisis really share many of the same causes,” said farmers union president Katie Ward, who raises about 100 head of sheep near Ottawa.

The report attempts to link growing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture with changes to the industry that have seen it get bigger, more expensive and open to fewer and fewer farmers. Farm debt has doubled since 2000, the report says, and most farm family income now comes from work elsewhere.

She points to the high price of farm inputs such as fuel and fertilizer. Inputs soak up 95 per cent of farm revenues, says the report.

‘The equilibrium’

Agriculture generates about eight per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report suggests ways those emissions can be cut in half by 2050.

It says biofuels and electrification would cut emissions and costs — electric tractors are already being developed. On-farm renewable power generation would help. So would more efficient use of farm inputs, aided by technology.

But what really needs to happen is a move away from big-money, big-acreage, big-machine farming, the report concludes.

“If regenerative agriculture exists, it is likely found in mixed-farming systems that utilize natural nutrient cycles, diverse animal and plant mixes and best-possible grazing methods to restore soils, raise carbon levels, protect water, enhance biodiversity and support sustainable livelihoods.”

We’re not talking about going back to Little House on the Prairie.– Katie Ward

Keeping inputs to a minimum and tilling the soil as little as possible would reduce emissions and leave more revenues for farmers, said Ward. That would let them make a living on smaller holdings.

“We’re not talking about going back to Little House on the Prairie. But there’s absolutely a reason why natural systems have evolved the way they have and the equilibrium that’s found there. There’s a lesson there for farmers to take.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, agreed consumers are looking for low-impact agriculture.

But, he added, the economic drivers of agriculture right now aren’t going away.

“There’s room for all types of farms,” said Currie, who grows grains and oilseeds near Collingwood, Ont. “Being more diverse lowers the risk.

“But the reality is we’re being squeezed as producers by the consumer, who wants the cheapest food possible. Running a small farm, they’re just not profitable enough to earn a living off.”

Something’s got to change, said Colin Laroque from the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan.

“We’ve worked ourselves into a real interesting pickle, making our farms so big and cutting that economic line so close.”


House passes motion calling on Ottawa to pay First Nations child welfare compensation ordered by tribunal

Indigenous services minister says government has no plans to drop court challenge of compensation order

NDP MP Charlie Angus asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The House of Commons passed a non-binding NDP motion Wednesday calling on the federal government to pay compensation to children and families affected by the on-reserve child welfare system, as ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in September.

The federal government is seeking a judicial review before the Federal Court aimed at quashing the human rights tribunal compensation order.

“All parties have called on them to comply with the ruling,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus, who tabled the motion.

“You can’t comply with the ruling if you are trying to quash the ruling.”

The tribunal told Ottawa to pay $40,000 each to First Nations children — along with some of their parents and grandparents — who were apprehended from their families and communities through the on-reserve child welfare system and in Yukon.

If the federal government proceeds with the judicial review, Angus said, it will be in defiance of Parliament — which could trigger committee hearings that would see Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and his officials hauled before MPs to answer questions.

“This is going to be a lose-lose for them if they think they can defy Parliament on this,” said Angus.

The compensation order also included children who were denied health services, or who had to leave their communities to obtain those services.

The motion called on the federal government to “fully comply with all orders made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as well as ensuring children and their families don’t have to testify their trauma in court.”

The motion also called for “a legislated funding plan for future years that will end the systemic shortfalls in First Nations child welfare.”

No plans to drop challenge

Miller said that while the government has no plans to drop the court challenge, it is still committed to finding a way to compensate First Nations children affected by the on-reserve child welfare system. MORE


Canada must stop normalizing inequality for Indigenous people

Cindy Blackstock: The federal government, which has an insatiable appetite to be thanked for inadequate measures, should expect no gratitude for discrimination

Trudeau will fuel the fires of our climate crisis if he approves Canada’s mega mine

Alberta’s oil sands produce one of the dirtiest oils on the planet. If the Teck mega mine is approved, the damage to our planet will be colossal

‘Less than two months ago, two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties vowing to do more to fight climate change.’ Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

This week, the Canadian government is in Madrid telling the world that climate action is its No 1 priority. When they get home, Justin Trudeau’s newly re-elected government will decide whether to throw more fuel on the fires of climate change by giving the go-ahead to construction of the largest open-pit oil sands mine in Canadian history.

Approving Teck Resources’ Frontier mine would effectively signal Canada’s abandonment of its international climate goals. The mega mine would operate until 2067, adding a whopping 6 megatonnes of climate pollution every year. That’s on top of the increasing amount of carbon that Canada’s petroleum producers are already pumping out every year.

The Teck mega mine would be on Dene and Cree territory, close to Indigenous communities. The area is home to one of the last free-roaming herds of wood bison, it’s along the migration route for the only wild population of endangered whooping cranes, and is just 30km from the boundary of Wood Buffalo national park – a Unesco world heritage site because of its cultural importance and biodiversity.

Alberta’s oil sands produce one of the dirtiest oils on the planet, and they are the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions in Canada. The industry is expanding rapidly and is already responsible for more carbon pollution than all of Quebec. Oil and gas is now the largest climate polluter in the country, exceeding all greenhouse gases from transportation. Even without Teck Frontier, there are 131 megatonnes per year in approved tar sands projects just waiting for companies to begin construction. No wonder the industry is on track to take up 53% of Canada’s emissions budget within the next 10 years.

Less than two months ago, two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties vowing to do more to fight climate change. Trudeau promised during the campaign to introduce legally binding targets for Canada to reach net zero emissions by 2050. But all the current national climate policies, including a carbon tax and coal phase-out, would be overwhelmed by this carbon juggernaut and Canada would radically fail to meet its climate commitments.

Canada is not alone in this challenge. The recent Production Gap Report released by the United Nations Environment Program, the Stockholm Environment Institute and other organizations calculates the gap between planned fossil fuel expansion and Paris climate goals. The report concludes that governments are planning to produce twice as much fossil fuels than the world can safely burn. Put simply, while the world was focused on plans to reduce emissions, the oil and gas industry has been busy planning a dramatic expansion in Canada and around the world.

Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that to give the world a 50-50 chance at safety, oil production needs to shrink by 37% in the next 10 years and by 87% by 2050. Natural gas production must decline by 25% and then 74% by mid-century. In fact the report concluded that all countries must bend the curve now – there is no room for increased emissions. There is no room for the Teck Frontier Mine.

From a climate and economic perspective, Canada clearly needs a different plan than expanding oil and gas. Such a plan means standing up to the oil industry’s unrelenting lobby and recognizing the oil sands, which already produce 2.91m barrels a day and climbing, are more than big enough.

The fact is that further investment in the oil sands is also an economic risk for Canada. Wrestling the oil out of the ground in Alberta is expensive and this multibillion-dollar project, like the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada are predicated on a $95 barrel of oil. A projection not shared by any major bank. In addition, these projects risk being stranded in a world that addresses climate change. Some of the world’s largest banks such as HSBC, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank have already made commitments not to fund the expansion of oil and gas due to climate risks and singled out the oil sands as being high carbon.

Canada’s new environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, on his first day on the job, said his approach would be to support the oil and gas industry by addressing the high carbon problem, not by reducing production but by reducing emissions per barrel of oil. What he failed to mention was that by his government’s own accounting there has been no industry-wide decrease in emissions per barrel for decades. This is largely because of the shift to more high intensity in situ sands projects. MORE


Pressure on Canada to meet emission targets as CO2 levels hit record high

Image result for ctv: Pressure on Canada to meet emission targets as CO2 levels hit record high

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson


The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record high in 2018, according to new data put out Monday by the World Meteorological Organization, a revelation that casts a dim light on Canada’s current methods in battling the climate crisis.

Even more alarming, data from the United Nations-affiliated organization shows there is no sign of a slowdown in the rate of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, and that for some types, the concentration is increasing faster than ever.

 Slash emissions now or miss chance to avert climate disaster: UN

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement that the continued increase in greenhouse gases is happening “despite all the commitments” under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

“We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of the mankind,” he said.

Speaking to CTV News, WMO’s Oksana Tarasova said that their observations of the levels of greenhouse gases in 2018 showed that “carbon dioxide increased with a rate which is quite close to the 10 years average, though methane — which is the second most important … greenhouse gas – increased with a higher rate than within (the) last 10 years.”

Nitrous oxide, which she explained was the third most damaging greenhouse gas, “increased even faster than we’ve seen ever in this whole history of observations.”

CO2 is responsible for around two-thirds of the Earth’s warming. Methane is responsible for 17 per cent of warming, according to WMO, while nitrous oxide causes around 6 per cent. The last time CO2 levels were this high was “3-5 million years ago,” Taalas said in the WMO statement.

“This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems,” the statement reads.

This data comes only two weeks after Climate Transparency released a detailed analysis of which G20 countries are on track to meet their greenhouse-gas emissions targets — and Canada was one of the worst performers, assessed as unlikely to come near its targets.

Canadians have marched, chanted and demonstrated across the country, asking for more action on the part of the government to slow down the rate of devastating climate change, the effects of which we are already seeing. But so far, the policies have not followed.

The Canadian federal government has come under fire from climate activists and concerned citizens for the decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2018 and fund its expansion, even while promising to slash greenhouse-gas emissions. MORE

What’s ‘Fair’ When It Comes to Carbon Emissions?

The average American and Australian generates nearly 3½ times the global average of carbon dioxide pollution.

The Global Carbon Project estimates nearly 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be added to the atmosphere this year, driven by increased use of oil and natural gas.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Trump administration recently began the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, citing “the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses and taxpayers” by the United States’ pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, expressed similar sentiments: “Australia won’t write a blank check with its economy” to fight climate change, “which requires action from around the globe.”

What does “fair” mean in the case of greenhouse gas emissions? As citizens of the United States and Australia, two countries heavily invested in fossil fuels, we took a look.

We’re part of the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who monitor the global carbon cycle. For 2019, we and our colleagues estimate in our latest report that global carbon dioxide emissions will rise 0.6 percent, driven by increased use of oil and natural gas. In all, almost 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be added to the atmosphere this year, five metric tons for every person on the planet.

The issue of fairness has been a recurring one in the global climate debate. As delegates from the 197 nations that signed the Paris agreement gather in Madrid this week, one of the issues is whether developed nations like ours will provide greater financial help to developing nations to encourage sustainable growth.

The United States and Australia together emit one-sixth of the world’s fossil fuel emissions despite having less than a twentieth of the population. An average Australian or American generates 3.5 times the global average, almost 17 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per person every year. That’s more than twice the amount of someone in Europe and China, and sky-high compared to the one and two tons by each person in Africa and India. Is that fair?

Carbon dioxide lasts for centuries in the atmosphere. The United States is responsible for one- quarter of all fossil fuel-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today, twice China’s cumulative contribution, and far more than any other country. Is that fair?

The International Energy Agency forecasts global oil consumption will grow by seven million barrels a day through 2024. Nearly half of the growth is expected to go to meet the demands of consumers in China and India. That doesn’t sound fair, but an average American or Americans and Australians own almost one vehicle per person compared with only one for every 40 people in India and six people in China.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

But those countries are catching up. Car ownership quadrupled in China over the past decade to 240 million. Consumers there bought a million electric cars in 2018, far more than any other country, but they also bought 22 million gasoline-powered cars.

Vehicle ownership in India is expected to grow eightfold over the next 20 years to 235 million, but ownership will still be only one-fifth of the rate in the United States and Australia. If car ownership in India and China were equivalent to that in our two countries, those nations each would have almost a billion more vehicles. That might be fair in a comparative sense, but disastrous for the planet.

If oil consumption is to drop globally, we need to drive fewer miles in more fuel-efficient cars, most of them powered by renewable electricity. Instead, the Trump administration is proposing to roll back vehicle fuel efficiency standards, a dangerous idea that will cost consumers money, kill thousands of Americans from pollution, and increase trade deficits and oil imports. Australia doesn’t set mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles at all. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, those policies don’t seem fair for the rest of the world.

Air travel is also growing. The airline industry has experienced a “spectacular expansion” of one billion additional passengers in the last five years. Increased fuel efficiency can’t offset this rapid rise, so carbon dioxide emissions from air travel are growing at more than 5 percent annually. An American is 17 times more likely to fly today than a person in India and five times more likely than someone in China. That hardly seems fair. But air travel is also changing, too. The rising middle class in India, China and elsewhere will inevitably fly more, pushing up carbon dioxide emissions even higher.

There is some good news. Renewables are growing quickly in Australia, generating 19 percent of the country’s electricity in 2018. Coal use in the United States plummeted by half in the last 15 years, replaced by natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency. This remarkable turnabout in the United States has cut carbon dioxide emissions, created hundreds of thousands of jobs and prevented thousands of deaths from air pollution.

But barring a global economic downturn no one seeks, carbon dioxide emissions could be even higher in five years than they are today. If so, growth in global oil and natural gas use will have outpaced stable or slightly declining emissions from coal use. MORE


Exposing a Hidden Climate Threat: Methane ‘Super Emitters’

Vast amounts of methane are escaping from oil and gas sites nationwide, worsening global warming, even as the Trump administration weakens restrictions on offenders.

Image result for new york times: methane are escaping from oil and gas sites

Jonah M. Kessel, a New York Times visual journalist, and Hiroko Tabuchi, a Times climate reporter, went to West Texas oilfields with a camera that can photograph methane.

To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world.

But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate.

Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions.

Methane is loosely regulated, difficult to detect and rising sharply. The Times’s aerial and on-the-ground research, along with an examination of lobbying activities by the companies that own the sites, shows how the energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane, a major contributor to global warming.

The operators of the sites identified by The Times are among the very companies that have lobbied the Trump administration, either directly or through trade organizations, to weaken regulations on methane, a review of regulatory filings, meeting minutes and attendance logs shows. These local companies, along with oil-industry lobby groups that represent the world’s largest energy companies, are fighting rules that would force them to more aggressively fix emissions like these. MORE

Airlines’ CO2 emissions rising up to 70% faster than predicted

Carbon dioxide emitted by commercial flights rose by 32% from 2013 to 2018, study show

The UK is responsible for 4% of global aviation CO2, according to researchers. Photograph: Alamy

Worldwide CO2 emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN, according to an analysis.

Carbon dioxide emitted by airlines increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The US-based ICCT, which exposed the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal, estimated global air travel for passengers and freight emitted 918m tonnes of CO2 last year.

Researchers said the rate of growth far exceeded that used to develop projections for CO2 emissions by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization.

The ICCT report says: “The implied annual compound growth rate of emissions, 5.7%, is 70% higher than those used to develop ICAO’s projections that CO2 emissions from international aviation will triple under business as usual by 2050.”

The total increase over the past five years was equivalent to building about 50 coal-fired power plants, the ICCT calculated. The study shows the UK is responsible for 4% of global aviation CO2 emissions, behind only the US (24%) and China (13%).

Domestic flights in the US and China account for a quarter of all aviation emissions. The US, China and EU account for 55% of all emissions.

Airlines in the 36-member countries of the ICAO have signed up to a carbon reduction scheme known as Corsia and will start recording their emissions this year.

The scheme is framed to allow aviation to continue to grow but reduce its net footprint by purchasing carbon emission offsets – or funding a carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Although aviation accounts for just over 2% of all global emissions, that proportion is expected to expand significantly as other sectors such as energy make more rapid progress to decarbonise.

A forecast released by Airbus on Wednesday said the number of commercial aircraft in operation would double to 48,000 planes worldwide by 2038. It predicted urbanisation and an emerging middle class would fuel rapid growth, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. MORE