Cost of extreme weather due to climate change is severely underestimated

Over the past decade, a compelling body of evidence has linked a range of extreme weather events to human-caused climate change

Aerial view of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, on 31 August 2017. Credit: UPI / Alamy Stock Photo.

This area of research – known as “event attribution” – provides a means for climate scientists to examine how the severity and frequency of weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and storms, are changing as greenhouse gas concentrations rise.

In a pair of new journal papers, we have attempted to open up a new avenue for quantifying the “attributable costs” of weather-related disasters. We focus on recent droughts and floods in New Zealand and the landfall of Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017.

Using event attribution as the scientific basis for quantifying how extreme weather has changed, we have been examining the links between changes in extreme weather and their economic consequences.

If we can quantify the contribution from climate change to an extreme weather event and we can also know the cost of the associated disaster, then we can put a financial figure on the climate change component of those costs. These calculations then provide us with the price tag of climate change, through its impact on extreme weather events.

Quantifying attributable costs

In the two studies, both published in the journal Climatic Change, we look at droughts and floods in New Zealand during the decade 2007-17 and the landfall of Hurricane Harvey in Texas in August 2017.

The New Zealand Treasury estimated that two droughts in 2007 and 2013 jointly reduced GDP in New Zealand by around NZ$4.8bn (US$3.4bn in 2017). Using previously published methods, which used climate models to estimate changes in the types of weather patterns typical of severe New Zealand drought, we estimate that around NZ$800m (US$568m) of this cost is due to climate change.

We also analysed 12 extreme rainfall events, which contributed a total of around NZ$470m (US$334m) in insurance losses, by applying techniques used elsewhere. This involved running regional climate models thousands of times over, both with and without human influences, and looking at how often the events in question occurred in each case. Based on this, we estimate that around NZ$140m (US$99m) of those insurance losses were attributable to human influence on the climate.

The two sets of costs are not directly comparable – one measures reductions in economic performance and the other measures insured losses. The main insight is that event attribution is able to show that climate change is already causing significant losses to New Zealand. Climate change is not only a future problem, but it is costing us here and now.

Destroyed suspension bridge over Taieri River, Otago, New Zealand during floods in 2017. Credit: David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo.
Destroyed suspension bridge over Taieri River, Otago, New Zealand during floods in 2017. Credit: David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo.

Benchmarking social cost of carbon estimates

We also looked at the human climate change fingerprint on the damages associated with Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, Texas, in 2017, which were strongly driven by torrential rain and extensive flooding.

Previously published attribution studies, each using independent methods, found good agreement on attributable changes in the rainfall associated with Harvey: these conclusions formed the basis of our cost estimates. The results are striking: we estimate that around US$67bn of the Hurricane’s overall US$90bn are associated with climate change.

This is a far higher estimate than that which would be obtained from conventional economic models for the cost of climate change in the US, such as in the model built by Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus. This model is underpinned by a 2017 study (pdf) from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the “social cost of carbon” – the financial damages caused by every additional tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Nordhaus’s model predicts total economic costs to the US economy in 2017, from climate change, to be around US$20bn.

The usual tools used to quantify the costs of climate change are called “Integrated Assessment Models” (IAMs). (See Carbon Brief’s detailed Q&A on IAMs.) IAMs have been developed with the premise that the main economic impacts associated with climate change arise from long-term changes to agricultural productivity and practice associated with rising average temperatures. They typically assume that the effects of extreme weather events – which are infrequent by definition – are relatively minor.

The actual numbers we have obtained could be too high or too low (that is the way with research). But even if they are an overestimate, the damages we attribute to Hurricane Harvey measures just the immediate damages from one single event, in a single city. It does not include the direct and indirect costs of disruption associated with this hurricane, nor the health impacts, nor the population displacement.

It also does not include the costs of other events that happened that year – Harvey was one of four major hurricanes to make landfall in the US in 2017 – nor the costs associated with changes in the environment that are unrelated to extreme events (for example, coastal erosion because of sea level rise).

Practically, the results from these initial papers suggest that common “top-down” approaches substantially underestimate the costs of climate change and that event attribution techniques can be applied to form a kind of “bottom-up” check on those estimates.

Deploying this approach more widely could provide a useful check on IAM performance and add another valuable line of evidence to inform estimates of the social cost of carbon.

There are, of course, many uncertainties in any estimate of the human influence on weather events and in estimates of the costs of climate change. While some effects of extreme events are reasonably well-recorded, such as insurance losses, others are very difficult to measure, such as impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

Destruction from Hurricane Harvey in Port Aransas, Texas, on 28 August 2017. Credit: UPI / Alamy Stock Photo. W0MWC2
Destruction from Hurricane Harvey in Port Aransas, Texas, on 28 August 2017. Credit: UPI / Alamy Stock Photo.

Using attributable costs

The main significance of our new work is less in the exact numbers and more in the ability to link, more forensically, human influence on the climate to the economic impacts of disasters.

There are several ways in which this line of research could be used:

1. By central banks and treasuries as they are increasingly asked to consider climate change-related risks. This line of evidence can provide innovative ways of analysing the problem and should help them deal with dynamic, climate-related fiscal and monetary risks.

2. By insurance companies and investors that may find attributable cost techniques useful as an additional line of evidence regarding the way their risks are changing.

3. By policymakers tasked with assessing the social cost of carbon; a number that may guide national emission targets. The forensic approach suggests that traditional, IAM-based social cost of carbon estimates are too low.

4. By parties wishing to pursue arguments regarding “loss and damage” arising from climate change, potentially including lawsuits. Loss and damage refers to the societal and financial costs of climate impacts that can no longer be avoided. The idea of developed countries – who are most responsible for climate change – compensating developing nations for these damages is an ongoing part of international climate negotiations.

5. By investors as they consider divestment, especially in light of (3) and (4). If the social cost of carbon is currently underestimated, and if our new approach can potentially lead to legal actions, then these constitute very powerful arguments for firms to accelerate their divestment initiatives.

Parched land during 2010 summer, Tukituki Valley, New Zealand. Credit: Paul Street / Alamy Stock Photo. BW4DWH
Parched land during 2010 summer, Tukituki Valley, New Zealand. Credit: Paul Street / Alamy Stock Photo.

With colleagues from around the world we are trying to develop further our approach. This involves thinking through methodological issues, clarifying the economic consequences of weather and climate events, and trying to assess which events are amenable to event attribution and which are not. There is much to do and much to learn, but much to gain from doing so.

In the long run, the integration of quantitative social science and climate change event attribution will help decision-makers have a richer, better and more accurate understanding of the effects of climate change on the economy.

By looking as far along the chain from emissions to impacts as we can, we provide fresh evidence for decision-makers to consider as they grapple with the climate change challenge. By thinking through the economic consequences of human influence on extreme events, we think this can help move event attribution from the news cycle to the boardroom.

Frame, D. J. et al. (2020) The economic costs of Hurricane Harvey attributable to climate change, Climatic Change, doi:0.1007/s10584-020-02692-8

Frame, D. J. et al. (2020) Climate change attribution and the economic costs of extreme weather events: a study on damages from extreme rainfall and drought, Climatic Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-020-02729-y

The boreal forest : our climate shield

Snow covered trees in the boreal forest.

These past weeks and months have brought the world to a halt. Despite the call for physical distancing, we have seen people actually reconnect with loved ones remotely. Many of us have also rediscovered a love and connection to the outdoors. Spring is here, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, but what about forests?

Well, it would appear Canada’s forests are even more important for our climate than we thought – according to a ground-breaking new piece of research funded in part by Greenpeace Canada. Back in 2017, we set out to better understand the climate impacts of clearcut logging in Canada’s boreal forest and commissioned Dr. Jay Malcolm, a professor and scientist at the University of Toronto, to shine a light on this important topic. The results are in, and published in the academic journal Climatic Change. Here’s what you NEED to know:

Forest and Climate Change – 5 Key Findings

Finding 1: Clearcutting natural forests creates a big carbon debt

A natural (or “primary”) forest holds a great diversity of trees, vegetation, and wildlife. According to the research, these forests also contain more carbon than a forest that has been logged. So when we cut down these forests, we are losing significant carbon that will take many decades even centuries to recover. This is called a “carbon debt”. Our old forests are better equipped to help us fight climate change – so we should let them be.

Clear-cutting of Alberta Boreal Forest
These stacked logs are evidence of the extensive clear-cutting of the Boreal Forest that takes place in order to develop the tar sands in northern Alberta. © Colin O’Connor


Finding 2: Logging natural forests makes climate change worse – no matter how trees are used

The research points out that clearcut logging of our natural forest ecosystems always results in a carbon debt, irrespective of the forest type or end product – energy, paper or construction materials.


Finding 3:  Burning wood to replace fossil fuels is bad for climate and wildlife 

Burning wood pellets for electricity generation (biomass energy) to replace coal, oil, or natural gas, actually makes global warming worse for future generations. The carbon debt could take centuries to recover. It’s also bad news for wildlife. The research indicates that forestry leads to declines of dead wood and debris (biomass), which are critical wildlife habitats for hundreds of species – from the woodpecker to fungi.


Finding 4:  A forest rich in carbon is also rich in life

The study points out that a forest that contains a lot of carbon is more likely to be rich in wildlife across its landscape. This is particularly true when a forest is allowed to grow old. Here we find more variety of tree species and vegetation (especially coniferous forests), animals (caribou, wolverine, and woodpeckers), insects, fungi, and microorganisms. Protecting wildlife, just like protecting carbon rich forests, is mutually beneficial.


Finding 5: Protecting natural forests is the best strategy to fight climate change

Intact forests are increasingly rare across the globe, and Canada holds a good portion of what remains in our Boreal. These carbon rich forests are essential to fight climate change. The research points out that most of the ongoing loss of intact forests in Canada is due to forestry operations. Between 2000 and 2013, 60% of Canada’s intact forest loss was within areas subject to logging. The best strategy to fight climate change is to leave these forests standing. How about that!

Boreal forest Marsh in Val-d’Or, northern Quebec. 
Our work at Greenpeace relies on the latest and best available science to shape our campaigns. In the case of forests, this science is telling us to slow down and let nature take care of us. Thriving natural forests are vital for our health – and survival.

Olivier KölmelOlivier Kölmel is in charge of the Nature & Food campaign, and spokesperson for Greenpeace Canada.

Questions remain after recent police encounters with Indigenous community

Focus remains on police relations with Indigenous people across Canada

Roger Augustine, AFN regional chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, addresses the audience as native leaders from across Canada attend the Assembly of First Nations’ 35th annual general meeting in Halifax on Thursday, July 17, 2014. The death of Rodney Levi of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation in an RCMP shooting Friday night in New Brunswick continues to put the focus on police relations with Indigenous communities in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The death of Rodney Levi of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation in an RCMP shooting Friday night in New Brunswick continues to put the focus on police relations with Indigenous communities in Canada.

Here’s a look at major stories on the subject in the past month:


Roger Augustine, the regional chief representing New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, said Levi was shot near the community, about 30 kilometres west of Miramichi. He added that Levi was a relative, saying he has a grandson in the area who shares Levi’s last name.

The RCMP said officers responded to a complaint about an “unwanted man” in a home near the community at 7:40 p.m. local time

“When police arrived, they were confronted by a man who was carrying knives,” said RCMP Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh.

She said officers used a stun gun several times but were unable to subdue the man.

READ MORE: Amid anti-racism protests, Trudeau promises to push police body cameras with premiers


RCMP dash-cam footage was released publicly Friday as part of a court application to stay criminal charges against the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

It shows a Mountie charging at an agitated Adam, tackling him to the ground and punching him in the head in Fort McMurray, Alta.

The 12-minute video from early on March 10 shows a black truck idling outside the Boomtown Casino in downtown Fort McMurray in the glow of flashing police lights.

Adam can be seen walking back and forth between the truck and an RCMP cruiser, shouting profanities at an officer out of view. The chief tells the officer to tell his sergeant: “I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP.”

“Sir, just return to your vehicle. I’ll come talk to you in a minute,” the Mountie replies.

A few minutes later, after some arguing, Adam gets out of the truck’s passenger seat and takes off his jacket as he strides toward the officer. A woman in the driver’s seat gets out and Adam crouches as though bracing for a fight.

There is more arguing and Adam gets back into the passenger seat. The officer is seen pushing the woman against the truck and yanking her by the shoulder as she shouts, ”Ow!”

“Hey! Leave my wife alone! You come for me,” Adam says, before swatting the officer’s hands away from the woman.

The second officer charges at Adam shortly after and tackles him to the ground.

READ MORE: New video shows RCMP tackling, punching Alberta chief during arrest


Police are defending the actions of officers who kneed and kicked a man while arresting him and are reaching out to Indigenous leaders to discuss what happened Thursday.

A blurry, 74-second video taken by a bystander and posted online shows three officers in Winnipeg struggling to turn a man on the ground over to handcuff him.

One officer knees the man in the back twice. A fourth officer walks up and kicks the man two times in the shoulder. One officer deploys a Taser while another puts a foot on the man’s shoulder.

The man is soon in cuffs.

Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, said the video shows problematic behaviour, since the suspect was already on the ground when he was kneed, kicked and shocked with a Taser.

“All three of those uses of force come after the person is already detained and restrained,” Walby said.

“He’s squirming around a little bit, but you tend to do that when you’ve got three people with their knees in your back and on your pressure points.”

The Winnipeg Police Service on Friday released a longer and clearer video taken from nearby security cameras and held a news conference about the use of force.

Const. Jay Murray said officers were responding to multiple reports of a man armed with a gun and high on methamphetamine who was threatening pedestrians during Thursday’s morning rush hour. He said the man had broken a large granite slab and busted a window at the Centennial Concert Hall to break in.

Murray said that officers saw a suspect throw what appeared to be a handgun to the ground. The suspect refused orders to get on the ground, he said.

“Officers struggled to place the male into handcuffs. While struggling with the officers, a knife and a heavy bar were located on the male.”

Flinn Nolan Dorian, 33, has been charged with several offences, including possession of a weapon.


A 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia, Moore was shot and killed by police in Edmundston, N.B., on June 4.

The Edmundston Police Force said it received a request to check on a woman’s well-being at an apartment building. The force said the officer who responded to the call encountered a “woman holding a knife who made threats.”

Moore had moved to the community three months ago to be near her mother and six-year-old daughter.

Nora Martin, Moore’s grandmother, and her sister, Grace Frank, have said they doubt the police version of events as Moore was a petite woman who they say was not violent.

“We have to know the circumstances. We can’t go with what the RCMP say. We don’t believe that Chantel attacked him. There’s no way in the world she would attack anybody,” said Martin.

“She had no mental health issues.”

READ MORE: Shooting victim Chantel Moore remembered as ‘the sweetest soul’


Nunavut is planning its own civilian police review agency over concerns that Inuit are too often treated badly by RCMP.

Video surfaced on social media last week that showed an apparently intoxicated Inuit man being knocked over by the door of a slowly moving police vehicle before being arrested. He was taken to the detachment lockup in Kinngait, formerly Cape Dorset, where he was beaten by a fellow prisoner badly enough to be flown to hospital in Iqaluit.

The man was not charged with anything.

“I was outraged. I was angry. I was hurt,” Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said.


A 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman, Korchinsky-Paquet died when she fell 24 storeys from a balcony while Toronto police officers were in her apartment on May 27.

Her family has questioned the role of police in her death. Korchinsky-Paquet’s mother has said she called police to the apartment and asked them to take her daughter to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.


ntario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is investigating.

READ MORE: Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto


Anne Hidalgo Reelected As Mayor Of Paris Vowing To Remove Cars And Boost Bicycling And Walking


Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo arrives at place de la Bastille on a bicycle to attend the “car free” day in Paris on October 1, 2017. . / ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP via Getty Images)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has won reelection in the French capital. The widely expected announcement was made on June 28.

Hidalgo, Mayor since 2014, beat conservative candidate Rachida Dati in France’s municipal elections, winning 50.2% of the ballot compared to Dati’s 32%. Agnes Buzyn trailed in with just 16%.

The second round of the municipal elections, which had been postponed at the start of the coronavirus crisis, witnessed a record low turnout thanks to concerns over COVID-19. Only 40% of voters cast ballots in the elections held in cities across France, and they did so using their own pens (mail-in voting isn’t legal in France).

Climate Change And Cycle Lanes Propel Greens Into Municipal Power Across France

As part of her manifesto Hidalgo plans to turn the French capital into a myriad of neighborhoods where “you can find everything you need within 15 minutes from home.” But, preferably, not by car.

Instead, the Socialist Party politician wants more Parisians to walk and cycle. Plans for the “city of fifteen minutes”—or, Ville Du Quart D’Heure—were unveiled on January 21 by Hidalgo’s reelection campaign, Paris En Commun. The plans, which aim to transform Paris into a people-friendly city, build on Hidalgo’s “Plan Vélo” transport changes made during her current term of office, which has included removing space for cars and boosting space for cyclists and pedestrians.

15-minute city

The 15-minute city will involve reshaping the streets of Paris. PARIS EN COMMUN

Hidalgo unveiled more people-first plans for Paris during a hustings hosted in a bike shop on January 28, including for every street in the French capital to have a cycle path, and for all of the city’s bridges to have protected cycleways.

“If you liked Season 1 [of Plan Vélo] , you will love Season 2,” she insisted. On January 29, Hidalgo revealed that the space required to make Paris cyclist-friendly would mostly come at the expense of motoring. Under her plans Paris will remove 72% of its on-street car parking spaces. According to a 2019 study by Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (Apur) there are 83,500 on-street parking spaces in Paris—Hidalgo plans to remove 60,000 of them.

(There are 621,600 parking spaces in total in Paris, most of them are domestic ones or commercial car parks.)

Hidalgo’s victory will now allow these eco-friendly moves—and others—to go ahead. She has a six-year term of office and will be able to push through many if not all of the measures she has promised.


What Does Anti-Black Racism in the Workplace Look Like: Consider These Three Cases

Racism at work is common — but experts say employers aren’t tackling it

Rubin Thomlinson LLP logoLast week, my colleague Dana Campbell discussed the difference between racism and racial discrimination, and the ways in which racial discrimination can manifest in the workplace. In the spirit of her article and her quote from Clarence B. Warren – “Everything can be improved” – we review here three human rights cases where anti-black racism occurred in the workplace, what the law told us then, and considerations for how the application of some of these legal principles may evolve going forward.

A pivotal case in Ontario human rights case law on anti-black racism is the decision of Peel Law Association v. Pieters.¹ Two Black lawyers and one Black articling student were approached by the librarian while sitting in the lawyer’s lounge at the Brampton courthouse and asked for their identification. The lounge had a policy that only lawyers and articling students were allowed using the lounge and the librarian had primary responsibility for enforcing the policy. The Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal found that the librarian approached the Black lawyers in an aggressive and demanding manner, and that she did not ask to see the identification of anyone else in the lounge. Applying the legal test for establishing a case of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“Code”), the Vice-Chair found that there were sufficient facts to support a prima facie case of discrimination, and that no credible explanation was provided for why the librarian stopped and questioned the lawyers as she did. The Vice-Chair drew the inference that her conduct was, in some measure, based on their race and colour.

The Tribunal decision was reversed by the Divisional Court and then reinstated by the Ontario Court of Appeal. In its decision, the Court of Appeal rejected the Divisional Court’s statement that the legal test for discrimination required a “nexus” or “causal connection” between the adverse treatment and the ground of discrimination, holding that the ground of discrimination must only be a factor in the adverse treatment. Importantly, the Court of Appeal also recognized that proving a prohibited ground like race was a factor in someone’s treatment is difficult, and that as such, it will often be proven by circumstantial evidence and inference. The Court of Appeal also accepted as “sociological fact” that racial stereotyping will usually be the result of subtle unconscious beliefs, biases and prejudices. The Pieters decision remains good law to this day and, along with Shaw v. Phipps,² is often cited for its articulation of the test to determine racial discrimination under the Code.

Two more recent HRTO decisions – Gordon v. Best Buy Canada³ and McDonald v. CAA South Ontario4 – considered allegations of racial harassment and the creation of a poisoned work environment. In Gordon, the applicant was subjected to multiple race-related comments by co-workers, including a supervisor asking him, “Aren’t all Black people afraid of dogs?” When approached by the applicant about the comment, the supervisor made further racially inappropriate comments, explaining to the applicant that he had Black friends and that he thought the fear of dogs was rooted in slavery. The same supervisor made derogatory comments in Somali to a female employee of Somali descent which the applicant witnessed. A second employee told the applicant, “Wow you really do fit the stereotype,” when the applicant was eating fried chicken.

In McDonald, the applicant’s co-worker told the applicant “you people are so sensitive” when the applicant questioned the co-worker’s description of her son’s soccer coach as being “very Jamaican”; commented that the applicant’s name was “not Canadian”; made a comment about Christmas being a Canadian holiday and how she did not agree with immigrants coming to Canada and making people say “happy holidays”; and made a comment that Muslims should return to their countries.

In both cases, the Tribunal held that the comments amounted to racial harassment and that the employer had failed to adequately respond to the applicant’s complaints about the harassment. In Gordon, among other things, the employer failed to interview the applicant about his concerns; failed to document their conversation with the supervisor about the complaints; and promoted the supervisor shortly after the applicant made his complaint. In MacDonald, the employer failed to properly investigate some of the applicant’s main allegations; prejudged certain issues the applicant complained about; failed to allow the complainant to respond to accusations being made against her by her co-workers during the investigation; and demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding on the law on racial harassment by concluding that intention was necessary for a finding of harassment and by relying on the fact that the applicant challenged the race-related comments as a reason for finding that the comments did not amount to harassment.

The applicant in Gordon also alleged that he was bullied and harassed by two other managers, and that these two managers had a problem with other individuals who were also racialized. The adjudicator stated that the applicant had failed to provide any evidence to suggest that his race was a factor in the allegations of bullying and harassment. As our conversations surrounding race and racism start to deepen and we better appreciate the very subtle ways in which anti-black racism can manifest itself, it will be interesting to consider who holds the responsibility for “naming” racial harassment, and the point at which ignoring race as a decision-maker – even where it has not been alleged as a ground of discrimination or where supporting evidence has not been provided – can become problematic.

In both MacDonald and Gordon, the adjudicators did not find that the conduct at issue rose to the level of a poisoned work environment despite there being evidence of at least one other employee in the workplace making race-related comments (in Gordon, it was the fried chicken comment; in MacDonald, an employee made a comment about being nervous about seeing a new security guard who wore a turban when she was working after hours.) According to the adjudicator in Gordon, “I am not satisfied that [the comments made by the supervisor] were so egregious or persistent to create a poisoned work environment.” In MacDonald, the adjudicator similarly stated that the behaviour, though harassing in nature, “did not rise to the level of creating a poisoned work environment.” We query whether in today’s climate, the behaviours at issue would have met the threshold of a poisoned work environment, and whether our tribunals and courts will adapt and evolve their application of that threshold.


Katharine Montpetit

BC supports new fuelling stations for hydrogen vehicles

Bremerhaven and the Region will Soon be Hydrogen-Powered ...

The first of three new fuelling stations for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles opens this week as part of the Province’s CleanBC transition to cleaner energy solutions to meet 2030-50 greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“Hydrogen will play a critical role in B.C.’s transition to a clean energy future, even more so as we focus on economic recovery following COVID-19,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “Through CleanBC, we are developing a hydrogen roadmap to grow the low-carbon economy and create new opportunities across the province.”

North Vancouver-based Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation (HTEC) has partnered with 7-Eleven Canada to open a hydrogen fuelling station at the Esso at the Westview Shopping Centre in North Vancouver.

Unlike cars and trucks with internal combustion engines and gasoline tanks, hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles have a fuel cell that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which runs an electric motor. The technology is safe and has existed since the 1960s, but adoption as a means of transportation is relatively new.

Support for this station comes partly through a Part 3 Agreement under the BC Low Carbon Fuel Standard. This includes investment for actions that increase the use of low-carbon fuels, as well as $500,000 from the Province’s CleanBC Go Electric Hydrogen Fuelling and Fleet Program.

“The BC Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a significant contributor to realizing the new fuelling stations,” said Colin Armstrong, president and chief executive officer, HTEC. “Support through the Part 3 Agreement program and other CleanBC programs have made HTEC’s vision a reality.”

HTEC and 7-Eleven have begun construction on a second station, which will open on Vancouver Island later this year. The companies are also expanding the network into the Okanagan, with a station set to open in Kelowna next year.

CleanBC is a pathway to a more prosperous, balanced and sustainable future. CleanBC was developed in collaboration with the BC Green Party caucus and supports the commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement to implement climate action to meet B.C.’s emission targets.

Quick Facts:

  • There are currently two public hydrogen fuelling stations operating in the province, with four more (including the one opened on June 25) to open by the end of 2021.
  • Hydrogen fuelling takes just three to five minutes for an average-sized tank.
  • The range of light-duty hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles is 600 kilometres.

Learn More:

For more information on how HTEC is fuelling the drive to hydrogen to combat climate change, visit:

Electric plane hits the skies in ‘UK first’ for climate-friendly flight

ZeroAvia hails major milestone for zero carbon flight as six-seater aircraft completes test flight at Cranfield Airport

The six-seater hydrogen fuel cell aircraft took flight at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire | Credit: ZeroAvia

The six-seater hydrogen fuel cell aircraft took flight at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire | Credit: ZeroAvia

The UK’s “first ever” successful test flight of a commercial-scale, electric aircraft took place at Cranfield Airport yesterday, green aviation specialist ZeroAvia has confirmed.

Yesterday’s successful test means the six-seater battery electric aircraft has become Europe’s largest zero emission plane currently flying, according to the company, which is now planning to carry out longer-distance test flights from its Bedfordshire base later this summer.

The plane has been developed as part of the government-funded HyFlyer project, which is set to eventually culminate in a 250-300 nautical mile test journey from the Orkney Islands in Scotland to an as-yet unspecified destination elsewhere in the UK, according to the project partners. Having demonstrated its new electric drive train the company intends to develop a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain and convert a 19-seat aircraft to run on hydrogen that could be in commercial use as early as 2023.

Developing climate-friendly commercial aircraft is seen as a major technological challenge, with the global aviation sector accounting for around two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and growing.

As a first step, the Hyflyer project therefore aims to decarbonise medium-range small passenger aircraft by demonstrating powertrain technology that can replace conventional fossil fuel engines with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells, and H2 gas storage.

ZeroAvia believes hydrogen fuel cells offer a preferable option for zero carbon flight as they are lighter and cheaper to operate in the sky than batteries, making it more viable for commercial operations at a much larger scale in the nearer future.

The firm said it wants to have 10 to 20 seat commercial hydrogen-electric aircraft ready for take-off for 500-mile regional flights within three years, ahead of 50 to 100 seater zero carbon planes that could be ready by the end of the decade.

It claims aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology boasting over 200 seats with a range in excess of 3,000 nautical miles could be developed by 2040 without requiring any fundamental scientific breakthroughs.

“Today’s flight is the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality,” said Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s founder and CEO. “We all want the aviation industry to come back after the pandemic on a firm footing to be able to move to a net zero future, with a green recovery. That will not be possible without realistic, commercial options for zero emission flight, something we will bring to market as early as 2023.”

Yesterday’s test flight came on the same day an EU-backed study assessed the potential for hydrogen-powered flight in Europe, predicting that with supportive regulatory, investment, and policy signals the technology could become a major player for short to medium haul plane journeys within 10 to 15 years.



Indigenous communities find little to celebrate on Canada Day

This year’s holiday comes in the wake of protests against pipelines and systemic racism

Canada Day celebrations in Vancouver in 2019. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Jess Housty can’t remember the last time Canada Day was celebrated in the Heiltsuk Nation.

Housty lives in the coastal B.C. town of Bella Bella where the Heiltsuk Nation is known for its efforts to help conserve and protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

“I can recall a lot of celebrations here — we’re a community that loves to come together and celebrate things — but Canada Day is not one of those things I remember bringing the community together,” she said in an interview.

Canada Day comes this year as Indigenous people absorb reports of confrontations between the police and Indigenous people, as well as accusations of systemic racism in B.C.’s health-care system.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, has been appointed by the provincial government to investigate accusations that some emergency room staff played a game to guess the blood-alcohol levels of Indigenous patients.

She said celebrations like Canada Day, Victoria Day and St-Jean-Baptiste Day are symbols of colonialism.

Jess Housty pictured after an oil spill in Heiltsuk territory in 2016. (Chris Corday/CBC)


Canada Day also comes after recent protests by First Nations against pipelines and the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism, which adds to the complexity of the national celebration, she said.

“This is a Canada Day like no other Canada Day for some time,” said Turpel-Lafond, who is also a law professor at the university.

“Are we the just, rights-respecting society we think we are and we need to be?”

‘What exactly is there to celebrate?’

A recent poll of 1,000 people commissioned by Historica Canada found that most Canadians have a lot to learn about the historical and cultural contributions of Indigenous, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

Fewer than six per cent recognized figures such as Indigenous filmmakers and human rights activists, or the first RCMP officer to wear a turban.

Byron Louis, the chief of the Okanagan Indian Band, says he can’t remember the last time Canada Day was formally celebrated in his community.

“It’s a stat holiday, so we’ll take it. Other than that, there is no celebration in our community,” he said. “What exactly is there to celebrate?”

Louis said there has been an erosion of the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous people, which makes it difficult to join in the celebration.

“When you look at the last 110 years of our relationship, it was nowhere near what our relationship was when we first established contact,” he said.

Wade Grant, an intergovernmental officer with the Musqueam Indian Band, said he would like to see a greater emphasis placed on days that honour Indigenous people.

“We have Canada Day parades, we have Canada Day celebrations downtown. On National Indigenous Day we don’t have cities or municipalities holding parades or holding events where concerts are played to celebrate Indigenous people,” he said in an interview.

Grant said he understands the aspirational aspect of Canada Day, but as someone of mixed heritage whose grandfather was forced to pay the Chinese head tax, he would like to see more discussion of what other races have experienced in Canada.

We have Canada Day parades … On National Indigenous Day we don’t have cities or municipalities holding parades or holding events where concerts are played to celebrate Indigenous people.​​– Wade Grant, intergovernmental officer with the Musqueam Indian Band

Chief Judith Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band said she views Canada Day as a chance to better educate others, explaining how she helped organize a skit depicting the writing of a letter in 1910 from Indigenous chiefs to Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The scene recreated the chiefs of the Secwepemc, Syilx and Nlaka’pamux peoples relaying grievances over their treatment by the federal government. Wilson presented the scene during Canada Day celebrations in Chase, B.C., to show the public the issues Indigenous people have faced.

Housty said she would also like to see a greater recognition of what Indigenous communities are facing.

“I don’t think we can say everyone in Canada has grappled with the reality of what systemic racism is in this country,” she said. “The fact that it isn’t historical, it’s something that is alive and present and a lived reality for people around us.”



It’s time to rethink police wellness checks, mental health advocates say

Recent deaths involving police highlight flaws with wellness checks, campaigners say

Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder 25 years ago, Bill Pringle has attempted suicide eight times. He said police accused him of ‘attention seeking,’ but have also shown him compassion. (Don Somers/CBC)

Living with bipolar disorder for 25 years has led Bill Pringle to dark places. Along the way, he said he has gained insight into how police handle mental health crises and what needs to change in their approach.

The Saskatoon man has had eight suicide attempts, which sometimes included interacting with police officers.

Once, he was treated as though he had committed a crime. In another instance, he described police as having a reassuring effect. “The difference in training was very evident,” Pringle said.

During one of his earlier suicide attempts, years ago while living in Vancouver, he said the police “essentially accused me of attention-seeking and would not call an ambulance for me.”

Instead, Pringle said, he was handcuffed and taken to the hospital where he eventually overdosed, which resulted in him being ejected from the facility. “I have never really gotten past that incident,” he said.

But he credited Saskatoon police for being “calm and considerate” during a more recent suicide attempt. “They spent time with me while I was waiting for the ambulance to come. They even followed the ambulance to the hospital to make sure that I was safe and OK.”

Police responses to mental health crises have come under scrutiny following the recent deaths of Ejaz Choudry, Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and D’Andre Campbell, prompting demands to defund police. Canada’s largest psychiatric hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, also called for police to be removed from leading “this important work.”

Pringle, who is the former chair of the National Council of Persons with Lived Experience, an advocacy group for people living with mental illness, said the deaths highlight a problem that, “desperately needs to be addressed.”

Though he agreed that police may be needed to attend certain mental health situations, he added, “I don’t think police should be the first line of response.”

Integrated mental health crisis teams more common

Police departments in Canada have received more training for dealing with people with mental illness than ever before, as noted by a 2014 report prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and do “a reasonable job.”

Most municipal police departments from Victoria to St. John’s also have some form of an integrated mental health crisis team, which partners police with mental health professionals to perform wellness checks, which are sometimes known as emotionally disturbed person calls.

In cities such as Hamilton, the use of teams has led to significant reductions of people being detained under mental health legislation.

WATCH | Mental health workers call for change in police wellness checks:

Mental health advocates, health-care providers call for changes to how emergency teams respond to wellness calls after at least four Canadians have been killed by police since April. 2:34

But many of these units don’t operate around the clock, or they’re brought into situations too late, and in the end it’s often the police who are in charge — and they’re not mental health experts despite recent training improvements.

Toronto psychiatric nurse Sarah Reynolds said integrated teams are “a great model” that could be used more frequently.

Reynolds worked with the Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) alongside specially trained officers from the Toronto Police Service for 18 months. She said if there was ever any talk of a weapon or “an unstable situation” during a wellness check, police would quickly take over.

“The nurses could be far more effective if we were front and centre doing the major assessment, and having police as back up,” she said.

In 20 years of emergency room experience as part of a psychiatric team, Reynolds said she has regularly managed patients who she described as “psychotic.”

“I’ve taken knives away from people in the emergency room,” she said, adding “sometimes I feel people [in distress] react to the police presence, which can make them more aggressive or afraid.”

Reynolds said this is often the case in potential “suicide by cop” situations, which require “patience, skill and it takes health-care experts not police experts.”

Mental health ambulance instead of police

Indeed, Sweden’s capital Stockholm has tried to remove police from psychiatric emergencies altogether with the 2015 launch of a mental health ambulance.

The Psychiatric Acute Mobility Team (PAM), which is composed of nurses and paramedics, responds to crises such as suicide threats or severe behavioural issues much like a conventional ambulance.

A study of its first year of operation published in the International Journal of Mental Health found police were needed in  49 per cent of calls the team attended. However, the program’s manager told CBC News the ambulance cannot keep up with the demand for its services.

Sarah Reynolds, a psychiatric nurse who worked with Toronto police in a crisis intervention team, said mental health professionals should be given more responsibilities when responding to wellness checks. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)


Halifax-based mental health advocate and legal scholar Archibald Kaiser has long supported the exclusion of police from responding to mental health crises.

“When the police attend, they may well come with what I would call the wrong mindset, emphasizing law enforcement priorities over empathetic caring and human rights-respecting responses to people who are in crisis.”

Kaiser represented the Canadian Mental Health Association in the 1986 public inquiry into the police shooting death of Harold Lowe, an unarmed Halifax man with a long history of mental illness who had barricaded himself in his apartment after he stopped taking his medication.

“You know it’s just endlessly frustrating for me that the same tragic scenes get acted out again and again,” he said.

The Psychiatric Acute Mobility team operates this mental health ambulance in Stockholm, Sweden. (Annika Bremer/PAM)


Kaiser, a law professor at Dalhousie University cross-appointed to the school’s department of psychiatry, said altercations with police are often the result of a mental health care system that has failed people.

“It’s a deliberate choice to under invest in societal inclusion and provision of treatment, which is eminently correctable.”

Kaiser said people who have lived with mental illness should have a role in designing a system that better supports their needs, especially in times of crisis.

“Involve others, you know mental health professionals, legal professionals, and police service providers at the end rather than at the beginning,” he added.



Systemic racism must be rooted out of mental health services, too — not just police, says advocate

Pandemic stimulus could be a game changer for climate goals — if focus switches from fossil fuels, say some


Inter Pipeline’s Heartland Petrochemical Complex is shown under construction in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., in January 2019. A recent U.K. study looks at how pandemic stimulus could help move countries to a low-carbon future. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Listen to the full episode27:00

The economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced governments around the world to resort to massive spending in order to calm the nerves of people and businesses alike.

But one question has been troubling many economists and environmental advocates: Will stimulus plans help move the world toward a cleaner, greener future or will they largely maintain the status quo, which includes protecting the interests of fossil fuel industries?

“It is a really vital moment and the reason is that we are basically out of time to turn our economies around” in terms of climate action, said Cameron Hepburn, professor of environmental economics and director of the Smith School at the University of Oxford, in an interview for the first episode of What on Earth, a new CBC Radio show focused on climate change.

A report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said we have about 12 years to act in order to avert climate disaster — and that was two years ago.

“If we do all of that [stimulus] spending in a way that is business-as-usual, that is fossil-fuelled, then we will bring forward further capital investment that locks in further emissions for decades to come,” said Hepburn, who is the lead author on a recent U.K. study looking at how pandemic stimulus could help move countries to a low-carbon future.

In terms of a “green recovery,” Germany has arguably shown the most ambition.

Last month, it earmarked 40 billion euros (about $61 billion Cdn) for low-carbon initiatives like greater electric-vehicle rebates, building retrofits and enhanced infrastructure to support hydrogen power.

Employees of Volkswagen Sachsen in Zwickau, Germany, work on production for the company’s all-electric vehicle, ID.3, after the plant shut down for weeks due to COVID-19. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via Associated Press)


Meanwhile, French President Emanuel Macron has announced 15 billion euros (about $23 billion Cdn) in green spending.

His government has also conditioned a bailout of Air France on the airline drastically lowering its emissions, by decreasing the number of flights and taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint per passenger.

Canada hasn’t been as bold.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told What on Earth that while the country is committed to reducing emissions, in this time of financial uncertainty, it is still mindful of the economic necessity of our oil and gas sector.

“We need to be sure that we’re addressing the needs of all regions of this country,” Wilkinson said. “Canada is different from England. It’s different from France. It’s different from Germany.”

Creating a green recovery

The study Hepburn led was co-authored by such esteemed economists as Nicholas Stern and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and surveyed more than 200 central bank officials, finance officials and other experts from G20 countries.

The paper identifies a number of policies that would benefit both the economy and climate goals, including expanding clean energy infrastructure, retrofitting buildings and increasing research and development of clean technologies.

Wind turbines generate power on Dalhousie Mountain, N.S., in 2010. A recent study suggests that expanding clean energy infrastructure would benefit both climate goals and the economy. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)


As the study points out, the world is at a similar crossroads as it was after the financial meltdown of 2008-09, when some countries, including the U.S., used a time of economic turmoil to champion some sustainability initiatives, such as solar power.

But during the current financial crisis, many governments still support industries that are in fact detrimental to the environment.

For example, Russia has issued tax breaks for airlines, while an investigation by the Guardian newspaper found that U.S. fossil fuel firms with ties to officials in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have taken millions in small business loans.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government continues to tout the necessity of oil and gas pipelines.

“The global economy is built upon a system of fossil fuel consumption and production,” said Hepburn.

“I’m not fundamentally critiquing it ― it’s been a key source of our prosperity for many years, especially in countries like Australia, where I’m from, and countries like Canada.”

Pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta., on June 18, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)


But he said government support of fossil fuel industries is short-sighted — and not only in terms of the environment. At a time of falling demand and low oil prices, it just doesn’t seem like a good investment.

“It’s certainly economically irrational to build vast amounts of kit [infrastructure] that you know you’re going to have to scrap,” he said.

Investing in orphan wells

Wilkinson said the Canadian government is striving to balance environmental responsibility with doing what is necessary to help the country weather the economic shocks of COVID-19.

In April, Ottawa announced it was investing $1.7 billion to help clean up orphan oil and gas wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., which would employ about 5,000 people.

A de-commissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., in 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)


Wilkinson said that decision was “about creating jobs and addressing pressing environmental issues.”

He said that when it comes to envisioning a transition to a low-carbon economy, people shouldn’t “think about this as just something that governments do,” adding that the private sector also has a large role to play.

Last month, investment bank Goldman Sachs projected that worldwide investment in green energy will surpass that of oil and gas by 2021.

One of the conclusions the U.K. paper draws is that when compared to spending on fossil fuel industries, stimulus spending on green projects has a higher “multiplier” effect — in other words, the economic benefits are greater per dollar spent.

Wilkinson agrees, but said that greening the economy shouldn’t be seen as a short-term strategy.

“It’s helpful to start to change the track by using stimulus spending, but I would tell you that in the longer term, it’s really about priorities,” he said.

“It’s about focusing on reducing greenhouse gases and finding a way to grow in a clean way, and that needs to be a priority well beyond any stimulus activity.”

Listen to What on Earth on CBC Radio 1 every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. in Newfoundland.

You can also subscribe to What on Earth on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen anytime on CBC Listen.
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