Climate activist Greta Thunberg says she is coming to Alberta

No dates or specific locations have been announced

Climate change teen activist Greta Thunberg will visit Alberta in the near future. (Andrej Ivanov/Reuters)

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg will travel to Alberta after a series of appearances in the United States.

Thunberg made the announcement on Twitter Saturday, one day after speaking at a rally in Denver, Colorado.

Greta Thunberg @GretaThunberg

Heading north again. Now follows a few days of well needed rest while enjoying the spectacular nature of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Then on to Alberta, Canada!

View image on Twitter

CBC News reached out to the province to inquire whether Premier Jason Kenney or any ministers would entertain meetings with Thunberg, to which the office issued the following statement:

“We trust that Ms. Thunberg will recognize Alberta’s leading human rights and environmental standards, especially in comparison to oil-producing dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela – which she will presumably visit next – as well as major growing emitters like China,” the statement reads.

Lee Todd, spokesperson for the NDP Caucus, expressed his party’s disappointment with provincial climate policy in a statement.

“It’s profoundly disappointing that just one year ago, Greta could have seen a nation-leading climate plan that cut emissions by 50 megatonnes and supported working people producing responsible oil and gas,” Todd wrote. “Today, she will see a government in denial, funding a $30-million attack machine to shut down the voices of the next generation demanding a cleaner future.”

Todd wrote that previous climate initiatives led by youth had not been received properly by provincial representatives.

“When these youth came to our Legislature, they were mocked by the Premier’s own staff who trolled them with signs in their windows rather than actually engaging them on this critical issue of climate change,” he wrote. “If Ms. Thunberg requests a meeting, we will always consider it.”

The announcement comes a few weeks after Thunberg spoke to a massive crowd in Montreal, estimated at half a million. MORE

Federal probe finds ‘co-ordinated’ social media bots in Alberta election

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discusses the accomplishments of his government in its first 100 days in office, in Edmonton on Wednesday August 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discusses the accomplishments of his government in its first 100 days in office, in Edmonton on Wednesday August 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — A federal agency investigating the recent Alberta election has found evidence the campaign featured tactics including co-ordinated, false social media postings.

In a report released late Friday, the Rapid Response Mechanism — created by the G-7 to monitor foreign influence on democratic elections — identified social media accounts that demonstrated “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.”

The agency was created by the G7 at the 2018 conference in Charleboix, Que. It is intended to strengthen co-ordination between members in identifying, preventing and responding to threats to G7 democracies from foreign actors using social media to meddle in elections.

The agency is based in Canada.

On its website, it says it investigated the Alberta vote to see if foreign players were involved.

“The Alberta election was identified as being at risk of interference because of the extent to which environmental issues were debated,” it says.

No organized influence was exerted from outside the province’s borders, it found. However, Albertans seemed keen to use those tactics themselves.

“(We) identified communities that demonstrated a suspicious account creation pattern that is indicative of troll or bot activity,” the report says. “It was mainly comprised of supporters of the United Conservative Party.

“The pattern was not identified within communities of supporters of the Alberta Liberal Party or Alberta New Democratic Party.” MORE


Suspicious accounts spread disinformation in Alberta election, federal report says

For residents of ‘Canada’s Texas,’ a sense of ‘western alienation’

Divisions in Canadian society, once primarily about linguistic identity, are starting to resemble those in the U.S. – a geographic split between energy-industry conservatives in the west and eastern environmentalist liberals.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Alberta, often called the Texas of Canada, is a frustrated place these days. Albertans are frustrated at Liberal policies under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at other provinces protesting the pipelines they want to build, and more recently at activists who have made the oil sands of Alberta one of the flashpoints of global environmental protest.

This frustration is not particularly new. Alienation is part of the identity of western Canada, says author Mary Janigan, and traces back over a century when the western provinces were created and control of their resources was given to Ottawa. “There’s a lingering resentment about any central interference in resources,” says Ms. Janigan. “Alberta’s hackles remain up.”

Yet today the consequences might be greater, as environmental concerns become more pressing. Paul Lemieux, who worked for 25 years in the oil business, says the rest of Canada can sometimes make Albertans feel like “a bunch of money-grubbing polluters.”

He says that diminishes the common ground that exists. He calls Canadian standards on resource extraction some of the best in the world. “I’m not saying we couldn’t do things better, for sure,” he says. But they all have children and grandchildren whose futures they want to preserve too. “I don’t think any of us wants to be environmentally unfriendly.” SOURCE

Grieving for the environment, without saying ‘climate change’

When environments change, people can feel they’ve lost something familiar and dear – even if they can’t agree why. In an era of climate change, there’s new thinking about how to cope.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff Susan Heather, a farmer and agronomist,  stands on a hill overlooking her family farm and the Little Bow River, which flooded in 2013, on July, 2019 in Vulcan, Alberta. Ms. Heather helps other farmers deal with the stress caused by the vagaries of Mother Nature.

Agnieszka Wolska, a therapist in Calgary, joined an “Eco-Grief Support Circle” that meets twice a month after losing faith, she says, that nature could rebalance itself. She compares the circles to being at a wake, but it’s also where she finds hope. “Together we have less individual despair. We can just have connection instead of fear or just sadness,” she says.

Academics have begun to attach neologisms to feelings like Ms. Wolska’s: “solastalgia,” coined by an Australian philosopher in 2005, describes a form of distress caused by environmental change, or “ecological grief.” Those feelings of loss surrounding a place are becoming increasingly common, as wilder weather patterns and natural disasters are, many scientists say, becoming more commonplace.

In the capital of Canada’s oil industry, where everyone knows someone employed by it, that can lead to mixed feelings. Just 52% of Albertans believe they’ve seen conclusive or solid evidence of climate change, the lowest percentage in Canada. But people here describe a feeling akin to mourning over the loss of natural landscapes.

“When you lose your special place, it’s a deep feeling,” says Albertan agronomist Susan Heather. SOURCE



Alberta government only invites industry to consultation on new emissions regulations

First the province scrapped its carbon tax. Now clean energy advocates say they’re being shut out of talks about the province’s proposed new plan to deal with heavy polluters

Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon (middle), Minister of Energy Sonya Savage and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen announce summer engagement on a new proposed emissions reduction system that would replace the carbon tax. Photo: Government of Alberta via Flickr

The Government of Alberta announced Tuesday it is beginning consultation on the emissions reduction system it hopes will replace the province’s existing carbon pricing for large emitters — but The Narwhal has learned no organizations working on environment or climate change issues have been included on the government’s list of stakeholders

Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon said at a news conference that the government is now “seeking feedback on an improved way to manage emissions” — the province’s proposed Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) system, which focuses on heavy emitters.

Nixon told reporters that government representatives will meet with approximately 150 stakeholders this week in Calgary, including representatives of the oil and gas, agriculture, chemicals, mining, forestry and electricity industries.

list of the stakeholders obtained by The Narwhal does not include any public interest groups.

The Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank started in Drayton Valley, Alta., in the 1980s, told The Narwhal it was not invited to participate in the consultations.

“It’s highly unusual,” Simon Dyer, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said in an interview.

Dyer said he heard first about the consultation in a news story following the government’s announcement.

“It’s a worrying signal about how this government is going to collect input from stakeholders,” he said.

Jess Sinclair, press secretary for Alberta Environment and Parks, told The Narwhal by email that “because the [emissions reduction] framework is designed with heavy industry in mind, we are beginning the consultation process focusing on affected industries.”

“That said, we are happy to engage with other interested parties in the spirit of collaboration, should they approach us and have relevant information to share.”

Sinclair provided The Narwhal with a list of “companies we’re currently consulting.” They include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and other industry associations, the so-called ‘Big Five’ oil giants and dozens of other companies. (The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary are both also included, as a result of their roles as producers of their own electricity).


Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 

The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE

Wildly Underestimated Oilsands Emissions Latest Blow to Alberta’s Dubious Climate Claims

This blows out of the water any notion any idea that the Trudeau government is a ‘climate leader’ responding to the climate emergency in a robust fashion, protecting Canadians and the planet. Neoliberal governments protect corporations and investors’ profits before consideration of the public’s clear wish for robust action on climate change. Write to parliamentarians and voice your anger.

As disaster looms, petro province lets industry call the shots.

Whether or not the rest of the oil patch has as wretched a record of accuracy remains to be seen, but the missing 17 megatonnes thus far unearthed are enormous — equivalent to the entire carbon output of Toronto or Seattle.’ Photo by jasonwoodhead23, Creative Commons licensed.

Trust us. That has long been the message from the oil sector to the Alberta public, which seems to have little choice in the matter.

In a bizarre arrangement, the Alberta oil patch pays for its own oversight through the Alberta Energy Regulator — a regulatory body 100-per-cent funded by the fossil fuel sector. What could go wrong?

The latest boondoggle was revealed by an Environment Canada study published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. It showed the methodology that energy companies have used for years to calculate carbon dioxide and methane emissions from oilsands surface mining operations underestimated contributions to global warming by a whopping 64 per cent.

This eye-popping number was the result of airborne sampling over four of the largest bitumen mines in 2013 to test the accuracy of the industry’s self-reporting methods. The company figures are based on “bottom-up” calculations using the measured amount of fuels consumed in their operations. The “top-down” sampling by Environment Canada was based on actual measurements of carbon dioxide levels collected over these projects.

…Similar airborne sampling by Carleton University researchers in 2017 assessed methane leaks from Alberta oil and gas operations and found that overall emissions were “likely at least 25 to 50 per cent greater than current government estimates.”

The oil industry enjoys a special deference from the mainstream media and regulators, so it is not surprising that the Environment Canada findings weren’t extrapolated to the rest of the bitumen industry. MORE

Alberta’s energy regulator ordered to take a new approach to punishing environmental crimes

A recent ruling aims to curtail conflicts of interest and corporate greenwashing via ‘creative sentencing,’ a legal tool used by the courts to offset pollution and other environmental harms

Alex MacLean Oilsands 6 Syncrude Mildred Lake Mining Site
Syncrude’s Mildred Lake facility, located 30 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, where in 2015 31 great blue herons were found in various states of decomposition in a sump pond containing contaminated residual bitumen. Photo: Alex MacLean

There’s been a major breakthrough in creative sentencing for environmental crimes in Alberta, with the Alberta Energy Regulator ordered to use an open-bidding process, rather than hand-selecting beneficiaries.

The creative sentencing mechanism allows judges to order penalties beyond fines when a company is found guilty of illegally polluting the environment. These penalties often include funding reclamation activities, scholarships or research projects.

Recipients of funds via creative sentences are usually selected behind closed doors by legal counsel, in a secretive system.

This was the case in 2010, after Syncrude Canada Ltd. was found guilty in the death of 1,600 ducks that landed on an oilsands tailings pond.

The University of Alberta, the Alberta Conservation Association and Keyano College were all approached privately about the prospect of receiving creative sentencing funds before being awarded $2.45 million in funding as part of Syncrude’s sentence.

But in response to a new ruling the Alberta Energy Regulator will take a different approach to creative sentencing in Syncrude’s latest conviction.