Catastrophic Fires Released Billions of Tons of CO2 in 2019

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Smoke rises after fires burn through the Amazon rainforest in Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. Photographer: Leonardo Carrato/Bloomberg

Last year’s mammoth wildfires in the Amazon, Indonesia, and the Arctic Circle triggered a global conversation about the environmental and economic consequences of climate change. So it was with shock and still-raw emotion that, as 2020 began, the world absorbed the images of Australia’s devastating bush fires.

These enormous blazes—some the size of a small country—aren’t just destroying native forests and vulnerable animal species. They’re also releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, potentially accelerating global warming and leading to even more fires.

Fire Trend

Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires have declined in past years, but 2019 saw an uptick.

Total carbon emissions from forest fires in 2019 weren’t anomalously high compared with previous years’ counts. They rose last year by 26%, to 7.8 billion metric tons, the highest since 2002, according to the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED). But overall they’ve been declining since the beginning of the century.

While emissions from fires have been going down, total human-generated emissions have been going up much more quickly. Fires were responsible for as much as a fifth of the 36.8 billion tons of carbon released last year from burning fossil fuels, down from about a quarter at the beginning of the century.

Emissions from fires increased last year from 2018 and 2017 levels, “but it was still a fairly average year,” says Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at Copernicus. “What seemed to stand out was the unusual fire activity in places where we didn’t necessarily expect to see fire, or so much fire.”

In general, scientists agree that global warming will result in more wildfires. The big question now is whether last year’s spike is a one-time result or the start of a new trend.

Australia’s fires

Australia’s fires emitted 409,700,000 metric tons of CO2 in summer 2019

Fires across the continent burned more than 6 million hectares, including national forests, with smoke reaching as far as Argentina.

Time-lapse satellite image for Dec. 31, 2019, from Japanese Meteorological Agency, Colorado State University, and NOAA. Data for Sept. 1, 2019-Jan. 29, 2020. Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF

In Australia, savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands burn every year. But last year’s bush fires were unprecedented, especially because the rate of destruction in the southeast, which is full of temperate forests that don’t usually burn, far exceeded the norm. According to researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, about half of Australia’s carbon emissions during this fire season came from the southeast.

Carbon emissions from fires are typically reabsorbed a few years later when grasses regrow, says Rebecca Buchholz, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. But this year that cycle “may be being pushed out of balance,” she adds.

What made 2019 extraordinary wasn’t the overall number of fires, or total fire emissions, but where they happened and how intense they were. Scientists were baffled to record fires burning in some parts of Siberia and Alaska for longer than they’d ever seen. MORE

How to reduce the carbon emissions from home heating

(Shutterstock)

In cold Canadian winters, many of us burn voluminous amounts of fossil fuels to keep warm. A majority of heating systems in this country are either forced-air furnaces or boilers with hot water or steam radiators — most of which burn natural gas — and nearly 70 per cent of residential energy use comes from fossil fuels.

Experts say decarbonizing heating through electrification is key to reducing our country’s carbon emissions. But for many of us, giving up our furnaces and boilers is a huge step that we may not be quite ready to take. Fortunately, there are a number of smaller measures that can cut carbon emissions from our homes.

David Turnbull, a former home builder and current manager at Enerspec Energy Consulting and Home Inspections in Edmonton, suggests addressing heating the way we approach waste: first, reduce the demand; then reuse whatever you can; and then tackle full decarbonization.

Reduce

Turnbull, who is also a board member of Built Green Canada, which focuses on improving sustainability in the residential building sector, recommends first stopping heat from leaving your home by improving the building envelope.

“That’s where you get pretty much the biggest bang for your buck up to a point,” he said.

This can be done by:

  • Sealing gaps and air leaks with things like caulking and weather stripping.
  • Improving insulation in the walls, basement and attic.
  • Installing airtight, well-insulated windows.

Turnbull said the best options for decarbonizing your heating system, such as heat pumps, either won’t meet the home’s needs or won’t be cost-effective unless you’ve already reduced heat loss.

A few other options to reduce demand include:

  • Setting your thermostat lower, especially when you’re away from home or sleeping. (Turnbull said the latter can save three to six per cent of your energy use.)
  • Depending on your system, you may be able to do “zoning,” where you heat parts of the house you’re in more than parts of the house that are unoccupied (such as the basement).
  • Choosing a smaller home.
  • Low-flow fixtures such as shower heads or tankless water heaters reduce the need to heat water.

Reuse

There are a couple of devices that can help you reuse “waste” heat:

  • Heat recovery ventilators. Once your house is air sealed and insulated, you’ll need some ventilation. Heat recovery ventilators provide this while transferring heat from the stale air leaving the house to the fresh air coming in.
  • Drain water recovery units. Turnbull said that when you typically take a hot shower, “you use that heat for truthfully a second — maybe less — and then all that heat goes down the drain.” This device recovers that heat and puts it back into your home.

Decarbonize

All done with those? The next step is looking to replace fossil fuels with efficient electric heating options such as heat pumps. (We’ll have more on this next week.)

SOURCE

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Defusing BC’s big, bad carbon bomb

Over the past 20 years, BC forests were so heavily logged that net carbon emissions are now twice as large as Alberta’s oil sands.

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Forest loss (yellow) on Vancouver Island and the south coast mainland between 2000 and 2018 Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA

AT THE HEIGHT OF LAST SUMMER’S ECONOMIC MELTDOWN in the BC interior’s forest industry, Marty Gibbons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-417, based in Kamloops, told the Canadian Press: “Something needs to change immediately or these small communities that don’t have other employers are going to wither and die.” Gibbons concluded that “the largest driving factor is the Province’s complex stumpage system that results in high fees.”

The average stumpage rate in BC—the price the Province charges forestry companies for harvesting a cubic metre of tree on Crown land—was around $23 for both the interior and the coast in 2019 (1). But the average stumpage paid for timber harvested from Crown land by major raw log exporters like TimberWest and Western Forest Products in the Campbell River Natural Resource District was much lower, ranging between $8 and $11 per cubic metre. Smaller companies paid even less—as little as $5 per cubic metre. Yet raw logs for export were selling at an average price of $128 per cubic metre through 2019 (2).

Raw logs worth $4.146 billion were exported from BC to other countries for processing over the past five years (3). This huge overcut—unnecessary to meet domestic and international demand for BC’s finished wood products—has averaged 6.5 million cubic metres per year over those five years, equal to 41 percent of the total cut on Crown and private land on the coast (4). So claims that high stumpage rates in BC are the problem that needs to be solved seem out of touch with reality.

But Gibbons is still right: something “needs to change immediately.” The required change, however, might be more than what he’s thinking. The interior’s forest industry has been destabilized by two climate-change-related phenomena—devastating wildfire and explosive mountain pine beetle infestation—that have been amplified by the immense extent of BC’s clearcut logging. Gibbons wants to knock a few bucks off the forest companies’ costs so they can run more shifts at the mills. What’s really needed, though, is a much deeper kind of change, one that would quickly transform BC’s forest industry. To start, we need to end the export of raw logs and shift that same volume to a new class of forest: protected forest-carbon reserves.

There’s an urgent need to remove carbon from the atmosphere and reduce emissions at the same time. The only way to remove carbon on a large scale and then store it safely for a long time is to not harvest healthy, mature forests of long-lived species.

The next 10 years need to be full of bold ideas as we look for and find solutions to the climate crisis. Initiatives like the Carbon Tax in Canada are necessary to disincentivize the use of fossil fuels, but planet Earth isn’t going to give us time to tax our emissions into submission. We need some quick shifts that will cut 10 megatonnes with a few strokes of the Premier’s pen. In BC, protecting the forest instead of destroying it is our only realistic option. If we don’t do this, we’ll run the risk that the rest of the world will start counting the emissions we are releasing from our forests and begin to think of us—and our manufactured wood products industry—as the Brazil of the North.

Perhaps what’s required most at this critical moment is recognition by the BC government that an international market for sequestered forest-carbon is coming soon, and that forest companies need to start switching from destroying publicly-owned forests to protecting them. Not just old-growth forests, but mature second-growth stands of long-lived species, too.

 

735022386_ForestlossonVancouverIsland2000-2018(yellow).thumb.jpg.517ca882779884e0edbb652a6ee631cf.jpg

Forest loss (yellow) on Vancouver Island and the south coast mainland between 2000 and 2018 Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA

Our government leaders don’t seem to be thinking straight yet. Instead, deforestation on the BC coast is accelerating. Over the past six years, the area of coastal Crown land that was clearcut increased 16 percent over the previous six-year period. Our provincial forest’s capacity to serve as a carbon sink has vanished. Its catastrophic collapse is recorded in a 20-year segment of the Province’s annual inventory of provincial greenhouse gas emissions. In 1997, BC forests could sequester the equivalent of 103 megatonnes of CO2 annually. By 2017 that had fallen to 19.6 megatonnes (5). From 2020 on, our forests will be a net source of emissions—even without including those from wildfires. The image above shows—in yellow—the physical area of Vancouver Island, and the adjacent mainland coast, that was clearcut between 2000 and 2018. Vancouver Island has become an ecological war zone. But a different economic role for the forest is emerging, one that doesn’t destroy it.

That new purpose is highlighted by a gaping hole in Canada’s plan to meet its emissions reduction commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Canada’s 2018 progress report to the UN admits there’s a nearly 100-megatonne gap in the plan to 2030 (and this assumes the rest of the plan will actually work). How will Canada live up to its promise over the next 10 years? The progress report puts it this way: “Potential increases in stored carbon (carbon sequestration) in forests, soils and wetlands will also contribute to reductions which, for a country such as Canada, could also play an important role in achieving the 2030 target.”

The report offers no other possibility for filling that gap.

Canada, then, will likely depend on using the carbon sequestration capacity of its forests to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

Article 5 of the Paris Agreement encourages all countries to “…promote and cooperate in the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, including biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems.”

Depending on how Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is eventually detailed (its development was stymied at the Madrid COP), it’s possible that an international market mechanism for forest carbon is coming, and it can’t come soon enough.

The over-exploitation of BC’s forests has added to an explosion in net carbon emissions, delivered to the atmosphere each year by the forest industry’s endless road building and progressive clearcuts. Below, I’ll show why this now amounts to over 190 megatonnes every year (and possibly much more), a far more powerful carbon bomb than is being dropped by Canada’s oil sands industry (6). It’s long past time for us to understand the inner workings of the bomb and to defuse it.

There are two separate parts to BC’s bomb, and I will take you through each of these in some detail below.

First, when a mature or old forest stand is logged, assuming it’s healthy, the living biomass that’s killed and cut up into small pieces begins a premature process of decay, often hundreds of years before that decay would occur naturally.

Secondly, when that mature or old, healthy stand is clearcut, its potential to sequester carbon in the future is lost and it could then take anywhere from 60 years to several hundred years before a new replacement forest could sequester as much carbon as was being stored in the previous stand.

Let me take you through the inner workings of each of these parts of BC’s carbon bomb. First, let’s consider the magnitude of the carbon emissions released when wood prematurely decays.

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Biomass left behind after clearcut logging on Crown land on Quadra Island (Photo by David Broadland)

WHEN AN AREA OF FOREST IS CLEARCUT, three decay processes are initiated that result in emissions of carbon to the atmosphere.

First, the removal of the trees allows the sun to warm the forest soil to a higher temperature than was possible when it was shaded by trees. That additional warmth speeds up decay processes and the release of greenhouse gases, a process somewhat akin to the melting of permafrost in the Arctic. Soil scientists tell us that forest soil contains even more carbon than all the trees and other biomass that grow in it. Recent studies have reported that as much as 20 percent of the carbon in the layer of soil at the forest floor is released to the atmosphere after an area of forest has been clearcut. This release is a wild card in our emerging understanding of the impact of clearcut logging on carbon emissions. For now it remains unquantified, but it’s definitely not zero.

The second decay process begins after an area of forest is clearcut and the unused parts of trees left on the forest floor begin to decay. In his 2019 report Forestry and Carbon in BC (document at end of story), BC forest ecologist Jim Pojar estimated that 40 to 60 percent of the biomass of a forest is left in a clearcut. That includes the branches, stumps, roots, pieces of the stems that shattered when felled, the unutilizable tops of the trees, and unmerchantable trees that are killed in the mayhem of clearcut logging.

For our purpose, we will use the mid-point of Pojar’s 40 to 60 percent estimate: half of the biomass is removed, and half remains on the forest floor. The Ministry of Forests’ log scaling system tells us what volume of wood is removed from the forest as merchantable logs. We then assume that an equal volume of wood is left in the clearcut.

In 2018, the total volume of wood removed from BC’s forests, as reported in the ministry’s Harvest Billing System, was 54.1 million cubic metres. As per above, we are using the same number for the volume of wood that was left in clearcuts all over the province. So the total volume of wood in play is 108.2 million cubic metres. Both pools of wood—the wood left behind and the wood trucked away—begin to decay after a relatively short period of time following harvest. Each cubic metre of wood will eventually produce about 0.82 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions (7). So the wood left behind will produce 44 megatonnes and the wood trucked away will also produce 44 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions—eventually.

The average 6.5-million-cubic-metre cut for raw log exports accounts for 11 megatonnes of that 88-megatonne carbon bomb.

You might have heard that the carbon in the logs that are harvested and turned into finished wood products will be safely stored in those products indefinitely. But the Ministry of Forests’ own research shows that after 28 years, half of the carbon in the wood products is no longer being safely stored; at 100 years, only 33 percent of the wood is still in safe storage (graph below). The rest will have returned to the atmosphere or is headed in that direction.

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This BC Ministry of Forests graph shows how the carbon stored in wood products declines over time. After 28 years, half of the carbon stored has been lost to the atmosphere. At 100 years, 33 percent remains.

MORE

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Algae: Carbon capture of a different sort

(Pond Technologies)

Think algae is just that stinky gunk that litters some shorelines?

It’s so much more, according to Steve Martin, CEO of Pond Technologies, who describes himself as the “guy who has the crazy idea that we can grow algae off of the industrial emissions and help to save the world.”

For about a year, Martin and a small crew have been running a demonstration algae plant out of a small tent at his company’s cement factory in St. Marys, Ont., about 170 kilometres west of Toronto. He pointed out that cement is the most manufactured product in the world, used to build things like hydroelectric dams.

“We see a smokestack and we say, ‘Look, that’s evil, that’s got to go,'” Martin said. “For a tonne of cement, you make a tonne of carbon dioxide. So we need to find a way to use that, and luckily, nature has provided algae.”

Pipes from the smokestacks at the cement plant run to Pond’s tent, transporting CO2 into a giant, 22,000-litre tank known as a bioreactor. The algae then does what it does best, according to project manager Tim Everett: It gobbles up the CO2.

The result is about 20 kilograms of a thick green paste produced daily. “It really is almost a limitless byproduct,” said Everett, a mechanical engineer.

The team then uses that paste to cook up a series of green superfoods, including chlorella and spirulina, as well as feed for farm animals.

Martin admitted the technology isn’t new, and Pond Technologies isn’t the only one doing it. But he thinks their methods are the most advanced, and he’s hoping to make a serious dent in carbon emissions.

“The potential is enormous,” he said. “If we put this technology on just 10 per cent of the industrial emitters in North America, we are a long way to meeting the goals of CO2 reduction.”

Still, some say the technology is expensive and its use limited.

“It’s kind of like using a mop to clean up water on the floor while the tap is still running. We need to be thinking of ways to turn off that tap,” said Sarah Buchanan with Environmental Defence, a watchdog group based in Toronto.

She said carbon removal technologies are helpful in a limited way, but the focus should be on clean alternatives that can produce energy without any carbon pollution. “The only silver bullet solution, really, is we have to stop burning fossil fuels. There’s a lot of great renewable clean technologies that can help us do that.”

Martin agrees, but he believes his project can play a vital role.

“I would say it’s not an a la carte menu, it’s a buffet,” he said. “We have to do it all.” SOURCE

 

World’s first fully electric commercial aircraft takes flight in Canada

Company hails start of the ‘electric aviation age’ after 15-minute test flight in Vancouver

The world’s first electric commercial during its maiden flight in Richmond, British Columbia Photograph: Jonathan Hayward/AP

The world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft has taken its inaugural test flight, taking off from the Canadian city of Vancouver and flying for 15 minutes.

“This proves that commercial aviation in all-electric form can work,” said Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of Australian engineering firm magniX.

The company designed the plane’s motor and worked in partnership with Harbour Air, which ferries half a million passengers a year between Vancouver, Whistler ski resort and nearby islands and coastal communities.

Ganzarski said the technology would mean significant cost savings for airlines and zero emissions. “This signifies the start of the electric aviation age,” he said.

Civil aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions as people increasingly take to the skies, and new technologies have been slow to get off the ground.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has encouraged greater use of efficient biofuel engines and lighter aircraft materials, as well as route optimisation.

The e-plane – a 62-year-old, six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane retrofitted with a 750hp electric motor – was piloted by Greg McDougall, founder and chief executive of Harbour Air. “For me that flight was just like flying a Beaver, but it was a Beaver on electric steroids. I actually had to back off on the power,” he said.

McDougall took the plane on a short trip along the Fraser River near Vancouver international airport in front of around 100 onlookers soon after sunrise. The flight lasted less than 15 minutes, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.

“Our goal is to actually electrify the entire fleet,” said McDougall.

On top of fuel efficiency, the company would save millions in maintenance costs because electric motors require “drastically” less upkeep, Mr McDougall said.

However, Harbour Air will have to wait at least two years before it can begin electrifying its fleet of more than 40 seaplanes.

The e-plane has to be tested further to confirm it is reliable and safe. In addition, the electric motor must be approved and certified by regulators.

In Ottawa, transport minister Marc Garneau said ahead of the maiden flight that he had his “fingers crossed that the electric plane will work well”. If it does, he said: “It could set a trend for more environmentally friendly flying.”

Battery power is also a challenge. An aircraft like the one flown on Tuesday could fly only about 160km on lithium battery power, said Ganzarski. While that’s not far, it’s sufficient for the majority of short-haul flights run by Harbour Air.

“The range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution,” said Ganzarski, who predicts batteries and electric motors will eventually be developed to power longer flights.

While the world waits, he said cheaper short-haul flights powered by electricity could transform the way people connect and where they work. “If people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?” he said. SOURCE

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Is lab-grown meat the next frontier in ethical eating?

The meatless burger is surely one of the biggest food trends of 2019. The rising popularity of options like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods burgers come as scientists implore consumers to switch to a more plant-based diet to help tackle climate change.

But there’s another option lurking on the horizon: lab-grown meat. Or, as scientists prefer to call it, “cultured” or “clean” meat. It has the potential to be better for both the environment and your health.

Amy Rowat, associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles, is one of six scientists who received a grant earlier this year from the Good Food Institute in Washington, D.C., to further develop cultured meat. 

Born and raised in Guelph, Ont., Rowat spent years studying cells and has years of academic experience in the science of food.

“All the food that we eat is made of cells,” Rowat said, so developing cultured meat was a natural fit. In the simplest terms, stem cells are taken from an animal’s muscle and put in a nutrient-rich broth, of sorts, to encourage them to multiply and grow into muscle fibres. So, it is real meat, but with one key difference: Animals don’t have to be raised or killed to produce it.

Rowat and her grad student, Stephanie Kawecki, determined that to produce one billion quarter-pounder burgers (113 grams each), it takes 1.2 million cows living for three years on 8,600 square kilometres of land (and then slaughtering them). The same number of cultured burgers would require the muscle stem cells of just one living cow, and they’d take only about a month and a half to grow. 

Right now, those cultured burgers would be pricey. The first lab-grown burger was produced in a Netherlands lab in 2013 at a cost of about $425,000 Cdn, although Israeli company Future Meat Technologies said last year it could bring the cost down into the range of $3.00 to $6.00 Cdn a pound (453 kg) by 2020. Rowat believes cultured meat will eventually be on par cost-wise with organic beef. 

Some believe it could be available in two to five years. But the pivotal question is: Will people eat it?

Lab-grown meat “is a foreign concept,” said Kara Nielsen, who analyzes food trends at CCD Innovation in Emeryville, Calif. But she sees a definite advantage. It will have the familiar taste and texture of farmed meat, and it’s a good alternative for people concerned with animal rights. “It certainly wins on you-didn’t-kill-a-cow-to-eat-this-burger,” she said. 

Another plausible selling point: it could be healthier than farmed beef. “Imagine modifying genetically the cellular components so that they produce healthier molecules in your cultured meat,” said Rowat. For example, to make a lower-fat meat, or one with more healthy fat.

On the environmental front, if people move away from farmed beef, there would be less need to clear cut land to raise cattle, and less methane from those gassy cows. 

recent Oxford University study, however, highlights a potential hurdle. It found that the amount of heat and electricity required to produce cultured meat could be worse, environmentally, than some cattle farming, if energy systems remain dependent on fossil fuels. 

The researchers suggested that to be more environmentally responsible, companies producing cultured meat would have to do something to mitigate carbon emissions. That could be crucial to cultured meat’s success. 

Nielsen said the potential positives may be what push people past any feelings of strangeness about eating lab-grown meat.

“It could be that we’ll leapfrog to an acceptance …  like, ‘You know what? I still want to eat my beef. And my beef just comes from a separate place.'” SOURCE

Oil and gas companies undermining climate goals, says report

Biggest fossil fuel extractors warned they risk wasting $2.2tn ‘in a low-carbon world’


Oil and gas companies continue to invest heavily in projects such as deepwater fields, despite the climate crisis. Photograph: Dazman/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Major oil and gas companies have invested $50bn (£40.6bn) in fossil fuel projects that undermine global efforts to avert a runaway climate crisis, according to a report.

Since the start of last year, fossil fuel companies have spent billions on high-cost plans to extract oil and gas from tar sands, deepwater fields and the Arctic despite the risks to the climate and shareholder returns.

Carbon Tracker, a financial thinktank, found that ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP each spent at least 30% of their investment in 2018 on projects that are inconsistent with climate targets, and would be “deep out of the money in a low-carbon world”.

Andrew Grant, the author of the report, said: “Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals.”

The study is the first to analyse individual projects to test whether they are compliant with a 1.5C world, and whether they would be financially sustainable in a low-carbon world.

It found that none of the largest listed oil and gas companies are making investment decisions that are in line with global climate goals, and risk wasting $2.2tn (£1.8tn) by 2030 if governments take a tougher stance on carbon emissions. MORE

 

Teens Fighting To Take Feds To Court Over Trans Mountain Pipeline

The teens’ arguement was obviously one the Trudeau Government didn’t want to answer because, really, there was no moral answer they could make.

They argue the pipeline’s contribution to the climate crisis violates their right to a secure future.

Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday June 18,
Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday June 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/JASON FRANSON

A group of Canadian teenagers is fighting for the chance to take the federal government to court over the approval and purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, after its application to the Federal Court of Appeal was blocked by the Canadian government earlier this month.

In early July, 12 challenges were launched against the pipeline by various groups, including several First Nations and environmental organizations. They questioned the pipeline on various grounds, including Indigenous land rights and ecological harm to the southern resident orcas.

Olivier Adkin-Kaya, 18, Nina Tran, 18, Lena Andres, 17, and Rebecca Wolf Gage, 13 — who collectively call themselves Youth Stop TMX — filed a challenge arguing that the pipeline’s construction was in violation of their right to life, liberty and security of person as young Canadians through its contribution to the ongoing climate crisis.

The teens are from four different cities across the country and they argue that the pipeline’s construction and subsequent carbon emissions would contribute to ongoing climate change in Canada and continue to negatively impact their physical and mental well-being. Group members cited negative impacts like increased wildfire smoke due to rising global temperatures and growing anxiety over the climate crisis.

Of the 12 challenges, only the teens’ was blocked from moving forward in the judicial process. Adkin-Kaya says he doesn’t understand why only their challenge would be blocked.

“It’s beyond me why, of all the parties filing judicial review applications, Trans Mountain Corporation and the Government of Canada singled out of the youth, the party representing those who will be the first experience the more severe effects of the climate crisis,” he told HuffPost Canada. MORE

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The material that built the modern world is also destroying it. Here’s a fix

With a price on carbon, cement manufacturers will be forced by economics to reduce emissions. But there are solutions for companies willing to adapt.

Image result for cement company prince edward county
Lehigh Cement Company, Prince Edward County

Remarkably, the material that built the first modern civilization remains key to building today’s global economy. The cement we use in 2017 is not so different from the stuff used to build the concrete dome of the Roman Pantheon in 125 AD.

What has changed is that today we use vastly greater quantities of the grey powder: more than 4.2 trillion kg annually. To put that in perspective, you could build 1,000 Hoover Dams each year with the amount of concrete that much cement would make.

That’d be all well and good except for the fact that 1 kg of cement releases more than 0.5 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, the cement industry is currently responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions—more than double the aviation industry. Worse still, unlike the electricity industry, which one day might be comprised of entirely clean, renewable energy, the chemistry of conventional cement dictates that the process will continue to produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

Unless, that is, Nicholas DeCristofaro’s plans work out. Since 2008, Solidia Technologies, where DeCristofaro is chief technology officer, has been quietly developing a new cement-making process that produces up to 70% fewer CO2 emissions at a cost that DeCristofaro claims is on par with or better than conventional cement. MORE

Uncertainty for clients due to carbon pricing

Putting a price on carbon means business will have to take seriously their carbon emissions

‘Businesses would be wise to quantify and verify greenhouse gas emissions’

Uncertainty for clients due to carbon pricing

Jennifer King says emitters will continue to be subject to greenhouse gas emission reporting requirements, whether that is through a provincial or federal pricing system.

On April 1, the federal carbon price backstop came into effect, which meant that a $20/tonne charge for greenhouse gas emissions is being applied in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government continues to wage a legal battle at the provincial Court of Appeal against the federal government, calling the carbon price legislation unconstitutional.

Lawyers say that, while their Ontario-based clients are advised to comply with the federal rules, there remains uncertainty as to what they should expect going forward.

Jennifer King, a partner at Gowling WLG in Toronto and a member of the firm’s environmental law group, represented the Canadian Public Health Association in both the Saskatchewan and Ontario courts of appeal during their respective reference cases on the federal carbon price.

The Saskatchewan government had asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal whether the federal price was constitutional, followed by a similar reference from the Ontario government at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

In early May, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in Reference re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act 2019, 2019 SKCA 40, that the federal price was constitutional in a 3-2 decision.

The court also agreed that the federal price was a regulatory charge and not a tax.

“It is likely that the decisions of the Ontario and Saskatchewan Courts of Appeal will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada,” says King.

“There are other provinces now who have indicated that they may challenge the [Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act] in some way or the other. The Manitoba government filed its own court challenge of the act in Federal Court.”

King says it’s important to remember that businesses in Ontario did have a cap-and-trade system, which was ended in July 2018.

The cap-and-trade system used emissions credits trading to impose a price on carbon in the province.

The uncertainty around the carbon pricing system in Ontario is not new, she says.

Tyson Dyck, a partner at Torys LLP in Toronto, says his clients in the energy, infrastructure and mining sectors are asking about both the short-term and long-term carbon pricing issues.

His clients tend to be industries that are subject to emissions regulations, he says. They have questions about the immediate compliance obligations required by the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, but the more difficult questions are about the long-term outlook of carbon pricing. MORE