Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say

 

The neoliberal bargain that underpinned Canada’s ‘climate policy’–allow tar sand to expand and ship the world’s dirtiest oil to market overseas through the TransMountain pipeline–has now been shot out of the water. Our climate emissions are now nowhere near adequate to meet the IPCC report requirement of keeping emission below 1.5 degrees C to prevent global ecocide. Write to your MP and demand action!

Air samples taken over northern Alberta operations suggest previous figures could be way off


Operations in Alberta’s oilsands may be emitting significantly more carbon dioxide than previously calculated, according newly published research from federal scientists. (Getty Images)

A number of major oilsands operations in northern Alberta seem to be emitting significantly more carbon pollution than companies have been reporting, newly published research from federal scientists suggests, which could have profound consequences for government climate-change strategies.

The researchers, mainly from Environment Canada, calculated emissions rates for four major oilsands surface mining operations using air samples collected in 2013 on 17 airplane flights over the area.

In results published today in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists say the air samples from just those surface mining operations suggest their carbon dioxide emissions are 64 per cent higher, on average, than what the companies themselves report to the federal government using the standard United Nations reporting framework for greenhouse gases.

It means that Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions would be around 2.3 per cent higher than previously thought. And if research eventually shows that other oilsands sites are subject to similar underreporting issues, Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as six per cent more than thought — throwing a wrench into the calculations that underpin government emissions strategies.

Accurate estimates of anthropogenic or human-generated greenhouse gases “inform national and international climate policies,” the researchers write. “Such anthropogenic GHG emission data ultimately underpin carbon pricing and trading policies.” MORE

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What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren?

Facing oncoming climate disaster, some argue for “Deep Adaptation”—that we must prepare for inevitable collapse. However, this orientation is dangerously flawed. It threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy by diluting the efforts toward positive change. What we really need right now is Deep Transformation. There is still time to act: we must acknowledge this moral imperative.

Every now and then, history has a way of forcing ordinary people to face up to a moral encounter with destiny that they never expected. Back in the 1930s, as Adolf Hitler rose to power, those who turned away when they saw Jews getting beaten in the streets never expected that decades later, their grandchildren would turn toward them with repugnance and say “Why did you do nothing when there was still a chance to stop the horror?”

Now, nearly a century on, here we are again. The fate of future generations is at stake, and each of us needs to be prepared, one day, to face posterity—in whatever form that might take—and answer the question: “What did you do when you knew our future was on the line?”

Jews humiliated by Nazis
Many ordinary Germans looked away as Jews were publicly beaten and humiliated by Nazis

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few months, or get your daily updates exclusively from Fox News, you’ll know that our world is facing a dire climate emergency that’s rapidly reeling out of control. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a warning to humanity that we have just twelve years to turn things around before we pass the point of no return. Governments continue to waffle and ignore the blaring sirens. The pledges they’ve made under the 2015 Paris agreement will lead to 3 degrees of warming, which would threaten the foundations of our civilization. And they’re not even on track to meet those commitments. Even the IPCC’s dire warning of calamity is, by many accounts, too conservative, failing to take into account tipping points in the earth system with reinforcing feedback effects that could drive temperatures far beyond the IPCC’s worst case scenarios.

People are beginning to feel panicky in the face of oncoming disaster. Books such as David Wallace-Wells’s Uninhabitable Earth paint a picture so frightening that it’s already feeling to some like game over. A strange new phenomenon is emerging: while mainstream media ignores impending catastrophe, increasing numbers of people are resonating with those who say it’s now “too late” to save civilization. The concept of “Deep Adaptation” is beginning to gain currency, with its proponent Jem Bendell arguing that “we face inevitable near-term societal collapse,” and therefore need to prepare for “civil unrest, lawlessness and a breakdown in normal life.”

There’s much that is true in the Deep Adaptation diagnosis of our situation, but its orientation is dangerously flawed. By turning people’s attention toward preparing for doom, rather than focusing on structural political and economic change, Deep Adaptation threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, increasing the risk of collapse by diluting efforts toward societal transformation. MORE

Earth’s inhabitants stranded in a leaking neoliberal lifeboat

Early photograph of Hornsea Lifeboat. Photo: Bradford Timeline/Flickr
Photo: Bradford Timeline/Flickr

For the past 50 years, the world’s most renowned scientists — including more than a hundred Nobel Prize winners — have been imploring corporate and political leaders to curb climate change before it reaches catastrophic levels.

“Planet Earth is finite,” they warn. “Its ability to absorb wastes is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. And we are fast approaching many of Earth’s limits. Current economic practices cannot be continued without the risk that vital global ecosystems will be damaged beyond repair.”

These warnings, including the latest most urgent appeal by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have been ignored. Not surprisingly, since the dominant global economic system — capitalism — depends for its very survival on the maintenance of unlimited economic growth, despite the inescapable catastrophic consequences.

Most governments have not only tolerated this corporate onslaught on the environment, but have actively subsidized and supported it. They have in effect become business-oriented minions, dedicated to putting corporate interests ahead of the public interest. They offer corporations the planet’s resources to plunder as they wish, with little or no constraints.

Given the dependence of all of Earth’s inhabitants on the planet’s basic life-support capacity, you would think that even the most eminent CEOs and billionaires would by now have started to have doubts about the infallibility of their “free-market” doctrine.

A few of them are indeed having such qualms, but serious dissent from the prevailing business-knows-best ideology is financially risky and thus rare. So the scale of corporate pillaging continues unabated. MORE