Advice to PEC NYMBY’S: Look Before You Leap

In the heat of the moment, it’s best to look before you leap

For nearly two decades, a group of County residents have been supporting wind energy initiatives. The County Sustainability Group’s film Up in the Air is a short film about the wind turbine project in Prince Edward County. It features several County residents who describe the benefits of the project to address climate change.

Now Steve St.Clair has produced a film, White Pines in Prince Edward County, that lets the  much maligned ‘industrial wind machines’ speak for themselves.

Please take a moment to watch the film  (2:47) and then see if you can answer some of the questions below.

  • Are these elegant turbines symbols of hope or are they best characterized by anti-wind opponents as ugly industial wind machines?
  • Where are all the houses that are supposed to be negatively impacted?
  • Where are the flocks of birds that are supposed to be chopped up by these spinning monsters?
  • How many anti-wind supporters actually visited this remote site?

The fossil fuel industry has its fingerprints all over this ‘spontaneous’ outspringing of anti-wind opposition that foisted on naive citizens’  groups a boatload of misinformation about wind development, none of it backed by credible science or years of lived experience in Europe.

For example, read carefully this mission statement by Wind Concerns Ontario:

Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.

Ask yourself, how on earth could clean renewable energy — energy cheaper than oil,  gas, coal, or nuclear — negatively impact the economy, or human health?

How could the the world’s fastest growing renewable energy solution be somehow bad for Prince Edward County?

Then, ask yourself, who benefited  from this deliberate campaign of misinformation that resulted in shutting down this industry in Ontario?

Big Oil and Gas in Western Canada.

Big Oil’s investments in the tar sands ecocide truly threaten, to quote Wind Concerns Ontario,  “our economy, human health, and the natural environment.” Big Oil and Gas  are determined to persue and expand the tar sands ecocide which will make it impossible for  Canada to be a climate leader.

Nimbys should look before they leap. We need to leave carbon in the ground and get our energy from the air and sun.

How ‘serious’ is a climate plan that relies on pipelines?


File photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa by Alex Tétreault

Sandy Garossino’s recent column, “The Serious $70 Billion Climate Plan You’ve Heard Nothing About,” purports to summarize the “extraordinarily compelling case” in favour of the federal government’s recent approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project, based on the pipeline’s contribution to climate action.

I’m not buying it. Let’s take Garossino’s main arguments one at a time:

Trans Mountain is ‘a wash’ in terms of greenhouse gases.

Garossino claims that in the pipeline’s absence, “the global supply chain would simply reshuffle and move ahead as if nothing happened.” There are both domestic and international aspects to this claim.

Garossino simply ignores the domestic emissions associated with production of the oil that will flow through the pipeline, The federal government’s own estimate is that the pipeline’s annual upstream emissions — i.e., emissions resulting from extraction, processing and transportation of crude within Canada — will be 13 to 15 million tonnes, equivalent to two million cars.

That’s a big deal because Canada’s current climate plan is not sufficient to get us to our 2030 Paris Agreement target. Indeed, the gap has been growing rather than shrinking. Adding another 15 million tonnes of emissions makes it a lot harder to meet our international obligation.

The tarsands have accounted for three quarters of Canada’s emissions growth since 1990. It’s also the sector that accounts for almost all projected growth going forward. Even the celebrated 100-megatonne cap on emissions from the tarsands — which was never legally binding and from which Alberta has withdrawn support — would allow a tripling of tarsands emissions from 2005 to 2030, thus demanding deeper compensatory cuts from other sectors and other provinces.

The longer-term challenge looms even larger. A pipeline is an investment in long-lasting infrastructure. Yet Canada’s 2030 target is just the first step. It will be ever-harder to make the deeper cuts needed after 2030 (if not before!) if we chain ourselves to new pipeline infrastructure and associated heavy oil production expected to operate for decades to come.

Now let’s consider the global context. Garossino’s assertion about the global supply chain recalls Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement — notably made in Alberta, not Paris — that “no country would find 173 billions barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there.”

But that is exactly what we must do.

As with fossil-fuel consumption, we face a collective-action problem in fossil-fuel production. Oil-exporting countries say they support the Paris Agreement, but hold out hope that their oil will be the last drop consumers buy. This is especially unrealistic for Canada: our oil is relatively costly to produce and carbon-intensive to refine, and thus likely to be the first to go.

Oil exporters, including Canada, may just be making a financial bet against the success of the Paris Agreement. Whether oil producers are unduly optimistic or hedging their bets, they have collectively created a growing glut of supply relative to the demand trajectory needed to mitigate climate change.

At best, Canadians will be saddled with stranded assets and economically ill-prepared when global customers shun our exports. At worst, excess supply will continue to depress global fossil-fuel prices, undermining the transition to cleaner energy, to the detriment of future generations.

Parliament recently voted to declare climate change a “real and urgent crisis.” Surely, that crisis calls for leadership, rather than the excuse that everyone else is doing it, too. MORE

 

We’ve already built too many power plants and cars to prevent 1.5 ˚C of warming

Unless we begin shutting down coal and natural-gas facilities, and stop building new ones, we’re doomed to miss the targets of the Paris treaty.

A coal-fired power plant in Huai'an city, east China's Jiangsu province.

In 2010, scientists warned we’d already built enough carbon-dioxide-spewing infrastructure to push global temperatures up 1.3 ˚C, and stressed that the fossil-fuel system would only continue to expand unless “extraordinary efforts are undertaken to develop alternatives.”

Spoiler: They weren’t.

In a sequel to that paper published in Nature today, researchers found we’re now likely to sail well past 1.5 ˚C of warming, the aspirational limit set by the Paris climate accords, even if we don’t build a single additional power plant, factory, vehicle, or home appliance. Moreover, if these components of the existing energy system operate for as long as they have historically, and we build all the new power facilities already planned, they’ll emit about two thirds of the carbon dioxide necessary to crank up global temperatures by 2 ˚C.

If fractions of a degree don’t sound that dramatic, consider that 1.5 ˚C of warming could already be enough to expose 14% of the global population to bouts of severe heat, melt nearly 2 million square miles (5 million square kilometers) of Arctic permafrost, and destroy more than 70% of the world’s coral reefs. The hop from there to 2 ˚C may subject nearly three times as many people to heat waves, thaw nearly 40% more permafrost, and all but wipe out coral reefs, among other devastating effects, research finds.

The basic conclusion here is, in some ways, striking. We’ve already built a system that will propel the planet into the dangerous terrain that scientists have warned for decades we must avoid. This means that building lots of renewables and adding lots of green jobs, the focus of much of the policy debate over climate, isn’t going to get the job done. 

We now have to ask a much harder societal question: How do we begin forcing major and expensive portions of existing energy infrastructure to shut down years, if not decades, before the end of its useful economic life? MORE

 

Bill McKibben on how we might avert climate change suicide

Canadians, pleasant and conflict-averse, can’t bring themselves to say to Alberta, ‘you simply can’t dig up all that oil and burn it, it by itself will use up a third of the planet’s carbon budget.’  So they’ve never been able to really grapple with climate change. Look at the tragic positions that Justin Trudeau has gotten in trying. – Bill McKibbon

The author argues the pipeline to B.C. is folly and Canada risks being ‘a great source of destruction’


Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of “DRAWDOWN: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”. (Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Thirty years ago, Bill McKibben wrote the first book on climate change for general readers, The End of Nature; it didn’t save the world, but McKibben hasn’t stopped trying. The Vermont-based author and activist’s new volume, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, explains, in compelling prose and with devastating detail, the magnitude of the risks posed by carbon emissions—and also unregulated genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. He acknowledges the difficulty of making change when vested interests in fossil fuels and big tech have so much leverage.

However, McKibben does offer a scintilla of hope, based on the widespread adoption of green technology, the acceptance of regulation, and the power of non-violent protest movements. On the phone from San Diego, where he was fundraising for his grassroots environmental organization, 350.org, McKibben spoke with Maclean’s about how the human species may be able to survive its suicidal impulses.

Q: In April, you were in Toronto, delivering the Robert Hunter Memorial Lecture, and you spoke in Vancouver. What are your impressions of how Canada is prepared—or unprepared—to help stop the human game from playing itself out?

A: Canada’s got some of the very best climate activists, experts and policy people in the world. And it has a government that’s rhetorically, and in certain respects actually, committed to being a leader on climate change and carbon taxes. But Justin Trudeau said in Houston a couple of years ago, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil [in the ground] and just leave them there.” And so, Canada is committed to using up about a third of the remaining carbon budget [we can emit before what] the scientists say is a catastrophe. If Canada’s determined to dig up the oil underneath the oil sands and ship it around the world to people who will burn it, then Canada is inevitably going to be a great source of destruction. We can’t afford to have Canada do that, any more than we can afford to have the U.S. dig up all the coal in the Powder River Basin or have Brazil cut down all the trees in the rainforest. MORE

We need a ‘grown up discussion’ about getting off fossil fuels, U.K. climate watchdog tells Canada

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Activists hold a ‘keep it in the ground’ banner on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Photo by Eamon Ryan / 350.org.


Chris Stark, the chief executive of the U.K. Committee on Climate Change, speaks at the British High Commission on Feb. 25, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

Fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground and be priced differently in the markets, if the world is to meet the challenge of the Paris climate agreement, says the head of Britain’s climate watchdog.

Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government of the United Kingdom on reducing emissions and adapting to global warming, told National Observer that while fossil fuels will still have to be used for decades, “that has to be accompanied by a strategy to take us off them in the future.”

“Politicians have to be grown-up about it too,” @ChiefExecCCC told @OttawaCarl . “Being grown up is about taking big decisions at the right moment, being supported of course by the economics and the evidence.”

“Put bluntly, if we are to meet the emissions targets that are implied by the Paris agreement, then we know already that we have too many fossil fuel reserves out there,” Stark said Monday in an interview at the British High Commission in Ottawa.

If we don’t meet those targets, he said it indicates a problem since there hasn’t been sufficient investments that would allow us to adapt to a changing climate. He also said that the current market needs to assess all the risks and impacts of fossil fuels and incorporate these factors into the price that we pay for these energy sources.

“The idea of disclosing those risks more explicitly to the market is going to be a really important driver of getting the investment patterns right in the future,” he said. MORE