I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Could The Federal Government Be A Tad Defensive?

From the Liberal Report on water contamination by tar sands mining entitled The Hidden Dimension: Water and Oil Sands
No should one underestimate the intensity of the reaction that any suggestion the industry is contaminating water in the region can provoke among oil sands promoters and defenders - even those in the normally staid realm of the public service.  For example, Preston McEachern, head of science, research and innovation with Alberta Environment, was recedently forced to issue a retraction and apology to two respected scientists, Kevin Tomoney and Peter Lee, for alleging they "lied in their research about the oil sands industry" in relation to its impact on Alberta's waer resources.   The same defensiveness was observed when federal environment minster Jim Prentice, answeringa a question from Liberal M.P. Francis Scarpaleggia in the House of Commons about research by world-renowned water scientist Dr. David Schindler that proved the industry is contributing to contamination of the Athabasca River, described Dr. Schindler's findings as mere "allegations."
The Liberal report found that industry developments are indeed contaminating the Athabasca River; that the framework for protecting the river is based on "bureaucratic compromise" as opposed to rigorous science-based policy; that there is inadequate baseline data and studies on the project's impact on groundwater;.... and finally that the federal government "has devolved and diluted" its water monitoring responsibilities.
Now we dismiss published peer reviewed studies as mere allegations?    Wow!!!!  

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Mentioned This

The longterm threat to Pakistan’s wellbeing is that the country is gradually drying out. The Indus river system is the main year-round source of water for both Pakistan and northwestern India, but the glaciers up on the Tibetan plateau that feed the system’s various tributaries are melting.

While they are melting, of course, the amount of water in the system will not fall steeply—but according the Chinese Academy of Sciences, some of the glaciers will be gone in as little as 20 years. Then the river levels will drop permanently, and the real problems will begin.

Fifteen or 20 years from now, the water shortage (and therefore also food scarcities) will be a permanent political obsession in Pakistan. Even now, Pakistani politicians tend to blame India for their country’s water shortage (and vice versa, of course). It will get worse when the shortage grows acute.

On the other hand, no Pakistani government, civilian or military, could just sit by as land that has been irrigated for a century goes back to desert and food rationing is imposed nationwide. Especially not if India’s fields just across the border were still green. That is the nightmare confrontation that lies down the road for these two nuclear powers.

Conflict between nuclear nations over water shortages due to climate change?    Naah - climate change isn't happening.   If it is, it's over there - ssomewhere poorer and browner than us.  Doesn't matter to us..... Sure.    We don't need to act....

One would think that this summer would have disabused people of hte notion that chillier nations such as Canada or Russia  would actually benefit from climate change.  Pretty hard to see a benefit in Moscow - or in Interior BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan at the moment. Cough, cough.  Moutnains - what mountains?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wildfires 2010

I cannot see past the house across the street - no trees - no mountains - no river - just a wall of grey smoke.   Even the dog sneezes when she spends time outdoors as the air quality is very poor.   I think I'll take another anti-histamine while I consider the fact that most of our summers may be like this one - hot , smoky, and miserable. 

An article in Scientific American states
fires are not just a result of a changing climate, they're also contributing to the overall warming trend much more than imagined, the authors report. As vegetation burns, it releases stored-up carbon into the atmosphere, speeding global warming and thereby exacerbating conditions that may generate a greater incidence of wildfires in the coming years. But across the globe, fires have been getting larger and stronger. "We are witnessing an increasing instance of these megafires," says Thomas Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona.
In other words, wildfires are partly a result of climate change - and accelerate climate change at the same time.   BC is particlarly vulnerable to this feedback loop due to all the pine beetle killed trees.   A wonderful prospect......

Monday, August 16, 2010

Let's Hope They Are Wrong

The entire ice mass of Greenland will disappear from the world map if temperatures rise by as little as 2C, with severe consequences for the rest of the world, a panel of scientists told Congress today.  Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University.   "Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive," Alley told a briefing in Congress, adding that a rise in the range of 2C to 7C would mean the obliteration of Greenland's ice sheet.   The fall-out would be felt thousands of miles away from the Arctic, unleashing a global sea level rise of 23ft (7 metres), Alley warned. Low-lying cities such as New Orleans would vanish.

Seems like a feeble way to deal with calamity in the future.  Hope , that is.  While hope is necessary , it isn't enough.  What can one person do (besides curling up in bed in the fetal position? ) I walk to work.  One can always drive less - take public transit - insulate one's house - turn the thermostat down .  All important collectively.   However, the most important -  join or create a group of like minded people  so that you have community support and can educate and encourage other people IN A MANNER THAT MOTIVATES THEM TO ACT. (The tone of the message should reflect the interests/ motivations of the group in front of you.)   And second most important -  pressure your government to take action and to change policy. Maybe equally important!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Water Woes


Effective immediately, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) is requiring suspension of waterwithdrawal from rivers, lakes and streams, previously approved by the Commission under Section 8 of the Water Act, for the following basins within the Peace River Watershed.
I said climate change would affect everything we do.  What if this summer's  "drought" bcomes the new normal ?  We're going to have to reduce personal and industrial wataer consumption in the future - why not start now?

Floods Predicted

Those "freak " floods were predicted on June 10, 2009.


By next year - that’s how soon around 25-50 million people will be displaced by climate change as it unleashes more natural disasters and affects farm output, says a senior UN researcher. Northern India will be among the worst affected in the long term.   As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as cyclones, floods and droughts, the number of temporarily displaced people will rise,” Warner told IANS in an interview.  “This will be especially true in countries that fail to invest now in disaster risk reduction and where the official response to disasters is limited.”
Pakistan's government has compared the impact of the country's devastating floods to the country's partition from India as it revealed more than 20 million people had been made homeless by the disaster.
Gee- we're almost at the number predicted to be dispalced by flooding in northern India.  Who'd have thunk it ? Those elitists with PdDs in climatology and those UN funded researachers seem to have been  - cough, cough  - correct. 

A commentoer on the first article says:

Our world’s climate is changing whether we open our eyes and accept it or not. Great changes are coming to our way of life. Will we hide from it until it overcomes us, or will we unite and cooperate with each other to meet and survive the challenges.
We will not able to pretend that human caused climate change is not happening much longer.   Why don't we use it as an opportunity to create a just way of live for everyone - and everything?  One where we cooperate - and restrain ourselves and our grred - where status is gained by who and how much we help rather than how much shit we've bought?    OK - I'm a dreamer ....but I'm not the only one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Climate Change Will Change Everything

More accurately, the effects of climate change will change everything.  For example, from the pages of that environmental rag, the Globe and Mail, an article in today's edition (Friday, August 13, 2010 page B3) describes the problems Brookfield Renewable Power fund is having.  The fund has

had a dismal 2010 as near-record-low precipitation last winter and spring in Ontario and Quebec has deprived it of the water levels needed to turn its turbines.  The winter's sparse snowfall and the dry spring are posing challenges for hydroelectricity producers acrosss Central Canada, drawing down Hydro-Quebec's massive reservoirs...and hammering production and financial results of investor-owned power companies. ....still, he said the company is in a strong financial position to weather the drought, and is maintaining its distributions to unit holders in anticipation of a return to more normal precipitation levels.
Brookfield Renewable Power Fund will be in trouble if  precipitation levels have changed their patterns, and this "drought" is the new normal. (Just ask the Australians about a new normal - drought, that is.)  Climate change models predict that rainfall patterns will shift  -  be more unpredictable  - and more variable as the temperature climbs.

It might be a good idea to plan for increased variability in rainfall patterns among other things  - and to take meaningful steps to mitigate the effects fo climate change.  It will take years - decades - to change the  physical infrastructure of our lives - so we had better start now.    Continuing denial is not a good option - if one is concerned about the long term viability of humnaity.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If you have prominient climate change deniers in your town,  ask them to sign the global warming skeptic's declaration.  You can download a copy from the site below. 


Commentary form the site:
Bravo, gentlemen!  Thanks to your efforts, support for climate science is sliding and the hopes that there’ll be any global action in time to slow the planet’s heating are all but lost. Good thing I’m heavily invested in hip waders.  Nice work! But I have to ask: why’d you do it?  Why do all you climate deniers risk your reputations defending positions utterly at odds with science and reason?   Much has been made of your ties to the oil and coal lobbies, but can you really be doing it just for the money?“Climate science suggests [people’s] behaviours are destroying the earth,” says Kasser. “If they accept that climate change is real, they also have to accept that they’re engaging in behaviours which conflict with their conception of themselves as good, caring people.”   To overcome all this psychology, Kasser believes scientists and environmental advocates are going to have change the way they communicate with the public — that is, if they’re serious about drowning out the misinformation.   Making the science even stronger isn’t going to cut it anymore. “What we need to do is pay more attention to the emotional state that people are in when they’re hearing our data,” he continues, “and recognize that this data is scary and when people are scared they’re not more likely to listen to the data but less.”   But Kasser notes that if changing western society’s core values fails, there’s one last way in which people will ultimately be convinced that the climate is changing.  “Once Florida is under water and once we’ve got droughts threatening our food system and all the rest — eventually there comes a point where even the most die-hard identity falls to the data,” he says.
Let's hope we don't have to wait for Florida to be under water before we generate the political will to act.   And let's hold deniers accountable: get them to sign the global warming skeptics paper  now .   Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (for you Unitarian Universalists out there) did something very similar trying to get governments to assist displace persons after WW II.  She would ask leaders if they were concerned about the plight of dispalce persons - of course - they always answered yes.  She would note the fact in a little notebook with the date - and if they later attempted to not fund her efforts, she'd whip her notebook out and point out that opn such and such a date  - they had said they were concerned.  . 

One could use the skeptics declaration in the same way - if the denier won't sign, note the date and time and use their refusal to press them to support greenhouse gas reduction initiatives later.   If they are sure enough of their denial to sign, well.... at least you will have written proof once all hell has broken out that they were deniers.

Denial Still Exists

Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It’s not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.
The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says – although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming.
If you read the news, you will know Russia is suffering through the hottest summer ever, Pakistan has had the heaviest monsoon rains ever, China is flooding, and the Arctic glaciers are calving.  Not to mention that the Arctic was /is scarily warm.

What did the much maligned 2007  IPCC predict?  
The 2007 IPCC report predicted a doubling of disastrous droughts in Russia this century and cited studies foreseeing catastrophic fires during dry years. It also said Russia would suffer large crop losses.
The 2007 IPCC report said rains have grown heavier for 40 years over northern Pakistan and predicted greater flooding this century in southern Asia’s monsoon region.

The IPCC reported in 2007 that rains had increased in northwest China by up to 33 per cent since 1961, and floods nationwide had increased sevenfold since the 1950s. It predicted still more frequent flooding this century.
Hmmmnnnn - could it be ?  Naaah - those scientists with PhDs in climatatology who publish in peer reveiwed journals must be wrong.   So say the commenters on the above article.  Following is a sample:

In the past people blamed demons and witches for the weather. In our so called 'englightened age' people blame fossil fuels. I don't understand why so many people have a psychological need to believe in such claptrap.
Here come the "global warming" freaks labeled as scientists out of the wood work again.  We are getting a hot-spell in August and leave to these windbags to spin it into a crisis.  Better raise taxes and mail your paychecks to the government so they can solve the problem.  Stupid socialist/marxist windbags.

 The majority of the Anthropogenic Global Warming clymers are ignorant fools following a core of criminal elite. If they ever grow a brain, they will become dangerous.
All comments published by people who do peer reveiwed research in climatology, of course.  I'm beginning to think that science education in high school needs to be strengthened.  But more information is not going to convince deniers like those quoted above.  In fact, if you load them with too much information, they will move directly to despair from denial - and sit around apathetically saying "it is too late - what is the point of trying - we might as well keep living the way we do."   

If you are a climate change activist,  try to work through groups to faciliate lifestyle change and political activism. (Or create a  group with a positive outlook such as a Transistion Town in your community. ) Group members will support each other  - therfore, change will be easier for the entire group.  Potential groups - churches (they have an interest in social and climate justice);  universities (they have a pool of educated people and students who care about the environment);  and business groups (many win win situations exist that save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions). (I'm sure more  potential types of groups exist that I haven't thought of.)  Don't focus on past disasters - focus on what we can do now and in the future.  Borrow from the  Transition Town ethos - concentrate on both  internal  pyschological change and external change - and keep your message positive. 

Don't let your own despair wear you down: look after yourself and keep working. You have allies - and climate change activism is a job worth doing.   

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Many Lines of Evidence

Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.

(Graphic from the NOAA site.) Climate change is happening: many lines of evidence point in one direction -  up.  As in temperature rising.   And snow cover  and glaciers shrinking.   

I have seen climate change deniers skip directly from denial to  apathy between news articles. Yes - climate change is happening.    No, it isn't too late to change teh way we live.  As I've posted before, solutions exist. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flooding In Pakistan

With what we know about climate change, it is a sad fact that for Oxfam the recent floods in Pakistan are not a massive surprise.

This is not the same as saying this particular flood is due to climate change - the world’s atmosphere is so complex that it is currently impossible to draw such direct, concrete conclusions. However as Oxfam research in three regions of Pakistan shows, people there are suffering more intense and heavier rainfall in coastal areas, more intense cyclones, more intense flooding in flood-prone areas along the Indus, and more pronounced droughts in the arid areas of Khuzdar. It is this flooding along the Indus that is causing such massive upheaval now.

This trend of more frequent, more intense weather patterns - and the increased suffering it brings - is a global phenomenon. Oxfam’s ‘Right to Survive’ report indicates that we can expect the number of people being affected by climate related disasters to rise by 50% from 250 million people in 2010 to 375 million people in 2015.

And that’s why as we react to the immediate needs of people suffering today and this week we need to help the people rebuild in a way that will build in future resilience to the more intense, more frequent climatic disasters that are expected in the future.
Climate models predict more frequent extreme weather events - looks like they are right.   So when is Canada going to take some meaningful steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

Scarier Than I First Thought

No details about the munitions involved were disclosed but the armed forces have said that a naval logistics base near Moscow had been destroyed by the ongoing inferno.  Russian media reported as many as 200 planes may have been destroyed at the naval air base....In Sarov, firefighters have focused on beating flames back from the top-secret Russian Federal Nuclear Research Centre.  A Sarov news website on Thursday cited local officials as saying a wall of fire had been broken down into several smaller blazes.   The officials said the closest blaze was still several kilometres from the research facilities and as a precaution all hazardous materials had been evacuated.
Wow - an even even scarier scenario than was apparent at first reading the news.  

Some Perspective

What would the Russian drought look like  if it had occurred in North America?


One of the most remarkable weather events of my lifetime is unfolding this summer in Russia, where an unprecedented heat wave has brought another day of 102°F heat to the nation's capital. At 3:30 pm local time today, the mercury hit 39°C (102.2°F) at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport. Moscow had never recorded a temperature exceeding 100°F prior to this year, and today marks the second time the city has beaten the 100°F mark. The first time was on July 29, when the Moscow observatory recorded 100.8°C and Baltschug, another official downtown Moscow weather site, hit an astonishing 102.2°F (39.0°C). Prior to this year, the hottest temperature in Moscow's history was 37.2°C (99°F), set in August 1920. The Moscow Observatory has now matched or exceeded this 1920 all-time record five times in the past eleven days, including today. The 2010 average July temperature in Moscow was 7.8°C (14°F) above normal, smashing the previous record for hottest July, set in 1938 (5.3°C above normal.) July 2010 also set the record for most July days in excess of 30°C--twenty-two. The previous record was 13 such days, set in July 1972. The past 24 days in a row have exceeded 30°C in Moscow, and there is no relief in sight--the latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures near 100°F (37.8°C) for the next seven days. It is stunning to me that the country whose famous winters stopped the armies of Napoleon and Hitler is experiencing day after day of heat near 100°F, with no end in sight.

To put this in rough perspective -- and note this is not absolutely precise, it's purely ballpark to give you some feel for what the Russian people are enduring -- if this heat wave was hitting North America, it would be near 100°F in Fairbanks, Alaska. Most of Canada would be baking at 100° or higher, the northeast, from Maine to the Great Lakes region would be hitting upwards of 105° everyday, even the nightly low in the massive urban heat islands of New York and Chicago would be over 90°! The midwest grain belt and parts of the Pacific Northwest would not see a drop of rain for two months and pushing as high as 110° in places. The desert southwest, even some of the higher elevations of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas, would be as uninhabitable as Death Valley or the Sahara.
It would mean nation-wide massive power brownouts, unprecedented crop failures, water rationing like you have never seen, record wildfires raging in dozens of states, thousands of deaths [Correction: Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground informs me it would probably more like tens of thousands of deaths] and life threatening heat related illness, roads and highways clogged with broken-down, over-heated cars, and emergency services stretched beyond the breaking point across the US and Canada.
So nothing to worry about, right?  Well, it's gonna affect the price of your pasta and toast.


At least 20 percent of Russia’s wheat crop has already been destroyed by the drought, the extreme heat—circa 40 º C for several weeks now—and the wildfires. The export ban is needed, explained Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, because “we shouldn’t allow domestic prices in Russia to rise, we need to preserve our cattle and build up supplies for next year”. If anybody starves, it won’t be Russians.

This is the vision of the future that has the soldiers and security experts worried: a world where access to enough food becomes a big political and strategic issue even for developed countries that do not have big surpluses at home. It would be a very ugly world indeed, teeming with climate refugees and failed states and interstate conflicts over water (which is just food at one remove).

What is happening in Russia now, and its impacts elsewhere, give us an early glimpse of what that world will be like. And although nobody can say for certain that the current disaster there is due to climate change, it certainly could be.

Late last year, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change produced a world map showing how different countries will be affected by the rise in average global temperature over the next 50 years. The European countries that the Hadley map predicts will be among the hardest hit—Greece, Spain, and Russia—are precisely the ones have suffered most from extreme heat, runaway forest fires, and wildfires in the past few years.

The main impact of global warming on human beings will be on the food supply, and eating is a non-negotiable activity. Today Russia, tomorrow the world.
Here's a novel thought - why don't we take measures to reduce greenhosue gas emissions now?

Swimming on Mt Everest

The glaciers are melting in the Himalyas -and one can go swimming in the lakes left behind.  Please listen until the end: I found Mr Pugh's statements on the mind set required to tackle the problem of climate change very interesting.

I'm Back

That was a lovely holiday.  I'm back  - to floods in Pakistan, wildfires and drought in Russia, floods in Saskatcheqan, wildfires in the interior of BC - extreme weather events everywhere.  Hmmmnnns  - climate models predict an increase frequency of extreme weather events as climate change begins to bite.   Could it be ?????

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Voting and Discrimination

Fifty years ago, the Canadian government granted First Nations people the right to vote in federal elections without losing their treaty status.
Wow  - within living memory, Canada  discriminated -  legally - agaisnt First Nations peoples.  Changing the law was a good idea.  But,as Americans have also discovered, legislating egalitarinaism does nothing to change racist attitudes.  (Read the comments on the above article for a samll taste.) What does?  I'm not sure -  not at all.  However,  I'm going to push for a series of educational seminars on First Nations history and racism through my church.   I'm hoping that knowledge leads to changed attitudes.
And, as a part of those seminars, i'm going to include the following:

•We can agree that Canada has moved forward. We welcome the Apology to residential school survivors. We welcome the commitment to work with us to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

•Yet we can also agree that we need to move much further ahead, and we must travel together. Where we have made gains, it is because we have worked together as partners who both recognize and respect one another.

•The key to all our efforts is active and honest participation by First Nations in setting the direction forward.

•Participation is a founding principle of the UN Declaration. It is a founding principle of the Treaties we signed to forge this country.
•I stand here today to make it clear that First Nations are ready and willing to work with any and all partners on a better, brighter future for all our people and all Canadians.
Happy Canada Day! May ourour future be more inclusive, eglitarian, and sustainable.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

David Suzuki and The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line is as much about people’s mindset toward environmental issues as about the issues themselves. “It’s about what we come to value and believe,” he explains. For example, two programs will be devoted to the oil sands – not simply on the environment, but the social and economic implications for the region and Canada.  “We have a situation today where the Prime Minister has said for four years, ‘We can’t do anything about climate change; it’ll destroy the economy.’ So the economy comes before the very atmosphere that we depend on for our weather and climate and our breathing. “I would suggest that there’s a very radically different bottom line, which is, if you don’t have air for two or three minutes, you’re dead. It’s the same for water. If you don’t have water for a few days, if you don’t have food for a few weeks … Surely to God, it ought to be our highest priority to protect these. But we pour toxic chemicals into them, because that’s the price of doing business.”
The economy  is a subset of the environment - not the other way around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Rule of Law

I rather like the idea of the rule of law.  I fancy living my life unmolested by gangs of thieves and rapists. I also rather enjoy  peacefully exercising my charter rights - unmolested by the government as far as possible.  Last time I checked, charter rights included the freedom of speech and assembly and protecction against unreasonable search and seizure.   http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/1.html#anchorbo-ga:l_I-gb:s_1
Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
I'd say that freedom of expression includes the right to walk around a city without being arrested on the basis of the Bush doctrine.  (You remember W's preemptive strikes, don't you?)  Apparently I'm naive, and Canadians'  rights can be over ridden by secret cabinet decisions.
Questions are piling up about a secret cabinet decision giving police immense power to search and arrest anyone within five metres of the barrier. Legal experts say a regulation authorizing the searches could be vulnerable to attack not just for potentially violating Charter protections against unreasonable search and seizure.  It could also be challenged on the grounds the public was not given adequate notice of the sweeping changes that required them to identify themselves to police officers or agree to be searched.
When did Canada become a police state where basic freedoms can be over ridden in secrcey by politicians? 1997 at the APEC summit? 2010 at the Winter Olympics?

Syncrude is Guilty


A judge has found oil sands giant Syncrude Canada Ltd. guilty of a pair of environmental charges stemming from the deaths of 1,606 birds two years ago. Provincial Court Judge Ken Tjosvold ruled Friday that Syncrude was indeed responsible for its tailings pond where the ducks were found, and it “did not deploy the [bird] deterrents early enough and quickly enough” around the 12-square-kilometre pond, which contained toxic, oily bitumen byproduct.

Mr. White [the lawyer acting for Syncrude] will recommend his clients appeal because he believes the “judgment is incorrect,” arguing that to find the company guilty when its tailings pond was provincially licensed could effectively make all such ponds illegal.
It is to be hoped that Mr White is correct and that this ruling has serious repercussions for resource extraction industries.  (However, had Syncrude taken steps to prevent ducks from landing on its ponds, it wouldn't have been found guilty. ) June 25, 2010 may be identifiable later as the day where the tide turned against polluters - the day where they became responsible for their "externalities."  How can it be profitable to extract resources if taxpayers are left with the bills for cleanup of horrible messes?  It shouldn't be....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ruling Expected in The Case of the Dead Ducks

No - I haven't found an undiscovered  Agatha Christie manuscript secreted in Grandmother's trunk.  The Globe and Mail contains an excellent article on Syncrude and those ducks that perished in their tailings pond. 

More than two years after 1,606 dead ducks were first found in a northern Alberta industrial tailings pond, a judge is scheduled to rule Friday afternoon on whether the deaths amounted to a violation of provincial or federal law.

A guilty verdict would be a major victory for environmentalists, long critical of Alberta's oil sands. But energy giant Syncrude Canada Ltd., which has been operating in the oil sands for over 30 years, warns such a verdict would effectively make tailings ponds – which are essential in the refining of Alberta's oil sands bitumen – illegal, bringing the economically vital industry to a standstill.

In other words, tar sands miners are worried that the costs of their "externalities" may be brought home to them. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Over Optimistic


Chevron Canada executives defended Monday their decision to pursue an unprecedented exploratory well off Newfoundland, so soon in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The project has attracted increasing international attention — and scrutiny — because Chevron is drilling a well in more than 2,600 metres of water, significantly deeper than the Deepwater Horizon project in the Gulf of Mexico, where a blowout in April continues to have a devastating environmental impact.

But vice-president Mark MacLeod said Chevron has an industry-leading safety record.

"Chevron has drilled over 300 deepwater wells. We've never had a blowout in deep water," MacLeod told reporters during a conference call.
Hmmmnnn -couldn't BP have said the they had never had a blowout  before April?  Moreover, perhaps Chevron should share their plans for shutting off the Gulf of Mexico gusher.  If that (hypothetical) plan works expeditiously,  perhaps we could belive that they had the ability to shut off a blowout off Newfoundland.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ahem !

But the deeper lessons of the oil spill concern the future of our energy supplies, of regulation, and the shape of our society and economy....Out of crisis comes damage, but also opportunity. This is the opportunity to make a decisive turn in the road towards a post-oil economy: for the US, and for the world. But it needs politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to say it with gusto, rather than spend their time attacking BP. We cannot stop our reliance on oil and gas tomorrow. They are an essential bridge to our energy future. But the question is whether they are a bridge or a stopping point....The renewables industry struggles for finance – while investments in tar sands and other projects get the green light. It is the worst of short-termism: for the planet and for all our economic futures.

But there is no point in railing against the short-termism of markets: it is what they do unless the rules are right.  The job of government is to change this short-termism. The obvious opportunity comes as we consider the future of our banking system.As the oil gushes into the Gulf, this is the time to stand proud and declare that we want a hi-tech clean-tech future faster than ever before. The countries that make the leap first will be the successful economies of this century, exporting technology around the world to cities seeking cleaner air and lower emissions.
What did I just tell you?

Positives from an Oil Spill

The extraction of oil pollutes and destroys livelihoods, lives, and ecosystems. Not much room for argument there: look at the results of BP’s gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, Royal Dutch Shell’s presence in Nigeria, and Chevron’s inherited mess in Ecuador. Then, once the oil is out of the ground our use of it pollutes even more. Burning fossil fuels increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere - warming the planet. W also create deadly smog in our urban areas by zipping around in our cars instead of taking public transit. Moreover, we destroy vast areas of pristine boreal forest by mining tar sands. (“Reclaimed” land is never as biologically diverse as untouched land.) Moreover, those toxic tailings ponds produced by tar sands mining are really nasty - and 7 out of 9 tar sands extractors do not plan to comply with Regulation 074 on capturing and reducing toxic tailings between 2011 and 2013. The decision is in: our use of oil is disastrous.

But, in a bizarre way, BP’s gusher may turn out to be a positive.

Have I gone mad? No – not exactly – I just spotted a glimmer of hope. The Friday, June 11, 2010 Report on Business section of the Globe and Mail contained several promising items. The lead headline reads “Spill Puts New Oil Frontiers at Risk.” (page B1 ) In other words, politicians and regulators and the public are now aware that another spill is inevitable if we continue drilling as we have. A smaller headline reads “Cheap, abundant, politically secure oil in no longer available.” That article continues on page B5. “According to a new Deutsche Bank report, this is the end of the oil age as we knew it….and our behaviour must change to recognize that. “ So this spill, horrible an environmental disaster that it is, is also an opportunity for environmental activists.

We should use increased awareness on the part of the public and politicians to prevent the lifting of the moratorium on drilling for oil off the coast of British Columbia. Write Mr. Campbell and tell him offshore drilling is too risky. We should also work to shutdown the Enbridge Gateway North Pipeline to coastal BC as, once it is in place, oil tankers will sail BC’s pristine coast – and eventually spill oil. (The Dogwood Initiative Project is already fighting this – check out their website at http://dogwoodinitiative.org/ if you want to work on this project.) Thirdly, we should push both provincial and federal governments to invest in light rapid transit and clean energy.  Encourage everyone you know to write to the Right Honorable Stephen Harper, to their federal MP, and to the provincial representatives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nasty Conclusions

I'm drawing nasty conclusions from the news reports on BP's environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP PLC's 582-page regional spill plan for the Gulf, and its 52-page, site-specific plan for the Deepwater Horizon rig vastly understate the dangers posed by an uncontrolled leak and vastly overstate the company's preparedness to deal with one, according to an Associated Press analysis. The lengthy plans were approved by the federal government last year before BP drilled its ill-fated well. ... Among the glaring errors in the report: A professor is listed in BP's 2009 response plan for a Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a national wildlife expert. He died in 2005.
Who's BP's favorite politician ever? If you're just going by the numbers, it's none other than President Barack Obama, who leads BP's lifetime campaign donation list with $77,051. That puts him just ahead of reliable oilmen such as Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, his retired colleague Sen. Ted Stevens, and George W. Bush. According to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, BP and its employees have given more than $3.4 million to federal candidates since 1990.
Is it cynical to make a connection between money spent on politicans and favourable regulatory regimes? However cynical, it doesn't happen  in Canada, right?  We don't allow the public interest to be subverted by political connections, do we?   Maybe.  "Oil" sands mining flourishes in Canada - even if it is much less than green.  Jeff Rubin, an economist, notes that:
There’s nothing clean about the production of synthetic oil from tar sands. The production of a single barrel of synthetic oil pollutes some 125 gallons of fresh water and emits over 200 pounds of carbon dioxide, principally as a result of the combustion of the natural gas, over 1,000 cubic feet of it, needed to generate the heat to separate the oil from the sand and then process it.  Currently, Canadian tar sands produce roughly one and a quarter million barrels per day, but the International Energy Agency (IEA) is projecting ultimate production at around 4 million barrels per day. Do the math on carbon emissions and water pollution, and you begin to get a sense of what has made the tar sands the most recent bête noire of the world environmental movement. ...The tar sands aren’t a greener alternative to deep-water oil. They’re just a more expensive alternative. And the more that synthetic oil from tar sands replaces deep-water production, the more you’ll pay to burn it.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/jeff-rubins-smaller-world/gulf-oil-disaster-doesnt-make-the-tar-sands-green/article1596265/

The government of Canada has subsidized development of the  tar sands in the past and continues to do so to the tune of $ 1 billion per year according to Kairos' report Pumped Up.   Moreover , the party currently in power has ties to the energy sector.  For example, Clarke Cross is a hired lobbyist for Enbridge who formerly worked for Canadian Alliance Party MPs. Yaroslav Baran lobbied the federal government on behalf of Enbridge throughout 2006 and is also a long time Conservative Party staffer (Out on the Tar Sands Mainline , Polaris Institute.)   This cozy relationship between oil and gas corporations and federal politicians has culminated in the  Conservatives tabling an omnibus bill that "is trying to rollback key environmental assessment rules through an omnibus bill currently under review by a House of Commons Committee. " http://www.waterkeeper.ca/2010/05/04/rollbacks-to-canadian-environmental-legislation-come-on-the-heels-of-the-gulf-oil-disaster/  

This cozy intimacy will lead to more environmental destruction in Canada unless the Senate breaks up the bill .  A nasty conclusion indeed .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Employment Standards

I always  read the business news as doing so gives me a different perspective on  the environment and on climate change.   Today I found a viewpoint poverty and social jsutice activists will be interested in. The June 2010  issue of BC Business contains an article questioning the wisdom of eviserating  the Employment Standards Act in 2002 and of reducing civil service numbers at the same time - from a business perspective.     A roofing contractor explains on page 52 that he pays overtime as required by BC law - but that he strongly suspects his competition doesn't -and uses the cost savings to undercut his bids.  A dry walliing contractor (page 58) states " I don't like more government regulation. ...But realistically, the workers don't have anywhere else to go, and there's no way for people who are trying to operate aove the line to counter that kind of operation. Does that mean the government has to step in? Nobody else is going to do it."

Therefore,  social justice and labour activists can argue that enforcing employment regulations is good for business - and that some business people with the government would do so.  Extrapolating to environmental issues, I bet that some business people wish that governments would strengthen and enforce environmental regulations.  I told you it pays to read business news!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Canada: Accountable and Transparent Government

Environment Canada overestimated by 10 times the amount of emissions reductions that result from government measures when it reported last year on its efforts to meet this country’s obligations under the Kyoto protocol. .... What is more, although Ottawa started handing over the first installments of a five-year $1.5-billion Clean Air and Climate Change Trust fund to the provinces in 2008, the federal government cannot monitor them or verify whether they are being spent for the intended purpose.
The federal government gave out money to the provinces and cannot verify what the provinces did with it? Isn't this the party that promised open, transparent, and accountable government?   And who told them  a prize existed for the most greenhouse gas emissions per capita?  They appear to be attempting to said prize..... *sigh*.

Maternal Health


A leaked draft of the final communiqué for the upcoming G8 summit suggests Canada has dodged a bullet on the thorny issues of abortion and climate change....  There is no agreement yet on specific funding for the maternal initiative, climate change, food security or aid to developing countries, despite strong words urging concrete measures....  On the environment, the only thing G8 negotiators have apparently agreed to is that fighting climate change shouldn't hurt countries' economies — a position the Harper government has been pushing.
The G8 summit at Huntsville rolls over into the the G20 summit in downtown Toronto.  However touching any declaration of concern for maternal health may look, why are the leaders of the world bothering to state that maternal and child health is of great interest  to them if they are not prepared to take meaningful steps on climate change?  They could do more for the health and safety of women if they implemented meaningful measures to prevent / mitigate climate change as that is ALREADY impacting women in a disproportionate and negative manner.

Women are particularly affected by climate change because they generally do not have secure, affordable access to and control over land, water, livestock and trees; thus, they are forced to make do with limited resources and alternatives when their subsistence needs and livelihoods are threatened. Elderly women, disabled women, women widows and indigenous women often face the most acute challenges related to climate change whilst having fewer resources to compensate for and adjust to changes.
Why not plow the $ 11 billion Canada is spending on security for the G20 summit on preventing climate change?  Could it be that maternal health is a "feel good" isssue only - and that no one attending the G20 summit  desires to improve maternal health in reality?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Oil Spill

Far reaching consquences to that oil spill....and it just keeps gushing....perhaps until December!

The Obama administration now says that the “long-term solution” to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could take until August to implement. In fact, some experts are now forecasting that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico may continue gushing into December.
The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico may or may not exacerbate the "Dead Zone" caused by fertilizers leaching into the Gulf.

Each spring and summer fertilizer from the fields of the U.S. Midwest runs off into the Mississippi River. Old Muddy carries the nutrients down the length of the continent before dumping them into the Gulf of Mexico. Once introduced, the nitrogen and phosphorus prompts a bloom in algae, phytoplankton and other microscopic plants. After the plants die they drift to the bottom and their decomposition sucks the oxygen out of the seawater. The result is a vast dead zone, lethal to sea life that cannot swim out of the way, in inhabitable waters near the Gulf Coast that is sometimes as large as New Jersey—and the as much as 3.8 million liters of oil now spilling into the Gulf per day may make it worse.
The oil is going to be swept into the Atlantic:


Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.”  The simulations suggest that when the oil that's closest to the surface gets caught up in the Gulf of Mexico's powerful Loop Current, it will likely reach Florida's Atlantic coast by early summer.
The oil spill  has demonstrated that we don't have an easy way of turning the taps off a mile under the ocean.  Nor are we sure of the consequences ... what happens when the oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout reaches the open Atlantic?   Having seen this spill, do we really want to drill  under the Arctic ocean?  Please inform the Right Honorable Stephen Harper of your opposition to offshore drilling .

Monday, May 31, 2010

Oil Is A Curse

According to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.  In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month....According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.
A rupture in Ecuador's second largest oil pipeline has polluted the Santa Rosa river in the lush Amazon jungle and shut off the flow of crude to a Pacific port in the city of Esmeraldas....Repeated oil spills by foreign companies and the country's state oil company, Petroecuador, are a threat to rare species of jaguars and river dolphins in the Amazon jungle, where most of the Andean country's oil operations are located.
Oil is a curse: its possession subverts democracy, impoverishes the local population, and destroys the environment.   But we - we Canadians , that is,  intend going to get every drop out of the tar sands and sell it to Asia regardless of any risks.

“The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project will open important new markets for Canadian crude oil,” Enbridge president and chief executive Patrick Daniel said in a statement last week. “It will create jobs and a substantial long-term boost to our nation’s economy as well as the communities through which it will pass.”
And we're in the process of weakening environmental protections that might prevent oil spills.

Many British Columbians watching the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are wondering what safeguards are in place to ensure such a disaster does not happen here. What they don't know is that the federal government recently made sweeping changes to the primary advisory panel put in place to ensure that a major oil spill does not occur on the B.C. coast.
Are we insane?

Please write to the Prime Minister and to your local MP and register your protest against this insanity. Think about walking to work. Or biking. Or taking the bus. Get involved with  your local environmental group. Or create your local environmental group.  Educate yourself and your family and your friends. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't Wait for the United States

Prime Minister Harper has said Canada will wait to see what policies the U.S. adopts to regulate major emitters of greenhouse gases, because the two countries’ economies are so closely integrated. But Felipe Calderon, who leads the United States’ other border nation and trade-bloc partner, expressed exasperation at waiting for rich countries to step forward.

Mr. Calderon said Mexico couldn’t wait for rich countries to do something about climate change, as droughts hit his country and Mexico City’s water supply shrank, and had to take its own action.

Mexico has set out its own plans to regulate greenhouse gases, and is now seen as a leader among developing nations in tackling climate change. Like Canada, its economy is highly linked to that of the U.S., but it has not insisted that its regulations must wait a U.S. first move
If Mexico can afford to take action on climate change, Canada surely can.   After all, climate change will not pccur in some hypothetical future - it is happening now.  Look out your window at the pine bark beetle killed trees .....and ponder the fact that Mexico City's water supply has shrunk - both due to climate change.

Why Are We Doing This?

"This is what I don't understand,” she admitted. “If BP doesn't know how to cut off the well, why are they drilling on the bottom of the ocean in the first place?”
“Don't be ridiculous,” another man at the table replied. “It's a mile deep. It's not just a question of shutting off a tap.”
Why are we drilling a mile deep if we have no idea how we are going to plug leaks or clean up spills?  Risky behaviour and no idea of consequences will be coped with is symtomatic of  addictions.  Have a look at the article diagram for a visual depiction of the size of the oil spill - it is gigantic.   And, read right to the end. There,  Ian Brown states "The temptation is to pass it all off as American. We ought to remember the oil sands in our own backyard. Their toxic tailing ponds already cover more than 50 square kilometres. They're a stone's throw from the Athabasca River, one of the continent's most delicate watersheds. Let's hope they don't spring a leak. "

Costs of Cheap Oil

Big Oil is holding its breath. BP's shares are in steep decline after the debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obama, the American people and the global environmental community are outraged, and now the company stands to lose the rights to drill for oil in the Arctic and other ecologically sensitive places.  The gulf disaster may cost it a few billion dollars, but so what? When annual profits for a company often run to tens of billions, the cost of laying 5,000 miles of booms, or spraying millions of gallons of dispersants and settling 100,000 court cases is not much more than missing a few months' production. It's awkward, but it can easily be passed on....Big Oil's real horror was not the spillage, which was common enough, but because it happened so close to the US. Millions of barrels of oil are spilled, jettisoned or wasted every year without much attention being paid.
If this accident had occurred in a developing country, say off the west coast of Africa or Indonesia, BP could probably have avoided all publicity and escaped starting a clean-up for many months

Ethically, if we (that means you and I) don't press our governments to invest in alternative energy, we are complicit in oil spills like Deepwater Horizon. If we don't lobby for and use rapid transit we are complicit. If we do nothing to prevent Enbridge building a pipeline to the BC coast from the tar sands, we will be reponsible for spills from oil tankers carrying oil down the coast.  If we don't work to change the system, we will be complicit in climate change.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Richard Heinberg on Peak Oil

The End of (Cheap ) Oil

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates that we are:

a. addicted to oil, and
b. are willing to do anything to get it.

But the consequences are dire, as Richard Heinberg points out.

This is what the end of the oil age looks like. The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner, what we will end up doing anyway as a result of resource depletion and economic, environmental, and military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff. Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent American president (an oil man, it should be noted) admitted that “America is addicted to oil.” Will we let this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it?
So why don't our governments invest in alternatives to oil? 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oil Spills

As the costs of Gulf Coast cleanup efforts from the BP oil spill continue to rise, a new report examines the industry as a whole, in terms of safety and accident records. The international environmental education and resource group Global Exchange has found that operating errors and incidents around the globe are more common than the public likely realizes because most events don't make the news.

In 2009 Chevron spent more money lobbying thge federal government than at any time in its history, more than 60 % over 2008 - Chevron's previous record breaking year. With more than $ 21 million spent, Chevron earned a spot on the top ten list of highest spenders on all  2009 federal lobbying. ...while campaign giving became more partisan.....Chevron has led lobbying efforts for decades to get the U.S. moratorium on offshore drilling lifted.
I wonder who is lobbying the BC government in an efffort to permit offshore drilling on the  coast of BC?  Who in their right mind thinks that would be a good thing?   Oil company executives and shareholders, perhaps?   Please ensure that your RRSP doesn't hold any oil related mutual funds or shares.  And please write letters to the provincial and federal governemtns expressing your disapproval of osshore drilling.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice

Arctic sea ice is on track to recede to a record low this year, suggesting that northern waters free of summer ice are coming faster than anyone thought. One of Canada's top sea-ice experts suggests things might even be worse than Dr. Serreze thinks. His data could be underestimating the collapse of summer ice cover, said David Barber of the University of Manitoba. Researchers can't learn anything from satellite data about the state or thickness of the ice. “What we think is thick multiyear ice late in the summer is in fact not,” he said. “It's heavily decayed first-year ice. When that stuff starts to reform in the fall, we think it's multiyear ice, but it's not.”  Arctic explorers and scientific expeditions are finding more open water and untrustworthy ice ever, Prof. Barber said.  He pointed out the Arctic continued to lose multiyear ice even in 2008 and 2009, when total ice coverage rebounded somewhat. True multiyear ice – the thick, hard stuff that stops ships – now comprises about 18 per cent of the Arctic ice pack. In 1981, when Prof. Barber first went north, that figure was 90 per cent.  
You know, I would love it if the Climate Change Deniers were correct and this weren't really happening.
But we have to cope with reality - not with the life our imaginary friends have.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Water Shortages in The Tar Sands

Oil sands companies could soon run out of water and, in years to come, find themselves with a shrinking market for their product, according to grim new research.  Under current expansion plans, companies could run out of adequate winter water supplies as early as 2014, estimates the report, which was prepared for Boston-based investor and environmental advocacy group Ceres....“All of this should give investors pause as they consider anteing up for what has become a $200-billion bet,” said Douglas Kogan, director of climate risk management for research group Riskmetrics Group, which wrote the report. “There may be safer places to put their money, and certainly more environmentally sustainable ones.”
I predicted this: not the shrinking markets  -  the water shortages.  Check your RRSP and make sure you're not investing in the tar sands.  And nag your pension plan administrators regarding the issue.  Not only will you be environmentally responsible, you'll make more money investing elsewhere.  Where ??? Run proposed investments through my link titled "Corporate Environmental and Social Reports."

Drill, Baby, Drill

Ocean scientists in the Gulf of Mexico have found giant plumes of oil coagulating at up to 1,300 metres below the surface, raising fears that the BP oil spill may be larger than thought – and that it might create huge "dead zones"....The presence of huge strings of oil deep underwater has puzzled scientists on board the research vessel Pelican, back in dock after almost two weeks at sea. The assumption had been that the oil would rise to the surface, but instead it has formed into multiple layers suspended in varying thicknesses deep in the water.

Does anyone still think that drilling for oil offshore in the Arctic is a good idea?  Does anyone still think that we shouldn't deal with our addiction to fossil fuels?

Friday, May 14, 2010

We Are Insane

Canadian oil companies say they will not be able to drill in Arctic deep waters unless the National Energy Board drops a provision that requires them to be able to quickly complete a relief well in the event of a blowout.
The board had agreed to review its rule for requiring companies to be able to deal with a blowout by drilling a relief well in the same season. After BP's Gulf of Mexico blowout, the regulator suspended planned hearings on the issue, and said this week that it will examine its entire regulatory approach, including the same-season relief well policy.
In its March submission, BP said the same-season relief well policy “ought to be rescinded, and replaced by a series of goal-oriented regulations” that would include preventive measures and mitigation efforts that would include longer schedule for drilling a relief well.
In fact, Imperial Oil Ltd. had asked the NEB for an exemption from that relief-well regulation as it prepares for a drilling program in Ajurak property, which lies 120 kilometres off shore in 650 metres of water.
A strict application of the rule “would essentially preclude the drilling of deepwater wells, such as the Ajurak exploration well, which require multiseason operations,” Imperial said in a submission to the board earlier this year.”

Hmmm - the NEB is worried about the propect of oil belching into the Arctic ocean.  Frivolously and needlessly?  After all, it has been easy to stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and to prevent damage to delicate ecoystems, there. Am I  right? 


If efforts fail to cap the leaking Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico, oil could gush for years—poisoning coastal habitats for decades, experts say. "We don't have any idea how to stop this," Simmons said of the Gulf leak. Some of the proposed strategies—such as temporarily plugging the leaking pipe with a jet of golf balls and other material—are a "joke," he added.
And the next hurricane season is about to begin.  http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATWOAT+shtml/302338.shtml

I have always assumed that oil company executives are doing the best that they can in the corporate environment  - that they do not really wish to despoil ecosystems or warm the entire earth.  After all, they are under enormous pressure to produce short term profits for their shareholders. Therefore, they cannot take measures to protect the environment if the compettition is not doing the same - which means no company will do so unless forced by regulations.

If we don't pressure our  governments to prevent such environmental disasters, we're collectively insane. 
Write the Prime Minister and ask him to have place a moratorium on deep water drilling in the Arctic.  Ask him to fund alternative energies in the same letter.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oil Spills and Environmental Damage

Oil spill responses have a very large component of symbolic reassurance to them.  For example, no doubt we will see oily ducks being washed in the coming days. However, the mortality rate of such ducks is extremely high. So while these salves may make us feel better, they do little to actually deal with the situation. ....there will be considerable ecological and economic damage, and there is basically nothing that can be done to effectively stop that from happening. ....prevention is the best policy. But that involves regulations to prevent corporations from taking calculated risks by shaving safety margins to decrease production costs.... We need to get over our technological hubris and stop taking risks with our global ecoystems.

Syncrude and Those Dead Ducks

A lawyer for Syncrude says charges faced by the oil sands giant over 1,600 dead ducks on its tailing pond are a cheap shot and a gross overreaction by prosecutors.....  If Syncrude is found guilty, then the ground will have shifted for every company in Alberta, Mr. White argued....Crown prosecutors, in their final arguments, have said the case is clear: Syncrude is mandated to take steps to keep birds off the tailings ponds and didn't do it.  Court has heard that Syncrude staff assigned to get air cannons and scarecrows deployed on the pond were two weeks behind schedule that spring and didn't get going until mid-April. Even when they did, the seven-member team couldn't do much. Their boats were out of service and they had one truck to deliver all the equipment. They managed to get eight cannons around the pond compared with 130 the year before.
If Syncrude is found guilty, then the ground will have shifted for every company in Alberta.  Precisely, Mr White, precisely.   The ducks aside, what happens to those toxic tailing ponds in the long term?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mr Harper, Please Pay Attention


The UN Secretary-General delivered tough messages to the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa on Wednesday, urging them to champion climate change and the world's poor at next month's G20 and G8 summits.  Ban Ki-moon wants climate change on the agenda in earnest when Canada hosts the G20 summit in Toronto. He also wants the country to live up to the greenhouse-gas reduction targets it negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol.   "Canada has a special role and special responsibility to play. That is what I am going to emphasize here," Ban said before a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.....

The Conservatives have pledged a 17 per cent reduction by 2020, based on 2005 levels, which is in line with U.S. targets but not as tough as Kyoto.

Addicted to Oil

A litany of failures in the blow-out preventer led to the catastrophic spill from BP’s leaking Gulf of Mexico well, a powerful Congressional investigations panel revealed on Wednesday, suggesting that BP and Transocean officials overlooked warning signs and then disagreed on what to do about them. “Our investigation is at its early stages, but already we have uncovered at least four significant problems with the blow-out preventer used on the Deepwater Horizon drill rig,” said Bart Stupak, the Michigan congressman who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ energy committee.
BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards would be needed to prevent a deepwater well from this type of accident.  In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called "extensive, prescriptive regulations" proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. "We believe industry's current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs…continue to be very successful."
We don't let corporations and individuals manufacture and sell crustal meth or crack cocaine if we can prevent it.  We consider it immoral or unethical - no matter big the profits.  Period. If I could pass regulations, BP would have cause to complain about "extensive, prescriptive regulation!"

Why aren't we regulating drilling for oil / mining the tar sands/ and the uses of oil ?  We've only got so much of the stuff left - why waste it? We're gonna need lots of energy in the near future to save something form the wreckage.  We need  to use the energy  from oil  to build light rapid transit -  move our coastal cities inland or shore up defences such as levees and dikes - and create wind farms and solar energy farms.  Climate change is already happening  - we need to deal with it.   And we need to deal with corporations that pollute the environment and ignore worker safety.  Eleven men died on the Deepwater Horizon -   think about  ecosystem death and destruction in the Gulf of Mexico - and for what?  Higher emissions of greenhouse gases from our Hummers?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Banksy In Toronto

Several bold and graphic statements popped up in Toronto over the weekend, indicating that the British shock artist has made his Canadian debut. (A publicist confirmed that Banksy has indeed been at work here.)   But not everyone is happy about Banksy’s trot through town: one of the creations attributed to him – as many as seven have been spotted throughout downtown Toronto – has already been painted over.
I love Banksy's art.  I love his political commentary - his subversivesness - his audacity - his style.   Lots of people get  upset with graffiti.  It challenges both  the notion of property values and  deference to authority.   I love that.   

Yes, I own property.

The image is from http://www.banksy.co.uk/    The sign on the wall states "No Tresspassing."
Click on "Outside" once you get to Banksy's site  for more graffiti/ art.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Peak Oil

When the Gulf of Mexico oil rig blew, there was probably not a fisherman or fish plant operator in western Nova Scotia, where I live, who didn't have the same cold flash: an oil rig blows on Georges Bank; the enormous tides of the Bay of Fundy suck half the oil up and down twice a day, polluting everything from Cape Cod to Lockeport and right up to Moncton; while the other half is locked in the "gyre" of currents that goes round and round over one of the world's best fishing grounds.   Nova Scotia Fisheries and Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau, picking up on several years of low-key oil company pressure on the issue, mused a couple of weeks ago about fish and oil being able to co-exist as the deadline to review the Georges Bank moratorium on drilling loomed. That went around the coast here like political oil slick. Belliveau, MLA for Shelburne, had championed the no-drilling-on-Georges campaign. Now, he had "become a politician," and broken his word....You might expect a disaster of this scale would get us thinking.

You might expect that  - if we weren't dealing with an addiction.  Wonder what the bottom looks like?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Acid Oceans

The day after the gulf rig blew out, the National Research Council quietly issued a report on what exactly carbon dioxide, which is warming the atmosphere, is doing to seawater. As the oceans absorb some of the carbon our factories and engines pour into the atmosphere, the "chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude," the report said. "The rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years."
Say what?

Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Acidifying the ocean is particularly detrimental to organisms that secrete shell material made of CaCO3, such as coral reefs and a type of phytoplankton called coccolithophori.
We are running a giant experiment on our planet and ourselves and our ecosystems.  What will happen when we live on a much hotter planet with incredibly unpredictable weather where the oceans are too acidic for oysters and coral reefs to thrive?  We're gonna find out.  Correction: we already know.  I can see pine beetle killed trees from my window.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pray for Rain

Environment Minister Barry Penner says below average snowpacks across British Columbia indicate significant potential for low stream flows and water-supply shortages to develop this summer. As a result, Penner says the B.C. government is developing a 2010 Drought Response Plan to guide government actions for low stream flows and drought conditions. Given the current low snowpack conditions, notice of potential drought is included in this bulletin, although should wet weather materialize in May and June, it could reduce the risk.
Forest fires, anyone?  Remember 2003?  Calling these weather conditions "drought" implies they are temporary.  Meet the new normal as climate change worsens.  I'm very glad the City of Kamloops voted in favour of water meters:  we're some of the piggiest comsumers of water in the world.  And, we cannot afford to waste water and have our usage exceed the natural replenishment of the acquifers and water systems.  Our well being depends upon the well being of the  environment - not the other way around.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things Might Be Worse Part 2

Climate change has made nights warmer in India over the past decade, an ominous sign for the nation's vital rice crop.  This development could have a far-reaching impact on the yield of rice, causing a shortfall in an important staple crop in a crowded country already grappling with food security and inflationary issues....South Asia's agriculture will be hard hit by rising temperatures and irregular rainfall associated with climate change, according to experts. Since witnessing a near tripling of yields between the 1950s and 2000s due largely to the technological advances of the first green revolution, India's yields of rice have leveled off in recent years, according to data from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.
Oh - shit!

Things Might BE Worse Than I Thought

A little extra carbon dioxide in the air may, unfortunately, go further towards warming Earth than previously thought. A team of British and U.S. researchers have uncovered evidence [1] that Earth’s climate may be up to 50 percent more sensitive to long-term increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide than current climate models predict. The reason for the underestimation, they say, may be due to long-term changes in ice sheets and vegetation that are not well represented in today’s global climate models.
 Oh  - shit!  Great......

Do The Right Thing, Mr Harper


Canada shouldn't keep waiting for the rest of the world to act on climate change before making its own changes, the president of the European Union Commission said Wednesday in advance of a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Brussels..... He said that if every country adopts Canada's position that it won't start taking drastic action to combat climate change until most other countries in the world agree to do the same, "no one will move in the end."
Do the right thing Mr Harper - pay attention to climate scientists ans pass meaningful legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  Invest in clean energy and green technology.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ice Core Records for the Last 800,000 Years

There have been some extremely deep ice cores taken in Antarctica at Dome C that go back 800,000 or 900,000 years.  I understand that the Dome C record shows very clearly that we've got more CO2 in our atmosphere now than at any time in 800,000 years.

Mosley-Thompson: Oh yeah. Very clearly. If you look back over the eight glacial/interglacial cycles, you essentially see that CO2 never rises above 300 parts per million and we're at about 389 now. Methane never rises above about 800 parts per billion, and I think we're at about 1,700 parts per billion. So we're clearly outside the range of natural variability. I personally think that graph simply showing the natural fluctuations in those two important greenhouse gases, over almost a million years of Earth history — and then you see the two dots [today] that are so much higher than anything that we see in that near-million history — tells us very clearly that we have a serious problem.
Read the entire article at the link above.  And then sit dowm and weep - not necessarily in Grand Central Station.  Once you've expressed your anger and sorrow, write the Honorable Stephen Harper and demand that he revise Canada's climate change  policies .   Check out Transition Towns and work on an energy descent plan for your local community.  Push your pension plan to de-invest in companies that commit ecocide - like BP.  Revamp your RRSP holdings - click on the Corporate, Environmental and Social Responsibility link on my blogroll to vet a company.  Educate other people.  Make social connections.  Eat local food.  Devote your time, money , and energy to any cause that makes the world better - like http://www.350.org/

Monday, May 3, 2010

Deepwater Horizon on Fire

Deepwater Horizon on fire  - photo release by the US Departtment of Energy and first published on TPM  (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/gallery/2010/05/fire-in-the-gulf-new-pictures-of-the-deepwater-horizon.php?img=1)

No wonder  11 people were killed when this thing exploded.  And saving that $ 500,000 or so on that safety shutoff seems  so worth it now, doesn't it? 

Maybe we should do something about our addiction to oil.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Is Ecocide (Click on the Video for the Larger Version)

How Much Are Your Loved Ones Worth?

Dead, that is.  Would you trade three million dollars US for them?  Would your life be better?   Would you be happier with the money than with their presence at your dinner table?   Irritating as my family members can be, I wouldn't trade their lives for money.  (If you're reading this, I love you all very much  - OK?)

But that is what Massey Energy is offering the families of the miners killed underground at their mine.  They have 3 million bucks for each family of a miner killed underground.  Or in other words, they have plenty of money to settle lawsuits and none at all to ensure safety in their mines. Bastards .....

The explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia is the worst mining disaster in 40 years with more loss of life than any mining accident since the 1970s. Mine safety investigators are still searching for an exact cause, though the methane explosion, largely preventable by proper ventilation, is being looked at closely. They're also reviewing the safety record at the Upper Big Branch mine, which amassed more than 1,100 violations in the past three years, many of them serious, 50 of them in March of 2010, including violations for improper ventilation of methane and poor escape routes[3]. Federal regulators had ordered parts of the mine closed 60 times over the past year. Questions about Massey Energy's mining safety practices, along with questions about CEO Don Blankenship's excessive spending on court appointment campaigns, are coming from the public, the Dept of Labor, and President Obama. An aggressive proponent of mountaintop removal mining (stripmining or surface mining), Massey Energy's record on safety and following environmental protocols were also called into question when in October of 2000 a containment area for the liquid by-product failed at a Massey impoundment in eastern Kentucky, releasing a 300-million gallon spill of toxic sludge, making the Martin County spill the the worst environmental disaster in the United States east of the Mississippi.
Burning the mining coal is a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions as well.  So, Massey Energy flouts safety regulations, creates environemental disasters, helps heat the planet, and  is careless with  its workers' lives. 

What will it take to get rid of the clout possessed by fossil fuel extractors?  How many oil spills and mining disasters do we have to see before we demand that governments make these industries pay for their "external costs?" How hot does the planet have to get?   Why aren't we, the general public, rioting in the streets?  Or at least working to pass laws against ecocide?