Climate Change

Published on June 1st, 2016 | by Roy L Hales

14

Questioning Canada’s Fossil Fuel Emissions

June 1st, 2016 by  

Originally published on the ECOreport.

In a recent interview with the ECOreport, Simon Fraser University Climate Scientist Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s idea of fighting climate change while expanding the oil sands and building new pipelines as “delusional.” There is only a finite amount of carbon we can release into the atmosphere if we hope keep the global temperature rise to 2 degrees C. We are already close to 1.5 degrees and may pass that threshold this year. Even if we do not build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, Canada will exhaust “its fair share” of carbon emissions by 2030. These were quite strong statements, so I asked a couple of other scientists – as well as environmentalists, politicians and government spokespersons – questions about Canada’s fossil fuel emissions and the appropriate response.

Interview with Dr. Zickfeld

During the course of our interview, Zickfeld explained that carbon dioxide has a very long lifetime, and the changes we are seeing in the atmosphere and oceans are the consequences of past actions. “Even if we stopped (producing) emissions tomorrow, the … (change would not be noticeable) for a very long time.”

“Most of the impacts (are) actually happening offshore, so this means that ecologists do not really exactly understand what is going on, but we are seeing the symptoms that something is wrong. Sea level rise is something we will have to live with for many centuries if not millennia, even if we go to a totally decarbonized energy system,” said Zickfeld.

“If leaders on the federal level, and the provinces, are serious about meeting the targets they agreed to in Paris, then there is no room for pipelines or any other fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Figure SPM.1(a) Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomaly - Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC

Questioning Canada’s Fossil Fuel Emissions

I subsequently sent out the following statements with a request for responses:

  1. A number of climate scientists are saying we are already close to 1.5 degrees Celsius and, with the lack of commitment governments are showing, it is becoming increasingly unlikely we can hold the rise to 2 degrees.
  2. The extreme weather events we are witnessing today are the consequences of actions taken decades ago. It will be decades before we see the consequences of present actions.
  3. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Earth’s battery is running down. At the time of the Roman Empire, the Earth held 1,000 million tons of carbon in living biomass, and as a result of fossil fuel extraction (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.), deforestation, etc., the report says we have 550 million tons left, just above half. According to lead author John Schramski, “Eventually, without sufficient living biomass to run the biosphere, it simply doesn’t matter how much oil, solar, nuclear, etc. energy you have, as there is no biosphere left for humans to use it. Biomass is not an interchangeable energy. There is no replacement and we are depleting it rapidly.”
  4. Extreme weather events are already responsible for human deaths, and as the events get worse, the number of fatalities will increase.
  5. If the above is true, shouldn’t Canada put a stop to all expansions of the fossil fuel infrastructure? (Such as new pipelines, new LNG projects, etc..)

Figure SPM.1(b) Annually and globally averaged sea level change relative to the average over the period 1986 to 2005 in the longest-running dataset. Colours indicate different data sets. All datasets are aligned to have the same value in 1993, the rst year of satellite altimetry data (red). Where assessed, uncertainties are indicated by coloured shading. - Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC
The Conservative Party of Canada was the only political organization that did not reply, possibly because of its national convention.

The responses that follow are from:

  • Nathan Cullen, Member of Parliament for Skeena Bulkley Valley, in B.C., and Environment & Climate Change Critic for the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada
  • George Heyman, Member of Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Fairview, in B.C., and Opposition Spokesperson for Environment, Green Economy & Technology
  • Matt Horne, Associate Regional Director, British Columbia, the Pembina Institute & a member of B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team
  • Dale Marshall, National Program Manager at Environmental Defence
  • Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner, Wilderness Committee
  • Lynne Quarmby, professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University & Science Policy Critic for the Green Party of Canada
  • Spokesperson from British Columbia’s Ministry of the Environment
  • Spokesperson for Environment Canada
  • Spokesperson for Natural Resources Canada
  • Andrew Weaver, a former Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, Member of Legislative Assembly for Oak Bay – Gordon Head, & Leader of the B.C. Green Party
  • Matthew Williamson, Deputy Director of Communications from Office of the Premier of Alberta

1. Are We Close To A Global Temperature Rise Of 1.5 Degrees C?

A spokesperson from Environment Canada emailed, “Since the evolution of global temperature is observed over more than 150 years, temperature changes are collected over periods longer than just a few months. As a result, we suggest that you consult the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Executive Summary’s introduction for an overview of the temperature changes since the pre-industrial period: https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf.

Dale Marshall, from Environmental Defence, responded, “The planet has warmed by just under 1 degree C so far compared to pre-industrial times. Because the GHG/temperature system has inertia in it, some additional warming is certain. The question you are asking is whether we will for sure surpass 1.5 degrees C given the atmospheric concentration of GHGs. There haven’t been a lot of analyses done on the 1.5 degree limit but my understanding is that we are not destined to breach this threshold, though it’s clear that emissions will have to be decreased very quickly in order to limit warming to this temperature. With the Paris Agreement specifically citing the 1.5 degree limit, more scientific analyses will no doubt be coming out over the coming months and years, which will give us a clearer picture. Given that, I would say that the 1.5 degree limit is still possible but action has to be many times what has been committed. The 2 degree limit is very much still possible, though it will also require rapid and decisive action leading to a sharp reduction in global GHGs.”

Figure SPM.1(c) Atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2, green), methane (CH4, orange) and nitrous oxide (N2O, red) determined from ice core data (dots) and from direct atmospheric measurements (lines). Indicators. - Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC

George Heyman, British Columbia’s Opposition (NDP) Spokesperson for Environment, Green Economy and Technology, said, “It is certainly unlikely that we can hold the rise to 2 degrees if we continue to do nothing and fail to have a local, provincial, national and international climate action plans. In British Columbia, we have legislated targets for 2020 and 2050. The Government admits, and the Climate Leadership confirmed, that we are not going to meet the targets for 2020.  The Climate Action team made a number of recommendations, including new targets for 2030 and the existing target for 2050, and recently expressed deep concern that the provincial government failed to respond to its’ own appointed team in a timely manner. I share that concern.”

Matt Horne, of the Pembina Institute and a member of B.C’s Climate Leadership Team, wrote:

“If BC were to implement the climate leadership team’s recommendations, I absolutely think it would help. Taking action would stop carbon pollution from rising in BC and get the province back on track to its targets. It would also help contribute to national momentum and beyond as countries and sub-national jurisdictions begin to act on the Paris agreement.”

“At the same time, its also important to acknowledge that it wouldn’t be enough. All jurisdictions – including BC – will need to find ways of ramping up climate action if we’re going to reach that bar. That concept of increasing ambition over time was embedded in the Paris Agreement and the Vancouver Declaration, and should ultimately be embedded in BC’s climate plan.”

Dr. Lynne Quarmby, professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University and Green Party of Canada Critic for Science Policy, agreed with Dr. Zickfeld, “It is clear that we will soon pass an average anomaly of +1.5 degrees Celsius. While some governments are taking serious action on climate, Canada is not. Unless Canada and other laggards begin to act with the urgency required, I agree with the statement that it is unlikely that we can hold the rise to 2 degrees.”

Matthew Williamson, Deputy Director of Communications from Office of the Premier of Alberta, believes we can still keep within a 2 degree C average global temperature rise:

“The Government of Alberta accepts the science of climate change, and that it poses a real risk to Alberta’s economic and environmental well-being. Alberta cannot solve global climate change on its own, however, it can and will do its fair share to reduce emissions and to demonstrate leadership to other energy producing jurisdictions that significant action can be taken to reduce emissions and diversify the energy economy. Transitioning to a new low carbon future cannot be accomplished overnight.

This is discussed in the Climate Panel Report to the Environment Minister, “In the recently-released 2015 World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global supply of coal, oil, and natural gas in scenarios reflecting some additional action on greenhouse gases (New Policies) and aggressive action to meet a 2°C goal (450 ppm) are explored:

image003“As this figure shows, a global 2°C transition would imply eventual decreases in coal, oil, and natural gas use, but the transitions do not all involve decreases beginning at the same time or at the same rate. In a world with coordinated 2°C policies, we should expect that natural gas consumption will increase significantly above today’s levels and remain there through the next three decades, while coal would ideally decline quickly from today’s levels. Oil’s transition would likely lie between the two, with relative stability in the near term at today’s levels, followed by a decline to 2008 levels before 2030 and an accelerating decline rate over the next decade to 2040. Underlying all of this would be a significant push for energy efficiency, with total global energy consumption held close to today’s levels despite increasing population and economic growth. With these conditions in place, global emissions would peak by 2020 and decline rapidly to close to half today’s levels by 2040. In the IEA’s 450ppm scenario, roughly a 2°C trajectory, global emissions would be 20% above 1990 levels by 2030, and 9% below 1990 levels by 2040.”

2. Will The Consequences Of Present Climate Actions Be Future Events?

“That’s absolutely true.  I think it is human nature to only look at what is immediately in front of us, but what has been in front of us the last couple of years is increasing numbers and severity of forest fires and increasing levels of drought. I think California is in its eleventh year and the Northwest is in its second or third year. The predictions are that these will continue and get worse. We can’t wait to see the worst impacts before we take action, because they will be followed by many more years of impact. We need to both lessen our greenhouse gas emissions as well as adapt to the changes we are in the middle of today and will see more of in the future. We really can’t continue to act as if we have a lot of time to make decisions because it is pretty clear that we don’t,” said Mr Heyman.

The spokesperson from Environment Canada emailed, “Climate change is occurring globally. This is evidenced by changes in average temperature and precipitation; melting snow, glaciers, and sea ice; thawing permafrost; and changes in extremes including heat waves, droughts, and floods. While it is difficult to attribute a particular extreme event to climate change, scientists have shown that anthropogenic climate change has played a role in altering the probability or severity of certain extreme events.”

Mr Marshall added, “Over the short- to medium-term, the planet will continue to warm. Extreme weather events are therefore going to get worse, since they are a product of the amount of energy in the atmospheric system. So action we are taking today are to limit warming and extreme weather events in the future. I’d say that includes near-term events as well as those that are years or decades away.”

To which Dr. Quarmby added,

“In addition to extreme weather events, the uneven warming means that in some areas the temperature increase will be much higher than average, exacerbating droughts and supporting hotter and more frequent wildfires. There will be deluges and floods. We are seeing loss of snow pack that will worsen water shortages. Changing weather patterns and unusual temperatures will continue to accelerate the rate of species extinctions. We are currently losing species faster than at any time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. In the oceans, warming, acidification, changing currents and reduced oxygen are already causing loss of marine species. Sea level rise will impact coastal cities around the globe. The extreme weather will impact food production and distribution and the cost of food will continue to rise.”

Figure SPM.1(d) Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions from forestry and other land use as well as from burning of fossil fuel, cement production and aring. Cumulative emissions of CO2 from these sources and their uncertainties are shown as bars and whiskers, respectively, on the right hand side. The global effects of the accumulation of CH4 and N2O emissions are shown in panel c. Greenhouse gas emission data from 1970 to 2010 are shown in Figure SPM.2. {Figures 1.1, 1.3, 1.5} - Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC

3. Is The Earth’s Battery “Running Down”?

Mr Heyman said, (the PNAS report’s statement that we are rapidly going through our planet’s carbon reserves) ” … is a very technical scientific question and I am not qualified to answer. What I can say is that we know that biomass stores carbon and therefore we have to do as much as possible to maintain biomass that sequesters carbon in its natural state.”

Mr Marshall wrote, “There is no doubt that the loss of biodiversity is an existential problem for humans and other life forms. The earth’s biosphere is what sustains human life and our high quality of life because, without it, we don’t have clean air, clean water, or plentiful food. The depletion of the biosphere and biodiversity is therefore a problem that has to be addressed in parallel with climate change. Like climate change, we know what the solutions are, we just don’t know whether humans will collectively implement them or not.”

A spokesperson from Natural Resources Canada responded,

“The main contribution of the PNAS paper is to stress the importance of maintaining a critical level of biomass for sustaining global ecosystem process and not to describe changes in living biomass over time.

“The paper uses another study (Smil V (2011) Harvesting the biosphere: The human impact.Popul Dev Rev 37(4):613–636) to report on biomass losses due to human activities during the last centuries. The methodology used by Smil is unclear. It is therefore difficult to give an opinion on the accuracy of the statement.

“Essentially, the answer will vary depending on the time period and on the region considered. Over the past decades, the use of reliable data indicated that forest were globally still a carbon sink but conservation effort should be maintained and enhanced in certain region for this function to remain.”

Dr. Quarmby also had questions about the PNAS study:

“While I agree that there is a crisis, I don’t find the analysis in this paper to be particularly useful and my reasons are too many to cite here. Suffice to say: Based on my understanding of the science and the insufficient action of governments, it is almost certainly true that it is now too late for an orderly transition to a post-carbon economy. Human society is in for a rough ride. Will we survive as a species? Will life on earth survive? The ultimate answer to both of those questions is probably no. But life will almost certainly survive human-caused climate change – that is to say, some creatures will make it, others won’t, and new species will arise. Humans? Yes, I think that we will make it, with some tremendous and welcome reorganization of our societies.”

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4. Will The Number & Severity of Extreme Weather Events Increase?

“This is almost certainly true,” wrote Dr. Quarmby.

Mr Marshall agreed, “The data is clear that the number of extreme weather events is increasing at a rapid rate, leading to higher risks for human life.”

A spokesperson from Environment Canada emailed, “Climate change is expected to affect the intensity and frequency of extremes.”

“I think everybody knows we are seeing more extreme weather events, more frequently. While it is difficult to pin any one forest fire or weather event on climate change, the pattern is clear. There are fatalities, as well as significant destruction of property, living space, infrastructure and economic damage. All of this is another reason governments at every level need to work together to develop a climate action plan,” said Mr Heyman.

Wildfire - courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services via Flickr (Public Domain)

5. Should Canada Build New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure?

A spokesperson from Environment Canada emailed, “The Government of Canada has been clear that our aim is for development to occur in an environmentally sustainable manner. A strong economy and a clean environment go hand-in-hand. Reducing emissions will make our economy more competitive, not less. All Canadians need to work together to reduce our environmental footprint as we focus on economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

Mr Williamson, from the Office of the Premier of Alberta, wrote:

“Importantly, according to the IEA, a 2°C policy path is not inconsistent with significant investments in any of the major fossil fuel categories, including oil and gas. In fact, they estimate that almost $20 trillion will still be invested globally, between now and 2040, to meet oil and gas demand under their 450ppm scenario. They estimate that a further $50 trillion will be invested globally in cleaner electricity supply and end-use efficiency. Global markets for all forms of energy supply and technology will present opportunities for Alberta as the world acts on climate change.”

“This is why the Government of Alberta has chosen to phase out coal-fired emissions by 2030, and invest in renewables as well as energy efficiency. It is also why the government believes that developing its conventional energy resources are consistent with doing its fair share to address global climate change, so long as those resources are developed in a responsible and increasingly carbon competitive nature. This is why the Climate Leadership Plan includes an emissions limit on oilsands production, as well as introducing an economy wide carbon levy to drive the most cost effective emissions reductions across the province. This policy suite is amongst the most aggressive in North America, particularly amongst energy producing jurisdictions.”

Mr Heyman added,

“I don’t know that Canada should put a stop to all fossil fuel infrastructure, but if what the scientist and politicians themselves are telling us is true – that we need to be almost entirely weaned off fossil fuels by 2050 – then whatever development we do needs to be in that context. Everyone needs to know that we are in the process of winding down, not winding up.

“The greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel projects has to be part of their environmental assessment and has to fit within an overall greenhouse gas emission plan.

“The recent recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team in B.C. said ‘within this plan there is room for some development of Liquid Natural Gas under these conditions that would control the emissions associated with upstream extraction, transport, and liquefaction.’ I am neither an engineer or a scientist, and I have to assume that this team of people from the business community, First Nations, local government and the environmental movement worked with people who did both the emissions and economic modelling to come up with these answers.”

A spokesperson from British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment emailed:

  • The Climate Leadership Team’s report showed we can have an LNG industry while achieving our GHG reduction goals.
  • Our greenhouse gas emissions benchmark will make B.C.’s LNG facilities the cleanest in the world, and our LNG facilities will pay one of the highest carbon taxes in the world.
  • B.C. is already making progress in reducing upstream emissions.
  • We’ve brought in rules which have virtually eliminated routine flaring.
  • We are addressing methane emissions, in part through a leak detection program.
  • We’re increasingly using electricity to power gas production, with further electrification underway so we can substantially reduce emissions.
  • And as part of the world’s cleanest LNG we’re establishing a technology fund that will allow for further investments in upstream methane reductions.
  • We are also working closely with industry/stakeholders to identify other ways to reduce emissions, including carbon capture and storage. We are working on a regulatory framework for this now.
  • As well, climate change is a global issue. By supplying the cleanest burning fossil fuel possible, B.C. can contribute to global development and the fight against climate change.
  • For example, B.C.’s LNG could play a critical role in helping China reduce its use of coal-fired electricity.
  • We know the lifecycle GHG emissions of B.C. LNG would be 20 per cent lower than those from coal produced and consumed in China.
  • The amount of emissions the country could avoid is twice B.C.’s entire GHG emissions output.

Pipeline by Jasonwoodhead23 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

To which Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute,  a member of B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team, responded:

“The main issue I have with the comments is that the BC government has not acted on the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations. The modelling underpinning our work did include some LNG development proceeding and it showed that it was possible to get back on track for the province’s climate targets if they implemented the full package of recommendations we provided. To date, they haven’t moved on any of those recommendations and as a result carbon pollution is rising and projected to continue rising based on the current policies in place.

“A second point to make is regarding climate change being a global issue. While I agree that climate change is a global issue, I disagree with the province’s arguments about LNG exports for two reasons. First, they assume that LNG exports will be displacing coal, but they could just as easily be competing with other sources of gas, or delaying investments in renewables and energy efficiency. Second, whether exports of LNG increase or decrease emissions in Asia, Canada is ultimately still responsible for the emissions it produces – that’s the international framework we are a part of and for the world to have any chance of being successful, all jurisdictions need to play by the rules.”

B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver, a former Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, emailed, “All of the statements (global temperature increase is close to 1.5 degrees; the Earth’s battery is running down; extreme weather events will increase, etc.) are accurate from a scientific perspective. And yes, that means it makes no sense at all to invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“Building new fossil fuel infrastructure during our climate crisis will only make things worse. New pipelines and LNG projects would last for decades, long after the world needs to have abandoned fossil fuels. At the Paris climate talks, world leaders agreed to do everything possible to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Yet we are already approaching those temperatures. We cannot expand the tar sands or build a new LNG industry if we are to have any hope of a safe climate,”added Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee.

Dr. Quarmby responded, “It breaks my heart that Canada is still talking about building new fossil fuel infrastructure including pipelines, LNG projects, and coal ports. The world likes Canada. We are not heavyweights when it comes to shifting the global carbon story, but we can be trend setters. If Canada were to step up and start taking bold action, the world would notice. The world would find the courage to follow. To me, this is a moral issue. No matter how dire things might seem, to not act effectively and urgently on climate is to do violence to others – our children and those living in places hit hardest by the new extremes, such as the heat today in India. Recently, when Minister McKenna approved the Woodfibre LNG facility, I felt ill.”

Parliament Hill in Ottawa by tsaiproject via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

The Need For Clear Set Targets

George Heyman, the NDP critic for the Environment, said:

“I think it is the responsibility of both the Provincial and Federal Governments to develop a Climate Action Plan that enables us to meet the targets we need to meet as our responsibility to address climate change. It is only when we have targets, and a plan to meet them sector by sector, that we can create the climate where people who are looking at any kind of development understand the overall rules under which we are operating. That has been lacking in British Columbia. It has led to a lot of uncertainty, concern about climate implications and a lack of social license. For environmental reasons, as well as economic, we need to get on with it …. If we fail to do that we will be making ad hoc decisions that are quite possibly irresponsible and certainly won’t help us get to the carbon free future that we need if we are going to have communities in which we can live.”

Matt Horne, from BC’s Climate Leadership Team, wrote:

“If BC were to implement the climate leadership team’s recommendations, I absolutely think it would help. Taking action would stop carbon pollution from rising in BC and get the province back on track to its targets. It would also help contribute to national momentum and beyond as countries and sub-national jurisdictions begin to act on the Paris agreement.”

“At the same time, its also important to acknowledge that it wouldn’t be enough. All jurisdictions – including BC – will need to find ways of ramping up climate action if we’re going to reach that bar. That concept of increasing ambition over time was embedded in the Paris Agreement and the Vancouver Declaration, and should ultimately be embedded in BC’s climate plan.”

“The (Federal) NDP applauded the federal government’s commitment in Paris to a 1.5 degree target, but we are disappointed with their continued lack of a clear set of targets, and accountability mechanisms to ensure targets are achieved. Canadians recognize that the science of climate change is real and pressing, and that’s why they voted overwhelmingly for change last October. The Liberals must match their rhetoric with real action. Canada and the planet cannot afford any more delay and dithering.” emailed M.P. Nathan Cullen, Environment & Climate Change Critic for the Federal NDP.

Dale Marshall, from Environmental Defence, added, “Canada should put a stop to all energy projects that do not allow us to fulfill our commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change. That’s why the federal government should implement a climate test for all energy projects. This test would allow the Canadian government to determine if an energy project under consideration is compatible with limiting warming to well below 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees. Any project that does not allow Canada to do its fair share to limit warming as laid out in the Paris Agreement should not be approved.”
Johnson Lake Banff Alberta Canada by davesblogg007 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

A Distillation of Arguments

  • I interviewed (by email or Skype) a dozen participants for the report above. Three were scientists (Zickfeld, Quarmby, Weaver), three were environmentalists (from Environmental Defence, the Pembina Institute & Wilderness Committee), two were British Columbian M.L.A.s (Heyman, Weaver), and one was an M.P. from British Columbia (Cullen). There were also spokespersons from the governments of Alberta, B.C. and Canada.
  • Everyone agreed that climate change is real, and that the associated extreme weather events are getting worse, and actions must be taken to combat it.
  • Though everyone agrees we are burning up the world’s biomass, no one endorsed the PNAS study that suggests close to 50% is gone. Both Dr Quarmby and Natural Resources Canada question that report.
  • All three of the participating scientists believe that the average global temperature rise is close to 1.5 degrees C, though we have not yet crossed that threshold. Though we were already at 1.6 degrees in February, the spokesperson from Environment Canada was correct when he said average global temperatures are measured over longer periods of time. Dr Zickfeld said we may cross that threshold this year.
  • Spokespersons from all three governments stated that we can continue to expand the nation’s fossil fuel infrastructure and should be able to keep the global temperature rise under 2 degrees:
    • The Environment Canada spokesperson expressed this as a matter of policy: “The Government of Canada has been clear that our aim is for …,” rather than scientific opinion.
    • The BC Ministry of the Environment spokesperson cited their Climate Leadership Team’s report’s conclusions that BC can have an LNG industry & still achieve its emission goals – but the province has yet to implement the recommendations that the report states would make “SOME LNG development” possible.
    • The Government of Alberta spokesperson agreed the world is going to be winding down fossil fuel development, but cited the International Energy Agency’s recently released 2015 report that states there is still room to expand fossil fuel infrastructure “so long as those resources are developed in a responsible and increasingly carbon competitive nature.”
  • Some of the other respondents agreed (Pembina Institute, BC NDP) that some fossil fuel development should be possible, providing it fits within the overreaching objectives of a climate action plan.
  • Others (including all three scientists) disagree: “it makes no sense at all to invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
  • Many of the respondents believe we will not be able to hold global warming under the 2 degree C threshold and the most commonly cited reason is the lack of a clear plan, with a set of targets, and accountability mechanisms to ensure targets are achieved.

Image Credits: Clyde Inlet in the foggy flat and vertical of a yin-yang landscape, north shore of Baffin Island, Nunavut. The large boulder of artisan marble was transported from way-inland by a now-melted, once fiord-filling alpine glacier – By Mike Beauregard via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Figure SPM.1(a) Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomaly – Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers; Figure SPM.1(b) Annually and globally averaged sea level change relative to the average over the period 1986 to 2005 in the longest-running dataset. Colours indicate different data sets. All datasets are aligned to have the same value in 1993, the rst year of satellite altimetry data (red). Where assessed, uncertainties are indicated by coloured shading. – Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC; Figure SPM.1(c) Atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2, green), methane (CH4, orange) and nitrous oxide (N2O, red) determined from ice core data (dots) and from direct atmospheric measurements (lines). Indicators. – Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC; Chart of emissions scenarios supplied by the Government of Alberta; Figure SPM.1(d) Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions from forestry and other land use as well as from burning of fossil fuel, cement production and bring  Cumulative emissions of CO2 from these sources and their uncertainties are shown as bars and whiskers, respectively, on the right hand side. The global effects of the accumulation of CH4 and N2O emissions are shown in panel c. Greenhouse gas emission data from 1970 to 2010 are shown in Figure SPM.2. {Figures 1.1, 1.3, 1.5} – Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, IPCC; Photo of Clearcutting in B.C. courtesy Mark Worthing of Sierra Club BC;Wildfire – courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services via Flickr (Public Domain); Pipeline by Jasonwoodhead23 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Parliament Hill in Ottawa by tsaiproject via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Johnson Lake Banff Alberta Canada by davesblogg007 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)


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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • Thomas Digby

    Fact check alert: the Schramski PNAS paper refers to 1,000 “billion” tons declining to 550 billion tons. Not “million”. It’s an imaginative paper, good to see science unafraid to postulate and explore. Not necessarily convincing.

  • Larry

    I see from the responses in this article that the fossil fuel industry owns the politicians in Canada too

    • Craig Hutcheson

      You bet yah they do!

  • Eric Lukac-Kuruc

    Ailment of the FF promoters hereabove: schizophrenia.

  • Harry Johnson

    “Even if we stopped (producing) emissions tomorrow, the … (change would not be noticeable) for a very long time.”
    This is the most important point. Most people probably think that when climate change starts to get really bad, we’ll just switch over and everything will be fine.

  • nakedChimp

    As long as the economic elite of this planet are not affected by this in a severe way we’ll keep stumbling along and react instead of act.
    They need servants, yacht builders, caviar breeders, private jet captains and 1000’s of other things which rely on an army of people that need to have a ‘normal’ life who themselves rely on an even bigger army of people that support them.
    I just don’t get why there is no sense of ownership and responsibility by this elite for that very society and ecosystem that carries them?

    Back in 1989.. etc.. East Germany, I remember the elite being so out of touch and shielded from the problems of the underlings that they let it slip and we luckily got a peaceful ending of that one.

    I can’t help it but having a Déjà vu.

    It’s just so bizarre.. they have think tanks and all this information accessible to them and still, nothing.
    What do I miss?

    • NorthP

      Getting elected

  • Tom Capon

    All pessimism aside, this would all be much simpler if these politicians would wake up and realize the only “fair share” for anyone who wants to save the planet is a 100% reduction by 2040. There is much less room for negotiation once you accept that.

  • JamesWimberley

    If the current plateau in global emissions turns into a real decline, the 450ppm/2 deg C target should be doable with commonsense extensions of existing policies. Thus includes winding down pointless investments in oil and gas infrastructure.

    The target we are set to breach is 1.5 deg C. Meeting this requires a crash programme to speed up the energy transition, with serious carbon taxes, zero-emission city centres and the like. My guess is that we won’t see this before 2020, when it will be too late to meet the target by emissions cuts alone.

    At that point we will have to switch to a double crash programme: eliminating the remaining emissions by 2040, and a huge sequestration project funded by the carbon taxes.

    • Xander66

      we were already at 1.6 degrees in February

    • Xander66

      “A number of climate scientists are saying we are already close to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

      Except: We were already at 1.6 degrees in February

      “It is becoming increasingly unlikely we can hold the rise to 2 degrees”.

      Ya think!!!!

      The extreme weather events we are witnessing today are the consequences of actions taken decades ago (1975). It will be decades before we see the consequences of present actions

      • brunurb

        “All three of the participating scientists believe
        that the average global temperature rise is close to 1.5 degrees C,
        though we have not yet crossed that threshold. Though we were already at 1.6 degrees in February, the spokesperson from Environment Canada was correct when he said average global temperatures are measured over longer periods of time. Dr Zickfeld said we may cross that threshold this year.”

        yes, it was already 1.6 in February, but the point they are trying to make is that the “1.5” number is averaged out over more than just a single month. What if March was 1.3? (just playing devil’s advocate here, i’m fairly certain that it will be 1.5 or over for the entire year, but it’s too early to determine that yet)

        • Xander66

          You’re right of course, but note, I didn’t say “1.6 C average global temperature”, I said “1.6 C in February”, but I can see how it could be interpreted as though I had meant “1.6 C AGT” because I used the word “already”.

          Having said that, conditions are now favourable for La Niña to emerge and by August it “should” bring some cooling which could assist in the formation of hurricanes that favour hurricane strikes in Texas, Florida, the Southeast, and New England.

          La Niña winters are typically colder than average in the Northeast, so the big blizzards will be gone and it’s possible that AGT could remain below 1.5 C for 2016 and maybe even 2017. This El Niño was a MONSTER.

  • nakedChimp

    I had trouble understanding this sentence:

    “At the time of the Roman Empire, the Earth held 1,000 million tons of
    carbon in living biomass, and as a result of fossil fuel extraction
    (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.), deforestation, etc., the report says we
    have 550 million tons left, just above half.”

    Might want to modify the last part a bit to make it more clear what is meant.
    I think the ‘and’ after biomass is the “confusor”..

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