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Newfoundland preps for more offshore oil as climate crisis deepens

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment

An advance leak from the forthcoming United Nations (U.N.) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on Oceans and Cryosphere confirms that the climate crisis is deepening. According to the leak, the U.N. report concludes that changes to global oceans, glaciers, and melting permafrost will unleash disaster upon the world including drought, floods, hunger and destruction unless dramatic action is taken to reduce global carbon emissions immediately.

It is against this backdrop that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced plans to drill 100 new offshore exploration wells and dramatically increase its oil production by 2030, thereby roughly tripling the oil and gas sector’s carbon emissions. The province is currently carrying out a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (RSEA) of its offshore exploration drilling plans, which included a climate change session.

As a participant in this process, I made the simple mathematical point during one of the sessions that the province cannot possibly meet its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target if it proceeds with its drilling plans in the offshore. What’s more, carbon emissions from the full production of currently operating oil and gas fields and coal mines across the world will already lead to a global temperature rise above the 2 degrees Celsius limit set in Paris in 2017 by the U.N., much less the aspirational 1.5C target.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s emissions target for 2030 is 6.9 million tonnes (megatonnes) of carbon dioxide. If the province triples oil production as it intends to do, this would mean that emissions from this sector alone in 2030 would account for an estimated 4.9 Mt of this target, or 71%, making it virtually impossible for the province to reach its emissions reduction goals.

Representatives of oil companies attending the RSEA session responded by saying that, while this analysis is true, Newfoundland and Labrador’s contribution to Canada’s and the planet’s carbon emissions is small and therefore inconsequential. Moreover, the world will need oil for the foreseeable future so if oil and gas is not produced in the province, it will simply be produced elsewhere. This response is commonly heard in defense of the oil and gas industry in Canada in an effort to stymie efforts to reign in emissions and question the long-term viability of the industry.

Here’s the thing. Either we are serious about our Paris commitments or we are not. We cannot pretend we will meet our global emissions reduction targets while continuing to expand fossil fuel production at the same time. This is what is commonly known as cognitive dissonance, the act of holding two contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time and believing them both to be true.

It is simply not true that that the world will continue to use oil and gas long at increasing rates into the future *IF* we are serious about our carbon reduction commitments. Asserting the future inevitability of oil and gas is a bet against Canada and the world meeting its Paris targets. If on the other hand, we are serious about meeting the Paris targets, then the demise of oil and gas becomes a mathematical inevitability. We cannot both expand fossil fuel production AND reduce emissions at the same time.

While it is true that some energy projections assert that the world will continue to need fossil fuels for decades to come, this is not the case if the world is to stay within 2C of warming, let alone 1.5 degrees. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook in 2012 stated that “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned, leaving up to 80% of assets technically unburnable.” In 2015, the Bank of England warned that policies designed to limit carbon emissions could mean some fossil fuels become “stranded assets”, with the Bank’s governor adding that “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2 degrees C.” Even the oil giant Shell conceded in 2013 “in a world where the 2C limit is imposed and achieved, most of the future value generation of the companies involved will never be realized.”

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well of the rest of Canada, has come to a moment of reckoning. Why even bother setting targets in the first place if we are not serious about meeting them?

Interview with Dr. Renee Lertzman

May 2, 2018 Leave a comment

Part 1:

Part 2:

I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Renee Lertzman this week. Her work has bridged psychological research and sustainability, and she translates complex psychological and social science research insights into clear tools for change. Renee is the author of Environmental Melancholia: Psychological dimensions of engagement and she says that understanding human behaviour at the deepest level is an absolute imperative if we are to address climate change.

Renee is an internationally recognized thought leader and adviser, and works with organizations and individuals from government, business, and non-governmental sectors. She has a PhD from the Cardiff School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University and is currently a full-time applied researcher and advisor.

Earthgauge News – Nov. 5, 2017

November 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Edition #5 of the Earthgauge News podcast for the week of Nov. 5, 2017.

A weekly Canadian environmental news podcast featuring stories from across Canada and around the world.

Join me here every Monday or subscribe in iTunes or your favourite podcast catcher.

On the show this week:

  • Parts of the historic Rideau Canal in Ottawa has been declared a contaminated site
  • Woodland caribou in Canada continue to decline
  • Nova Scotia watersheds are bouncing  back from decades of acid rain damage
  • BC coastal killer whales will be given additional federal protections
  • Hundreds of sea turtles have been found dead off the coast of El Salvador.
  • 25,000 people marched in the streets of Bonn ahead of the COP23 climate talks
  • Eco-friendly furniture is becoming the way of the future

Earthgauge News – Oct. 30, 2017

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Edition #4 of the Earthgauge News podcast for the week of Oct. 30, 2017.

A weekly Canadian environmental news podcast featuring stories from across Canada and around the world.

Join me here every Monday or subscribe in iTunes or your favourite podcast catcher.

On the show this week:

  • Could owning a car become a thing of the past? 
  • The calming effects of nature
  • Giant oil companies are paying less taxes in Canada than elsewhere
  • The state of Victoria in Australia is the latest place to ban plastic bags
  • Fossil fuel consumption in Canada is projected to peak by 2019, but global CO2 levels shot up at record levels in 2016. 

 

Greenland Inuit Village Fights for Survival

January 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Uummannaq

The people of Uummannaq are trying to adapt in order to survive. Photo: Mark Brooks

My documentary on the impacts of climate change in the Greenlandic village of Uummannaq aired in December on the Deutsche Welle international radio program Living Planet. I recorded and produced this report while working as the on-board journalist during the 2013 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition.

Located on a small island off the Greenland coast, 600 km (372 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Uummannaq is one of many Inuit communities in the North that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Not only is the massive Greenlandic ice sheet melting, sea ice is starting to disappear too. This is causing serious difficulties for those working in the local fishing industry who depend on reliable sea ice conditions for their daily catch.

Uummannaq-fishermen

Fishermen in Uummannaq. Photo: Mark Brooks

Traditionally, fishers here worked on a dog sled on the sea ice in winter and by boat when the ice melted in the summer. But now, as the ice is melting earlier and becoming less stable, there is a period of several months in the spring when the ice is not strong enough to hold dog sleds but can also not be penetrated by small fishing boats. This is leading to a host of social and economic problems for the small community.

Click here to listen to the documentary. The text of the story with accompanying photos is available on the DW web site.

Deutsche Welle Living Planet 2013 Arctic Diary

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

This week, Deutsche Welle Living Planet broadcast the first of my audio diaries from the Students on Ice 2013 Arctic Expedition. This first audio postcard captures the reflections of Canadian high school student Gerrit Wesselink as he travels up the western coast of Greenland and across the Davis Strait to Baffin Island and the eastern Canadian Arctic. Gerrit talks about his experiences on the trip, which include polar bear sightings, zodiac cruises in a field of giant icebergs and witnessing first-hand the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.

Click here to listen to the audio diary.

DW Living Planet is an award-winning international program that explores environmental issues facing the world today and analyzes environmental policies,  new technologies,  innovative projects and the state of the planet’s environment.

EG Radio May 16: Our last show of the season! The human costs of climate change with Andrew Guzman

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

[audio https://earthgauge.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/earthgauge-podcast-may16-2013.mp3]9780199933877

This week is our last show before the summer break! I’m taking a few months off to recharge the batteries so we’re ready to come back strong in September for an all new season. On today’s program, we’re going to hear an interview from our friends at Generation Anthropocene who talked recently with international law expert Andrew Guzman. He has taken a step back from analyzing climate change in terms of precise temperature changes, melting glaciers and meters of sea level rise and breaks down all the ways climate change will affect humanity, from environmental refugees to changing disease patterns to social conflict. His new book, Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change, illustrates how nearly all of our human systems interact with climate and will feel the effects of even a 2 degrees C rise in average global temperatures.

We’ll also have our usual update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns. This week’s listing includes the Great Glebe Green Garage Sale happening on May 25. It’s a huge annual event in Ottawa that you won’t want to miss.

Right click here to download the whole program.

Interesting times indeed on the environmental front these days and the summer ahead should be an eventful one. Earlier this week the world passed an ominous milestone when atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold for the first time in human history. That’s right folks, when the industrial revolution began, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere was roughly 280 ppm but after a couple hundred years of burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil, we have emitted enough carbon into the air to push CO2 levels to 400 ppm. The last time the world saw this level of CO2 in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today. Many scientists believe these conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilization, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.

The world’s governments have agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees C, the level beyond which some scientists feel catastrophic warming could become unstoppable. We’ve already seen about 1 degree of warming but the International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. With no slowing of emissions seen to date, there is already mounting pressure on the UN summit in Paris in 2015, which is the deadline to settle a binding international treaty to curb emissions.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, the excellent columnist George Monbiot called the 400 ppm milestone a moment of symbolic significance on the road to idiocy. It represents “a profound failure of politics, in which democracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.”

Meanwhile back here in Canada, this comes at a time when the voters in B.C. have returned the Liberal government of Christy Clark to power, much to everyone’s surprise. The NDP, who just about everyone expected to win the election, had opposed both the proposed Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipelines from Alberta to the BC coast. The Liberal government has not ruled these projects out. Instead Clark has set some stringent conditions that must be met before her government will give its support, at least to the Gateway proposal. Let’s remember that the production of tar sands crude is estimated to emit 14 to 20 percent more planet-warming gases than the conventional oil that is typically found in U.S. refineries.

Will the pipeline projects now go ahead? And what about Keystone XL? A decision by President Obama on this project is expected in the coming months. Against this backdrop, we hear an interview today with international law expert Andrew Guzman, courtesy of the excellent podcast Generation Anthropocene, in which Guzman discusses his new book ‘Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change‘.

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