Climate Change
December 11, 2019

The Permafrost and Us: An Analysis (and Plea) by Mike Brown

The posts today are like the weather: gloomy, but it’s the environment we live in.

The Washington Post just featured this report: The Arctic may have crossed key threshold, emitting billions of tons of carbon into the air, in a long-dreaded climate feedback.

Mike Brown, who was a member of Vancouver’s Clouds of Change Task force 30 years ago (the first report by a municipality on climate change), has been doing analysis and raising questions with respect to Canada’s permafrost (and our responsibility) with urgency and trepidation.

Here is his update:

An article from the Washington Post is making its rounds today. Permafrost thaw has made the mainstream!

It refers to two reports* about the state of affairs.  Each says that there’s evidence that the annual net emissions (thaw in winter months minus growth in summer months) from the permafrost are now about .6 Pg of Carbon.  Here is a quote from the NOAA Arctic Report:

“ . . .  suggests that carbon release in the cold season offsets net carbon uptake during the growing season (derived from models) such that the region as a whole could already be a source of 0.6 Pg C per year to the atmosphere.”

Here is what the reports don’t mention.

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That head has to be a contender for a ‘most boring headline’ contest, right up there with the previous winner: ‘Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.’  Every word a snoozer, including ‘an’ and ‘for.’

For bonus points, it’s about a pumping station!

What makes the project worthy of attention is this:  “Although the pump station had a budget of $4.17 million through the provincial grant, the project actually came in $600,000 under budget.”

So what happened to the $600,000 they didn’t spend?

“Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced at the pump opening that the leftover funds would stay in the District of Kent for drainage.”

Kent saves money; Kent gets to keep money.

Here’s the part of the province we’re talking about:

This is a very soggy place; it was where the great flood of 1948 began.  Indeed, the District of Kent was incorporated … “for the reason of being able to borrow money so they could get drainage work done,” the mayor said. “It’s been something that we’ve always been working on for 125 years, and more than likely well into the future.”

Oh yeah, “well into the future” – as places like this are impacted by climate change in numerous and devastating ways.  The infrastructure costs to adapt and mitigate are going to be massive.  By rewarding Kent for making its millions go further, the Province is setting a precedent and sending a message: stretching dollars on infrastructure to deal with climate change is going to be worth your while.

 

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Finally the SUV (sport utility vehicle)  epidemic which is killing pedestrians and responsible for an alarming uptake in automobile emissions is getting  national press attention.  I have been writing about the fact that SUVs are the second largest contributor to the global increase in CO2 emissions in the last ten years. The power industry is the biggest contributor. Other industries such as cement, iron and steel production and trucks and aviation lag behind the emissions produced by these vehicles.

The SUV is the automobile manufacturer’s cash cow, getting around the usual standard safety regulations required for cars because it is built on a truck platform. These SUVs are not built for city driving where they are now recognized as killing machines. Trucks and SUVs suck up 60 percent of all vehicular sales, and the SUV is solely responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths. A pedestrian is twice as likely to die being hit by the higher front end of an SUV.  Statistics show that drivers in these massive rolling living rooms are 11 percent more likely to die driving one.

Here’s the math: currently 25 percent of global oil is for vehicular consumption and related CO2 emissions. SUVs are responsible for an  emission increase by .55 Gt CO2 to 0.7 Gt CO2, as they require 25% more energy than the average mid-sized vehicle. Even with more “efficient” SUVs, this form of vehicle is the reason that there is a 3.3. million oil barrels a day of growth in the last eight years. That’s 3.3. million barrels a day of oil so that people can ferry themselves and family around in an overbuilt, oversized den-like vehicle.

The International Energy Agency has a big warning that the enchantment with SUV’s will undo the progressive shift to electric cars, by requiring an additional two million barrels a day of global oil by 2040, directly offsetting the carbon emission savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

As Naomi Buck in the Globe and Mail states: Savvy marketing persuades buyers that SUVs are safe, comfortable and prestigious. And even if the ads show them carving through magnificent outdoor landscapes or parked next to glinting oceans, that’s not what these vehicles are really about. To quote Mercedes-Benz’s promotion of its latest G-class SUV: “More spacious. More special. Welcome to the great indoors.”

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If you are on the 2200 block of West 4th  in Vancouver there is a striking transformation at Leis de Buds which gets you thinking about Seasonal Stuff. Firstly right beside a handy bench is a mailbox waiting for your letter from Santa.  And west of this mailbox is the best ever little geodesic dome housing seasonal~and not so seasonal fragrant plants.

The whole effect at night is simply magical with the glow from the dome. It also talks about the importance of having different articulation on commercial storefront facades to allow such a temporary transformation with the glowing dome. It also provides light in the tiny plaza with a scale comfortable enough to sit in and relax.

 

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Around the region, a new generation of civic leaders is emerging – councillors like Nathan Pachal in Langley, Patrick Johnstone in New West, Matthew Bond and Jordan Back in North Vancouver District, Tony Valente in North Van City – GenXers and first of the Millenniums. . Like Dylan Kruger – at 23, the youngest councillor to be elected in the history of Delta. . . These newcomers do not all fall on one part of the ideological spectrum, but they do share a common generational perspective.  As described by Dylan in his notes on a divisive rezoning this week: .
It is not sustainable in the long run, to see a vast exodus of folks in their 20s and 30s (from Delta). We cannot have an exclusionary community based on income, any more than we can have a community segregated by age. Delta needs to be what it has always been – a place where everyone is welcome, and where there are housing options for you, regardless of what the numbers are on your birth certificate or your income tax return. .
The proposal in question was for a 35-storey high-rise on Scott Road and 75A, which included an affordable housing component that would see 70 units (20%) offered under the Affordable Home Ownership Program in partnership with BC Housing.  . Cllr Dylan Kruger voted in favour, along with Mayor Harvie, but the rest of council voted against and the proposal, after a contentious public hearing, decisively lost.  Knowing this was a critical vote, Kruger took the opportunity to write out his position.   Here is an abridged version (the full text can be found here). . . A Vote for Delta’s Future . I think this is a well-put together application. The building is aesthetically pleasing, and would certainly be a Delta landmark if approved. The unit mix is appropriate for the desired market, which is first time home owners, young professionals, young families and seniors looking to downsize. … Read more »