Climate Change
February 18, 2019

A Shift to Renewables in Alberta?

 

Here are three interesting items that are linked to sustainability and surprisingly  involve the province of Alberta. As noted on Twitter by @TheGentYYC some extraordinary initiatives are moving that province in a greener direction. First off,  that Canadian oil stalwart, Petro Canada is building a network of Electric Vehicle (EV) fast charging stations across Canada.

Petro Canada says “Keeping people moving is what we do, and we know that Canadians needs are evolving. We want to help you along your journey, which is why we are building a cross-Canada network of EV fast charge stations. To keep you moving toward what matters most to you.”

As @TheGentYYC points out Petro Canada is owned by Suncor, the world’s largest producer of bitumen. Suncor had a revenue of over 29 billion dollars in 2015 and owns the oils sands plant near Fort McMurray.  For Suncor to sponsor electric vehicle charging stations is a “tectonic event” and suggestive of a major policy shift in “corporate climate leadership”.

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With another mention of Clouds of Change in the latest Cambie Report podcast, as well as Gord’s post yesterday (plus past posts on the topic), it’s worth sharing some of the back story.

As late as the 1980s, the climate science conversation was still terra incognito within civic government. So, as with today, it came down to the people who decided to lead the conversations, and bring them to action — first and foremost, the City of Vancouver Task Force on Atmospheric Change.

Recalls Task Force member, and Vancouver city councillor (1999-2005) Fred Bass:

We met every Saturday morning for a year, to look at recommendations to the city about global warming. And I saw the CO2 curve going up like that.

And I’m enough of a scientist, and also I think a fairly good assessor of information, that when I saw the CO2 curve going out of control, I thought, “This is terrible. This is awful.”

Many of the people who participated are still around; a few, like Mark Roseland, principal researcher on Clouds of Change, former professor and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at SFU, and now Director of the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University, are not.

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In the current PriceTalks episode with Christine Boyle, we reference ‘Clouds of Change’ – the 1990 report and recommendations from what was maybe the first task force to address climate change at the municipal level.

Here it is:

 

As the councillor who initiated the process, I continue to be impressed by its prescience.  It helped change the way City Hall thought about the related issues of greenhouse gases, energy, transportation and land use.  It led to good things – like sustainability pioneering at the Olympic Village; it reinforced a lot of good things – cycling, energy conservation, recycling.

And while its targets for greenhouse-gas reductions were ambitious (and not achieved), it underestimated what can happen when there is global determination – like the targets for ozone-depleting-gas reduction (which were achieved.)

So conscious were we of the danger to the ozone layer that a related response was prioritized as recommendation #5.

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Peter Berkeley passed this item along from Snopes:

A 14 August 1912 article from a New Zealand newspaper contained a brief story about how burning coal might produce future warming by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.

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If anyone had any doubt about climate change being real The New York Times has published data from NASA scientific studies showing that the “Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in nearly 140 years of record-keeping and a continuation of an unmistakable warming trend.” 

Even worse the last 5 warmest years recorded have been the last 5 years. And the last 18 of 19 warmest years have been since 2001.

Even though 190 nations have signed the Paris Agreement it just may be too late.

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In school you may have read about the “Little  Ice Age” that occurred in Medieval times and caused very cold temperatures in Europe. Now a group of scientists at University College in London England are advancing a theory that it was not volcanic activity or cyclical decreases in solar radiation that caused this cooling, but the impact of European colonization of America.

Researchers estimated from population data that 60 million people were living in the Americas at the end of the 15th century, representing a tenth of the world population. Within one hundred years of first European contact, that population “was ravaged by introduced disease (smallpox, measles, etc), warfare, slavery and societal collapse.” 

First Nations were devastated, with an estimate of five to six million people remaining after the first century post European contact. Such a calamitous reduction in civilizations meant that land that was cultivated by First Nations was abandoned, and “repossessed” by the forest and bushland. The size of that cultivated land reclaimed by nature is estimated to have been 56 million hectares, “close in size to a modern country like France”.

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Maybe this won’t become a thermal coal port

Port Metro Vancouver has cancelled the permit for a project that would have resulted in more thermal coal shipments, these from Fraser Surrey Docks.  The only reason currently available is that the permit’s 83 conditions have not been met — specifically one requiring substantial start of construction by November 30, 2018.

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Join us to learn how local governments are working to achieve healthy, resilient urban forests, and hear highlights about Metro Vancouver’s Urban Forest Climate Adaptation program and New Westminster’s award-winning Urban Forest Management Strategy.

  • Edward Nichol, Senior Policy and Planning Analyst (Environment), Regional Planning, Metro Vancouver
  • Amelia Needoba, Principal & Senior Urban Forester, Diamond Head Consulting
  • Erika Mashig, Manager, Arboriculture, Horticulture, Parks & Open Space Planning, City of New Westminster

Wednesday, February 20

7:30 – 9:00 am – Presentations start at 7:30 am
Continental breakfast available at 7:00 am

BCIT Downtown – 555 Seymour

Register Now

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