Canada Has Become a Petro-State, Happily Drilling for Profits as the World Warms

tar sands - visible from space,tarnished earth

Thu, 2013-03-07 08:00 STEPHEN LEAHY

What’s happened to Canada? To the dismay of many a country with an international reputation for relatively progressive environmental policies (at least compared to the United States) is rushing headlong to dig up all the oil, gas, and coal it can. The country’s leaders can scarcely muster the effort to pretend to want to limit climate-heating carbon emissions.

And the Canadian business establishment and media have largely gone along with the program. Put it all together, and you have a country that has become a full-blown “petrostate.”

People are starting to notice. Last December at the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, Canada beat out tough contenders like Saudi Arabia to be elected “Colossal Fossil” by environmental organizations from around the planet. Canada had the dishonor of being the most uncooperative country out of 193 nations at the climate summit. It was the sixth year in a row that international environmental groups gave Canada their ‘highest’ award for its persistent efforts to block any agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

What’s happened to Canada is that it has experienced a steady takeover by the fossil fuel industry.

Canada’s is now the world’s fifth largest crude oil producer and the biggest supplier of oil to the US. Canada is also the third largest producer of natural gas and one of the top ten miners of coal. This enormous boom in fossil fuel production has been underway since the late 1990s. Like Saudi Arabia, fossil energy is by far Canada’s biggest export and has become the dominant economic and political focus.

Full story click below:

Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a fossil-fuelled energy superpower that’s going to wreck its future and the global climate.

Fossil Energy Interests Buy Politicians – and they’re cheap says economist

[This interview with economist Robert Repetto (now at Yale) was published two years ago. It is more relevant than ever in showing how fossil fuel money influences politics and prevents real action on climate. — Stephen]

‘What else can you do with coal except burn it? Railways make a lot of money shipping coal’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 2, 2011 (IPS)

Powerful fossil energy interests are preventing the United States from making the necessary transition to 21st century energy sources, one of the country’s leading environmental economists documents in a just-published book.

Fossil energy interests are spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” lobbying U.S. politicians in Congress and funding groups to confuse the public about the serious risks climate change poses, says Robert Repetto, author of  “America’s Climate Problem: The Way Forward”.

IPS climate and environment correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke with Repetto about his new book.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: We’re running out of time. The latest science shows that climate change is coming faster and posing greater risks than previously thought. We are at risk of triggering positive feedbacks that will lead to uncontrollable climate change.

Meanwhile, America is locked in a climate-policy stalemate, with very few in the public comprehending the real risks climate change poses. Most don’t understand that climate change is happening now. They don’t link extreme weather events we’ve been experiencing with climate change. As a result they are not demanding that politicians take action.

Q: Why don’t most Americans understand the fact that climate change is already underway and poses serious risks? Continue reading

The Most Important Number in Human History

Carbon overload Carbon in atmosphere and amount in fossil fuel reserves
Carbon overload Carbon in atmosphere and amount in fossil fuel reserves

That number was 52 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2012

Only when this number declines will we know we’re making the shift to climate protection

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 17 2012 (IPS) 

The most important number in history is now the annual measure of carbon emissions. That number reveals humanity’s steady billion-tonne by billion-tonne march to the edge of the carbon cliff, beyond which scientists warn lies a fateful fall to catastrophic climate change.

With the global total of climate-disrupting emissions likely to come in at around 52 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes) this year, we’re already at the edge, according to new research.

To have a good chance of staying below two degrees C of warming, global emissions should be between 41 and 47 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020, said Joeri Rogelj, a climate scientist at Switzerland’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich.

Only when we see the annual global emissions total decline will we know we’re making the shift to climate protection,” Rogelj told IPS.

Making the shift to a future climate with less than two degrees C of warming is doable and not that expensive if total emissions peak in the next few years and fall into the 41-47 Gt “sweet spot” by 2020, Rogelj and colleagues show in their detailed analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study is the first to comprehensively quantify the costs and risks of emissions surpassing critical thresholds by 2020. Continue reading

Green Energy Solves Dual Crises of Poverty and Climate

native-windmill-art1Dirty fossil fuel energy leads to 350,000 premature deaths in Europe

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 25 2013 (IPS)

Green energy is the only way to bring billions of people out of energy poverty and prevent a climate disaster, a new study reveals.

Conservative institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) all warn humanity is on a path to climate catastrophe unless fossil fuel energy is replaced by green energy.

The U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative intends to bring universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

If those targets are met and similar efforts undertaken to reduce deforestation, then climate disaster can be avoided, said Joeri Rogelj of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich  who headed the analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Poverty eradication, sustainable development and the transition away from fossil fuel energy go hand in hand,” Rogelj told IPS. Continue reading

Wild and Weird Weather Getting Worse

New York City flooding
New York City flooding
It doesn’t have to be this way – typical family could reduce their energy use 60 to 75 percent

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 29 2013 (IPS)

Weird is the only way to describe January temperatures whipsawing between record warm and arctic cold over a span of a few days. Experts say that is what climate change looks like: weird, record-shattering weather.

Here’s a fact that goes beyond weird to astonishing. Anyone who is 27 years old or younger has never lived through a month that was colder than the global 20th century average. In other words, we’ve had 334 consecutive months with above average temperatures, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Last summer, the Arctic sea ice shrunk to half of what it used to be during summers only three decades ago. Our planet’s weather is driven largely by the two cold polar regions and the warm tropics. With the Arctic defrosting, it should be no surprise our weather is getting weird. And that it’s not going to get better.

Our planet is heating up because we each year put thousands of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. CO2 acts as heating blanket keeping the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.

The amount of extra heat-energy being trapped is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year, calculates James Hansen, a climate scientist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Cautious scientists like Hansen are terrified of what’s coming. Conservative institutions like the World Bank and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have warned we’re on a path to heating the entire surface of the planet by an average of four or five degrees C before 2100. That translates into eight to 12 degrees C hotter in places like Canada.

Continue reading

Majority of Oil, Gas and Coal Reserves Too Dangerous To Use – International Energy Agency (IEA)

ttfiscal carbon cliff

Industry spent more than $600 billion on new exploration and production in 2012 

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 15 2012 (IPS)

Two-thirds of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves cannot be used without risking dangerous climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this week.

Preventing the consumption of those two-thirds will be the primary task of the annual U.N. climate negotiations that resume at the end of this month.

Late Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama surprised many by saying climate change will be a personal mission in his second term.

“The re-election of President Obama guarantees continuity of the U.S. pledge of reducing emissions 17 percent below its carbon emissions in 2005 by 2020,” said Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The U.S. is fully aware of the need to increase its ambition in terms of mitigation (emissions reduction) and finance to help developing countries adapt,” Figueres told IPS.

The U.S. emission reduction target is equivalent to a three-percent reduction compared to 1990 levels – a baseline most countries use. Global emissions need to be 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels in the year 2020 to keep temperatures from rising beyond two degrees C, climate scientists have said.

By contrast, the United Kingdom is already 18 percent below its 1990s level and plans to be 34 percent below in 2020.

In 2010, there was a binding agreement to limit global warming to two degrees C at the U.N. climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based NGO.

“We are nowhere near to getting there. The situation is urgent. Climate change is not tomorrow’s problem, it is today’s problem. Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call to the people of the United States,” Steer said at a press conference. Continue reading

Plankton Death To Come with Acid Oceans and Sunlight

A number of marine diatom cells (Pleurosigma), which are an important group of phytoplankton in the oceans.
Credit: Michael Stringer

Global Warming has made oceans 30% more acidic already

“It’s clear we are conducting a giant experiment on the planet and we don’t know what we are doing.”

[This is a repost from my May 8 2012 article – see here for more on acid ocean impacts — Stephen]

 By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 8, 2012 (IPS)

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.

Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.

“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

Riebesell added that it was also possible “phytoplankton could adapt”.

Researchers were surprised to discover that diatoms, one of the most important and abundant types of phytoplankton, fared very badly during shipboard experiments conducted by co-author Kunshan Gao, from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, Xiamen China.

Previous experiments in labs like Riebesell’s found that diatoms actually did better in high-acid seawater, unlike most other shell- forming plankton. Burning fossil fuels has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic researchers discovered less than 10 years ago. Oceans absorb one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from using fossil fuels.

The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry.  Continue reading