Monday, May 30, 2016 - 12:57 • Guest

This is a guest post by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club B.C.

The wildfires currently raging uncontrolled in Alberta are not within the range of what’s normal.

As of May 29, 854,984 hectares have burned this year in Canada, mostly Alberta — almost 10 times the 25-year-average amount of forest lost to fire annually (89,391 hectares).

And summer hasn't even started.

Warm temperatures and low humidity mean that, for the time being, there is no end in sight. A similar situation is taking shape in British Columbia.

The correlation between higher average temperatures and wildfires in Canada has been well-researched, but the extremes now underway still come as a shock. Leading climate scientists have compared the urgent need to prevent further overheating of our planet to a person with a dangerously high fever. Our body temperature is normally about 37 degrees. If it increases by two degrees to 39, you have fever. If it goes over 41, you might die.

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Friday, May 27, 2016 - 11:08 • Judith Lavoie

BC Hydro has come out swinging against the Royal Society of Canada and 250 of Canada’s top scientists and academics that recently called for a stop to construction of the Site C dam, saying the group is being one-sided.

Royal Society representatives and academics did not take part in the environmental assessment process and did not seek a balanced assessment of the hydroelectric mega-project, says an unusually critical statement released by BC Hydro.

The dam, which will cost taxpayers almost $9-billion, will flood farmland and First Nations traditional territory in the Peace Valley to create an 83-kilometre reservoir.

A Statement of Concern, released by the academics earlier this week, asks the federal government to live up to election promises to respect legal obligations to First Nations and to make decisions based on scientific integrity.

Repeated requests by DeSmog Canada for comments from Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett have been ignored but, speaking to other media, Bennett criticized the Royal Society for being political and suggested members should have taken part in the environmental assessment process.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:58 • David Suzuki

Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 per cent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 per cent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes. According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues, and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 16:01 • Judith Lavoie

All around the world, more people are working in the renewable energy industry than ever before due to more affordable clean energy and new policies, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Canada ranks eleventh globally, according to IRENA, with 36,000 renewable energy sector jobs.

Growth in the sector is impressive, but Canada isn’t keeping pace with the U.S., which has 769,000 renewable-related jobs, a much higher population percentage.

The report, released Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, found that more than 8.1 million people worldwide are employed in renewable energy, an increase of more than five per cent over the previous year.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 09:34 • James Wilt

In April and May alone, Lone Pine Resources Inc. — the oil and gas company that’s currently suing the government of Canada for $118.9 million in alleged damages — lobbied 11 MPs, a policy advisor for the Prime Minister’s Office and the chief of staff for Natural Resources Canada.

The sole subject matter listed for the lobbying efforts was: “Claim against the Government of Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by Lone Pine Resources Inc.”

The company is actively claiming damages for Quebec's 2011 decision to revoke oil and gas exploration licenses located beneath the St. Lawrence River that were granted to its subsidiary, Lone Pine Resources Canada Ltd., via a “farmout agreement” with Junex Inc. The $118.9 figure represents Lone Pine’s estimated sunk costs and lost future profits.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 15:22 • Sarah Cox

Nothing remains at the Rocky Mountain Fort site where Peace Valley farmers and First Nations camped for 60 days in the hopes of stopping clear-cut logging for the Site C dam. The camp was dismantled in March and the old-growth spruce and cottonwood forest was logged, as BC Hydro prepares to convert the Class 1 heritage site into a Site C waste rock dump.

But one notable thing still stands: the civil lawsuit BC Hydro filed in January against five campers and a supporter, a suit the B.C. Civil Liberties Association describes as a matter “of grave concern.”

The 13-page lawsuit accuses six Peace Valley residents of conspiracy, intimidation, trespass, creating a public and a private nuisance, and “intentional interference with economic relations by unlawful means.”

Most worrisome for the people named is that the suit seeks financial damages for BC Hydro that could result in the loss of their homes, life savings or other assets. Five of the six already stand to lose their houses, farms, land or traditional territory to the nearly $9 billion Peace River dam.

Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), says the association is extremely concerned about the civil suit because it could put a chill on freedom of expression. It might cause others “to think twice before they talk about their political opinion.”

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 12:26 • Judith Lavoie

Top-level scientists and academics from across Canada are calling on the federal government to put the brakes on construction of the Site C dam and, in an unusual move, the call is being supported by the Royal Society of Canada.

A stinging criticism of the assessment process, lack of consideration for First Nations concerns and the B.C. government’s decision to start construction despite ongoing court cases, was released at an Ottawa news conference Tuesday with a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a statement asking that the federal government not issue any more permits for the hydroelectric mega-project until there have been additional reviews and the courts have decided on First Nations court cases.

A “Statement of Concern” signed by 250 scientists and academics, amounting to a Who’s-Who of Canadian academia, asks that the B.C. government submit the project for review by the B.C. Utilities Commission, something suggested by Joint Review Panel, but rejected by the provincial government.

There should also be a review by the Department of Justice to analyze whether the project infringes on aboriginal and treaty rights, the statement says.

Based on evidence raised across our many disciplines, the undersigned scholars have concluded that there were significant gaps and inadequacies in the regulatory review and environmental assessment process for the Site C Project,” says the statement.

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Monday, May 23, 2016 - 11:52 • Judith Lavoie
Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.
Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.

Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.

That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.

Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.

That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.

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