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The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention

Justin Trudeau and Canada's premiers

For decades, the urgent need for climate action was stymied by what came to be known as “climate denialism” (or its more mild cousin, “climate skepticism”).

In an effort to create public confusion and stall political progress, the fossil fuel industry poured tens of millions of dollars into the pockets of foundations, think tanks, lobby groups, politicians and academics who relentlessly questioned the overwhelming scientific evidence that human-caused climate change is real and requires urgent action.

Thankfully, the climate deniers have now mostly been exposed and repudiated. Relatively few politicians now express misgivings about the reality or science of climate change (the current Republican nominee for U.S. president being a notable exception, along with some other conservative bright lights like Sarah Palin and Canadian MP Cheryl Gallant).

That’s the good news.

The bad news is we face a new form of climate denialism — more nuanced and insidious, but just as dangerous.

B.C. Climate Plan Subsidizes Fossil Fuels (Yes, You Read That Correctly)

Tweet: BC gov quietly slipped subsidies for natural gas sector into #climate plan http://bit.ly/2bVElG5 @christyclarkbc @maryforbc #bcpoliThe B.C. government has quietly slipped subsidies for the natural gas sector into its climate plan, which has been panned as “cynical” by leading experts.

B.C.’s so-called Climate Leadership Plan, quietly released on August 19, includes a vague pledge to subsidize the electrification of upstream natural gas facilities in the northeast of the province, using “renewable” power from BC Hydro projects.

I just could not believe the audacity of it when I was reading the plan,” Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International, told DeSmog Canada.“We’re using public dollars to help them reduce their emissions, when that should be the responsibility of the natural gas producers.”

That’s why B.C. ostensibly has a carbon tax: there’s a principle called the ‘polluters pay principle.’ Taxpayers shouldn’t be picking up the tab for big polluters.”

Hawaii Utilities Commission Shoots Down Plan To Import LNG from B.C.

Count on Hawaii — tied for No. 1 as the the state with the highest percentage of renewable energy — to deliver yet another blow to B.C.’s lofty liquefied natural gas (LNG) ambitions.

On July 15, the state’s public utilities commission recently shot down a proposed $4.3 billion takeover of the Hawaiian Electric Companies (which provide 95 per cent of the state’s electricity) by Florida-based NextEra Energy in a 265 page ruling.

NextEra, the largest provider of the wind power in the U.S., was positioned to play a key role in financing the importing of 800,000 metric tons per year of LNG from FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG storage facility in Delta for use in an upgraded power plant on the west coast of Oahu.

The deal, struck in May between a Fortis subsidiary and the Hawaiian Electric Company, would have lasted for 20 years beginning in 2021. The LNG would have been exported by WesPac Midstream via its proposed terminal on the Fraser River.

An In-depth Look at Improving B.C.'s Carbon Tax: Martyn Brown

This is the third of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Be advised, it is a very long read, more like a short book of six chapters. Part One of this series addresses B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addresses how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three takes a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. And Part Four focuses on how the oil and gas industry stands to profit from that advisory team’s proposed climate action plan.

British Columbia’s Climate Leadership Team (CLT) has offered a strategy aimed at achieving several new emissions reduction targets.

It proposes to do that by “right pricing” carbon with an ever-increasing and expanded carbon tax; by mitigating some of that tax’s competitive and consumer impacts; by supplementing that rising tax with additional (mostly unspecified) measures to further reduce emissions; and by regularly reviewing those three elements.

As such, its roadmap to carbon reductions is largely an updated carbon tax plan.

How B.C.'s Climate Plan is Being Co-opted by Big Oil: Martyn Brown

This is the second of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addresses B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addresses how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three takes a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. And Part Four focuses on how the oil and gas industry stands to profit from that advisory team’s proposed climate action plan.

In accepting its mission as defined by the government, the Climate Leadership Team (CLT) also implicitly accepted the government’s plan for increased emissions from LNG and from other carbon-intensive development.

As laudable as the CLT’s climate action plan is in most respects, it is wrongly predicated on accommodating the oil industry’s vision for increased fossil fuel extraction.

Which is to say, it is innately co-opted by its mandate, which is wedded to the acceptance of an overriding economic plan for carbon-fueled growth.

That is not to suggest that all, or even a majority, of the CLT members support that economic vision. Far from it.

Taking Real Action on Climate Change by Putting Teeth in Toothless Targets

This is the first of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addresses B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addresses how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three takes a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. And Part Four focuses on how the oil and gas industry stands to profit from that advisory team’s proposed climate action plan.

Any day now, the B.C. government is expected to release its updated climate action plan. Then again, it initially promised to do that last December and then last spring, before revising that deadline again to the end of June, so who knows?

Honouring its commitments has never been the Clark government’s strong suit, to put it mildly.

Nothing proves that more than its failure to honour B.C.’s legislated targets to reduce provincial greenhouse gas emissions.

As premier Christy Clark’s Climate Leadership Team determined, the province won’t even come to close to meeting its legal obligation to cut its GHG emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.

Nor will it fulfill its statutory requirement to reduce those emissions by 18 per cent as of this year.

And it is wildly off-track from being able to meet the 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases that it is legally required by 2050.  

Canada’s Physicians Want to See the End of Coal-Fired Power Plants

Doctors, nurses and health care professionals from across Canada are urging the federal government to phase out coal-fired power plants within the next decade because of coal’s harmful effects on human health and its contribution to climate change.

The unusual activism from groups such as the Canadian Lung Association, the Asthma Society of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, led by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, comes on the heels of growing global recognition of the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power generation.

Tweet: #Canada doctors & nurses: ‘We urge the government of Canada to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2025’ #cdnpoli http://bit.ly/1tvOtv4We urge the government of Canada to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2025 as a critical and immediate action toward achieving Canada’s emissions commitments and as a means to reap significant health benefits for Canadians,” reads a submission from 15 health organizations, representing more than 300,000 health professionals.

Christy Clark climate change, LNG Industry Could Make B.C. Canada’s Worst Actor on Climate

While the B.C. government may like to claim it’s a “climate leader,” the province has quietly become a climate laggard compared to Canada’s other most populous provinces according to a new analysis released by the Pembina Institute on Tuesday. 

The analysis indicates that eight years after B.C.’s Climate Action Plan was implemented, B.C.’s emissions are projected to continue increasing — standing in stark contrast to Ontario, Quebec and even Alberta.

Between 2011 and 2014, B.C.’s emissions increased by the equivalent of adding 380,000 cars to the road — putting B.C. on track to blow past its legislated 2020 emissions target.

Tweet: BC’s inaction on #climatechange means emissions will increase 39% above 2014 levels by 2030 http://bit.ly/1US7GNDIf the province’s inaction on climate change continues, B.C.’s emissions will increase 39 per cent above 2014 levels by 2030, according to modelling.

Meantime, carbon pollution in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec is expected to decrease by 26 per cent, 22 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, over the same period.

Federal Investigation Finds Site C Air Quality Monitors Turned Off

To celebrate Clean Air Day, June 8, the B.C. Government issued a press release celebrating the province’s air quality in the Peace region, home to extensive natural gas operations and Site C dam construction.

The press release, which praises the “successful partnership to ensure continued clean air in the Peace region,” came on the heels of a federal warning issued to BC Hydro for failing to turn on air quality monitors near Site C dam construction.

Federal investigators with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) discovered monitors near Site C operations, Tweet: #SiteC decides not to turn on air quality monitors #carbonmonoxide #nitrogendioxide #sulphurdioxide http://bit.ly/1U9v8ca #bcpoliwhich measure total suspended particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were not collecting any data.

CEAA compliance and enforcement chief Michel Vitou issued a warning letter to BC Hydro on May 26, saying the crown corporation “has been unable to monitor air quality effects in order to inform the appropriate authorities of exceedance of federal and provincial air quality standards.”

Saskatchewan Government Dubs Climate Change ‘Misguided Dogma’ in Throne Speech

It might not have packed quite the same visual punch as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in the House of Commons on Wednesday, but the Saskatchewan government’s throne speech —  delivered just the day prior — may be remembered for being equally as bizarre.

Specifically, because of the implicit rejection of climate change science, which was described as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”

The throne speech, delivered by Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield, pointed to “oil and gas, coal and uranium, livestock and grains” as allegedly victimized sectors.

They look at those jobs like they are somehow harming the country and the world,” she read. “To those people, my government has a message. You are wrong. You could not be more wrong.”

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