Raphael Lopoukhine

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Raphael Lopoukhine is an environment-focused digital journalist and multi-media communicator, working in print, the web, design, video and photography. Raphael covered North Vancouver District and City council and wrote long-form environmental features for the North Shore News. He was a Canadian researcher and writer for a six-month magazine-style journalism project, examining conservation, energy development and climate change in the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor. Raphael, with an International Development Research Centre grant, spent seven months examining the oil industry in Venezuela, working as a freelance journalist and field producer for an ABC News documentary. Recently, he created The Canadian Environment as a one-stop shop for the latest Canadian environmental news. Raphael has been published in The Tyee, Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, Ottawa Citizen, Huffington Post, CBC Sunday and CBC Newsworld.

Unlikely Conservatives Join Fight for Ontario’s Carbon Tax

A small, conservative movement is growing in Ontario to “reset the conversation” around carbon pricing and bring the centre-right back to an originally-conservative position, one in support of a market-based approach to fighting climate change. But the movement faces an uphill battle.

It’s very ironic — the idea of carbon pricing, came more from the right than the left originally,” Mark Cameron, executive director for Canadians for Clean Prosperity, and former policy director to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told DeSmog Canada.

There are well known conservative economists who endorsed carbon taxes for decades.”

You don’t need to feel alone, there are a number of people coming into this tent,” said Chris Ragan, chair of the Ecofiscal Commission, associate professor at McGill University and research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute.

Those hoping for a reset will soon see how the Ontario Progressive Conservative party engages on the topic when the governing Liberals introduce a cap-and-trade plan in the near future.

Oilsands are "Canada’s Elephant in the Atmosphere" Warns Carbon Bubble Expert

tar sands, oilsands, kris krug

If oil prices continue their slide downward, the cancellation of high-cost oilsands projects are likely, but just because prices rebounded in the past and investment returned, does not mean that is a guide for the future, warns James Leaton, research director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Thursday night at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Leaton told the crowd of over 170 people the Alberta oilsands are a big target for investors looking to reduce risk because of the high capital expenditure (capex) costs.

The oilsands are Canada’s elephant in the atmosphere,” said Leaton, an originator of the “carbon bubble” theory. “We see investors moving away from high-cost, high-carbon projects, so there is a challenge that capital is not going to automatically flow to Alberta anymore.”

Top Five Craziest Things Climate Change Recently Did in Canada

melting permafrost canada

Climate change “has moved firmly into the present” as “evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen” and “impacts are increasing across the country,” concluded a recent in-depth U.S. government report.

With no equivalent in Canada of the U.S. team of “300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee” to prepare a report on climate impacts in Canada, DeSmog Canada has made its own report. And by report, we mean a list of… the top five craziest climate change impacts in Canada. Drum roll please….

Federal Science Cuts Stall Climate, Mercury Research

Arctic sunset

Two world-renowned research institutes faced elimination in 2012 — and then were saved — but what happened to the scientists' ongoing research on the impacts of melting permafrost and mercury pollution in fish?

Government Cuts Leaving Forests Unwatched, Say Former Federal Scientists

federal cuts to science, forestry, desmog canada

This is Part 1 of the series “Science on the Chopping Block,” an in-depth look at federal cuts to science programs in Canada and what they mean for some of the country's most important researchers.

As cuts to science budgets and programs continue by the federal government, former scientists and academics who’ve lost their funding say the cuts have upended their careers, compromised knowledge about Canada’s environment and undercut development of the next generation of scientists.

Since the cuts began about five years ago, the federal government has either reduced funding or shut down more than 150 science-related programs and research centres and dismissed more than 2,000 scientists.

With the recently announced cuts to Environment Canada, by 2017 the department will be operating with close to 30 per cent fewer dollars than it had in 2012.  

As the impacts of the cuts grow, DeSmog Canada has reached out to former government and university scientists to hear their stories.

Alberta Ramps Up “Responsible Energy Development” Sales Pitch in Wake of New Keystone XL Delay

Alberta oilsands tar sands julia kilpatrick

Days after another delay by the Obama administration on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, members of the Alberta government are hitting the U.S. circuit to promote the oilsands and boost their “green” credentials.

Three government officials are heading to key regions in the U.S. to push for continued market access and advertise what Albertan energy minister Diana McQueen calls “our commitment to clean energy development.”

Alberta hopes to showcase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a successful emissions reduction plan.

Critics say the Alberta government’s talk about “sustainability” and “clean energy” is not in line with reality.

If you’ve been following the Canadian government’s sales pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline, you’ve probably heard this claim before: ‘Emissions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011,’” writes P.J. Partington, senior federal policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the reality, Partington writes, is that “since 1990, oilsands production has quintupled, while GHG emissions from production and upgrading have quadrupled.”

Five Canadian Communities Fighting Climate Change That You've Probably Never Heard of Before

Dawson Creek Grain Elevator

When you think about what Canada is known for on the international stage these days, fighting climate change is not exactly near the top of the list. Without credible plans from Ottawa and many provincial capitals, Canada’s climate-fighting reputation is up in smoke or, as the Economist put it, the moose has lost its sunglasses and Canada is “uncool.”

But when you look beyond the headlines, there is another story — one in which the vast majority of Canadian communities are committed to fighting climate change.

DeSmog Canada reached out to experts across Canada to get their opinions on which municipalities are leading the fight against climate change. Immediately, it became clear we could easily list Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver and tell great stories about these innovative cities.

Vancouver, for instance, nominated most often by the experts, is reforming its bylaws, permits, regulations and policies in an effort to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. Whether it is energy, food, grants, efficiency, jobs, bikes, procurement or construction, Vancouver has a sustainability policy, subsidy or project. Add in the work Surrey, Burnaby and the City of North Vancouver are doing to evolve from Vancouver bedroom communities into sustainable urban environments and the story could start and end in the Lower Mainland.

But we wanted to look beyond the big players to find the other guys — the innovative communities you probably haven’t heard about yet. Drum roll please …

The Human Face of TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline

energy east photographs by robert van waarden

A photographer who has shot for National Geographic Traveller is setting out on a road trip along the proposed route of the TransCanada Energy East pipeline. Robert van Waarden is trying to crowdsource $10,000 to partially cover the costs of his project to put a human face on the proposed $1.2 billion project.

There is an opportunity to tell the personal story about how people along the line feel,” van Waarden says about his motivation to capture stories from a cross section of Canadians stretching from “the fisherman on Grand Manan Island to the farmer in Saskatchewan.”

Energy East is a massive project proposed by TransCanada Corp. to bring 1.1 million barrels a day of western oil to eastern markets along a 4,600-kilometre pipeline. It involves the conversion of an existing gas pipeline, the development of 72 new pumping stations along the route and new pipelines to connect the line from the oilsands in Alberta to Quebec City and then on to St. John, N.B.

Top 5 Reasons Why Geothermal Power is Nowhere in Canada

geothermal energy potential in canada

Canada has no commercial geothermal power plants, despite having abundant potential and, ironically, Canadian energy companies running geothermal power plants around the world.

Canada’s west coast forms part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a giant horseshoe of active volcanoes and earthquake zones stretching from New Zealand all the way around Alaska to the bottom of South America. The geology putting coastal cities at risk also makes the area great for developing geothermal resources.

Ring of Fire countries New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States and Mexico all have commercial geothermal plants, but not Canada. A groundbreaking 2010 study of Canada’s geothermal potential found the best locations were in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, but even Ontario could produce geothermal power if someone dug deep enough.

To develop a geothermal power plant, a firm needs to drill a well deep into the ground to extract hot water to generate steam to turn an electrical turbine. The water is then recycled through another well back underground. The most important factors are the temperature of the extracted water and the flow rate – the hotter the water and the more of it, the better.

CCS Series: Government Subsidies Keep Alberta’s CCS Pipe Dream Afloat

carbon capture and storage

This is the second installment of a two-part series on carbon capture and storage. Read Part 1, Alberta's Carbon Capture and Storage Plan Stagnate as Carbon Price Lags.

As Alberta falls behind on its goal to capture 30 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year by 2020, hundreds of millions of dollars in government subsidies are being pumped into the carbon capture and storage (CCS) sector.

Enhance Energy’s Alberta Carbon Trunk Line project is receiving $495 million from Alberta and $63.3 million from Ottawa. Enhance says on its website the project would have been much smaller without the government investment.

Shell Canada, with partners Chevron Canada Ltd. and Marathon Oil Corp., is developing Alberta’s only other CCS project, called Quest, with $120 million in federal and $745 million in provincial support. Shell aims to sequester more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from its Scotford upgrader, starting in late 2015.

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