A  Fight against Climate change – not a war on coal!

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released its much-awaited rules requiring reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from coal-fired power plants.  These plants are responsible for 75% of the US GHG emissions from the generation of electricity, but produce only 38% of US electricity.

To prevent the rules being characterized as purely a climate change measure, the EPA points out that lessening emissions from coal will reduce air pollution, moderate asthma rates and avoid deaths caused by heart attacks.  The EPA refers to these benefits as the “clean-air” revolution. The saving in health costs through a decrease in these medical problems will be significant.

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Northern Gateway: A Plea for the Future

Northern Gateway: A Plea for the Future

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) was established by the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Minister of the Environment in December, 2009 to evaluate the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project (NGP). The three member panel was mandated to conduct a review of the environmental effects of the project and to determine if it was in the public interest. As part of the process, the JRP was required to consider comments from the public as well as groups with intervenor status, such as First Nations’ communities, government participants and the Northern Gateway consortium.

The panelists refer to the pipeline project in their report as the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project because Enbridge has formed a limited partnership to develop and operate the project. Enbridge is the only partner with an equity stake at this stage. There are 10 other corporate funding partners who have contributed financially to the pre-development work and have the option of becoming equity partners. Only 6 of the funding partners have chosen to divulge their participation, 3 are Canadian while the others are foreign owned companies. The names and the nationalities of the other 4 companies are not known.

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Fossil Fools

Early in May, 2013 North America was abuzz about whether the Dow would stay above 1500. Lost in the buzz was a crucial climate announcement: For the first time in a million years carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million. A month later, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that global greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions had reached a record high in 2012.

There was more bad news in June when the World Meteorological Organization announced that the world was warmer in the first decade of the 21st century than any other period on record. Much of the increased heat is being absorbed by the oceans at present, sparing us temporarily from catastrophic heating of the earth’s surface and atmosphere.

Rising ghg levels since the beginning of the Industrial Age two hundred years ago closely track the increase in global temperatures. The connection between ghg concentrations and temperature increases was popularized in the “hockey stick” graph – developed by Professor Michael Mann – in Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. Initially ridiculed by the denial industry, Mann’s conclusions, based on the earlier work of Joseph Fourier and Svante Arrhenius, linking ghg levels and temperature are now widely accepted.

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The State of the Planet

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. . . We will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.

President Obama, Inaugural address, January 2013.

These stirring words gave hope to millions around the world who were despairing for the future of the planet. At last, a major international leader was taking a stand. But facing Congress a few weeks later, the president was more muted about the environment in his State of the Union address. A brief reference to combating climate change “for the sake of our children and our future” was tucked away in the middle of his speech, sandwiched between the need for energy self-sufficiency and curbing climate change using market-based solutions while “driving strong economic growth.”

Why had the lofty sentiments about the state of the planet dissipated in a matter of weeks? Was it the reality of dealing with a fractious legislature who opposes action on climate change? Was it the need to placate the business community and the fossil fuel lobby? Perhaps he was pandering to consumers who also happen to be voters.

In Canada, however, there were no stirring words about the state of the planet in the last Speech from the Throne in 2011. There was no ennobling vision for the future of our children and grandchildren. There was not even a reference to the dangers of climate change.

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