Putting a Price on Carbon

The Climate Change Forum filled the Isabel Bader Theatre to its 475 seat capacity.  The Forum reviewed the two mechanisms that are recognized as effective ways of putting a price on carbon: a carbon tax and “cap and trade”. The four panellists, Gray Taylor, Nic Rivers, Katie Sullivan and David Robinson, analysed the issues that must be … Read more

Toronto goes to the polls

Two of the three mayoralty candidates in this Toronto civic election had green credentials:  Olivia Chow, who was endorsed by Elizabeth May, and John Tory, who has been active in local environmental projects.  Both these candidates included environmental planks in their election platform directed at climate change.. Just before voting day, both the Toronto Star … Read more

Toronto Mayoralty Campaign – A Welcome Announcement

In February of this year 4RG sponsored a well attended Forum on the threat to Toronto’s Tree Canopy.  The panel of Jeff Cullen, Janet McKay and Hilary Cunningham explained how the December 2013 ice storm had devastated the trees that we depend on

  • for shade that can mitigate the effects of extreme heat;
  • to sustain many natural forest areas within the City,
  • as a desirable feature of Toronto’s many Parks,
  • as a way to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere;
  • as a means of reducing ground saturation – which is important in controlling floods, and
  • as a setting for our recreational environment.

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Toronto Trees Threatened!

These words were the banner for a 4RG Community Forum held Thursday, February 13th.  As every Torontonian knows the threat had already arrived on the city’s doorstep:  a December ice storm that caused extensive losses to the urban forest, estimated by some to approach 40% of the existing canopy.

Some people may be sceptical of these losses, calculated at millions of dollars.  They don’t realize that trees are on our side when it comes to the battle against GreenHouse Gases.  Just as the actions of individuals can assist by reducing their carbon footprint, so each tree is a carbon sink.  Read on!

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Sleepwalking to Catastrophe – Again!

Over the past five plus years governments everywhere have been belt-tightening to counter the effects of the 2008-2009 recession. The result was less money for infrastructure to combat climate change.

In England, the Environmental Agency, a state organization independent of the Government of the day, has the responsibility to develop defences against flooding.  It published its first national assessment of flood risk for England in 2009. The foreword included these assurances:

“While celebrating the advances that this report provides, it is important to remember that the technology and   skills available to map and measure risk are still developing. Rising sea levels and increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms caused by climate change mean that the risk of flooding will increase. This assessment is one step in an ongoing journey that we must take to ensure that our understanding of the risks keeps pace with these changes. It will be regularly updated, improved and published to keep you informed and to help us work together to manage floods.”

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Why a community forum on trees?

Toronto has been described as a “city of trees”.   This description reflected a civic belief that trees were an amenity that mitigated the impact of intense urban construction.  Yet over the years the citizens of Toronto have tolerated “densification”, a policy of current city planners. As buildings grow taller and crowd out to the boundaries of property, trees disappear.

I recall a law school lecture on planning where the lecturer, a downtown Toronto lawyer, explained that it was less expensive for his clients to take down trees and retain him if there were any legal repercussions.  In the long run, this was cheaper than engaging in long negotiations with neighbours.

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The Risks of Line 9

Did you know that Line 9, a 38 year-old pipeline connecting Sarnia and Montreal, may be the principal means for the international exploitation of tar sands oil?

The owner of Line 9 (Enbridge) applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for reversal of Line 9 as a means of getting tar sands oil (aka bitumen or, when transported by pipeline, diluted bitumen or dilbit) to an ocean port.  The NEB has already approved reversal of part of the western half of Line 9. Further NEB hearings into the balance of the line are scheduled for October 15-16 (Montreal) and October 17 (Toronto).

(Thanks to DesmogBlog Canada)

The problem is that Line 9 was originally built for the transport conventional oil from Montreal to the Sarnia petrochemical complex.  The consequences of a spill of dilbit are far more serious than a spill of conventional oil. The 2011 disastrous spill of dilbit in Kalamazoo, Michigan was from a more recently constructed Enbridge pipeline that will feed into Line 9.

As Montreal refineries do not have the capacity and/or ability to refine dilbit, Enbridge may re-ship the dilbit to “tidewater” via the Quebec – Maine (Portland) pipeline.  From Portland the dilbit can be transported by oil tanker for refining elsewhere.

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