Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported

GR: Almost every day, we learn that the many forces contributing to climate change are more powerful than we thought, or we learn that they are occurring faster than we thought, or both. And apparently, the picture is even gloomier than all the bad news has told us, because our measurement methods have been faulty.

“Canadian scientists have found that the standard way of tallying air and climate pollution from Alberta’s oil sands vastly understates pollution levels there — by as much as 4.5 times, according to a Canadian government study published Monday.

“The study shows that air samples collected using aircraft may be a more accurate way to tally air and climate pollution from oil and gas production than using industry estimates.

Suncor Energy oil sands plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.Credit: Suncor/flickr

“Accurate accounting of the oil and gas industry’s pollution is critical for scientists to understand how fossil fuel production affects the climate and to find ways to cut the pollution to address air quality and climate change, said Allen Robinson, director of the EPA-funded Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, who is unaffiliated with the study.

“Both the U.S. and Canadian governments rely on energy companies’ self-reported emissions estimates in order to count all the pollution from oil and gas operations. Few actual pollution measurements are taken.

“If official tallies underestimate the actual emissions, climate models will likewise underestimate the extent to which fossil fuel pollution is contributing to climate change, Robinson said. The Canadian research shows that the energy industry has been underreporting its emissions and it highlights the challenges the industry faces in accurately estimating emissions from very complex equipment.

“Scientists in both the U.S. and Canada have found that measuring greenhouse gases and other kinds of air pollution using satellites or air samples gathered from airplanes paints a vastly different picture of fossil fuel emissions than those reported by government environmental agencies.

“For example, research using satellite data found a previously undetected hotspot of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — over oil and gas fields in northwest New Mexico. Most leaking methane from oil and gas fields isn’t included in EPA emissions estimates.

“Another study, conducted by Harvard University researchers, used air samples gathered from towers and airplanes to show that methane emissions from various sources in southern states are five times higher than EPA estimates.

“The Canadian research team measured emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the air above oil sands operations in Alberta. VOCs, most of which are not greenhouse gases, have an indirect effect on the climate. They produce ozone, which is a greenhouse gas and can harm human health.

“Ozone can allow methane to linger longer in the atmosphere than it would under normal conditions. The longer methane, which has about 86 times the power of carbon dioxide to warm the globe over the span of 20 years, remains in the atmosphere the more it helps to warm the climate.” –Bobby Magill (Continue reading:  Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported | Climate Central.)

An oil sands operation in eastern Alberta. Credit: Kris Krug/flickr

Politics, Nature-Conservation, and Pipelines

Abandoning Fossil Fuels for Nature Conservation

GR: Fossil fuels are harmful during their extraction, delivery, refinement, and use. Alternative energy sources are available that are safer and offer tangible benefits for people. More employment opportunity is an example. It is imperative for the survival of nature, wildlife, and humanity that we close the door on the fossil-fuel industry and its disastrous impact. The first step is replacing all the kleptocrats who serve in our governments with progressive politicians able to resist the financial incentives for destroying the Earth. To do this with a balanced integration of human and nature concerns, we must form an alliance of progressive political parties and nature-conservation organizations.

Though the political alliance is the primary strategy, we can have some influence over our kleptocrats by showing them the strength of our numbers. Here’s a petition to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau that focuses on the delivery part of the fossil-fuel cycle.

Politics and Nature-Conservation Resources

“A ‘simple’ oil spill that released an estimated 550 litres of fuel off the northern coast of Vancouver Island has been deemed impossible to clean up. Neither skimmer vessels or sorbent materials can risk touching the environmentally rich affected area that a local First Nation relies on for food and income.

“The fact that there is no current technology that can recover the remaining oil is unacceptable and goes to show that even relatively small spills can be complicated and do great damage to environments and local economies. In this case, while some of the pollutants will evaporate others will remain in the area for much longer, continuing to degrade the the ecosystem and putting the First Nation’s livelihood and health at risk for years to come.

“We have been told that the government and petroleum companies know what they are doing and that they have the knowhow and technology to quickly and responsibly clean up any spills that may occur. Yet, time and time again when an accident happens we learn that they are utterly unprepared to deal with these disasters.” –Andrew (Continue: petition: Stop the Approval of Canadian Pipelines).

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic

GR:  Climate change in action. We are losing the polar ice cap and that is changing Earth’s climate right now. Nothing good will come of it.

“Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented. These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.

The animation shows projected polar temperature anomalies through Feb. 13, 2017.

“Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice.

Right now, “A massive storm is swirling toward Europe. It’s a weather maker in itself, churning up waves as high as 46 feet and pressure dropping as low as is typical for a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday. The storm is to the southeast of Greenland and its massive comma shape has made for stunning satellite imagery. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches Europe, but it will conspire with a high pressure system over the continent to send a stream of warm air into the Arctic through the Greenland Sea.

“Temperatures are forecast to reach the melting point in Svalbard, Norway, an island between the Greenland and Karas Seas. The North Pole could also approach the melting point on Thursday.

“It’s just the latest signal that the Arctic is in the middle of a profound change. Sea ice extent has dropped precipitously as has the amount of old ice, which is less prone to breakup. Beyond sea ice, Greenland’s ice sheet is also melting away and pushing sea levels higher, large fires are much more common and intense in boreal forests and other ecosystem changes are causing the earth to hyperventilate.

“Together, these all indicate that the Arctic is in crisis. It’s the most dramatic example of how carbon pollution is reshaping the planet and scientists are racing to understand what comes next.” –Brian Kahn (More:  The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic | Climate Central.)

Canada to Set Carbon Price, Marking Split with Trump

GR:  Canada is trying a little.

“Canada’s government and 10 provinces are set to agree a national carbon price, doubling down on a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions just weeks before avowed climate change skeptic Donald Trump becomes U.S. president.

“Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the carbon price — the first of its kind in Canada — will help the country meet its targets under the 2015 Paris environmental accords and boost the Canadian clean technology sector.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Credit: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

“The price deal is another sign of Trudeau’s alignment on climate issues with U.S. President Barack Obama, who is pressing to curb greenhouse emissions, mainly from coal-fired power plants. Trump has said he wants to help the coal industry and would pull out of the Paris agreement as it was harmful to the U.S. economy.

“Canada’s government has brushed aside critics who fret the carbon deal could make Canadian businesses uncompetitive at a time when U.S. energy prices may come down as a result of Trump policies.

“We think that we’ve struck the right balance … it’s tough to speculate on what President-elect Trump will do. We will be defending Canada’s interests on the basis of the action of the new administration,” said Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

“Under Trudeau’s plan, carbon pollution would cost C$10 ($7.60) a ton in 2018, rising by C$10 a year until it reaches C$50 in 2022. The provinces can either implement a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market and hold-outs will have a price imposed by Ottawa.

“Environmental groups say the carbon price and other federal measures announced this year, such as a clean fuel standard and a plan to combat methane emissions, mean Canada might attain its Paris goal of reducing emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.” –David Ljunggren, Reuters (Continue:  Canada to Set Carbon Price, Marking Split with Trump | Climate Central)