The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and other media outlets have been claiming over the last few days that a newly published study shows that “even if every driver in Canada made the switch, from gas to electric, the total emissions might not actually go down”. This information is totally false and is not what the study shows.
The study shows, quite correctly, that if drivers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia switched from gasoline to electric vehicles, emissions would rise. This is because much of the electricity in those provinces comes from coal. However, in all other provinces, switching from gasoline to electric vehicles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Given that the three provinces account for less than 17% of Canada’s population, the increased emissions that would arise from electric vehicles would be outweighed by the improvement in emissions arising from the switch to electric vehicles in the other provinces. If every Canadian switched to an electric vehicle, an unlikely scenario over the next decade, the impact on emissions would of course depend on the sources the provinces choose for the increased electricity demand but it seems unlikely much of that the additional power requirements would be met with coal.
The CBC has corrected the story in some of its reporting but incorrect information still remains on its website and was repeated on the flagship radio program The Current this morning.
The following is a brief summary of the commentary by Christopher Kennedy, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto:
- To reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the short term, and catalyse longer-term cuts, countries should reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation to below a universal target of about 600 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GigaWatthour by 2020.
- The world average carbon intensity for electricity production in 2011 was 536 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GigaWatthour
In Canada, four provinces have grids under 20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GigaWatthour, while Alberta and Saskatchewan have high carbon intensities >750 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GigaWatthour.
If sub-regions with such carbon-intensive power grids can be encouraged to meet the 600-ton threshold, then this would bring national average intensities down even further.
It may be possible to provide all of the world’s electricity needs from renewable sources.
GallonDaily has no difficulty with Professor Kennedy’s commentary but takes objection to the inaccurate way in which the CBC and other media outlets have interpreted it. One CBC article, not the most egregious offender in misinterpretation of the scientific commentary, and a link to Prof. Kennedy’s three page commentary can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-march-24-2015-1.3006711/switching-to-an-electric-car-isn-t-always-good-for-the-environment-1.3006734
In an interview with CBC radio’s The 180, Trevor McLeod, Director of the Centre for Natural Resources Policy at the Canada West Foundation, argues that the provinces, not the federal government, should be responsible for climate policies within their own jurisdictions. It is rumoured that the Ontario government also prefers an Ontario-led climate initiative rather than a federal initiative.
McLeod’s arguments appear to include:
provinces jealously guard natural resource ownership,
environment is a shared jurisdiction under the Constitution, and
differences among provincial economies make a one-size-fits-all approach impractical.
He appears to believe that if climate change is left to the provinces they will come together to develop an overarching national climate change program that can be presented to the world as a Canadian initiative.
GallonDaily believes that this Canada West Foundation proposal should be rejected by business, particularly those businesses that have greenhouse gas emitting operations in more than one province or that ship products between provinces. Sooner or later, climate initiatives will inevitably affect more than just the largest emitters. The only way to reach the targets to which Canada has committed is to apply carbon-reducing initiatives to every sector of society. This can be done through carbon taxes, numerous forms of cap and trade program, incentives, and regulations. If action is left to the provinces we suggest that history shows that each and every province will head in a different direction. Substantial coordination among the provinces is unlikely. So companies doing business in more than one province will face:
- carbon taxes in some provinces but not in others, as already exists
- cap and trade programs that encompass some provinces but not others and that have different reporting requirements in different provinces
- industrial and end-user incentive programs that vary from province to province
- greenhouse gas emissions regulations that are different in each province
- tailpipe emission regulations which change whenever a vehicle crosses a provincial boundary
- some provincial requirements based on resource extraction while others are based on utilization of the resource
Companies dealing with packaging stewardship are already grumbling loudly about the inefficiency, from a business perspective, of the several different stewardship models in use across the country. Imagine how much more arduous dealing with ten or more different greenhouse gas emissions control regimes would be.
The radio interview and a brief summary can be heard/seen at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/niqab-ban-endangered-species-three-party-candidate-1.3000139/should-carbon-pricing-fall-to-provinces-regions-or-the-feds-1.3000523
Under the heading Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, President Obama this week issued an Executive Order requiring the US Federal Government to begin implementing a climate change mitigation program for its own activities. Among the requirements are that executive departments and agencies shall:
- increase efficiency and improve their environmental performance. Improved environmental performance will help us protect our planet for future generations and save taxpayer dollars through avoided energy costs and increased efficiency, while also making Federal facilities more resilient. To improve environmental performance and Federal sustainability, priority should first be placed on reducing energy use and cost, then on finding renewable or alternative energy solutions. Pursuing clean sources of energy will improve energy and water security, while ensuring that Federal facilities will continue to meet mission requirements and lead by example. Employing this strategy for the next decade calls for expanded and updated Federal environmental performance goals with a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations and the Federal supply chain. Under the order the head of each department and agency is required to:
- within 90 days of the date of this order, propose to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget percentage reduction targets for agency-wide reductions of scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by the end of fiscal year 2025 relative to a fiscal year 2008 baseline.
- where life-cycle cost-effective, beginning in fiscal year 2016, unless otherwise specified promote building energy conservation, efficiency, and management.
- promote sustainable acquisition and procurement by ensuring that specified environmental performance and sustainability factors are included to the maximum extent practicable for all applicable procurements in the planning, award, and execution phases of the acquisition. This includes recycled content products, energy and water efficient products and services, BioPreferred and biobased products, and environmentally preferable products and services.
- for the seven largest Federal procuring agencies, submit for consideration plans to implement at least five new procurements annually in which the agency may include, as appropriate, contract requirements for vendors or evaluation criteria that consider contractor emissions and greenhouse gas emissions management practices.
The 11 page highly detailed order includes many more requirements and specific numerical targets in each area. It is essential reading for Canadian companies doing, or seeking to do, business with the US government. While the actual greenhouse gas reductions that will be achieved by the order are quite small, in the case of most departments and agencies, the leadership that it provides, as well as the compliance that will result from the multitude of US companies doing business with the government, is likely to be substantial.
The full order can be read and copied from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/19/executive-order-planning-federal-sustainability-next-decade
As part of a conservation program, researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK are seeking to count, track and study the behaviour of tigers around the world. To do that they have asked the global community of internet users to assist. Given the popularity of tigers and the support for tiger conservation efforts this is likely to be a very popular initiative to help the scientific community and one which could provide a model not just for animal conservation but also for other scientific crowdsourcing initiatives which have popular appeal. Those who choose to work on the project will be volunteers.
The project team points out that a Google search for tiger identifies 139 million results. Some of these are for real tigers but many are not. In order to catalogue the real tigers the researchers are asking project participants to help go through these 139 web sites seeking photographs of real tigers. The real tiger photographs will be catalogued along with data as to date, time, location, etc. This will result in a database of photos of real tigers. The team hopes that facial recognition software will be able to work on the database and identify the number of distinct individual tigers that exist in the world today.
Although the idea of sorting through more than 139 million photographs and web pages, because new photographs of tigers taken by tourists, locals, biologists, and others are being added to the internet all the time, seems somewhat fantastical, if the project attracts say 300,000 people then each one has to review less than 500 web pages and pictures. Given that many will be about such things as football teams (the Hamilton Tiger Cats), stuffed toys, and pet cats called Tiger the enormous task becomes very manageable. GallonDaily applauds the research team for their creative and almost zero environmental approach to tracking tigers and encourages others to be just as creative when seeking solutions to big data challenges.
Details of the project, known as Wildsense, can be found at http://www.wildsense.org The app which powers the project has just been released for Ipad.
This week World Vision Canada released an infographic identifying the parts of the world and the product categories where child labour is rampant. World Vision’s “No Child for Sale” effort is laudable but GallonDaily can’t help but wonder whether tarring such a broad range of categories and products might not have unintended consequences if consumers decide to boycott the complete World Vision list:
- sporting goods
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
GallonDaily understands that World Vision is seeking to encourage people to sign its petition to ask the Canadian Government to work with Canadian companies to help consumers access information about what companies are doing to identify, address and prevent child labour in their supply chains. We support that goal but cannot help but worry that well-meaning Canadians may well choose to boycott the listed products without realizing that many of the listed products from these countries are produced without the involvement of child labour and perhaps even in reasonably sustainable ways that help support and develop the economic well-being of the population of these developing countries. Broad brush strokes are not always the best approach to complex challenges like that of child labour. However, if the business response to the World Vision campaign is to quickly implement programs of certification of products as being free from child labour, maybe everyone’s objective will have been achieved.
The World Vision infographic is available at http://nochildforsale.ca/resource/infographic-mapping-global-imports-to-canada/globalmap_final-combined1-2/ and the full campaign can be viewed starting at http://nochildforsale.ca/
The feeding of birds seems to be an increasingly controversial topic these days. In many towns and cities bylaws have been passed to restrict or ban the feeding of birds because of the mess, and sometimes the noise, that a large number of birds can create. Despite the bylaws many people, especially elders and children, can be found feeding pigeons, ducks, and other feathered friends in public places. GallonDaily is inclined to think that providing food to birds provides some primal benefit, just as does the housing of cats, dogs, and other pets, and that it should not be prohibited. Indeed there may be reasons to encourage the feeding of birds, both for conservation and for human benefit.
Now a UK charity, Canal and River Trust, has published a series of web pages under the heading Help us keep our ducks healthy. Among the findings of the Trust:
- going to your local park to throw stale bread at ducks is completely wrong.
- every year over 6 million loaves of bread are thrown into Britain’s canals and rivers by well-intentioned people feeding the ducks.
- throwing bread into a river can create overcrowding of bird populations, as the birds will flock to the same location in search of their starchy treat.
- too many ducks or waterfowl in one place can stress the birds and lead to their habitats being damaged. It also creates excessive amounts of bird poo, which along with being smelly and slippery underfoot, can impair water quality and create harmful algae which can clog the waterway.
- bread is essentially “junk food” for ducks, and the remnants left behind encourage rats, disease and algae.
- ducklings that are fed on bread end up being malnourished, while birds that get used to hand-outs can lose their natural fear of humans and may become “aggressive”.
- people are urged to feed ducks with frozen peas and sweetcorn instead. Ducks are also reportedly partial to grapes, which should be cut into quarters to make them easier to eat.
- oats, barley, rice and vegetable trimmings are also acceptable replacements for stale bread.
The full series of articles, including some recipes for alternative uses for stale bread, can be found at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features/help-us-keep-our-ducks-healthy
3M has announced a new pulp and paper sourcing policy that it claims is designed to ensure that all the virgin wood fibre going into 3M’s paper-based products and packaging comes from sources that protect forests and respect human rights. Under the new policy, all paper-based products and packaging suppliers are required to provide information on the original forest sources of the virgin pulp in 3M’s products, and allow those sources to be assessed against 3M’s policy. It also sets standards related to social concerns, including respect for workers’ rights and indigenous peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent to operations on their traditional lands. 3M has been under pressure from environmental groups for several years to strengthen its commitment to protect forests and endangered wildlife, and to support rights of forest-impacted communities.
Among the numerous elements of the policy are:
- 3M expects that all pulp, paper and packaging from its suppliers contains wood or plant-based fibre that is legally harvested, sourced, transported and exported from its country of origin. 3M also expects that its pulp, paper and packaging suppliers will work to assure and verify that virgin wood fibre and plant-based fibre provided to 3M is traceable through the supply chain back to the source of harvest.
- Pulp and paper must not be from areas where natural forests with high carbon stock are being converted to other land uses or plantations and must be obtained in a manner that respects the rights and safety of workers, including no forced or child labour, no employment discrimination, and the freedom to associate.
- 3M will use information on responsible forest management, including scientifically-credible ecosystem-based management, good forest planning, minimizing impacts of road building and logging, protection of watershed areas, support for local communities, and responsible chemical usage as a factor for preference in supplier selection.
3M’s new pulp and paper procurement policy is likely to encourage other consumer products manufacturers to move in a similar direction. Historically sustainable procurement policies have served only to reshuffle markets so that more sustainable products go to those companies which demand them while less sustainable, or unsustainable, products go to those which are less discriminating, often in developing countries. However sustainable pulp and paper markets are now beginning to approach a size where suppliers of unsustainable products may be forced by market economics to move to more sustainable sources of supply. There are fewer and fewer markets for unsustainably produced pulp and paper. Those companies that are still marketing products sourced from unsustainable sources or without credible third party verification can expect to feel increased pressure from environmental advocates and from consumers.
According to a poll conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights for CBC, more Canadians are concerned about the environment than about terrorism. This ranking of issues identified in the poll is:
- economy (89 per cent)
- health care (87 per cent)
- jobs and unemployment (81 per cent)
- the value of the dollar (79 per cent)
- the environment (75 per cent)
- oil prices (70 per cent)
- housing prices (68 per cent)
- terrorism (50 per cent)
Environment has not been as high as fifth place in similar rankings of issues since before economic problems rose to the top of the list in 2008. GallonDaily finds it frustrating that when environment falls as a priority in the polls it makes headlines, for example in the Toronto Star, but when it rises it gets little or no attention from the Canadian media. Headlines about this poll have focussed on terrorism, even though barely 50% of Canadians see terrorism as a high priority.
GallonDaily notes the following:
- there may be ranking issues between housing prices and terrorism but CBC News has not provided a complete list.
- CBC often provides access to the complete polling report, or at least to a detailed summary, but so far neither CBC nor Pollara seem to have done this with this poll.
- CBC states that a total of 1,000 adult Canadians participated in the online survey between Feb. 8 and 11. Since the poll was conducted online, reporting on the margin of error is not applicable. However, as a guideline, a probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Without seeing the polling report GallonDaily is unable to comment on the exact question asked or how the online polling was conducted.
Nevertheless we are pleased to pass on the top line result that relates to public opinion about the environment. The CBC News story about the poll can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/terrorism-survey-50-of-canadians-feel-less-safe-than-2-years-ago-1.2978177
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, now the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change, and a senior environmental activist, has proposed a solution to the Keystone XL pipeline impasse which GallonDaily finds quite appealing, possibly even falling into that nebulous category of win-win.
In an opinion article published on the blog BloombergView, Bloomberg comments:
- The Keystone XL pipeline has become a perfect symbol of Washington’s dysfunction. Democrats exaggerate its environmental impact while Republicans exaggerate its economic benefits.
- Ignoring carbon pollution is disastrous for public health, and ignoring the risks associated with climate change is environmentally and economically foolish.
- [Canadian pressure for the pipeline] gives the White House enormous leverage, which it should use to negotiate a broader, climate-friendly deal that far more than offsets the potential impact of the pipeline.
- A U.S.-Canada agreement would position Canada as a leader on climate change, while also delivering a big economic boost to its economy. Here in the U.S., Republicans in Congress could declare economic victory, while Democrats could declare environmental victory. The president could declare both, while also burnishing his foreign policy legacy and building momentum for the conference in Paris.
The complete Bloomberg article can be read at http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-25/mike-bloomberg-keystone-xl-solution-runs-through-Canada. It is short and very much to the point.
To Bloomberg’s message, GallonDaily would add:
- Pipelines, though far from fool or spill proof, are an environmentally safer and lower energy way of transporting liquids such as oil than railcars.
- Not building KeyStone XL is not going to halt expansion of the Canadian tar sands activities. Indeed, not building Keystone XL will almost certainly mean that tar sands oil contributes even greater greenhouse gas emissions, if for no other reason than that much of the production will be railroaded or pipelined to the east coast from where it will be shipped to Europe and beyond. While petroleum products are still being used it would be better to use local reserves and to reduce imports from half way around the world than to take Canadian production and ship it half way around the world.
- While it is true that extraction and processing of tar sands oil produces more GHG emissions and other environmental effects than conventional oil extraction, it is this very fact that could contribute significant leverage to a Canada-US agreement.
Building on the Bloomberg proposal, GallonDaily suggests that President Obama should contact Prime Minister Harper and propose that Canada and the US negotiate a climate change agreement which would include:
- real, absolute, additional and permanent reduction of GHG emissions in the Canadian economy at least equal to, and tracking in perpetuity, the additional emissions resulting from extraction of tar sands crude, effective no later than 2020.
- a commitment by Canada to live up to its 2010 Copenhagen Accord commitment to achieve a 2020 economy-wide target of a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels.
- a commitment to cooperate on global leadership in GHG reductions at an accelerated rate with a target of at least a 70% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2050.
- a commitment by Canada to achieve an acceptable level of social responsibility in the Athabasca region, particularly by eliminating environmental emissions of persistent toxic chemicals from tar sands activities.
As Michael Bloomberg has stated in his article:
A U.S.-Canada agreement would position Canada as a leader on climate change, while also delivering a big economic boost to its economy. Here in the U.S., Republicans in Congress could declare economic victory, while Democrats could declare environmental victory. The president could declare both, while also burnishing his foreign policy legacy and building momentum for the conference in Paris.
GallonDaily would like to hope that Prime Minister Harper could be engaged by such an overture from the U.S. President as part of a deal to approve Keystone XL. Unfortunately . . .