This is a Letter to the Editor published in the Toronto Star on June 25th, 2022 written by Ray Nakano
Re: Floods devastate South Asia, and Europe grapples with early heat wave, June 19th, 2022
Millions of people are suffering from floods and mudslides in Bangladesh; unprecedented heat waves and wildfires in Europe, the U.S. Midwest, India, and Pakistan, and other parts of the world. Millions are being displaced from destroyed homes, many without sufficient water or food.
And it’s going to get worse as the summer is just beginning.
Canadian mainstream media says this is happening due to climate change. It would be more accurate if they called this what it is: a climate crisis. And Canadian main- stream media never connects the dots with regard to what is causing the climate crisis: our continued subsidizing, extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
The federal government provided $3.3 billion in subsidies last year to fossil fuel companies.
Canadians are paying for their own demise, and that of the world.
This article was written by Adam Radwanski and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 27, 2022.
On a recent sweltering morning, a parade of congressional Democrats took to a microphone outside the U.S. Capitol building to urge President Joe Biden to do whatever it takes to finally pass hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to combat climate change.
It was a show of unity, with leaders of sometimes disparate factions within the House of Representatives – including the leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus and centrist New Democrat Coalition – alongside each other.
But there was also an underlying message, evident in recent interviews with Washington climate-policy advocates, including Congress members and leading environmental activists.
The signal they’re sending is that, at this point, they’re ready to declare victory if Mr. Bidenis abletogetlegislative approvalfor a climate package – even if it’s significantly slimmed down from the original $550-billion version that has repeatedly failed to get through the Senate – before looming midterm elections in which his party could lose control of Congress. At the same time, they’re trying to adjust their expectations for what comes next if a Republican party opposed to most climate action takes more congressional control. To some, it’s an opportunity to consider whether arguments for economic self-interest could help achieve bipartisan consensus; to others, it’s an imperative to find new ways to put the presidency’s executive powers to use.
“It’s hard not to throw up one’s hands given the state of play in Washington,” said Claire Healy, the Washington director for the climate think tank E3G. “But that’s not an option. My view is we have to get what we can when we can get it, and keep pushing and building for the long term.”
Expectations have fallen drastically since Mr. Biden took office, when he was supposed to fast-track a clean-energy revo
lution domestically while internationally repositioning the U.S. at the fore front of the global struggle to avert environmental catastrophe.
He has managed modest steps in that direction, including a relatively small portion of last year’s US$1.2-trillion infrastructure bill going toward power-grid modernization and electric-vehicle charging capacity. He used executive action to restore environmental regulations gutted by Donald Trump, including those targeting vehicle tailpipe emissions. He returned the U.S. to the Paris climate accord.
But mostly, it’s been an exercise in frustration. More immediate crises – COVID-19, Ukraine, inflation and now the rollback of abortion rights – have kept climate from the top of the priority list. Consumer angst during a global energy crunch has Mr. Biden pushing for increased domestic oil production and a gasoline tax break, at odds with reducing fossil-fuel dependence. This week, the Supreme Court may continue its run of historically conservative decisions by curbing the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, limiting the department’s ability to set climate policies without congressional approval.
That leaves anyone here who’s dedicated to climate policy having to lean on seemingly long-shot sources of hope.
Among some legislators, there is a renewed push for carbon pricing, which has thus far been consistently rejected at the national level in the U.S. The idea is that pairing it with carbon border adjustments – i.e., tariffs on imports from countries without comparable pricing systems – could get some support from Republicans drawn to trade protectionism.
Speaking in his office, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – who recently introduced proposed carbon pricing and border-adjustment legislation – framed that sort of case.
“It would be an act of stupid economic self-harm to fail to take advantage of the lower relative carbon intensity of U.S. manufacturing compared to Chinese and other foreign manufacturing,” Mr. Whitehouse said. “So for people who don’t care about climate change, there is the competition argument that this puts a big lift behind American industry.”
That fits into a view held by some centrist Democrats, such as Florida Congressman Ted Deutch – who co-chairs the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and is working with Mr. Whitehouse on carbon pricing – that the past couple of years show the need to depoliticize climate policy and bring Republicans aboard.
In an interview, Mr. Deutch suggested that growing incidences of climate-related disasters – “what’s happening literally in every part of this country, from droughts to wildfires to floods to hurricanes” – will make it harder for Republicans to ignore the issue.
At the same time, he said, Democrats must stop framing it in the “Green New Deal” terms that were in vogue when Mr. Biden entered office, and accept that their climate agenda will have to be incremental, which he acknowledged is “not the preferred method for many of my colleagues.”
At this point, climate-oriented policy makers and activists may not have any choice but to live with incrementalism. But there will also be a push for Mr. Biden to think more expansively in trying to move the needle.
Ms. Healy, for instance, suggested that environmentalists should push Mr. Bid en to use the power of the White House for internationally resonant moves, such as structural reforms to make the (largely U.S.-controlled) World Bank more focused on sustainability, and strengthening climate-risk disclosure rules through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“It’s not incrementalism or transformation,” she said. “It’s both, now.”
But for the moment, eyes are still mostly on whether some of the long-debated US$550-billion – largely consisting of tax credits to expedite renewable electricity, electric-vehicle uptake and commercialization of other clean technologies – can get over the finish line.
Realistically, most proponents are limited in what they can do on that front. As has beenthecase throughoutMr. Biden’s presidency, the plan’s fate rests with West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, an unusually coalfriendly Democrat who holds the decisive vote in the evenly-split Senate.
Other Democratic caucus members concede they don’t really know where talks between Mr. Biden and Mr. Manchin are at. There has been an eerie quiet surrounding them recently, which environmentalists are optimistically taking as a sign of lessons learned, after more open negotiations around the Build Back Better bill (meant to include the climate measures alongside new social spending) ending in acrimony.
“It’s very clear to me that the Biden administration has continued to prioritize climate action even as the conversations with Senator Manchin have disappeared from public view,” said Kevin Curtis, the executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund. “Given the very public process in 2021 that ended in failure, I understand the desire to negotiate in private.”
All that groups like his can really do now is keep pressure on the White House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Manchin to prioritize a deal amid everything else going on. That involves lining up stakeholders, including private-sector interests, to push for clean-energy transition – not just an environmental imperative, but also an economic and nationalsecurity one.
“Senator Manchin has the voting card; I don’t,” said Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp. “But we’ll continue to do everything we can to make legislation more likely. And that [includes putting] together a variety of people that don’t have voting cards, who are all telling senators this is a win-win-win.”
Meanwhile, environmental advocates are readying to try to mobilize environmentallyconsciousvotersinthemidterms.
That will involve putting the best possible spin on Mr. Biden’s climate moves to date, which Mr. Curtis said his organization’s research shows are mostly unknown by the American public.
But to avoid the environmental movement’s frustrations curdling into outright despondence, it would sure help to have the centrepiece negotiations of the Biden administration’s first two years end in something other than total failure.
Standing around after the press conference on Capitol Hill that recent morning, Craig Auster – the vice-president for political affairs at the League of Conservation Voters and one of the organizations that co-ordinated the event – summed up the hunger for a win from spending legislation that once seemed to have historically transformational potential.
“Depending what the deal is, we’re ready to be positive about the positive things in it,” he said. “And remind people that we were never going to solve climate change with just one bill.”
This article was written by Goran Tomasevic and Geoffrey York, and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 25, 2022.
A DROUGHT ACROSS THE HORN OF AFRICA HAS LEFT FAMILIES FACING IMPOSSIBLE CHOICES LIKE WHICH OF THEIR CHILDREN TO FEED. MILLIONS OF LIVES ARE AT STAKE
ACROSS THE HORN OF AFRICA, FROM NORTHERN KENYA TO EASTERN ETHIOPIA AND MOST OF SOMALIA, A DEVASTATING DROUGHT HAS TRIGGERED A SPIKE IN MALNUTRITION AND THE LOOMING THREAT OF FAMINE, WITH MILLIONS OF PEOPLE INCREASINGLY AT RISK OF STARVATION.
The drought’s causes are a toxic cocktail of the worst ills of the 21st century: civil war, extremism, military invasion, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers are suffering, food prices are soaring and humanitarian supplies are constrained by fundraising shortfalls.
The latest rainy season, from March to May, was the driest on record in the Horn of Africa. Four consecutive rains have failed – a phenomenon without precedent in the past four decades. The next rainy season, normally beginning in October, is also expected to be unusually dry, which would send the crisis spiralling to even more disastrous levels.
Relief agencies, including United Nations agencies, estimate that 18.4 million people are facing “high acute food insecurity” (essentially, the threat of starvation) in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia today – and this number is forecast to expand to 20 million by September, a dramatic increase from 14 million earlier this year.
In all three countries, the number of severely malnourished children admitted for treatment in the first quarter of this year was “significantly higher” than in previous years, according to a statement by the humanitarian agencies this month.
More than 1.7 million children are now in urgent need of treatment for acute malnutrition in the Horn of Africa, the UN children’s agency Unicef warned this month. The malnutrition leads not only to wasting – a form of emaciation – but also a weakened immune system and greater risk of disease.
“If the world does not widen its gaze from the war in Ukraine and act immediately, an explosion of child deaths is about to happen in the Horn of Africa,” said Rania Dagash, the Unicef deputy director for Eastern and Southern Africa, at a briefing in Geneva.
In northern and eastern Kenya, an estimated 4.1 million people – a quarter of the population – are in acute need of food. These districts are normally arid or semiarid, but the latest drought has been compounded by fast-rising food prices and the deaths of about 1.5 million cattle and other livestock.
The Turkana region, in northern Kenya, is one of the driest in the country. The drought has compounded the hardships of people in Turkana. Their reliance on livestock means that when their animals die, their entire livelihoods are at stake.
A top United Nations humanitarian official raised concerns about Turkana during a trip to the region last month, joining calls for more resources to address the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa.
“These families have nothing left,” said Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs.
“Mothers make impossible choices. The only food available for their children is sometimes from the schools. But to pay the fees, you need to sell livestock. There’s no more livestock. The world’s attention is elsewhere and we know that, but we must give these people choices for the children to have the slightest possibility to survive to the next day.”
In eastern and southern Ethiopia, about 7.2 million people are severely foodinsecure because of the drought, and about 2.5 million livestock have died.
But the most catastrophic crisis is in Somalia, where more than 80 per cent of the country is facing severe-to-extreme drought conditions and about three million livestock have died.
A decade ago, Somalia was hit by a famine that killed a quarter of a million people. But the current emergency is, by some measures, even more severe.
Civil war, fuelled by Islamist militants, has combined with the drought to cause widespread hunger. Food shortages and rising prices, a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have compounded the crisis. And climate change is another key factor in the drought, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said.
“Already we are hearing stories of desperation, with some people telling us they have faced the impossible choice of leaving one child to die to save others,” said Djoen Besselink, the country representative for humanitarian agency Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Somalia.
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are on the move, walking to displacement camps where they can get food and water.
Some families have walked up to 150 kilometres to seek help, with children often dying on the journey and being buried by the roadside, according to MSF.
“For 20 days, we walked while carrying our children,” a 75-year-old Somali man told MSF after arriving at a camp for displaced people in the Lower Juba region. He said his extended family had no money for transportation, and even its donkeys had died in the drought.
In total, about 7.1 million Somalis – nearly half of the country’s population – are now suffering crisis-level food insecurity. Of these, about 213,000 are facing starvation, a sharp increase from an earlier estimate of 81,000 in April, UN agencies say. A growing number of districts across Somalia are at risk of famine, the UN says.
Despite the millions of lives at stake, the humanitarian agencies are struggling to raise funds for the crisis. As of early June, they had raised only 18 per cent of their target of US$1.5-billion for Somalia. Similarly small percentages have been donated for the other countries in the region.
“We’re calling on the international community to act fast,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, the representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Somalia, in a statement this month.
“We are being limited in what we can do to prevent this extraordinary suffering.”
This article was written by John Lorinc and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 24, 2022.
Low-carbon HVAC systems can provide a greener alternative to baseboard heaters, window-mounted ACs
When it comes to reducing carbon from buildings, the best solutions are the two-for-one deals – those design choices or retrofits that deliver twinned benefits for the price of one.
With Passive House architecture, for example, buildings that are constructed or renovated with extra-thick insulation and triple-glaze windows, to minimize energy loss, also require highly effective ventilation, meaning these structures use far less energy and are also filled with fresh air.
In the case of design that relies on tall timber or natural finishes, the use of materials such as wood means not only sequestering carbon, but also reducing the socalled off-gassing associated with synthetics, that causes poor indoor air quality, headaches and drowsiness.
A Toronto firm, Bondi Energy, has developed another variation on the theme – a straightforward and relatively inexpensive approach to retrofitting older multiunit residential buildings with technology that both improves energy efficiency while also providing cooling to un-air-conditioned dwellings – a fix that has become critically important at a time when the rising incidence of extreme summer heat can prove to be deadly, as happened in B.C. last year, when 619 people, many of them seniors, died during the so-called heat dome.
The three-year-old company – founded by an apartment building investor and a mechanical engineer specializing in low-carbon HVAC systems – swaps out aging baseboard heaters and windowmounted air-conditioners for airsource heat pumps, which are located on balconies. These devices provide both heating and cooling, and use a quarter to a third of the electricity of baseboards, thus reducing utility costs at a time when hydro rates are rising rapidly. (The company also replaces gas-fired boilers with centralized electrical HVAC systems.)
As Bondi co-founder and president Belinda Gilbey points out, the increasing use of electricity is forcing even relatively green utilities, such as Ontario Power Generation, to rely more heavily on gas-fired generation during peak periods, especially on hot summer days when the loads associated with air-conditioning use spike.
“We know that in North America, the burning of natural gas is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions behind transportation,” Ms. Gilbey says, noting that there are about 400,000 apartments in Ontario that currently use electric resistance baseboard heaters. “So heat pumps are a solution to that problem. If you can get buildings off gas and put in heat pumps for heating and cooling, you’re going to save a ton of gas.”
Aaron Graben, Bondi’s other co-founder and vice-president, adds that landlords and property managers are increasingly thinking about mitigating the longterm financial risk associated with rising energy prices. And, as he says, “it trickles down to the context of the actual tenant and affordability. Now there’s a conversation about energy justice.”
To date, the company is targeting older rental buildings, condos and long-term-care facilities. It has completed 283 units on a pair of apartment buildings in Mississauga and is working on another 177 in the same complex. Another project is under way in downtown Toronto, with 94 apartments. Ms. Gilbey says the capital cost is $1,000 to $2,000 a suite.
Bondi lists nine projects in all on its website, with estimated annual electricity savings from $340 to $1,300 for each completed suite, with increases in the cap rate (a valuation metric used by asset managers that divides net operating income of the property by the current market value or purchase price) running from $7,250 to more than $32,000 a unit.
Yet, while the benefits appear to be broad-ranging, the business case for this kind of retrofit still doesn’t meet the pay-back timelines that most apartment building owners (and condo corporations) want from such investments. Some of Bondi’s projects relied on time-limited federal retrofit grants as well as financing from The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a non-profit that underwrites clean building projects. The two Mississauga buildings, for example, qualified for a $2.5million assist.
Those subsidies represented about a quarter of the cost, says Bryan Purcell, TAF’s vice-president of policy and programs. “We’re not quite there without subsidies for a typical owner.”
Ms. Gilbey says Bondi’s goal is to develop a business model that stands on its own, and makes sense for property managers. The firm offers to set up pilot projects in a handful of units within a building so landlords can do sideby-side comparisons.
But Mr. Purcell points out that municipalities may soon begin to impose air-conditioning requirements on landlords, which represents a future regulatory-compliance expense on top of structural shifts in the price of energy. As well, public sector energy agencies, such as the Independent Energy Systems Operator, are beginning to think about providing incentives to encourage this kind of retrofit, as is done with gas utilities that provide residential customers with grants to swap out older furnaces with high-efficiency models.
For landlords and condo corporations, Mr. Purcell adds, the best time to begin exploring this kind of retrofit is toward the end of the life-cycle of existing HVAC systems, which typically need to be replaced after 25 years. “We encourage people to take that longterm perspective.”
This article was written by Adam Radwanski and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 24, 2022.
A major Canadian industry group is sounding the alarm about companies’ readiness to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and is calling on the federal government to develop more focused industrial polices to support that transition.
On Thursday, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) association released a survey of its members that suggests only about one quarter of them have set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 – the national target to which Ottawa has committed, and an increasingly common one for the private sector. Less than half of respondents said they are even tracking their current emissions.
Asked about the biggest obstacles to pursuing net-zero, the most common response was lack of resources, which was cited by nearly half of respondents. And fewer than one in 10 agreed that “governments are doing enough to help my company transition to a net-zero economy and remain competitive.”
The survey has a rather small sample size, with responses from 96 of the association’s approximately 2,500 members.
But an accompanying report published by CME the same day includes further evidence of current emissions-reduction commitments falling well short. It states that Canadian manufacturers are currently investing only about $1-billion per year on emissions-reducing technologies – a far cry from the $6-billion annually that it estimates would be required to achieve net-zero.
While the survey and report seemingly call into question the environmental commitment of the organization’s own members, they also highlight increasingly familiar concerns about Ottawa’s strategy to help Canadian industry compete in a decarbonizing world.
One of those concerns is that, while the federal government has recently committed large sums toward promoting lowemissions manufacturing, it has done so in a very broad-based way, with little by way of focused sectoral strategies.
“We need to have a strategy, because we probably can’t do everything for everyone,” Dennis Darby, CME’s president and CEO, said in an interview. “So how do we focus?”
The primary funding vehicle for industrial decarbonization that Ottawa has rolled out in recent years, the $8-billion Net Zero Accelerator, is an envelope for all manner of climate-related investments – including both to help existing industry reduce emissions, and to attract manufacturers of low-emissions products, such as electric vehicles.
It’s not yet clear how another mechanism that is supposed to leverage public dollars to stimulate clean-technology investment – the $15-billion Canada Growth Fund promised, with few details, in this year’s federal budget – will be structured. But to date, the government has not crafted an industrial strategy that specifically identifies barriers to sectors’ emissions-reduction goals – either in terms of specific capital challenges, or regulatory obstacles – and seeks to remove them in a targeted way.
A concern highlighted even more by CME, though, is a current lack of decarbonization support for small and medium-sized enterprises, which according to its survey are currently much less likely than larger ones to be pursuing net-zero strategies.
“SMEs especially don’t have the resources to do this,” Mr. Darby said.
Supports that Ottawa currently provides for clean-economy transition, especially through the Net Zero Accelerator, are geared primarily toward larger industry. That’s at least partly a deliberate strategy to achieve significant megatons of emissions reductions with relatively few commitments.
The effect is seemingly to exacerbate a lack of capital flowing into emissions reduction by SMEs, which account for over 40 per cent of Canadian exports, compared with bigger players. So in its report, CME calls for “an effective and targeted SME net zero transition strategy, with a specific focus on education and global supply chain competitiveness.”
An additional concern raised in the CME report is around the need to vastly expand Canada’s supply of clean electricity for manufacturers to have a reliable energy supply that’s compatible with net-zero goals. That’s a subject that the federal government has recently been publicly identifying as a priority, although it’s challenged by power grids mostly being a matter of provincial jurisdiction – underscoring the importance of Ottawa’s promised federal-provincial national grid council that quickly taking shape and proving effective.
The CME survey does contain some encouraging indicators for existing federal policies. Most notably, 44 per cent of respondents indicated support for carbon pricing, while only 27 per cent said they oppose it. (The rest were neutral or did not know.)
It also indicates a desire for carbon border adjustments – a form of tariff that protects domestic manufacturers competing against companies from other countries that don’t have comparable carbon pricing systems. The federal government has expressed interest in that mechanism, but has struggled with the implications of doing so when the United States, by far Canada’s biggest trading partner, does not have a national carbon price.
But the biggest takeaway, on Thursday, was that neither industry nor government are doing anywhere near enough to get Canadian manufacturing onto a net-zero trajectory.
Like many other countries, Canada has in recent years begun to inch back toward more interventionist industrial policy. But Ottawa will seemingly have to go further down that path, in a more strategic way, if it’s serious about meeting the goals it has set out.
This article was written by Matthew McClearn and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 24, 2022.
Budget constraints force the National Capital Commission to defer maintenance until assets reach what it describes as ‘near-critical condition’
A Crown corporation that is Ottawa-Gatineau’s largest landowner expects climateinduced damage to its properties to “increase exponentially, as will complaints” and warns it might not be able to keep up with repairs.
In an assessment of its exposure to risks and vulnerabilities from climate change released Thursday, the National Capital Commission said it’s already deferring maintenance owing to budget constraints until assets reach what it described as “near-critical condition.”
The NCC manages more than one-10th of lands within the capital region, including federal buildings, parks and numerous other assets – estimated to be collectively worth $2.2-billion.
Yet summer heat and droughts are causing its roads and bridges to deteriorate more rapidly, reducing their lives by as much as half. It’s also fostering algae blooms that have clogged water pumps. Intense rainfall is already causing flooding that erodes shorelines and threatens to wash away archeological sites. Shorter, warmer winters have also been disrupting NCC programs such as skating on the Rideau Canal and skiing in Gatineau Park.
Climate change is expected to exacerbate such existing challenges – and create new ones. Meanwhile, the NCC’s parks are still recovering from repeated floods in 2017 and 2019, each causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. A month after an intense windstorm known as a derecho struck the region, crews continued to clear forested sites this week; several remain closed.
Emily Rideout, the NCC’s sustainable development program officer, said those successive extreme-weather events highlighted a need to draw up detailed plans to adapt.
“We have experiences that are telling us we need to be better prepared for these events,” she said. “And we have data telling us that there’s more to come.”
The NCC manages a range of roads, bridges, 1,600 properties, nearly two dozen parks, riverside paths, water and waste water systems, and telecommunications infrastructure. It also manages a collection of approximately 4,000 artworks and furniture, which are periodically displayed in its six official residences.
Thursday’s report anticipates that more numerous winter freeze-thaw cycles will damage concrete, masonry and roofs. Heritage buildings, many of which lack modern insulation and weren’t designed for extreme heat, could become infernal hellholes for occupants. Artworks, particularly those made from wood and paper, are vulnerable to heat and humidity, and could become increasingly difficult to protect.
The report is part of a three-year initiative by the NCC to adapt to climate change. By next fall, it promises to complete a 10year plan that will propose solutions for addressing identified hazards. Ms. Rideout pointed to research that asserts that the benefit-to-cost ratio of “pro-active” adaptation to climate change effects could be as high as 38 to 1 should greenhouse-gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, or 9 to 1 under a scenario of reduced emissions.
“We’re very aware of what the literature is saying: that being pro-active and planning for this will be the more affordable approach, rather than waiting for damages to happen and being in catch-up and repair mode all the time,” she said.
The NCC said it has already begun to address some threats, for example by applying rubber-based sealants to roads to protect them from heat, and building riverside paths to better resist erosion by adding riprap and vegetation. But it said its annual $92-million budget has been frozen since 2009, and warned that if rising climate risks aren’t properly managed, it will be forced to request more funding, decrease service or abandon some programs and assets.
The organization acknowledged deficiencies such as “an absence of a climate lens” to nearly all of its internal processes, from asset inspections to land use planning, and said it doesn’t collect data about the cost of extreme weather.
Many of the report’s findings echoed those contained in a separate climate vulnerability and risk assessment released earlier this week by the City of Ottawa. The municipality also expects higher temperatures, increased precipitation, and more flooding, tornadoes and heat waves.
The city’s report anticipates a wide range of consequences such as increased harm to trees and algae blooms; additional demand for air conditioning in schools, low-income housing and community buildings; falling agricultural yields; intensification of invasive species; and declines in winter tourism. It warned that climate change could result in interruptions to city services, increased costs and reduced service levels.
“To protect livability and prosperity in Ottawa, action is needed within three years on 40 priority risks,” the city said in a statement.
This article was written by Tiffany May and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 24, 2022.
China is grappling with extreme weather emergencies across the country, with the worst flooding in decades submerging houses and cars in the south and recordhigh heat waves in the northern and central provinces causing roads to buckle.
Water levels in more than a hundred rivers across the country have surged beyond flood warning levels, according to the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece. Authorities in Guangdong province on Tuesday raised alerts to the highest level after days of rainfall and floods, closing schools, businesses and public transport.
The flooding has disrupted the lives of almost half a million people in southern China. Footage on state media showed rescue crews on boats paddling across waterlogged roads to relieve trapped residents. In Shaoguan, a manufacturing hub, factories were ordered to halt production, as water levels have reached a 50-year high, state television reported.
Guangdong’s emergency management department said that the rainfall has affected 479,600 people, ruined nearly 30 hectares of crops and caused the collapse of more than 1,700 houses, with financial losses totalling US$261million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
China has been grappling with summertime floods for centuries, but floods this year have also coincided with heat waves that struck the northern part of the country, where the heavy rain is also expected to move in the coming days.
Temperatures on Tuesday reached 40 C in nine northern and central provinces. In Henan, roadside surface temperatures as high as 73 C created ruptures in cement roads last week that resembled the aftermath of an earthquake, local media said.
The scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has driven up the demand for air conditioning, fuelling record electricity usage. In Shandong, a province in northeastern China with a population of 100 million, the maximum electricity load reached a record 92.94 million kilowatts on Tuesday, overtaking the 2020 high of 90.22 million kilowatts, state television said.
Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday that the country must increase coal production capacity to prevent power outages.
The floods and heat waves in China this year have stretched on for days and weeks, as it did last year when weeks of floods killed hundreds of people, caused power outages and displaced millions in central and southwestern China, including in Zhengzhou, where flood waters trapped commuters in subways.
The two-pronged weather emergency that China is experiencing reflects a global trend of increasingly frequent and lengthy episodes of extreme weather driven by climate change.
China has converted farmlands to cities in past decades, lifting millions of people in rural areas out of poverty. But it has also become the world’s largest polluter, with greenhouse gas emissions exceeding those of all developed nations combined.
Xi Jinping has since become the country’s first leader pledging to tackle climate change. China introduced a carbon market last July to curb emissions and has over the past 20 years nearly quintupled the acreage of green space in its cities.
But environmental damage has already been done. The devastation resulting from greenhouse gases is likely to continue in the coming years.
Two-pronged extreme weather emergency reflects a global trend linked to climate change
This article was written by Bill Curry and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 23, 2022.
Pipeline project was once forecast to sell for a profit, but has now shifted to a projected $600-million loss
Ottawa’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is no longer projected to be profitable because of construction delays and higher costs, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux says in a new report.
The Liberal government purchased the expansion project in 2018 from Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. at a cost of $4.4-billion. The project will twin an existing pipeline to address long-standing concerns that Western Canadian crude oil was selling at a discount owing to a lack of capacity needed to ship to export markets.
The purchase has frequently been criticized by environmentalists and the federal NDP as contrary to the Liberals’ stated desire to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions.
A 2020 report by the PBO projected that once in operation, the government would be able to sell the project at about a $600-million profit. Wednesday’s report said that forecast has since shifted to a projected $600-million loss.
“Based on the new developments since the previous report, specifically the increased construction costs and the delay in the in-service date, PBO finds that the government’s 2018 decision to acquire, expand, operate, and eventually divest of the Trans Mountain assets will result in a net loss for the federal government,” the PBO states.
The latest report updates that forecast using the same methodology, but incorporates two major developments with the project that occurred since the previous report: much higher construction costs and a one-year delay.
The PBO analysis does not attempt to estimate any other economic costs or benefits associated with the pipeline.
Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said the pipeline remains an important project for Canada’s energy sector. In an e-mailed statement in response to a request for comment on the PBO report, Ms. Savage said the pipeline has nearly all of its capacity filled through commitments from producers.
“Alberta crude will remain an important energy source for Canada and the world, as we continue to work toward a net-zero future,” she said. “Albertans expect and rely on the completion of TMX.”
The Crown corporation responsible for the project announced in February that the projected cost of the project had climbed to $21.4-billion from $12.6-billion and would not be complete until the third quarter of 2023.
In May, the federal government announced that it had approved a $10-billion loan guarantee for the project.
This week’s PBO report also states that in the event that the expansion project were to be stopped and cancelled indefinitely, the federal government would need to write off more than $14billion in assets.
Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an emailed statement that the pipeline expansion project is in the national interest and is commercially viable.
“The federal government intends to launch a divestment process after the project is further de-risked and after economic participation with Indigenous groups has progressed,” she said.
Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, pointed out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a news release in 2019 vowing that “every dollar” the government earns from the pipeline project will be invested in Canada’s clean-energy transition.
“The federal government is losing money on the pipeline whose profits they promised would pay for green energy,” he said, recommending that the government scrap the project and shift the remaining budget toward green energy projects.
Mr. Stewart said the federal project is “actively undermining” the government’s climate policies and the final cost and projected losses could ultimately come in even higher.
This article was written by Brent Jang and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 23, 2022.
International Energy Agency says a surge in investmen t is necessary to move world away from oil and gas
Greater investment is needed in renewable energy and clean technology to help reach climate goals even as the world consumes more fossil fuel, the International Energy Agency says.
After COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began easing in 2021, global demand for oil and natural gas gradually picked up and then rose further after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine four months ago.
European natural gas prices have been volatile, hitting record highs before falling as fears eased about the severity of shortages of the fuel. Prices have rallied again in June.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said government and industry players cannot afford to ignore climate change during the current global energy crisis. “We can tackle both at the same time,” he said during a webcast on Wednesday from Paris.
Mr. Birol raised the possibility of Europe having to dramatically shift energy sources in the long term if natural gas from Russia is eventually cut off. Already, there has been a sharp rise in imports of liquefied natural gas into Europe, which also plans to increase consumption of thermal coal to generate electricity.
“The growing worries in energy security means growing investments in coal,” Mr. Birol said.
Russia supplied nearly 40 per cent of the Europe Union’s total consumption of natural gas last year.
The Shell PLC-led LNG Canada project is the only LNG export terminal under construction in Canada. LNG Canada’s exports to Asia from Kitimat, B.C., are scheduled to start in 2025.
Tim Gould, the IEA’s chief energy economist, said a surge in investment in renewables and cleantech is required to speed up the transition toward clean energy and away from fossil fuel. “That’s the way that we can find lasting solutions to our energy and climate crisis,” he said.
Mr. Birol and Mr. Gould made the comments after the IEA released its annual World Energy Investment report, which highlighted the importance of nurturing clean energy investments in a wide range of areas such as solar, wind power, batteries and electric vehicles, as well as technology that includes carbon capture.
The IEA said investment in sectors related to clean energy grew by an average of 2 per cent annually in the five years after the signing of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate set country-specific targets for decreasing carbon emissions. Since 2020, the annual growth rate has jumped to an average of 12 per cent for investments in clean energy – “well short of what is required to hit international climate goals, but nonetheless an important step in the right direction,” the new report said.
Total spending in clean energy globally is forecast to rise to US$1.4-trillion this year.
“Where does this crisis leave fossil fuel producers? In the short term, it leaves most of them considerably wealthier,” the IEA’s report said. “High prices are generating an unprecedented windfall, especially for oil and gas suppliers.”
Windfall gains by oil and gas producers present an ideal opportunity for them to diversify and invest in clean energy, Mr. Birol added.
The IEA estimates that investment in clean energy accounted recently for 5 per cent of spending by oil and gas producers worldwide, compared with only 1 per cent in 2019.
Globally, there is momentum behind early-stage technology, with startups in the United States and Europe raising record funding, including for energy storage and hydrogen. “The momentum behind low-emissions hydrogen has been reinforced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has bolstered policy support, especially in Europe,” according to the IEA report.
Canada is seeking to hit emission-reduction targets to reach net zero by 2050, with hydrogen and carbon capture expected to play key roles in decarbonization.
The IEA report has examples of cleantech innovation that include Ballard Power Systems Inc. and Svante Inc., both based in Burnaby, B.C.
Ballard produces hydrogen fuel cells while Svante is gradually scaling up in the business of capturing carbon dioxide from smokestacks.
It’s unclear how much funding will be made available by investors for renewables and cleantech worldwide in the years ahead.
“The strategic importance of energy innovation, including research and development, and demonstration, remains as high as ever,” according to Wednesday’s report. “Without a significant increase in energy innovation spending, climate goals and long-run economic prospects are at risk.”
This article was written by Ivan Semeniuk and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 21, 2022.
Even for experienced climbers, the summit plateau of Mount Logan is no place to linger. But Alison Criscitiello did precisely that when she led an arduous 10day trek up Canada’s tallest mountain last month and camped there for a dozen days more while drilling ice out of the massive glacier that resides just below the summit’s multiple peaks, some 5.3 kilometres above sea level.
Before the expedition’s end, three of her six team members had to leave the mountain because of altitude-related illness.
This week, Dr. Criscitiello can step into a roomy -40 Celsius freezer in her lab and appreciate the reward she and her colleagues earned for enduring the oxygenstarved air and numbing cold.
There, packed in dozens of boxes, is the longest and most complete ice core ever extracted from the high altitude glacier. If reassembled, it would stand 327 metres tall – as high as the Eiffel Tower.
Its analysis promises to yield up to 30,000 years’ worth of atmospheric history and provide clues to the future impact of climate change in the Pacific Northwest.
“When you are really physically maxed out, something has to keep you going,” said Dr. Criscitiello, who directs the Canadian Ice Core Lab at the University of Alberta. “Watching that beautiful ice come out, with all of us hooting and hollering, was very motivating.”
While scientists who study past climate can draw on a range of clues, from ocean sediments to tree rings, only ice offers direct contact with Earth’s prehistoric atmosphere.
For that reason the Mount Logan ice core, which was airlifted by helicopter from the expedition’s drill site and trucked more than 2,000 kilometres to Edmonton, is likely to become a key reference in North America’s climate record.
“It’s fantastic,” said Mark Twickler, former science director for the U.S. National Science Foundation’s ice core collection, who was not a member of the expedition, when describing the team’s achievement. “People will be looking at that data for the next 50 years.”
For Dr. Criscitiello – a U.S.born, MIT-educated glaciologist and a mountaineer – the successful retrieval of the ice core marks the culmination of a fiveyear quest to replace another ice core from Mount Logan that was lost during a freezer malfunction shortly before she took up her position at the University of Alberta lab.
Measurements of that earlier specimen, collected in 2002 by the Geological Survey of Canada, showed that its oldest layers were deposited 16,000 years ago. Dr. Criscitiello said the ice core she and her team drilled last month will exceed that by several millennia – possibly dating to a time when our direct ancestors were still sharing the planet with their Neanderthal relatives.
Cores taken from the world’s largest ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are known to reach back much further, to 130,000 and 800,000 years ago respectively. But the data they carry show what was happening in polar environments during those distant epochs.
Mountain glaciers are important in a different way because they can reveal details about past climate in more temperate regions of the globe. Thanks to its age and location, the Mount Logan glacier is an especially valuable repository to sample.
Dr. Criscitiello said a detailed analysis of the newly retrieved ice core is set to begin this summer. It will include cutting into the ice so that its myriad layers representing thousands of winters worth of accumulated snowfall can be counted and imaged.
As researchers work their way along the length of the core, they will also measure the presence of various elements and atmospheric gasses trapped within the icy matrix.
The work will become more challenging as it nears the oldest portion of the core, where annual layers of ice are thinner because they have been more compressed by the overlying mass.
“Our timeline is pretty ambitious for getting all of this processed,” said Dr. Criscitiello, who added that she expects the bulk of the analysis will be completed by the end of October.
In some cases, traces of the history preserved in the ice core are apparent to the eye. Dr. Criscitiello said that her team occasionally spotted bands of darker material embedded in the bluish-white ice, located at different depths. The bands indicate the presence of ash from volcanic eruptions that occurred somewhere around the globe and settled on the ice.
Most traces are invisible, including salts and other airborne chemicals that were transported to the glacier from the nearby North Pacific. Once analyzed, these can provide a glimpse of changing ocean conditions over time.
Dominic Winski, an expedition member who is based at the University of Maine, said that he plans to study the ice core data for clues to the changing nature and extent of wildfires over the past several thousand years. The work includes detecting fine Jparticles of soot that are trapped in the ice to identify past fires, but it can also reveal much more.
“There’s a whole fleet of chemicals that are released when you burn plant material,” Dr. Winski said. “So we can not only tell how much fire was burning within the catchment of that ice core, but we can use the different chemistry of those compounds to tell what type of vegetation was burning.”
By linking changing fire conditions with other atmospheric data in the ice core, the analysis can help scientists to better discern the future of fire in the Pacific Northwest under the influence of a warming climate.
One bonus from the project was the relatively high quality of the ice core, Dr. Criscitiello said. Sometimes ice can fracture and shatter when it is extracted from the high pressure environment deep within a glacier. In this case, that rarely occurred, a feature that is likely to improve the sample’s scientific returns.
The Mount Logan expedition, which was funded by the National Geographic Society in partnership with Rolex, will also be featured in a television documentary.
Dr. Criscitiello said that, for her, the most satisfying moment during the project came after nearly two weeks on the summit plateau, after she watched the last sections of the ice core being safely removed from Mount Logan by helicopter.
At that point she and her remaining team members spent a day skiing back to their base camp while taking in spectacular views from the mountain’s snow-covered slopes.
“The ski down was incredible,” she said. “At that point all the work was behind us and I feel like, for seven hours, I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, we did it.’ ”
This article was written by Brent Jang and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 20, 2022.
The MaRS Discovery District is teaming up with consulting firm KPMG Canada to nurture startups, underscoring the need to accelerate the pace of growth at clean-technology companies to help the country reach climate goals.
Toronto-based MaRS, the high-tech innovation hub that provides support for a wide range of startups, is combining with KPMG Canada to launch their Climate Impact Accelerator program on Monday.
The goal is to speed up what normally has been a time-consuming and challenging process for cleantech companies to secure customers for products and services that are geared toward reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
KPMG Canada has a roster of government agencies and corporate clients expressing interest in climate solutions and being matched up with the appropriate cleantech startup.
Innovations such as technology for carbon capture and software for optimizing energy-efficient buildings are necessary as Canada seeks to hit emission-reduction targets to reach net zero by 2050, MaRS chief executive officer Yung Wu said in an interview from Toronto.
“There is no pathway to net zero without including innovation in that pathway,” Mr. Wu said.
“Whether you talk about the major emitting sectors in transportation or real estate or energy, they all must include some form of innovation.”
The collaboration by MaRS and KPMG Canada aims to bridge the gap between technological innovation and commercialization as government agencies and corporations continue to set sustainability goals and pledge to improve their performance on environmental, social and governance issues amid concerns over climate change.
“We need to ensure that we are commercializing those cleantech companies,” said Armughan Ahmad, president and managing partner of digital at KPMG Canada. “What do you have to do? You have to drive revenue growth, you have to acquire customers and clients. That is what this is about.”
The inaugural startup selected for the new accelerator program is Montreal-based BrainBox AI, a software developer that specializes in artificial intelligence for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, with the objective of decreasing the energy consumption in older buildings.
“We are looking forward to working with governments and companies and help them cut their energy usage by enabling building owners to significantly reduce their carbon footprints,” BrainBox CEO Sam Ramadori said in a statement.
Other startups will be selected in the months ahead for the Climate Impact Accelerator program.
MaRS spurs an array of companies in their early years and also “scale-up” firms that are further along the growth curve, such as those in the fields of health care and financial technology.
Last year, the innovation hub selected 10 cleantech companies to help accelerate their growth, ranging from Carbon Engineering Ltd. in Squamish, B.C., to BrainBox in Montreal to Stash Energy Inc. in Fredericton. Those participants are part of a separate program called Mission from MaRS: Climate Impact Challenge.
MaRS also has a program for encouraging growth in the artificial intelligence sector, notably a “supercluster” of 12 AI companies that include Audette Analytics Inc. in British Columbia.
Audette’s software development deploys mapping technology for buildings, with the focus on decarbonization options.
“There’s a whole range of solutions from lighting to automation, and down to retrofitting the underlying heating and ventilation systems and then all the way to changing out the roofing structure,” said Christopher Naismith, CEO and founder of Audette.
“What we’re really doing is mapping out where everything is in their life cycle, what projects need to be done to get buildings to zero carbon.”
Beyond the startups that are part of the portfolio at MaRS, there are also many other promising cleantech players such as Svante Inc., which is based in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.
Svante has developed patented technology that captures dioxide from smokestacks and has been conducting extensive tests, including on a small scale at Lafarge Canada’s cement plant in Richmond, B.C.
Svante held a ground-breaking ceremony last week for its new Burnaby headquarters. Besides serving as Svante’s head office and incorporating research and development, the site will have a wing for manufacturing carbon-absorbent filters and the existing building will also be retrofitted to house a prototype for a “rotary adsorption machine.”
The concept is to market the machines, including models that are 14 metres in diameter, and construct them at industrial plants that are seeking to reduce their carbon emissions, Svante CEO Claude Letourneau said.
KPMG Canada has a roster of government agencies and corporate clients expressing interest in climate solutions and being matched up with the appropriate cleantech startup.