Politicians in British Columbia’s two major political parties may speak about the need for urgent climate action in Canada. But, their moves to ramp up fossil fuel production put them firmly in the camp of climate change deniers.
In March, the BC Legislature was voting for yet more tax incentives to natural gas producers while Canada’s Changing Climate Report was being prepared for distribution. It provides clear warnings to Canadians. Among them:
Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence. Global emissions of carbon dioxide from human activity will largely determine how much warming Canada and the world will experience in the future, and this warming is effectively irreversible.
Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming.
One rationalization used by BC MLAs is that natural gas exports will replace fuels that are even more harmful. However, the opinion requires contrived ignorance of environmental costs.
A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science noted that supply chain emissions were ∼60% higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inventory estimate.
According to Dr. Robert Howarth, even the 60% figure may be too low because it ignored emissions that occur during drilling and relied too heavily on measurements taken by energy facilities. Howarth has been studying and reporting on fossil fuel dangers for years.
Natural gas from fracking could be ‘dirtier’ than coal, Cornell professors find, Cornell Chronicle, April 2011:
While natural gas has been touted as a clean-burning fuel that produces less carbon dioxide than coal, ecologist Robert Howarth warns that we should be more concerned about methane leaking into the atmosphere during hydraulic fracturing.
Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas…
“The take-home message of our study is that if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil,” Howarth said. “We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible. We need to look at the true environmental consequences of shale gas.”
In 2014, a science advisor with the David Suzuki Foundation, began looking at abandoned gas wells in northeast British Columbia. The Narwhal quoted John Werring:
Most of these places, there’s nobody in the field. You won’t see anybody for miles and miles. Just well after well after well.
The whole city of Fort St. John is surrounded by wells. The further away we got from the centre of Fort St. John the worse the conditions were in the field in terms of well maintenance. Out of sight, out of mind. No company was immune.
The Department of Earth Sciences of St. Francis Xavier University cooperated with Werring and the Suzuki Foundation in a detailed examination and reported in a peer reviewed scientific journal. It includes:
Compared to coal, natural gas is often considered to be a preferable fossil fuel because it emits 50–60 % less carbon dioxide (CO2) during combustion (NETL, 2010). As such, natural gas has been deemed a transition fuel on the path to renewable energy because it allows for continued fossil fuel exploitation while seemingly emitting a smaller amount of greenhouse gases.
However, the primary component of natural gas is methane (CH4), a very potent greenhouse gas (GHG), so leaks of natural gas directly to the atmosphere contribute to climate change. The radiative forcing of CH4 is greater than 30 times that of CO2 over a 100-year timespan (IPCC, 2014). A recent study suggests that if more than 3.2 % of total natural gas production is emitted into the atmosphere during upstream operations, the environmental benefit of combusting natural gas, instead of coal or oil, is negated (Alvarez et al., 2012).
Study confirms B.C. oil and gas industry, government underreport fugitive methane emissions, David Suzuki Foundation, January 2018:
New science released today confirms that fugitive methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry continue to be vastly underreported by government and industry.
Before the Horgan Government was elected, the NDP was concerned that fugitive emissions in northeast BC were significantly underestimated during Liberal years of industry self-regulation.
However, on energy matters, the politicians who promised to be different are acting much like their predecessors.