Climate Change

Fugitives in our midst

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.

16 replies »

  1. Like the previous Liberal government in BC the NDP are quite taken with the greenback. They have hitched their political caboose to the unions of BC. Yes, John’s like that….some say Christy lite. I say he’s trying to be his own man with his own distinct identity…and to hell what the electorate thinks.

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  2. There’s no doubt the NDP has changed it’s views on many topics and it’s very disturbing. The Liberals will no doubt pounce on these changes at every public opportunity.
    If the NDP realizes that our public services depend on these natural resources they need to be more active in explaining that to the people who now believe the NDP are the same hypocrites the Liberals were.

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  3. This link is to a 236 page report commissioned by the NDP government into hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia:

    SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

    A read of pages 201 and 202 of the report, and the following review should be enough for anyone to conclude that John Horgan owes the citizens of this province an explanation of how he can possibly be plowing ahead with plans that will exponentially increase fracking activity when it is clear neither he nor anyone in his government with the duty to protect us or our environment has the information or the tools to do so.

    https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/03/27/BC-Fracking-Report-Apprehension-Insufficient-Unknown-Concerns/

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  4. It would seem likely that capitalism itself is blocking the prevention of global warming as it is deeply entrenched in law and practice. A Ceo’s mandate is to maximise profits.

    The Canadian Business Corporations Act – states that corporate directors and officers “owe” their fiduciary obligations to the corporation and that corporations interests are not to be confused with the interest of creditors or others such as employees, customers or society itself. And, if they were to deviate from that they’d be sued under the Act and/or susceptible to a hostile takeover. (People vs Wise 2004)

    The greed of the investors and neverending growth bs is what’s driving this…..Elizabeth Warren asked years ago who wants to be the one to push that red button.

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  5. The party is in full swing for natural gas but democracy was univited for the cocktails, nappies, amidst the raucous music of profit taking.
    Just bland annoucements of cutting gas subsidies coming from the radio.

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  6. Very interesting article. it ought to be on the front page of all newspapers and magazines so people knew the real cost of LNG and its impact on the environment and humans. From what I can gather from this article, both are deadly. We need to get rid of both, not increase the out put of one over the other. Might make for good politics and getting elected…….

    Now it might be the Greens aren’t getting the coverage they ought to, but they do need to get this information out. Don’t see Weaver and his party getting out there making this information more “available”.

    Some will argue we need to export this stuff to keep the province afloat. If so, say so and let the citizens make the choice. right now it would appear we’re being sold a bill of b.s. and I have to wonder what life will be like, if there is any, for my friends’ great grand children and will they be able to live to the age we are now.

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  7. One could ask Weaver for a response.
    On reading Tom Fletchers article in for the “Record” he’s inspired to think wwe are competing on the world stage with Qatar. How absurd as Qatar is a desert country, and ours is a temperate rain forest along the coast with novel geoclimatic zones elsewhere all full of wildlife. Clean water underpins it all.
    Reading about how his “inspiration” is like reading about the Holy Roman Empire where everyone had to be on the same social page to be recognized as an equal.
    Bizzare for the age we live in.
    Fracking out water tables with the distinct possibility of a pollution event with little government oversight of this resource leaves one without a social confidence in our government to even think with reason.
    Especially after “they” bailed out the horrendous Mt. Polley spill with our dollars.
    I was under the impression we lived in the age of reason, knowledge, invention, or is this just the social chatter of this class of people to keep up with appearances?

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  8. the news today advised there was another grass fire in the province on the weekend. this one in Pemberton. That is about the 7th I’ve counted in the past month or so. OMG, its only April. Its dry here on Vancouver Island. Comox Lake is down, what they expect to do this summer if there isn’t more rain, I don’t know because that population has really grown in the past few years. The Nanaimo river looks like its summer time instead of April. Its not raining here. it showers. Its snowing in Quebec but how is that going to help either province. Climate change is happening and we might want to have a vote on what people want, water or more money.

    Tom Fletcher needs to get a grip on reality. B.C. doesn’t compete with Qatar. When I was a kid this province had a fairly good economy and we didn’t depend upon the oil and gas industry. Alberta had oil wells back to the 1930s, but not the dirty tar until more modern times. its a waste of energy producing the oil from the tar. As a student of history once upon a time, I know we have lived as humans without oil/gas, but we’ve never lived without water. Civilizations have followed up and moved away when the rains stopped coming.

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