Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pipelines would dramatically increase carbon emissions from BC, depending how you count

The provincial dispute over the construction of pipelines across British Columbia is centred on issues about royalties, land rights, and the local environmental impacts, namely the risk of oil spills along the BC coastline or the pipeline route.

Carbon emissions received little attention in the coverage of this looming BC-Alberta dispute. The annual flow of carbon through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, presuming it is fully operational, is equivalent to more than all current greenhouse gas emissions from British Columbia, home to 4.5 million people. Add the proposed addition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, as well as current oil exports from the province, and the total oil exports is equivalent to almost 2.5 times current BC emissions and 3.5 times the provincial emissions target for the year 2020.

True, carbon exports are not usually counted in emissions budgets. The emissions are credited to jurisdication where that carbon is actually oxidized to create carbon dioxide.

That carbon might not count on our balance sheet, but maybe responsibility is about more than the finer points of accounting. After all, the climate does not care where the carbon is burned.


ScruffyDan said...

I think this is a good point to make in order to demonstrate the scale of the pipelines but the last bit about responsibility bothers me.

If we take responsibility then perhaps those who burn it might not. If we both take responsibility then we are double counting. If we split it 50-50 (or some other way) things get complicated.

Simon Donner said...

Certainly. That's why I separate accounting from responsibility. The current system - user of carbon or fuel is credited with the emissions - makes sense. That doesn't mean, ethically speaking, we should ignore the climate implications of extracting and transporting the carbon.