Monday, July 30, 2012

Proposed pipelines undermine Canada's climate target for 2020

A New York Times editorial argued that the U.S. should consider the climate implications of constructing pipeline, like Keystone XL, to transport bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta. As should Canada.

The carbon emissions embedded in bitumen that would be transported by the proposed pipelines across BC would not only dwarf the emissions from the province itself, as I discussed last week. It would completely undermine not just B.C.'s emissions reduction policy, but the entire country's policy. The graph shows the estimated gap (i.e. necessary reductions) between the most recent national emissions estimate (2010, 692 Mt) and the policy goal for 2020 (17% reduction, ~607 Mt). The emissions embedded in the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline (82.5 Mt) is alone almost as great as the Canadian 2020 emissions gap (85.3 Mt). Add the Kinder Morgan twinning, and the carbon emissions embedded in using the pipelines would make a mockery of any efforts to reach the federal target.

We'd be reducing emission from the country, but increasing emissions in other countries. The climate does not care whose balance sheet lists the carbon. Maybe if the federal government wants to referee this growing inter-provincial battle over the pipelines, it needs to be willing to talk climate.


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.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Coral reef decline disproportionately impacts the developing world

The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), on right now in Cairns, Australia, is generating headlines about the plight of the world's coral reefs in the face of climate change and ocean acidification. Perhaps we should call it ocean change.

Amid the Disney movies and all the colourful documentaries about coral reefs, it is easy for people in the mid-latitudes to miss the fact that coral reefs provide valuable "services" - food, shoreline protection and income - to millions and millions of people most of whom are in the developing world. For a paper in Bioscience five years ago, David Potere and I calculated the number of people living close to coral reefs. The map below shows coral reef locations in red, with dot size exaggerated for viewing purposes, and the per-capita GDP shaded in green. According to our analysis over 63 percent of the people were living within 100 km of coral reefs, a total of 415 million people, reside in countries with a per capita GDP less than US$5000 (in 2003 dollars).  

In the past few years, scientists have finally woken up to this fact, and though I am not there, I can tell you that a lot of the work at conferences like ICRS is now devoted to the human implications of coral reef decline and to finding good adaptation strategies.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Corals vs. Climate: Slideshow from the Kiribati research

A short article and slideshow telling the story of my recent Kiribati coral reef field trip is now up on the Scientific American website. Check it out!

In the May Scifund campaign, we raised $1800 from 32 different donations to support the local coral reef monitoring expenses like fuel and stipends for the local researchers.

Thanks to all the generous donors!

I'm hoping to raise enough money for the local team to conduct regular monitoring of the reef sites. If you're interested in contributing to this effort, please get in touch. I'll be setting up a system where small, tax-deductible donations to UBC will be routed to Kiribati to support the monitoring and hopefully some training sessions.

(Image: A large Porites or boulder coral off the coast of Bikati Island in Butaritari Atoll)


Monday, July 02, 2012

The north, melting

Arctic sea ice may be on pace for a record low this summer:

And, according to new analysis by Jason Box, Greenland's becoming increasingly less reflective because of all the melting ice: