The top environmental news from across Canada
Fatal fungus destroying North American bats
Canadian biologists are calling on the federal government to declare bats an endangered species and to step up protection efforts to save declining populations.
In Nova Scotia an estimated 90 per cent of little brown bats, northern long-eared bats and tri-coloured bats may be lost this year. Bats across eastern North America are threatened by extinction, says Mark Elderkin of Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources. The scientific community estimates nearly seven million bats died in 2012 due to the fungal white-nose syndrome. Read it all at CBC News.
B.C. landslide was a one-in-12,000-year event, says report
The deadly landslide in Johnsons Landing, B.C. was caused by a late melting snowpack and a record rainfall ushering in an event not seen in 12,000 years, says a report.
The report by the Regional District of Central Kootenay says the July 12, 2012 slide that killed four people has left 18 properties at risk to another slide and uninhabitable. Read it all at the Vancouver Sun.
Scientist unlock genome of spruce tree
Scientists have decoded the genome of the Norway and white spruce trees, a development that may fuel advances in tree breeding, pest resistance, wood quality, growth rates and adaptability to climate change, say scientists.
A widely used tree in the global economy, a genome-based marker system could see the breeding cycle for spruce trees reduced from 25 to five years, says co-author of the study Prof. John Mackay of Université Laval. Read it all at the Vancouver Sun.
Ottawa funding study on impact of climate change on western rivers
Ottawa is helping fund a study of Western Canada’s major rivers by eight universities, four government agencies, and 15 international academics with a $5-million grant over five years.
The money is part of the $32 million the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is spending on climate change-related research.
The research will examine the impact of the shrinking snowpack and glaciers on rivers stretching from the U.S. to the Arctic. Read it all at the Calgary Herald.
Haida group terminates relationship with geoengineering booster
The Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. terminated their relationship with the controversial businessman who spearheaded an ocean fertilization project off the northern B.C. coast.
Russ George believes global warming and ocean acidification can be halted through massive projects to fertilize the oceans, but the international and scientific community say the science doesn’t support his claims.
George working with the Haida group dumped tonnes of iron substance off the coast of Haida Gwaii in an attempt to stimulate plankton growth. The Haida saw it as a way to increase salmon populations and sell it as a carbon offsets project. Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
Vancouver Aquarium protects endangered frogs
The Vancouver Aquarium announced it is successfully breeding an endangered species of frog to release in the wild and save from extinction.
Since the 1970s, the number of northern leopard frogs in the Rocky Mountains has plummeted by the millions. The cause of the collapse is unknown, but only two populations remain in southeastern British Columbia. The Vancouver Aquarium hopes to revive a third population and release 2,000 tadpoles into waterways near Creston, B.C.
Dennis Thoney, director of animal operations, says a third of the world’s frog species are threatened or endangered – potentially the biggest extinction since the dinosaurs. Read it all at The Globe and Mail.
Boreal forest as important as the Amazon, say groups
The Canadian boreal forest is as important as the Amazon tropical rain forest and needs as much recognition and protection, say conservation groups.
Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited released a report highlighting 10 areas in the forest rich in biodiversity.
The report says the forest contains 25 per cent of the globe’s never-before-harvested forests and seven of the 10 largest areas of contiguous forest in the world. Read it all at the Windsor Star.
Bitumen doesn’t float; and difficult oil bringing problems
A new report from a U.S. environmental chemist says bitumen would sink 26 hours after an oil spill in fresh or brackish water.
Testimony at the Northern Gateway hearing by experts speaking on behalf of Enbridge Inc, the pipeline builder, said based on laboratory tests bitumen doesn’t sink.
Jeff Short says if the test by consulting firm SLRoss Environmental Research had been done at lower temperatures, with higher wind speeds, the study would have reached different conclusions. Read it all at the Tyee.
Meanwhile, a long-time energy expert and geologist says the world of difficult oil, such as the oilsands, is costing too much and bringing too much volatility. Read it all at the Tyee.
Ski resort expansion in Banff criticized
Parks Canada approved an increase of winter and summer activity at the Mount Norquay ski area in Banff National Park, bringing immediate criticism from environmental groups.
Parks approved for summer use the installation of cables and ladders to connect climbers to the mountain top, and the opening of the tea house and observation area.
For the winter, Parks approved an increased number of ski runs, skiing in tree-thinned areas, and widening and modifying a terrain park.
Environmental groups said the approved plan will impact grizzly bear habitat, and the increased road traffic will intersect a grizzly bear migration corridor.
Parks says a number of mitigation efforts will limit the impact of the increased development and activity. Read it all at the Calgary Herald.
Quebec Cree want Resolute’s FSC certification revoked
The Cree Regional Authority of Quebec says Resolute Forest Products clear cut an area of the forest, breaking a 2002 provincial agreement, and wants their Forest Stewardship Council certification revoked.
The Cree say Resolute is required and did not cut trees in a mosaic pattern, cutting no more than 150 hectares before leaving an equivalent area uncut, until the re-growth reaches three metres. Read it all at CBC News.
Métis group drops out of Muskrat Falls link assessment
The NunatuKavut Community Council is ending their participation in the environmental review of the Labrador-Island Link connecting power from the Muskrat Falls dam in Labrador to Newfoundland.
The group says they have lost faith in the review of the transmission line that crosses their traditional territory. Read it all at the Telegram.
Canada helping reform environmental review process in Peru
The Harper government is helping reform the environmental review process in Peru to speed up approval of mining projects by Canadian companies.
Canada has pledged $53 million in foreign aid projects to Peru with many focused on natural resources management.
Peru announced last year it was streamlining the environmental review process since $7.5 billion in mining projects were in limbo. The new process would take power away from industry, but it is still a work and process. Read it all at the Edmonton Journal.
Arctic bacteria breeding in frigid temperatures
Canadian researchers discovered a record-breaking strain of bacteria that lives and reproduces at temperatures below freezing. The strain, OR1 or Planococcus halocryophilus, is able to withstand temperatures of –15 C and possibly survive temperatures as low as –25 C.
Researchers say the discovery sheds light on the possibility of other organisms living in extreme environments elsewhere in the solar system. The study coincided with a NASA drilling experiment on Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island. NASA is developing techniques to drill core samples on the surface of Mars and used Canada’s frozen permafrost as a test site. Read it all at CBC News.
Wind energy sector needs help, says industry group
A report from the Wind Energy Association of Canada says government incentives are needed to boost Alberta’s green image and sustainable energy projects.
The province announced goals to increase sustainable energy over the next decade, but still relies heavily on coal-fired plants for electricity.
Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA, says financing new projects is too difficult and the government needs to make changes to the marketplace. CanWEA recommends implementing a clean electricity standard to promote alternative energy projects. Read it all at The Edmonton Journal.
Baffin Island caribou decimated, says new study
A recent study of south Baffind Island revealed a caribou population in serious decline.
The herd of between 60,000 to 180,000 from the 1990s has now sunk by more than 95 per cent to between 1,000 and 2,000 animals.
Nunavut Environment Minister James Arreak said the government will draw on traditional knowledge, science and best practices to conserve the caribou. Read it all at the CBC.
Boreal forest agreement collapses after three years
An agreement between the forest industry and environmental groups to protect the boreal forest has broken down.
The 2010 agreement between 19 forest companies and seven environmental groups aimed to protect the woodland caribou and make room for logging.
Greenpeace and Canopy pulled out of the agreement in the last year because of a lack of progress. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
B.C. co-op criticizes change to federal definition of local
The Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, B.C., is criticizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recent change to its definition of local food. CFIA recently changed the definition from 50 kilometres to anything produced inside the province.
The co-op says it undermines the definition of local and is a sellout to large grocery chains looking to cash in on the buy local phenomenon. Read it all at the CBC.
B.C. school district says no to buying carbon offsets from provincial trust
Mandated to purchase carbon offsets for their greenhouse gas emissions, a B.C. board of education is forgoing purchasing offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust and instead is going to offset their emissions locally.
The PCT, a provincial Crown corporation, takes money from departments, schools, hospitals and universities and buys carbon offsets inside the province. The provincial auditor general recently criticized the PCT for not purchasing credible offsets, a claim the trust and the province rejects.
The Southeast Kootenay school district is taking its $80,000 it is suppose to pay the trust and is creating a reserve fund to help cut emissions locally – a move they says does not contravene legislation.
Why pay the trust money, when it could be used to improve inefficient heating and cooling systems – projects that would directly cut greenhouse gas emissions, says Cranbrook trustee Chris Johns. Read it all at the Vancouver Sun.
Sudbury’s watershed study wins support from biology professor
Charles Ramcharan, an associate professor of biology at Laurentian University, supports the City of Greater Sudbury’s plan to study the watershed through the lens of climate change and development.
The Sudbury area is rich in metal resources. The city’s surrounding wetlands help lock in the metals to keep them out of the greater watershed. Climate change threatens to dry out the wetlands and limit their ability to hold back the metals. Read it all at the Sudbury Star.
Arctic research gets renewed funding, saving PEARL
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Eureka, Nunavut whose funding was previously cut by the Harper government had some of its funding restored for five years.
PEARL will get a $5-million grant over five years through the new Climate Change and Atmospheric Research initiative, which is funded through the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
NSERC is handing out a total of $32 million to research projects.
The new money won’t be enough to keep the station going year round, but Jim Drummond, PEARL’s principal investigator, says they are working on automating some instruments. Drummond also said climate change research needs long-term funding and wants confirmation funding won’t end in five years. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
Group protests oilsands in Sarnia; Oliver defends oilsands; and a train spills oil in Sask.
About 50 protesters gathered in Sarnia, Ont. to protest a conference on the oilsands. The conference aims to find ways to create value-added products from the bitumen. Read it all at CTV News.
Meanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver replied to a letter from Canada’s top climate change academics opposed to the expansion of the oilsands. In the letter, Oliver said the fight against climate change doesn’t hinge on shutting down the oilsands, which accounts for 0.1 per cent of emissions globally. Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
Meanwhile, a Canadian Pacific Rail freight train derailed spilling 91,000 litres of oil in Saskatchewan. CP has been increasing shipments of oil by rail. This spill marks the third CP train oil spill in the last few months. Read it all at Global News.
Airline industry meets to discuss reducing GHGs
The industry association, the Air Transport Action Group, hopes progress is made to find a market-based approach to reducing the air industry’s greenhouse gas emissions at a UN agency meeting in Montreal.
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization is holding meetings this week and the industry association wants to see a global deal approved by 2016 and implemented by 2020.
Options being considered are buying credits when airlines surpass baseline emissions, with some money flowing to research or an even more comprehensive emissions scheme.
The European Union has paused their plans to tax the emissions of international airlines, while the ICAO attempts to craft a global solution. Read it all at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Canada’s glaciers a major contributor to sea-level rise, says study
Canada’s Arctic glaciers are the largest contributor to a world-wide melt of glaciers, says a new international study.
The global glacier melt is contributing almost as much to sea-level rise as the melting of Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets combined, says the study.
Canada's glaciers are shrinking at twice the rate of 50 years ago, said the study published in the journal Science. Read it all at the Edmonton Journal.
Harper defends Keystone and says technology will solve climate change
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Keystone XL pipeline must go ahead because the oil will flow regardless by train.
Harper attended a question and answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Read it all at the Times Colonist.
Harper also said climate change will not be solved by capping economic growth; rather by major investments in technology and a global emissions regime.
Environmentalists back in Canada said Harper was being disingenuous because his government canceled support for green energy development and gives subsidies to oil companies. Read it all at the Edmonton Journal.
Clear garbage bag bylaw creates backlash in rural Ontario
A new bylaw requiring the use of clear plastic garbage bags had residents of Dufferin County screaming at their councillors.
The law coming into effect June 1 would harmonize the policy across the county’s eight municipalities where a few already require clear bags.
Requiring clear bags has shown to divert the amount of recylables ending up in the landfill by exposing the contents of garbage. The county’s bylaw allows for the bags to be stored in garbage cans and for one privacy bag. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
Rising food prices worry Canadian shoppers
A new study from the Royal Bank of Canada says rising food prices are negatively impacting the Canadian economy.
Food prices rose 2.4 per cent in 2012 and could rise another 4 per cent this year due to the severe drought conditions across the U.S. last year.
Consumer confidence in the economy is falling and only 26 per cent of Canadians are optimistic about the economy. Nearly 30 per cent of Canadians believe the economy is deteriorating. Read it all at the London Free Press.
Fracking may endanger Gros Morne’s UNESCO status; as Sask. creates first provincial park in 20 years
The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture contacted Ottawa over plans to conduct natural gas exploitation using hydraulic fracturing techniques next to a UNESCO world heritage site.
Black Spruce Exploration wants to frack a few kilometres from the boundary of Gros Morne National Park off Newfoundland’s west coast.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society wants a buffer zone created around the park to protect it from oil and gas development. Read it all at the CBC.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan designated 11,000 hectares of northern boreal forest as a provincial park, the first new park in the province in almost 20 years. Read it all at the Tyee.
Minto to build test net-zero energy homes in Ottawa
In partnership with Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa developer Minto will build five net-zero energy homes, while studying the feasibility of developing the green technology on a wider scale.
As part of the federal ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative, five builders including Minto will share ideas and technologies to build homes that produce the same amount of energy from renewable sources as they use annually. Read it all at the Ottawa Citizen.
Unpredictable weather hurting tourism in Thunder Bay
The wild weather swings in Thunder Bay from climate change is hurting tourism. Normally, this weekend would herald the start of the fishing season, but many northern lakes still have ice.
The weather swings are impacting the start and end of the tourism season, said Alan Cheeseman, president of Wilderness North. Read it all at the CBC.
The 'low down' from Canada's environmental NGOs
Opinions & ideas by Caenites
The global warming deniers are at it again, and it is high time that the environmental movement in Canada and the United States launched an organized campaign to expose these scientific community charlatans.
By: Nick Fillmore @NickFillmore
By: Andrew Wright @cawcreative
By: Raphael Lopoukhine @blogokhine
By: Raphael Lopoukhine @blogokhine
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Updates from across the Canadian environment
The Canadian Environment seeks to enhance the discourse on environmental issues in Canada by creating one location for the many voices of the environmental narrative to be accessed.