The top environmental news from across Canada
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.
Fish shifting north from climate change; as New York could face a superstorm every two years
Fish have been migrating north for four decades to find cooler water, says a new study.
By examining fisheries records, University of British Columbia scientist William Cheung correlated the types of fish caught with the type of temperature they prefer.
The mean temperature is increasing close to two degrees per decade for the last fourty years, Cheung said. Read it all at the Ottawa Citizen.
By 2080, as a result of sea level rise, New York could face weather like Superstorm Sandy every two years, says Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University. The New York City Panel on Climate Change will report to the mayor at the end of the month on actions the city can take to mitigate the impact of climate change. Read it all at the Montreal Gazette.
Anti-pipeline stance not to blame for BC NDP collapse, says environmental group; as climate expert elected as first provincial Green MLA
Don’t blame BC NDP’s anti-pipeline stance on their collapse at the polls, said the head of the Dogwood Initiative.
The Dogwood’s internal polling found the NDP gained politically in their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion through the Vancouver area. Read it all at The Tyee.
Meanwhile, climate change expert Andrew Weaver became the first provincially elected Green Party member in the British Columbia legislature. Read it all at the Vancouver Sun.
Quebec bill would pause fracking in the St. Lawrence River valley
The Quebec government tabled a bill to impose a five-year moratorium on shale gas exploration in the St. Lawrence River valley.
The province had previously announced plans to study and hold hearings on fracking. Energy companies use hydraulic fracturing techniques in the Gaspé and on Anticosti Island, but the decision to restrict in the St Lawrence lowland arose from public opposition. Read it all at the Vancouver Sun.
Great Lakes are under researched, says IJC head
The head of the International Joint Commission says a major investment in research is needed in order to preserve the Great Lakes.
The IJC’s recent biennial report found the number of chemicals down in the lakes, and no new non-native fish have been found since 2006.
The report also said, however, ice coverage is way down, the number of diporeia – a key food source for fish – is also down and the toxic blue green algae are back.
The IJC depends on the research capabilities of both the United States and Canada and both countries have cut funding recently, said Lana Pollack, U.S. co-chair of the commission.
Funding needs to be consistent and policies to limit greenhouse gases introduced, she said. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
Local definition for food varies across industries
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency temporarily changed the definition of local food from 50 kilometres to food that is provincially grown or from 50 kilometres beyond the border. CFIA says it will be two years until a new definition is finalized, but finding a definition may not be easy.
The Farmers’ Markets Ontario says locally made products contains 51 per cent local ingredients or the defining ingredients are local.
Savour Ottawa will certify a restaurant as local when it serves 15 per cent local food with a financial limit of $25,000.
Made in Canada products can have less than two per cent sourced from outside the country. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
Billion-year-old water found in northern Ontario
Researchers found water that is over a billion years old locked in underground caves 2.5 kilometres below the Canadian Shield.
In an article published in the journal Nature, scientists say the water could be as old as 2.64 billion years and could support life. The scientists extracted the water without disturbing the cavern and found levels of noble gases that indicated the water had not been exposed to the atmosphere in at least a billion years.
Researchers will now be examining the water to find traces of life. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
P.E.I. residents call for water conservation
Residents near Charlottetown, P.E.I., are calling on the provincial government to enforce stricter water conservation efforts for the local watershed.
Residents say the municipality is drawing too much water from the Winter River and its tributaries. Environment Canada forecasts a dry summer and residents fear branches of the Winter River will run dry for a second consecutive season.
New regulations are set to reduce Charlottetown's water consumption by 30 per cent, but they do not come into effect until 2015. Read it all at CBC News.
Living near major roads impact kidney and heart health
According to a new study, living close to major roadways can be harmful to kidney and cardiovascular health.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows noise and air pollution increases the risk of heart attack by 12 per cent. The link between heart and kidney health indicate kidney function also suffers from proximity to street traffic. Read it all at The London Free Press.
Study says Greenland and Antarctica melt less severe than previous estimates
The impact of Greenland and Antarctica melting this century will be less intense than previous studies found, said a new international study by 24 mainly European scientific bodies.
Moderate climate change will bring 69 centimetres of sea-level rise this century, down from the worst-case prediction of two metres forecasted by other researchers.
Some scientists outside of the ice2sea research project said the numbers looked too low. The ice2sea researchers assume the Greenland melt will slow down and the Antarctic ice shelves won’t break up.
The previous international assessment on climate change predicted an 18 to 59 cm sea-level rise by 2100. The new UN assessment, drawing on data from the ice2sea project, is expected to predict a 29 to 82 cm rise. Read it all at the Toronto Star.
Syncrude biggest GHG polluter in Alberta; as IEA predicts production surge
Syncrude, Alberta’s largest oilsands company with 160 industrial sites, is also the province’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, pumping 12.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions into the air in 2011, says new provincial data.
The province’s coal-fired electricity plants were a close second to Syncrude’s emissions. Overall in 2011, emissions increased slower than previous years growing by 800,000 tonnes.
From 2008 to 2011, emissions from the in situ sector, where steam is pumped underground, have doubled to 20.2 million tonnes. It is expected 80 per cent of extraction will be from GHG-intensive in-situ operations, making it a major challenge to reduce emissions, says the Pembina Institute. Read it all at the Edmonton Journal.
The International Energy Agency projects a surge in oil production in Canada over the next five years, but warns of a North American supply shock from increased oilsands production, and tight and shale oil operations. IEA says oilsands production will grow by 1.3 million barrels a day by 2018, pushing Canadian oil production to five million barrels a day. Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
Canada launches energy ad campaign; as IEA says without Keystone oilsands production will slow
Canada launched a U.S. ad campaign and website promoting Canadian energy resources to U.S. decision-makers called Go With Canada. The ad campaign is part of the Harper Government’s effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved. Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
Despite predicting growth in the oilsands sector over the next five years, the International Energy Agency said without new pipeline infrastructure Canada will get a price discount on its oil and the sector will expand more slowly. Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
Enerkem wins federal grant to research drop-in biofuels
Enerkem, a biofuels and renewable chemicals company, won a $1.1 million federal ecoENERGY grant to conduct a joint research project looking at converting waste to drop-in biofuels.
Drop-in biofuels can be used out-of-the-box in engines without being diluted with gasoline, jet fuel or diesel.
Enerkem will develop the technology to create the chemical-grade synthesis gas used in renewable fuels in collaboration with the University of Sherbrooke. Read it all at the Edmonton Journal.
Group demands terms for Quebec’s review of Line 9B
A group of Quebec residents want to know what the province will examine after the Marois government said it would conduct a review of Enbridge Inc.’s plan to reverse a pipeline from Hamilton to Montreal.
Members of Coalition vigilance oléoduc want to know if the province will examine issues such as climate change, pipeline security, and air and water quality.
The National Energy Board is conducting a review on the Line 9B pipeline, but the group has lost faith in the federal process after the Harper Government curtailed the public’s role and scope of NEB reviews. Read it all at the Montreal Gazette.
Halifax selling methane from landfill for $60K a year
Converting an old landfill outside of Halifax to capture waste methane and turning it into electricity is earning the city $60,000 a year, while cutting greenhouse gases.
The landfill doesn’t stink anymore and the area’s vegetation is healthier because the methane is not sitting around, said solid waste manager Gord Helm. Read it all at the CBC.
Sask. premier pushing sale of carbon capture technology
Saskatchewan is putting its innovative carbon capture technology up for sale, says Premier Brad Wall.
The province is sponsoring a carbon capture project at a coal-fired power plant in Estevan, Sask. The technology captures nearly 90 per cent of the plant's CO2 emissions and reuses the captured gases for oil and gas extraction.
Saskatchewan relies heavily on coal-fired electricity plants and hopes by 2020, the carbon capture technology will drop greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent below 2006 levels. Read it all at the CBC News.
74 per cent of B.C.’s old growth forests are logged, say conservation groups
Conservation groups in British Columbia say only 26 per cent of the province's old growth forests remain unharmed by logging efforts, and only nine per cent of classic old growth forests survive.
The data comes from the 2012 forest inventory by the Forests Ministry. The amount of logging is likely much higher, says Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance. The government is trying to promote a healthy image of B.C.'s forests, but the statistics are misleading, he said.
Conservationist Vicky Husband says ecosystems and rural communities are collapsing. The B.C. government needs a scientific protection plan and should build a sustainable second-growth logging industry. Read it at the Times Colonist.
The 'low down' from Canada's environmental NGOs
Opinions & ideas by Caenites
This May, it will be for many the start of the BBQ season and it will also be six months since the Cohen Commission released its report on the collapse of the Fraser River salmon. Once the main source of fish for grills across the country, now it’s been replaced by fish farms on both sides of the country. Read More
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.