Keystone XL: The U.S. Government is Committed to Approving it

“There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

With the recent American midterm elections creating a Republican majority in the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, many believe it’s a foregone conclusion that the U.S. government will push Keystone XL to approval. Of course, the State Department may not recommend it (although that’s very unlikely) and President Obama always has the right to veto said approval, but no matter how you look at it, it doesn’t look good for common sense or the environment at this point.

But are supporters of the pipeline aware that this massive fossil fuel project is unlikely to generate the profits it needs to even sustain itself at present? Extractivism is always more expensive than more conventional methods of obtaining fossil fuels. Deep water drilling, mountaintop removal, and bitumen from the tar sands are always going to cost more. But now with gasoline prices dropping to new lows not seen since the last decade—and no sign of that changing anytime soon—it raises the question whether Keystone can be even profitable. A report from the Los Angeles Times points out some of the major concerns: Continue reading

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An Introduction to Climate Change in 60 Seconds

The Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have just released a video explaining the basics of climate change in only one minute. What better way to offer a simple explanation than to see it from the world’s two leading science academies.

The Royal Society provides a more detailed document entitled Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, available on their website.

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We Need to Put a Price on Carbon

Last year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) addresses ways for the U.S. to reduce its massive deficit. One interesting component of the report was that it recommended a carbon tax of $25 per ton of emissions, pointing out that it would reduce the deficit by one trillion dollars within a decade.

Of the 103 different methods the report addressed—consisting of methods that both cut spending and generate revenue—a carbon tax was the biggest winner. The $25 price tag was arbitrarily set to demonstrate what kind of funds can be generated, but there’s no reason the price couldn’t be higher. For example, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget put the social cost of carbon (i.e. the damage it causes including both pollution and global warming) at about $37 per metric ton, so it might make sense if the carbon tax at least offset that.

This video offers some rationale for considering a carbon tax. To me, it only makes sense that we stop thinking of the impact of carbon emissions as an externality we can continue to ignore. We would never let a factory dump waste into a river knowing the harm it causes. Carbon pollution should be thought of in the very same way.

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Philippines Pleads for Help in Dealing With Climate Change (Again!)

“We are not debating anymore at the Lima climate summit on whether the impacts of climate change are real. We should be taking action now.”
—Voltaire Alferez, national coordinator of Aksyon Klima, a coalition of 40 Phillippines civil society groups working on climate issues

The Philippines is so used to dealing with floods and typhoons that they have warning systems and evacuation procedures established in place. However, they now believe even these measures are inadequate to deal with the climate change they;re presently experiencing. This past weekend, Typhoon Hagupit hit the Philippines hard just as environment ministers from around the world were congregating to discuss climate change. Coincidentally, a similar major storm hit them last year during a U.N. climate summit. So, not surprisingly, once again the Philippines is asking for help.

Typhoon Hagupit brought massive downpours, storm surges, flooding and landslides to regions of the country with significant population density. The government had to evacuate millions of people to deal with the onslaught. Mary Ann Lucille Sering, secretary of the Philippines climate change commission put it this way: Continue reading

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What Will Canada Bring to the Climate Summit in Lima? Not Much.

“What I can say now is that it is too early to give a definitive date and target timelines.”
—Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq

Canada’s representative at this week’s United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru is our Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. She joins other global environment ministers who will try to negotiate a draft agreement that will commit the nations of the world to take aggressive actions on climate change, pledging to assist the poorer nations of the world so they can reduce their own emissions and adapt to a changing planet affected by global warming.

So what is Canada bringing to the table? It’s easier to describe what it isn’t bringing: namely no new targets and no commitment to act on our country’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, namely the tar sands in Alberta. We will be enacting new regulations to control hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), commonly used in air conditioning and heating. (HFCs account for only one percent of our emissions.)

Once again, Canada has decided not to try to regulate its emissions from the tar sands until the U.S. will address its own oil industry. Such an approach means it’s extremely unlikely that has any hope of reaching its emissions target by 2020. Continue reading

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