On the Economics of Climate Change Mitigation

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2014 is Setting a Global Temperature Record

NOAA’s National Climate Data Center has now published its global analysis for September 2014. Globally, the first nine months of 2014 tie with 1998 and 2010 as the warmest such period on record. If the world continues to post temperatures that come in as much above average as has happened over the first nine months, 2014 will be the warmest year on record; as it is, the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014 is the warmest 12 month period ever recorded. Yes, Virginia, climate is still changing, no matter what the weather in central Ontario has been like.

 

And, while weather is not climate, NOAA has just published weather maps showing a generally milder winter in North America. Of course, the maps, being American, show weather patterns that magically cease at the Canadian and Mexican borders. We Canucks are used to having to interpolate.

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Maps for temperature (left) and precipitation (right) during December through January 2015, showing the probability of being warmer or cooler, wetter or dryer than average. If correct, my winter should be back to normal or a bit warmer, and dryer than average. I hope so.  Images courtesy NOAA.

The Changing Pattern of Climate Change Discussions

It used to be that discussion of climate change began with the physics of greenhouse gas effects on temperature, and then moved on to likely impacts on environment. The goal was to explain the processes and likely ramifications, before moving on to suggest that the coming changes would have major impacts on the quality of human life. That was largely the approach I took in writing Our Dying Planet. Discussion of this type continues here, in the media, in countless books, films and other formats. Our knowledge concerning the processes warming the planet is growing. So too, our understanding of the environmental and human impacts, and it is important that this new knowledge be disseminated widely.

In the early days, there was a perhaps naïve expectation that once people appreciated what was happening, self-interest would ensure that plans would be made and action taken to stem the worst of the changes likely to be coming. That logical application of common interest has been far slower and far less effective than many may have originally expected. The long and sorry parade of expensive UN climate change conferences that seem to yield only tiny increments of progress attest to that.

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When national leaders show that they do not take climate conferences seriously, it adds to the inevitability of failure. It also reveals the pure self-interest that drives most international negotiations. Cartoon © Graeme MacKay, Hamilton Spectator

Governance, particularly on a global scale, is not a rational, science-based process of decision-making for the common good. As a consequence of the lack of real progress, there has been growing discussion of how to get the message out more effectively, how to reach that sizeable group of humanity that seems unconcerned or simply denies the messages being delivered from the scientists, and how to bring about the global-scale actions that are needed. Countering these efforts, there has been a growing push-back in the form of climate change denial – a more-or-less coordinated effort, but probably not a tightly integrated conspiracy, to argue that the science is in error, being deliberately misused, or is beholden (for some obscure reasons) to nefarious hidden agendas designed to destroy our economy and civilization; and to conclude that under these circumstances it would be wisest to seek more confirmation before taking any actions that might prove ultimately unnecessary or counterproductive.

 

As an ecologist, I began to look at climate change once I recognized the impacts it was having on my own favorite ecosystems, and because I understood the ramifications likely from increased warming to changed climate, to changed ecology, and to changed quality of life for humanity. I now find myself wondering about why so many people have not responded to the message of climate change, about how to change perceptions in a community, and about how political and business decisions are made in this messy, complicated world we all live in. Because, over the years, the underlying message of climate change has only grown worse – we are bringing about substantial changes to the world’s climate, changes that will persist well into the future and have immense consequences for our lives.

 

Just imagine what would unfold if humanity, and our economic activities were magically to be removed from the planet tomorrow morning. The changes we have caused through our GHG emissions would cause global temperature to continue to rise for most of this century, cause sea level to continue to rise for at least two centuries, and cause ocean pH to continue to alter in substantive ways for perhaps a thousand years! Such are the time lags in the planetary system. If we remain on the planet, as I am sure we will, we will have to live with these, and additional changes due to our continued releases of GHGs. If we are wise, we will be working to reduce our impacts as quickly as possible because our civilization is best suited to a planet with a climate, and an ecology like the one it developed in over the past 5000 years. We have enough difficulties bringing a reasonable quality of life to the billion poorest people on the planet without having to battle with the disruptive effects of a changing climate.

So Let’s Talk about the Economics of Climate Change

On Thursday 2nd October, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall formally opened the Boundary Dam coal-fired power plant fitted with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The plant had commenced operation late on September 30th. With significant ($250 million) Federal government support, SaskPower, the provincially-owned power generation company spent in the vicinity of $1.3 billion to renovate one of four generation units at the 45 year old coal-fired power plant, extending its lifespan another 30 years, and upgrading it with CCS capability. CO2 is separated from other gases (chiefly nitrogen and water vapor) in the plant’s exhaust steam, pressurized and then either stored underground, or shipped by pipeline to Cenovus Energy Inc which is using it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) at nearby fields. SaskPower expects to capture 90% of CO2 released, or about 1 million tonnes CO2 per year.

Boundary-Dam CCS powerplant SaskPower photo

Unit #3 of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam coal-fired power plant is now renovated and fitted with CCS. It produces 110 megawatts of power using lignite coal, stripping out and compressing 90% of the CO2 emitted in the process. It’s expected to sequester 1,000,000 tonnes per year of CO2 deep underground.  Photo © SaskPower.

While it is good to see Canada leading the world, for once, in the struggle to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, it’s important to note that this venture is barely profitable, even with the CO2 that is captured being sold to Cenovus for use in oil extraction. Apart from anything else, the energy required to capture, compress and bury the CO2 represents 20% of the output of the plant. Indeed an uncharitable climate Grinch would say that this expenditure has used lots of government funding to extend the life of a coal-fired power plant by 30 years, and facilitate the extraction of additional oil through EOR – not exactly a way to wean us off the use of fossil fuels. A more favorable perspective is that somebody needed to pilot the process at scale, and Canada has done that. Future technological innovations may make the process more economic, and Canada may even gain on patents on the technology as CCS is applied to more coal-fired plants. It’s nice to see our Harper government engaged, in even a small way, in something other than the endless advertising of our ‘ethical’ oil, and stripping away of any and all regulations that might slow the activities of our rapacious fossil fuel industry.

 

SaskPower may have been driven to the decision to pioneer CCS because it had a need to continue to generate electricity, coal sources nearby, no other source of energy available in the vicinity, and an oilfield nearby using EOR (in which gases injected underground force residual oil from a formation) that might be a client for the CO2 recovered. Indeed, sale of the CO2 for use in EOR appears to be the practice in other CCS plants being developed in the US, and a necessary component in keeping the economic cost of the power generated within reasonable bounds. CCS may well become an important process to minimize the negative impacts of coal, but it’s not really there yet.

 

Notable at the opening of the Boundary Dam project were some comments by Premier Hall. He argued for the continued use of coal because of its relatively low cost. He suggested it was time to stop talking about carbon taxes. And he argued that we should be looking for technological solutions to the climate problems posed by coal, rather than seeking to replace coal with more environmentally sustainable power sources. Sounds very much to me like a politician who has been totally captured by the fossil fuel industry, and that leads to my next topic.

Getting Ourselves off Fossil Fuels is Going to be Just as Difficult as Quitting Smoking

The cost of the Boundary Dam project was borne by the Federal government ($250 million) and SaskPower, a Saskatchewan crown corporation. Governments have also invested heavily in CCS projects (most of which are now dead in the water) in Alberta. Industry has been less active. With no regulations governing climate impacts by the oil and gas industry in Canada, and only weak regulations on coal (existing plants can continue to operate at no cost for emissions), there has been little incentive for fuel producers or power generators to invest in unproven technologies to reduce emissions.

 

More generally, that is the reason why knowledge about the effects of GHGs on climate has not led to a substantial effort by industry to shift towards environment-friendly solutions. So long as emitting CO2 or other GHGs carries no financial penalty, those parts of our economy that do emit GHGs will continue to do so, while paying lip-service to the idea of mitigating climate change. So long as governments are heavily committed to ensuring their economies do not collapse overnight, which usually translates as being committed to help large currently profitable portions of the economy continue to be profitable, they also will talk about mitigation, but spend only small amounts towards this goal. The Canadian governmental spending on CCS technology is more about keeping the powerful fossil fuel sector profitable than it is about climate mitigation. It’s one part of a program of support for the energy sector which includes the often promised but long-delayed “made-in-Canada” regulatory regime for our oil and gas industry.

 

To be fair, the early discussion around climate change avoided talk of economics, partly because many of the environmental scientists concerned about climate change feared that shifting our economy away from dependence on fossil fuels was going to be a very expensive proposition. Better to avoid talking about the costs. But the exciting news that has not been getting out very well is that as time has passed, the cost of altering our economies has actually become a lot less than was initially supposed. In its recent report, Better Growth, Better Climate, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate states that globally some $89 trillion in new investment in infrastructure – roads, rail, power, water and sewage lines, telecommunications, and so on — will be needed between now and 2030 whether or not we mitigate climate change. They estimate the additional cost of renewing our infrastructure in ways that permit moving to a 2oC warmer world will be just $4.1 trillion, or 5% of what must be spent anyway. Their analyses even show that in the electricity sector, a low-carbon shift in energy sources could net a benefit of $1.8 trillion between now and 2035, primarily because renewable technologies have lower operating costs and longer lives. This $1.8 trillion net benefit is based on a full accounting, including some loss of value in stranded fossil fuel assets (the fuel in the ground that the energy sector was planning to exploit). We’d actually be a trillion dollars better off if we transferred electricity generation away from using fossil fuels!
Given that the global economy is worth around $80 trillion a year, that extra $4.1 trillion investment over 20 years amounts to 0.25%, one quarter of one percent of economic activity per year. I think we can manage to find the savings to afford that investment!

 

Better Growth, Better Climate is a comprehensive report that builds in many ways upon the Stern Review of 2006 (Nicholas Stern is co-chair and the lead economist). It provides a convincing argument that not only will mitigation of climate change not be a drag on the global economy, full mitigation in a move towards at most a 2oC increase in average temperature is completely compatible with a growing global economy. The environmental consequences of such a transition, in addition, confer many non-economic benefits on the lives of people across the globe. This is a far more optimistic tale than was being told back when we were first discovering the risks inherent in climate change. But there is an important caveat – this is still a major transition to a very different economy, and some individuals and corporations are going to have to be nimble to avoid being losers as valuations of such things as farmland, forests, oil or copper deposits change. Either be nimble, or fight to delay the transition.

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Climate conferences follow one after another, making tiny advances, as if there is no urgency to solve this problem. Cartoon © Nicholson, The Australian.

The Commission concludes its report with a 10-point Action Plan to bring about the transition that is required. The 10 points are all reasonable:

  1. Accelerate a low-carbon transformation by integrating climate action and risk into strategic economic decision-making.
  2. Create the confidence needed for global investment and climate action by entering into a strong, lasting and equitable international climate agreement.
  3. Phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and agricultural inputs and incentives for urban sprawl.
  4. Introduce strong, predictable carbon prices as part of good fiscal reform.
  5. Substantially reduce the capital cost of low-carbon infrastructure investment.
  6. Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies and remove barriers to entrepreneurship and creativity.
  7. Make connected and compact cities the preferred form of urban development.
  8. Halt the deforestation of natural forests by 2030.
  9. Restore at least 500 million hectares of degraded forests and agricultural land by 2030.
  10. Accelerate the shift away from polluting coal-fired power generation.

 

The text amply explains what is meant by each of these, and why each is an important part of the whole. The Commission members clearly believe that by setting the situation out clearly, it should be possible for “national, sub-national and city governments, businesses, investors, financial institutions and civil society organisations” to each review the situation, identify the actions they need to take, and take them. The report notes the difficulties inherent in encouraging change of this magnitude, and talks repeatedly about the need for agreed international goals, firm national commitments (with transparent assessment of performance, and penalties for failure), and regulatory and other requirements to compel corporate action. However, the report offers relatively little in new insights on how to achieve these global agreements on targets and mechanisms.

 

The actions recommended in the Commission’s report are in many ways familiar already, and echoed in other reports on the climate problem. This also is encouraging. Released at the recent UN Climate Conference in New York, Tackling the Challenge of Climate Change, a report commissioned by the Republic of Nauru as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, covers many of the same points including the need for a price on carbon, and firm goals for individual countries and business sectors. It takes a more proscriptive approach, advising nations on what they should do now, while covering much the same ground, in less detail, as the more substantive document from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

How Do We Motivate the Changes That are Necessary?

I would like to believe that reasonable leaders of nations, gathering together to consider what to do to solve an existential problem, and having read and thought about Better Growth, Better Climate, would recognize the urgency and develop appropriate goals and mechanisms which they would then put in place in their home nations. I’d also like to believe that good people always have great lives while bad people always are punished, that bad things never happen without a moral reason, and that the universe is somehow a moral place. But I learned some time ago that my world is not like this, and there are not any fairies at the bottom of my garden either. Sometimes people act out of pure self-interest, even when they have risen to positions of leadership, and the decisions they make are not necessarily the best ones that could have been made.

 

Western economies are powered by the energy sector, which is substantially based on use of fossil fuels. Major investors, whether the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or major pension funds usually have significant holdings in the energy sector or other large parts of our economy – rail, other transport, auto industry – and few individuals are so magnanimous that they will willingly take big financial losses in support of the common good. Managers of pension funds and corporations have a duty to the shareholders to seek the best possible returns on investment, so they do not willingly take losses either. But the changes to the global economy that are required demand a radical reduction in the use of GHG-emitting fuels and other processes, and it is difficult to see how everyone can transition across to a decarbonized economy without anyone taking big losses. The Boundary Dam power plant has just had its life extended 30 years, and even the dirtiest of non-CCS plants have similar lifetimes. Shutting any of them down early means that some investors lose money. This is precisely why every report, up to an including Better Growth, Better Climate, has recommended loophole-free carbon taxes as one of the essential tools to ‘encourage’ economic change. And this is also why carbon taxes have been difficult to establish, and, in Australia’s case, get repealed with the election of a climate change denying government.

 

There are signs that we are now entering a very difficult time indeed. A move of capital away from fossil fuels appears to be starting. (I say ‘appears to’ because this may just be a function of the relative uncertainty at the present time, during a globally weak post-recession economy.) The more expensive fossil fuel projects, notably Alberta’s tar sands ventures, are seeing a number of project suspensions and cancellations. There is a nascent movement to encourage divestment from fossil fuel ventures that is beginning to have effect, particularly among universities and left-leaning individuals. Even Mark Carney, now Governor of the Bank of England, has been quoted talking about a ‘carbon bubble’ that increases the risk of fossil fuel investments – all those ‘stranded assets’ that can never be burned if we want a livable planet. At such times, we can expect heightened efforts to protect the status quo, increased climate change denial, denigration of any who would speak in terms of the need to make substantive changes, all surrounded by a swill of greenwashing advertising and PR. I personally am getting increasingly sick of the stream of advertising showing ‘clean as the day they were born’ power plants, bathed in impossibly blue light (thanks, Photoshop), under impossibly blue skies brought into Canadian living rooms by a combination of CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) and our very own Harper government. Real power plants do not look like that.

 

My favorite ad of this type at present is the one, from CAPP, which features David Deacon, of STT Enviro Corp. You can watch it on YouTube. STT Enviro Corp used to be called Stanco Projects, but it changed its name recently in the belief that “it’s important that our name and brand reflect our customers’ needs and our corporate direction”. It has as its logo, ‘the nuts and bolts of green’. STT Enviro Corp is a manufacturing company based in southwestern Ontario since 1977 which specializes in the fabrication of industrial scale storage tanks and silos. Their website claims that over 35 years they have installed over 1000 such tanks.

 

Mr. Deacon is filmed outdoors with lots of trees and occasional views of a lake, with frequent cuts to the inside of their facility, a wonderfully clean space filled with happy, well-dressed workers all busy designing and building tanks. For what? To hold the contaminated by-products of Alberta tar sands operations. Mr. Deacon identifies the tar sands (he says ‘oil sands’) as a great engine for innovation within Canada, and that is the core message of the video. The tar sands are good for us because they promote innovation by companies developing suitable storage for the mess they are making out in Alberta.

 

Now I wish Mr. Deacon well. But let’s try and imagine a world without the tar sands, a world in which we might still need innovative, industrial-scale containment, but a world in which we are not dumping CO2 into our atmosphere. I think that would be a better world than the one we have. Promoting a messy fossil fuel development program because it spurs innovation in containment for its toxic wastes! I’ve been told a good salesman can sell anything – this seems to push the envelope.

 

And so, back to the question – how do we motivate the changes that are necessary? I recently read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century, and have now moved on to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Every Thing. I am not sure that such reading is good for my health, but I am glad these books were written.

 

Piketty’s book does not concern climate change. He is interested in the tendency for capital to become concentrated through time so that a smaller and smaller fraction of people come to own more and more of it. He convinced me that the rich really are getting richer, and that the global economy seems likely to slow down. He also convinced me that the only way we will get back to political systems that invest in the public good – medical care, employment insurance, retirement benefits, public transport, public education – is to have a sufficient fraction of the voters demanding it. That prepared me for Ms. Klein.

 

Naomi Klein’s new book is about our continuing failure to act to remedy climate change. I’ve not finished it yet, but she is reawakening in me all the leftist idealism I had in the 1960s. Her thesis is that the only way the world is going to get climate change remission to the extent that is necessary is if a strong grass-roots movement develops to demanding it. A good climate is an important element of the public good, and waiting for the powerful to magnanimously provide it seems just as unlikely as waiting for them to do any of the things average people in the street would like to see. The first step in building that strong grass-roots movement may be to articulate why it is appropriate, in a civilized society, to have society provide common benefits that improve the quality of life of all. This is something that we used to believe, back when governments built public transport systems, established agencies to manage wildlife, fisheries and environment, and funded post-secondary education. It requires a major attitude shift in some communities, such as many parts of the USA, and Scandinavian countries may well be able to show the rest of us the way.

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Greenpeace activist near Big Ben – we may have to change our politics to save our climate.
Photo © GreenBlog

There is a tacit assumption in Klein’s writing that it is the developed, western countries that are going to spearhead the shift towards a carbon-free economy. Certainly, if they do not go along with the shift, it will get stalled. While the need for a grass-roots movement seems especially necessary in the west, it may be easier to generate in other cultures, and ultimately the de-carbonization has to be global. And I am unclear about just how radical this grassroots movement has to become (perhaps I’ll have a clearer idea once I finish the book). Still, we are all standing around at the beginning of what could become a magnificent journey. It’s time to head out down the road.

Categories: Changing lifestyles, Climate change, Coal, Economics, In the News, Politics, Tar Sands, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Repairing the Decline of Coral Reefs – Why we are failing; What is needed to succeed

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This post first appeared as a Comment in Reef Encounter – the News journal of the International Society for Reef Studies. It is reprinted here, with added images and slight modifications to text as a way of drawing it to attention of other people interested in the global environmental crisis and the issues underlying our relative failure to look after coral reefs. Reef Encounter is open-access, and the articles are of broad interest.

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There is something mesmerizing about the lushness of life and the richness of form on a coral reef; few other environments come close to packing so much liveliness into each cubic meter of space. Photo © AJ Hooten.

Humanity faces a challenge which if not existential certainly threatens our civilization, and, as Pogo found out long ago, the enemy is us. Our varied impacts on the biosphere grow larger as our population and our standards of living grow, and now we are numerous enough and powerful enough to be causing serious damage. Coral reef scientists are generally well aware of the seriousness of our situation – our special parts of the biosphere are among the most, if not the most, impacted on the planet and suggestions that coral reefs as we knew them in the mid-20th century could be largely gone by mid-21st century are not far-fetched conjecture but reasoned assessments by scientists who look at the evidence of reef decline. So, what can be done for reefs, and for the wider biosphere and ourselves, and what role should reef scientists and managers play? Here are four steps we need to take to stem the decline of coral reefs.

I suggest we first need to recognize the problem. It is global. It is multifaceted. The facets differ in degree of importance from place to place. And our assessment of the problem involves value judgments – we are inadvertently forcing on the biosphere changes that we do not like, or that we suspect will be harmful to our personal quality of life or our economy. These statements are true even if we restrict attention to coral reef systems: Reefs appear to be in decline almost everywhere, with less abundant and less healthy coral, fewer fish and other reef organisms, less biodiversity, and we suspect, less ecological resilience. But the reasons for this decline vary. Loss of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef in recent decades has been due primarily to physical damage from tropical storms, outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns starfish, and bleaching due to climate change (De’ath et al 2012).

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Graphs A to D show change in coral cover at 214 monitored reefs over 27 years on the Great Barrier Reef. Only the northern set of sites (B) fails to show a downward trend through time. Graphs E to H show the extent of annual mortality due to each of the three primary causes for each year; these three causes are outbreaks of predatory crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), cyclonic storms, and coral bleaching. Figure © G. De’ath et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.

Loss of coral cover in the Caribbean over the same time period has been due principally to outbreaks of diseases, overfishing, and excessive rates of coastal tourism (Jackson et al 2014). The most critical diseases have hit Caribbean corals, especially the two species of Acropora, and the sea urchin, Diadema antillarum; both acroporids are now on the US EPA endangered species list, and Diadema nearly went extinct throughout the Caribbean although its numbers are now rebuilding slowly in many locations. These pathogens may have been introduced from outside the region by humans, may have been facilitated by pollution, overfishing, or the warming and bleaching caused by climate change, and might even be spread by snorkeling tourists. Within both the Caribbean and the Great Barrier Reef there are places where reef condition has degraded substantially in recent decades and places where it has degraded less. Rates of decline vary through time, and differently among locations. Data for other parts of the world are less comprehensive but the variation in degree and putative cause is also evident in these other places.

Status & Trends Fig 4 A-C

Patterns in loss of coral cover at three types of sites across the Caribbean: A) 9 locations with sharp early decline, B) 5 locations showing a gradual downward trend, and C) 7 chiefly southern locations showing little or no loss.  Figure © J Jackson et al. and IUCN.

 
Every one of the causes I’ve mentioned, including Crown-of-Thorns outbreaks (Brodie et al 2005), is directly due to or exacerbated by human activities. And, as a general rule, more remote locations, such as Kingman Reef (in the Line Islands, and part of the recently expanded Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument), seem generally to be in better overall condition than those close to people, because most of the causes of decline are due to local human activity. Of course, we can anticipate that climate change and ocean acidification are going to become ever more important as causes of reef decline, meaning that in time the overall mix of causes of reef decline will be less easily remedied by local actions than they are at present.
It should be obvious that there is no one action that can be taken to ‘repair’ all coral reefs, but it may be less obvious that solving one problem at a time at a location may not lead to any improvement in reef condition until most or all problems are addressed. Solving problems of overfishing does not make much difference if a reef is also experiencing pollution; reseeding diseased coral with healthy cultivated juvenile colonies does not help if the disease organisms remain in the area. Reef decline is multifaceted and the facets likely interact in complex ways.

 
If the first step is to recognize the nature of the problem, the second step is to recognize that we do have feasible solutions for many of its facets. This is the good news which may not be getting through to the public. We have known for a long time what is needed to correct overfishing, how to avoid delivery of pollutants from on-shore activities and population centers, and how to manage coastal development in ways that do not impact adjacent reefs negatively. We understand what we have to do to control climate change and limit ocean acidification although these solutions are much more difficult to put in place. We understand which facets are capable of being corrected by the creation of marine protected areas, and which facets an MPA cannot affect. Mostly, the fixes needed are not even particularly challenging technically, although that does not mean they are simple to enact.

 
Recognizing that we do have solutions leads immediately to the third step — to acknowledge that, although we have solutions, we have not been applying them effectively. In fact, over many years, we in the science and management community have been woefully ineffective in solving the problems that are leading to reef decline, and it is well past time to replace the wasted efforts under way with more effective action.

Why have attempts to address reef decline been so ineffective, and why do we avoid talking about this? I suggest that the reasons for failure, while diverse, stem from a core feature of environmental management – it is not really management of environment but management of people; living, breathing people with families, societies, cultures, religious beliefs, traditions, stubbornness, dishonesty, corruption, short-term thinking, mortgages, and many things on their minds beyond improving coral reefs. Some live near reefs, feed their families from fish caught there, earn a living in reef tourism, or work in NGOs or government agencies; others work at jobs quite unrelated to reef condition and may only visit reefs occasionally. Still others are government officials, international experts, well-meaning philanthropists or dedicated conservationists directly concerned with improving reef management. Making real changes in the lives of any of these people can be very difficult. Many of them ‘know’ that the ocean is limitless, that there will always be baby fish, even if we catch all the adults, or that God or Nature will always take care of us. Others do not want to see changes that reduce their incomes, influence, or importance. Some, working hard to bring change, fall into the social worker trap – if the problem is finally fixed their jobs risk coming to an end. Over time we have spent far too much time thinking about how to manage reefs, and not enough time thinking, and learning, about how to manage people.

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In reality, effective management of coral reefs and other coastal waters is management of behavior of the coastal populations that use those waters. It is very challenging to convince people who fish to feed their families that they must fish less, or fish in different locations than they always have, and often requires that their local economy be remade. The same difficulties exist when coastal populations must be convinced to modify the way in which they dispose of wastes, or inland farming communities must be convinced to modify their use of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation.
Photo © Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson

 
Reasons for failing to talk about the prevalence of failure are more simple. Nobody wants to admit to failure, or to allow the possibility that they do not know how to fix the problem of overfishing, or pollution, or whatever. And we have convinced ourselves that telling the truth about the environmental crisis simply depresses people. Better to talk about the occasional good news stories when things happened to go right. Better still to pretend that the failures are in fact successes – how else to account for the evident pride with which governments, NGOs and other bodies proudly proclaim the number of km2 protected in marine protected areas, or display the printed MPA management plans, legislation and regulations when everybody knows that in the great majority of MPAs no real protection is taking place?

 
Don’t get me wrong. There are well-managed MPAs, both in wealthy and in developing countries, and there are other instances of reef management which is effective. Some of us are doing it right. Still, when one can snorkel through an MPA, and then through a nearby ‘unprotected’ site and see no evident difference in fish size or abundance (as is a very common experience across the Caribbean, and in other places as well), one knows that ‘no-take’ provisions are not being enforced. When one sees mangrove forests along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera being cleared and readied for hotel development right after a hurricane, ostensibly because, stripped of leaves, they are now ‘dead’, or hears of massive plans to dredge new harbors, risking nearby ‘protected’ reefs, because the Australian coal industry absolutely must export its products more quickly, or finds a lobster dinner not on the menu but still readily available out of season, so long as the request is made quietly at a table in a far corner of the Belize City restaurant, one knows that efforts to preserve or repair reefs are not working. I’ve experienced all of these. Yet still we carry on, developing projects, raising funds, reporting numerous workshops and conferences designed to improve reef management, while consistently failing to create the real, and enduring, changes in human behavior that are essential for improvement to happen.

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Mangroves, which are important nurseries for many reef species, are widely regarded as waste land. They get cleared for shrimp farms and luxury hotels, sometimes legally, sometimes bending every rule in the book. This excavator is operating just outside the boundary of a not very well managed MPA in Bimini, Bahamas. Photo © K. Stump, Story in thebahamasweekly.com

 
As a recent example of this tendency to gloss reality with a glitter of false good news, consider the latest report on the state of the Caribbean (Jackson et al 2014). A careful read of this IUCN report provides abundant data, careful analyses, and sad conclusions on what has been happening to Caribbean reefs. The science is well done. The authors do a generally responsible job of assessing competing hypotheses. They state, quite clearly that “the disparate reef histories clearly demonstrate the folly of attempting to understand the causes of coral reef decline for the entire Caribbean as a single ecosystem, an approach that ignores the enormous heterogeneity in environments and history of human and natural disturbance among different reef locations.” With a careful read, this is a solid report that assesses the data, points to the seriousness of current trends, and makes clear recommendations for action.

stoplight parrot steneck

Protecting parrotfishes will be a worthwhile management action in many Caribbean locations because they are effective grazers that prevent algae from becoming sufficiently abundant to shade out coral and take over available rocky surfaces. But protecting parrotfishes does nothing to correct other types of damage on coral reefs. Photo © Robert S Steneck

 
But with a skim of the Executive Summary (the only part also available in Spanish or French), or a look at IUCN’s press release, or at various stories in the media from local Caribbean newspapers to Time Magazine, a rather different story emerges. This one is far more about the value of protecting parrotfishes! Whether the authors intended it or not, a detailed, difficult, somewhat depressing tale, with sound recommendations (including the protection of parrotfishes), has been morphed by IUCN and the media into an upbeat story about a serious problem which can be fixed simply by taking care of parrotfishes. So much for the authors’ warning about the ‘folly’ of expecting a single, simple cause of coral decline across the Caribbean.
The fourth step; once we acknowledge our failures – we have to change our own behavior, reject failure and demand real success.  Most current and past projects designed to improve reef management can be characterized as too small, too short-term, too narrowly focused on a single facet of reef decline, with far too little attention to the socio-political components of the problem, and with far too little investment in public education and the building of a broad consensus in support of the new management actions and regulations being introduced.

REEF workshop cropFiji workshop CROP

The process of improving coastal and reef management requires that all stakeholders, including all relevant management agencies, come together and work collaboratively on common goals. This is difficult to achieve, and requires effective leadership, clear long-term objectives, and significant attention to the needs and aspirations of each stakeholder group. We have tended to give too little attention to the culturally-sensitive task of building and sustaining effective teams.
Figures © REEF.ORG (above) and the Coral Gardens Initiative of Fiji (below).

The international development community has talked for years about the need for integrated reef management, a holistic perspective, projects designed at ecologically appropriate spatial and temporal scales, and with the building of community and governmental buy-in that is essential for success. Most projects fail at all of these challenges. In a recent article in Marine Pollution Bulletin (it’s open access so easily accessible) we make one suggestion for breaking through this log-jam of failure. We argue that we need to recognize that it is now essential that we begin to zone the coastal ocean, much as we do land, in order to systematize and prioritize among competing uses as we undertake formal use planning. The ocean as wild frontier is disappearing and the coastal ocean, where nearly all reefs occur, is too crowded to be viewed that way. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a tool for objectively dividing up an ocean region that includes varying habitats, ecological processes and traditions of use so that sufficient and appropriate space is available for each type of use or ecological process. It has been used successfully in developing networks of MPAs, but could be used more broadly to govern all our uses of a region of ocean. A greatly expanded use of MSP could provide an objective way of making the necessary zoning decisions. More importantly, if made central to a project, MSP would help jump-start the collaboration, effective cross-agency effort, setting of appropriate spatial and temporal scales, use of a holistic perspective, building of consensus and demand for real results that are so often lacking in international development projects that aim to improve coastal and reef management. The integrated, holistic, approach, at ecologically appropriate spatial scale is necessary for real success, but unlikely to appear spontaneously given the usual mix of competing agencies and competing goals of various stakeholders – MSP could be the trigger needed to tip effort in the right direction.

 
Success still will not come if real, committed leadership does not exist, but given leadership, success has a much greater chance of appearing than if we continue our current failed approaches. I think we scientists and managers all have a moral obligation to join forces to recognize and articulate reality, admit to our pervasive failures, improve monitoring and experimental evaluation of competing causes of reef decline, and build management to reverse the decline of coral reefs. Reefs could be in much better condition if we acted more effectively than we have been, and better reefs mean better lives for millions of people who depend on them.

global coastal population MPB 2014compressed

Twenty percent of the 7 Billion people on our planet live in the tropics and within 100 km of a coast. That tropical coastal strip represents just 7% of the global land surface, and people live there at an average density of 141 people per km2. Many of these people are directly dependent for food, income and quality of life on the coastal marine environment and its reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. The map shows current population size in the coastal strip. Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn delineate the tropics. Figure © Sale et al., Marine Pollution Bulletin

Categories: Biodiversity Loss, Climate change, coral reef science, Stories from a Coral Reef | 4 Comments

Global Environmental Impacts Keep Growing; Canada Manages Not to Notice that Times are Changing

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PM Harper Celebrates Science!

It was good to see Prime Minister Harper, smiling, excited, obviously enjoying himself as he shook hands, slapped backs and simply mingled with a group of scientist sharing the excitement of discovery. They had found the wreck of one of the two ships of the Franklin Expedition that left England for the Arctic in May, 1845, only to become inextricably bound in the ice by September, 1846. What was left of the crew eventually abandoned the ships and began walking south, and like the ships, were never to be seen again. But one of those ships has now been found. On Saturday 8th September, side scan sonar being operated by scientists on board the small research vessel, Investigator, revealed the wreck in remarkably good condition lying 11 meters down, and the next day an ROV obtained images and video confirming the find. Which ship it is, HMS Erebus or HMS Terror, is still not known and plans for further research next season are being made now. The joy of discovery is a special pleasure that keeps scientists going. It was evident in the faces of the members of the team as the announcement was being made, and Stephen Harper was getting his small taste of it.

Harper announcing Franklin discovery

Stephen Harper, having elbowed the scientists out of the way so he can claim ‘we’ found the Franklin ship. Photo from National Post video.

Marine archeologists are not environmental scientists even if they do work for Parks Canada. PM Harper, trying over-hard to become ‘one of the team’ as he congratulated the discoverers of the Franklin vessel, has not suddenly changed his stripes and recognized the talent and dedication of other government scientists. He is happy to hunt for ships lost in the Arctic, but not to hunt for clues to how the Arctic is changing as climate warms. That Ottawa has not had much of a summer this year perhaps reinforces his view that he has been correct to ignore climate change, putting it so far down his priority list that it simply never comes up even in casual conversation. Yet, warming of the planet continues apace even as we get the first tinges of an unseasonably early Autumn in my part of the country.

A Strange Year for Weather

It has become more and more difficult to convince some of the people I meet around Muskoka that the planet is warming. Last winter was definitely cold and snowy, a throw-back to the winters of the 1950s and 1960s, and this summer has continued the distinctly cool conditions. Now, here it is only the last days of summer and we are already getting frost warnings (although no frost yet). Some of my friends now look at me with that expression that suggests they pity the poor scientist who has been talking up climate change over the past few years, and may have to eat his words. Others just relax into the knowledge that they never really believed the stories I was telling, and, after all, why should anyone assume an academic knows much about what he is saying. Throughout the winter, I tried to draw attention to the polar vortex, and the fact that melting of Arctic sea ice leading to warmer Arctic temperatures is contributing to the instability of the vortex. Ho hum, they all said. In April, I wrote about the so-called global warming hiatus, and the recent papers attributing this to the negative status of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (meaning that strong trade winds across the Pacific produce strong upwellings of cold deep water off the west coast of the Americas, and lots of heat being absorbed by this cool water instead of warming the atmosphere). That same month, I also talked about the possible slowing of the ocean conveyor due to reduced salinity of surface waters in the Arctic and therefore slowed downwelling which in turn slows transport of warm southern water northwards where it loses heat to the atmosphere. Both mechanisms increase the amount of heat trapped in the deep ocean, and both seem to be operating over the last few years. Of course, the hiatus is not a cessation of warming of the planet. It’s just a change in where the planet stores the extra heat. The warming hiatus is well discussed in this series of articles from Nature Climate Change and Nature Geoscience, all open access so accessible to all readers. The Guardian has also produced an informative summary of the hiatus discussion.

The regular monthly analyses of global climate, by NOAA’s National Climate Data Center, are also useful to show what is really happening. The global map of temperature anomalies (departures from average temperatures over the 1981-2010 period), for the January to August period this year has virtually all land surfaces colored pink (meaning warmer than average). There is a swath of pale blue across central Siberia, Tibet and Pakistan, and a more intensely blue blob centered on my home town and encompassing eastern North America – these were almost the only places that were colder than average over those 8 months. Ottawa, and a host of big important US cities where influential people live are all in this colder than average patch.
Jan Aug 2014 temp 201401-201408

Despite the warming hiatus, NOAA reports that “the first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 57.3°F (14.0°C)”. NOAA also reports that, over this same period, if one looks only at ocean surface temperature, 2014 ties with 2010 as the second warmest period, exceeded only by those same 8 months in 1998. The reason for these warm temperatures is the CO2 we release into the atmosphere as we burn fossil fuels. Total CO2 emissions for 2013 were 36.1 billion tonnes, a new record and 60% higher than the amount released in 1990 when the IPCC issued its first report on the global climate. Needless to say, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has continued its giddy rise. It registered 397.01 ppm over August, and was above 400 ppm in April, May and June. Our march towards 450 ppm and beyond progresses, and at an ever accelerating pace. The year-to-year rate of increase in CO2 concentration has also been trending upwards – in other words, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now increasing more rapidly than it was a few years ago. Far from reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases, we are emitting more of them than we used to.

co2_trend_mlo

Recent trend in CO2 concentration in the air above Mauna Loa. The red line is the monthly mean, which fluctuates seasonally due to changes in amount of photosynthesis taking place. The black line is the trend with the seasonal variation subtracted. Figure from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

Growing Evidence of Growing Environmental Impacts

Beyond evidence that the global climate continues to change, there is a steady stream of evidence that our impacts on the biosphere are going to be severe. Two months ago I wrote about the Science article by Rodolfo Dirzo and colleagues concerning the extent of defaunation during the Anthropocene (that geological period in which humanity is the major driver of biosphere change). Now, timed to coincide with the death in the Cincinnati Zoo of Martha, the last surviving passenger pigeon, on 1st September 1914, the Audubon Society and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative have each brought out reports on the status of birds in the USA. The Audubon report claims that 314 species are at risk of losing more than half their available habitat by 2080 if nothing is done to stem our releases of CO2.

2014 SotB_Cover

The new State of the Birds, USA, report provides compelling evidence of the damage we are doing to our natural ecosystems. Image © US Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative

The State of the Birds report, to which Audubon contributed as one of 22 partner organizations, took a more comprehensive approach and examines other factors likely to impact birds. It deals with all 720 or so species that breed within the USA, in a habitat by habitat approach revealing a number of positive examples in which conservation efforts have paid off over the last decades, but also documenting too many instances of species that are declining fast. Numbers of arid land birds in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico have declined 46% over the last 45 years, and in Hawaii where 71 bird species have become extinct since human settlement, all 33 remaining native forest species are in serious trouble.  The State of the Birds report includes a ‘watch list’ of 230 bird species, including all species formally classified by the government as threatened or endangered as well as a number of others showing signs of decline. This list, one third of all species, includes some species in every habitat. A second list of 33 species includes abundant species that have shown rapid losses in abundance in recent years. While birds are environmentally sensitive species they are also particularly well known because of the popularity of bird-watching as a hobby. What about all those other, less ‘interesting’ species that few people think about? And what about animals in many other countries where the extent of habitat destruction is arguably much greater than in the USA? Defaunation is already a major component of the environmental crisis.

In a provocative article in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, Charles Sheppard of Warwick University, UK, uses the fact of coral reef decline as an opportunity to discuss the issue of food security and starvation across the developing world. He begins with a simple statement: “It has become fashionable to claim that Malthus’ predictions of mass famine have been wrong”, and then sets out abundant evidence that we have famine all around us. He argues that since malnutrition the underlying cause of about 54% of the 10 million or so deaths of children under 5 in developing countries, it is fully appropriate to state that famine is a significant problem today. He then turns to seafood, the global decline in yields, and the particular problems for reef fisheries around the world.

declining status of global fish stocks Sheppard MPB 2014 1-s2.0-S0025326X14002744-gr2

Global history of fishery stocks since 1950, using FAO data. Almost 60% of stocks are collapsed over over-exploited at present. Figure from Sheppard 2014, modified from Pitcher and Cheung 2013.

Globally over the past 60 years, there has been a progressive increase in the number of fishery stocks exploited until now there are essentially no stocks yet to be fished. In addition, there has been a growing extent of exploitation so that more and more stocks are fully, or over-exploited. About a quarter of all fishery stocks are now considered collapsed, yielding far less than they used to.

For coral reefs, Sheppard describes the ways in which fishing pressure grows as fishermen acquire larger boats and motors (although he fails to mention the way in which global markets and tourism create an inexhaustible demand for reef fishery products). It’s an informative article, well worth reading, and is open access so accessible. The impacts of humanity of the natural world of coral reefs have ramifying effects on our own well-being.

A very different paper dealing with coral reefs has just appeared in Global Change Biology. Riccardo Rodolfo-Metalpa, of the Musée Océanographique, Monaco, with colleagues from Spain, the USA and Israel, reported on the capacity of the coral, Oculina patagonica, to adapt to warmer water, thereby reducing risk of bleaching. They did not explore the ability of individuals to acclimate as temperature increased, but rather the capacity of a population to acclimatize to warmer conditions experienced over a long time – these can be physiologically quite different, and the important question when it comes to climate change is ‘can a species acclimatize to permanently warmer water?’.

To do this they took advantage of the fact that O. patagonica occurs in Spanish, Italian and Israeli portions of the Mediterranean Sea, which differ by several degrees in average summer water temperature. By collecting corals from each location and maintaining them side by side under the same temperature conditions in the lab they carried out what ecologists used to term ‘common garden’ experiments (because the first such experiments were done on plants that were brought together in a common garden to see how plants from different regions performed when provided with identical environmental conditions).  Rodolfo-Metalpa and colleagues reared the corals under a set of temperatures ranging from 20 to 33oC, and measured a number of metabolic attributes. Their hypothesis was that if this species could acclimatize, the metabolic performance characteristics would be shifted towards higher temperatures in the corals collected from the Israeli site where temperatures are normally warmer. Unfortunately, they found no evidence of such a shift of metabolic characteristics, suggesting that, at least for this one species, a warming world means that the risk of bleaching will grow year by year.
Coral specialists have suspected for some time that corals had only limited capacity to adapt to warmer water. They are environmentally sensitive organisms, there has been little evidence that mass bleaching events result in the survival of hardier, better adapted individuals that resist similar warm temperatures in future years, and long-term laboratory experiments, such as those of Sophie Dove, of University of Queensland, show no evidence of an ability to adapt to warmer water. The report by Rodolfo-Metalpa and colleagues makes that disappointing suspicion somewhat more certain, and suggests that coral reefs really are at very great risk of disappearing if climate continues to warm.

A number of recent articles have also provided possible solutions to our impacts on the environment. I’ll mention just two. William Laurence of James Cook University, and 11 colleagues from the USA, UK, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Australia recently published a commentary in Nature on the impacts of roads and how to deal with them. Humans evidently enjoy building roads, because our road network has grown continuously throughout history. Their map of the roads of the world is quite daunting.

Density of roads globally Laurance et al Sept 11 2014 nature13717-f1

The global road network is yet another way of seeing where on the planet we are having  our largest impacts. Figure © Laurence et al 2014, Nature.

Each time we build a road, we add to the fragmentation of natural habitat. For many animals, even a small forest track can be a significant barrier to movement, and the mortality of animals along more travelled roads around the world is substantial. Laurence and colleagues use a series of attributes of environment – species richness, number of threatened species, habitat diversity – to characterize locations in terms of their environmental value. They used a similar approach, using several attributes to rate areas in terms of the economic (chiefly agricultural) benefits that would result from addition of new roads. They show that while places having high rankings for environmental value and those having high rankings for value of increased roads are broadly separate across the globe, there are many regions in which these overlap. These are the parts of the world where road-building should be carefully scrutinized to ensure that environmental values are retained to the extent possible.

Meanwhile, in Nature Climate Change, Sally Brown of University of Southampton and a multitude of colleagues from all over, published an examination of the way in which the five successive IPCC Assessment Reports have treated the topic of climate impacts on coastal zones. They see a progressive shift from reporting of individual impacts towards greater integration and a shift towards adaptation. In the authors’ view the changes evident across the five IPCC reports show the way in which our understanding of the environmental and economic implications of climate change has matured. I was fascinated by their figure showing the set of topics discussed and how the pattern of emphasis changed across reports.

Brown et al Sept 2014 climate impacts on coasts nclimate2344-f2

In this figure, increasing extent of discussion of each topic is shown by increasing orange color, from the first 1990 to the most recent 2014 IPCC Assessment Report.
Figure © Brown et al 2014 Nature Climate Change.

In the authors’ words, “The IPCC perspective has shifted from impacts to adaptation, reflecting a growing focus on integrated approaches to reducing risk that rely on flexible adaptation options and management. These aim to be effective regardless of how environments change. Coastal managers now need to implement a further shift to planning and implementation, with an emphasis placed on resilience, cost-effectiveness and working with nature. Furthermore, adaptive, sustainable planning should be undertaken in a wider socioeconomic development framework, taking into account human needs — many of which are more immediate than climate change. Rather than pointing the finger only at climate change and assuming it inevitably spells disaster, there is a need to better understand climatic and non-climatic drivers of coastal change and their interactions at different spatial and temporal scales.

Such articles and many more tell me that our understanding of climate change is growing, and our appreciation of the extent of the impacts on our economies and our lives is growing even faster. What is still lacking, however, is the political commitment to do something. This lack of political progress is particularly stark in Canada.

Building Political Will

ClimateMarchNewYork Jason DeCrow - AP

Marchers on 6th Avenue, New York, 21st September 2014.
Image © Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

This week, the United Nations is hosting another climate conference in New York City. A total of 120 heads of government are in attendance. The Prime Ministers of Australia and Canada are both conspicuous by their absence. Canada’s PM Harper is in the city. He attended a private dinner with other heads of government, and will speak at the General Assembly later in the week, but he saw fit to send his able Minister of Environment to the climate conference. There Leona Aglukkaq valiantly parroted the same tired words, “We are not waiting to act. We are taking decisive action to ensure Canada remains a leader and contributes its part to this global cause.

Aglukkaq at UN Summit Sept 2014 Sean Kilpatrick CP cda-un-20140923

Canadian Minister of Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, speaking to an empty room at the United Nations, in place of Stephen Harper who was in New York but avoiding anything to do with climate change. Leadership!
Photo © Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

I wonder whether she is just super obedient to the wishes of her Prime Minister, prepared to go on parroting lies as long as that is the party line. She must know that she is being given nonsense to spew. There must be people who tell her these claims are just plain false. That she made a ‘major’ address in front of an empty room at the UN perhaps tells us most clearly the high regard in which the world holds Canada’s performance on climate issues. That she re-announced new regulations on automobile emissions that were first announced two years ago, and then only to comply with the changes being brought in by the USA, also shows how little regard the Harper government has for the process of dealing with climate change.

But enough about Canada’s pathetic performance. Other nations are starting to make real progress, and there are a number of signs elsewhere that the world is beginning to shift. First, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, chaired by Felipe Calderón and including Nicholas Stern and a flock of bank presidents, senior economists and former heads of state, released The New Climate Economy, timed to coincide with the UN Climate summit. I will talk about it more in a later post, but the thesis is that the global economy is going to change, and become less carbon-based, but is also going to grow. If they can be believed, moving towards a carbon-free economy is going to be good for business! The Globe and Mail, in reporting on the release, cautioned that the fossil fuel economy will be at risk, particularly the ‘highest-cost, highest-carbon forms of oil” such as what we have in the Alberta tar sands.

Second, there is a growing number of reports concerning the fossil fuel divestment project. Whether it is in Australia, the USA, or elsewhere, a growing number of corporations, foundations, universities, and individuals are divesting themselves of investments in the fossil fuel sector. On 15th September, The Age reported on divestment action taken by the Uniting Church in Australia. “Further investment in the extraction of fossil fuels contributes to, and makes it more difficult to address climate change,” the church states in a recent press release. “Given the harm climate change will cause, “further investment and extraction is unethical”. The Age goes on to report divestment activity at 19 Australian universities and in other bodies and compares this to action in the US and Europe. On 22nd September, Huffington Post reported on divestment action taken by the Rockefeller Foundation ($50 Billion to be divested), Stanford University ($18.7 Billion), and the actor Mark Ruffalo among others. Regrettably, similar activity here in Canada seems rather muted.

I probably should not end with a down note, but not only does Canada fail to take the positive steps that others are starting to take, we double down on making bad moves. I commented facetiously some time ago about digging up the entire tar sands region, putting it on a giant barge, and floating it off via the Arctic to China. Well, we are not going to use a barge, but a new study commissioned by the oil company Canatek and the Province of Alberta has set out a route and given a name to the Arctic Gateway Pipeline. Direct from Fort McMurray, 2400 km all the way to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk. Way to go, Canada. Made my day.

Arctic Gateway Pipeline

The proposed route for the Arctic Gateway Pipeline to ship tar sands bitumen to the Arctic.
Map © Canatek

Categories: Biodiversity Loss, Canada's environmental policies, Climate change, coral reef science, Economics, In the News, Politics | Comments Off