Lots of significant climate news

2017-05-31

in Economics, Politics, Science, The environment

CPSA is keeping me busy, but there have been some interesting news stories in the last few days:

Overall, recent developments are worrisome. We know how short a window there is for action capable of hitting the Paris Agreement’s targets, and yet we continue to make contradictory policy choices.

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. May 31, 2017 at 6:19 pm

B.C. has no exclusive claim on its coast, Alberta premier warns pipeline foes

‘We have to be able to engage in international trade, and that’s what we’re doing’

What B.C. can and cannot do to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline

New B.C. government would have a few tools to slow down construction of new oil export pipeline

. May 31, 2017 at 6:20 pm

However, one court case shows B.C. may have some clout to protect its environment. Last year, the B.C. Supreme Court sided with Coastal First Nations in a case involving Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project. The judge’s message was that a provincial government can’t rely on the federal government, but instead should do its own environmental assessment and consult with First Nations and other local stakeholders.

All this means that there seems to be shift in our understanding of where the power lies in projects such as Trans Mountain, said Fenner Stewart, an energy law expert at the University of Calgary. The law is clear, but politics muddy the water.

“The real question I would say, isn’t whether or not the federal government has a legal capacity to push this decision forward,” said Stewart. “It’s whether or not the federal government is willing to spend the political capital and social capital to do so.”

. May 31, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Editorial If Trump withdraws from the Paris agreement, let’s hope the world survives

Trump already has been pursuing policies aimed at expanding U.S. production of fossil fuels to achieve what he called “American energy dominance,” rather than mere “energy independence.” He proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31% (the enforcement section alone would be cut by 40%), appointed climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to dismantle — er, run — the agency, and has taken steps to end President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a framework for compelling states to effect significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. These steps will make it harder to meet the commitment Obama made in Paris to reduce U.S. carbon output 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Trump also wants deep cuts in climate-change research, and would slash the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 69% — a move that critics say would hamstring government investment in renewable energy research.

How Trump intends to ride fossil fuel production into dominance of an energy sector increasingly shifting to renewables is perplexing. Oil companies themselves are planning for the day when global oil consumption begins to ebb and becomes supplanted by less-harmful natural gas — an already profitable portion of their overall business. But they’re also expanding their portfolios to include renewable energy sources. It’s telling that CEOs of Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP all urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the accord. New ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods recently wrote that “we’re encouraged that the pledges made at last year’s Paris Accord create an effective framework for all countries to address rising emissions; in fact, our company forecasts carbon reductions consistent with the results of the Paris accord commitments.”

. June 1, 2017 at 1:29 pm

A historic moment for B.C. politics – and our environment
KATHRYN HARRISON

The governing agreement between the NDP and Green Party represents a historic moment in British Columbia politics. It anticipates not only the first minority government in the province in 65 years, but also the first government in Canadian history predicated on support from the Greens. The two parties’ commitment to proportional representation could yield even more dramatic and lasting changes to the provincial political landscape.

The agreement also represents a potentially historic moment for the Canadian oil industry and economy. The Greens and NDP’s shared commitment to climate action and opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion project presents both economic and political challenges to the proposed pipeline.

When the BC Liberal government is defeated in June, as seems inevitable, opposition to the pipeline will no longer be a matter of individual citizens, environmental groups, or even local governments and First Nations, but of a provincial government acting on behalf of all British Columbians.

At the heart of the Trudeau government’s 2016 climate plan lies a political compromise: a commitment to pursue reductions in Canada’s own greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for expansion of fossil-fuel exports to other countries via new pipelines. The looming NDP-Green partnership in British Columbia reveals both the political fragility of that compromise and the contradiction of climate leadership funded by fossil-fuel development.

. June 1, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Trump to withdraw from Paris accord

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is set to announce his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord Thursday, a major step that will fulfill a campaign promise while sparking global outcry.
The White House began informing members of Congress Thursday afternoon that Trump planned to pull out of the US from the landmark agreement, according to a congressional source.

Trump will speak during a 3 p.m. ET event in the White House Rose Garden.

In talking points delivered to Trump’s allies, the White House characterized the Paris agreement as a job killer that placed undue burdens on American taxpayers.

“The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans, and the President’s action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first,” the talking points read. “The accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation. It frontloads costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy.”

. June 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Climate Decision
By BILL McKIBBEN
JUNE 1, 2017

It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.

But now President Trump (and 22 Republican senators who wrote a letter asking him to take the step) is betting that all of that is wrong. Mr. Trump famously called global warming a hoax during the campaign, and with this decision he’s wagering that he was actually right — he’s calling his own bluff. No line of argument in the physical world supports his claim, and no credible authority backs him, not here and not abroad. It’s telling that he simultaneously wants to cut the funding for the satellites and ocean buoys that monitor our degrading climate. Every piece of data they collect makes clear his foolishness. He’s simply insisting that physics isn’t real.

The dysfunctional American political process had already warped the process, of course. The reason Paris is a series of voluntary agreements and not a real treaty is because the world had long since understood that no binding document would ever get two-thirds of the vote in our oil-soaked Senate. And that’s despite the fact that the agreement asks very little of us: President Barack Obama’s mild shift away from coal-fired power and toward higher-mileage cars would have satisfied our obligations.

But the hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling; that shaken into action by the accord, we would start moving much faster toward renewable energy, maybe even fast enough to begin catching up with the physics of global warming.

. June 1, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Under the terms of the Paris accord, Trump must wait until November 2019 to formally submit his intention to withdraw. At that point, the U.S. enters a one-year waiting period before it’s formally removed. The decision could be reversed by the next president — or even Trump himself. As a result, the issue will be front and center during the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Trump spent much of his speech today saying he’s willing to renegotiate the accord so that it’s more fair to America. He didn’t explain what he meant by that or what terms he would be willing to accept. Nor is it clear why other countries would reopen a deal that took years to reach. He said it would have to force deeper cuts from other countries. But the whole point of the deal was that each country was able to set its own targets — meaning Trump could change U.S. targets on his own without formal negotiations.

. June 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm

The fatuous part is for Mr Trump to claim that his decision is designed to invigorate American coal mining. There is no reason to expect that it will. Miners are struggling mainly because cheap and plentiful natural gas is taking coal’s markets. Even if Mr Trump truly believes that climate-change policy is to blame, he had no need to withdraw from Paris, because America’s commitment was so modest—a 26-28% cut in its 2005 level of emissions by 2025. America is almost halfway to meeting that target even before adopting many of the environmental strictures Barack Obama had envisaged. Had Mr Trump elected to stay in Paris, but still dismantled those putative curbs on burning coal, America might have met its target anyway. And even if it had not, it would have lost nothing but face—which is why Rex Tillerson, who was the boss of Exxon, an oil giant, before he became secretary of state, argued for staying in.

. June 2, 2017 at 9:44 am

Fight to stop controversial Canadian pipeline gets fresh backing in BC

* Pact between leftwing NDP and Greens could force showdown with Trudeau
* Critics say pipeline proposal raises chances of catastrophic spill in Salish Sea

An alliance between opposition parties in British Columbia has offered new hope to opponents of a contentious Canadian pipeline expansion, and raises the prospect of a confrontation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has thrown his support behind the project.

After an inconclusive election in the province’s legislature earlier this month, the Green party – which won three seats – agreed this week to form a minority government with the leftwing New Democratic Party, potentially putting an end to 16 years of rule by the Liberals. A confidence vote is expected to take place this month, which could force Liberal premier Christy Clark to resign.

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