Prime Minister Harper’s Inaction on Climate Killed the Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline

Stephen Harper climate change

With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.

The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”

The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.

Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.

While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.

For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.

Will This Be Remembered as The Summer North Americans Woke Up to Climate Change?

Lizard Lake wildfire

Smokey haze, intense heat, encampments of evacuated residents next to the highway: these were the conditions that greeted Renee Lertzman when she recently drove through Oregon. It’s no wonder why the environmental psychology researcher and professor resorts to the term “apocalyptic” to describe the scene.

It was a surreal experience,” says Lertzman, who teaches at Victoria’s Royal Roads University. “We’re all driving along and it’s so smoky and it’s terrifying. Yet we’re all doing our summer vacation thing. I couldn’t help but wonder: what is going on, how are people feeling and talking about this?”

It’s really the question of the hour. Catastrophic wildfires and droughts have engulfed much of the continent, with thousands displaced from their homes; air quality alerts confine many of the lucky remainder behind locked doors (with exercise minimized and fresh-air intakes closed).

Firefighters have been summoned from around the world to battle the unprecedented fires, which are undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change. Yet the seemingly reasonable assumption that witnessing such horrific natural disasters may increase support for action on climate change is vastly overestimated, Lertzman tells DeSmog Canada.

Recession, Not Fracking, Behind Drop in U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Scientists Conclude

It’s been a talking point for boosters of the shale gas rush for years: as fracking spread across the country and the supply glut drove prices down, utilities have been shuttering dirty coal plants and burning natural gas instead – meaning that America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped sharply. Fracking, the argument went, is actually good for the environment because it’s good for the climate.

Want More U.S. Jobs? Enforce Carbon Pollution Limits

One of the main talking points that Republicans use to bash environmental protections is that they’ll cost us too many jobs.  That is one of their main complaints about the new carbon emissions standards for power plants.  They believe that if we put limits on the amount of greenhouse gases that these coal-fired power plants spew into our atmosphere, then we’ll lose too many jobs, sending local economies into economic ruin.

It’s a great talking point in a nation that is currently starved for jobs, and it helps to sell fear to workers in these industries in order to get them to vote against their own health and safety.

Unfortunately for Republicans who use these talking points, they are only telling half of the story.

Biomass Is Not A Zero-Carbon Fuel Source, So Why Does The Clean Power Plan Propose To Treat It That Way?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the foundation of President Obama’s climate strategy. The plan, which is to be finalized later this year, sets state-by-state targets for reducing emissions from existing power plants, especially coal-fired power plants, which will be essential to meeting the commitments made in the climate deal President Obama struck with China late last year.

Coal Companies Talking Out Both Sides Of Their Mouths When It Comes To Climate Change

Peabody Energy, the largest coal company in the U.S., deployed one of the lawyers on its payroll to Congress last week to argue against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon rule.

This is so common that it normally wouldn’t rate a mention, but in this case it happened to be Obama’s former Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who now works for Peabody and is critical of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, saying it is tantamount to “Burning the Constitution.”

But then, even that ranks pretty low in terms of newsworthiness given that, as a new analysis by Greenwire E&E reporters Corbin Hiar and Manuel Quiñones puts it, “The highest profile practitioner of targeted climate messaging is Peabody Energy Corp.”

The Greenwire analysis shows that many coal companies are, in fact, frequently talking out both sides of their mouths when it comes to climate change, and uses Peabody in particular as a case study of the legal and shareholder risks involved.

Happy birthday Kyoto! What was it again?

Happy Birthday Kyoto Protocol! This week marks the ten year anniversary. Is it a reason to celebrate? Kyoto was our first international agreement to cut emissions, so what can we learn for Paris? asks Alice Bell, writer and researcher on science, technology and the environment.

The Kyoto Protocol was an iconic international agreement setting targets for countries to cut the emissions of gases that cause climate change. A world first.

It was, unsurprisingly, a bit of a compromise. The targets weren’t as high as China or the Alliance Small Island States wanted, but still stronger than those proposed by Canada and the United States.

Social Cost Of Carbon Drastically Underestimated: Report

The U.S. government could be drastically underestimating how much climate change is going to cost us, according to a study published by Stanford researchers in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers concluded that the Obama Administration is using a Social Cost of Carbon estimate that may be just one-sixth of the true cost—and that the true cost is high enough to justify aggressive measures for lowering emissions enough to limit global temperature rise to the 2 degrees Celsius that scientists tell us is the threshold for averting catastrophic climate change.

The Social Cost of Carbon is an official estimate of how much economic damage will be caused per metric ton of carbon emitted into our atmosphere—damages like lower crop yields and higher healthcare costs. It is used by the EPA and other federal agencies to calculate the benefits of policies intended to improve energy efficiency, lower emissions, and combat climate change. It is also often used to justify not taking action if the proposed action would cost more than the damage it is intended to mitigate.

The Obama Administration raised its official estimate of the economic cost of a metric ton of CO2 from $21 to $37 in November 2013. Even back then, however, many experts challenged that estimate as far too low.

According to the team at Stanford, that estimate was way too low—they calculate the true Social Cost of Carbon as $220 per metric ton.

DeSmogCAST 7: Obama's Keystone Veto, U.S. Oil Exports and the World's Unburnable Carbon

In this episode of DeSmogCAST our team discusses Obama's recent promise to veto legislation put forward by a Republican-led Congress to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the fate of Keystone remains uncertain, the Obama Administration made changes in the final days of 2014 that now allows for the export of U.S. crude oil. As Justin Mikulka reports, the change doesn't lie in a newly passed bill but rather in a language game used to mask the difference between crude oil and condensate

Finally we take a look at a new study recently published in Nature that analyzes the globe's total carbon reserves and pinpoints those that must remain unburned if we are to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius warming limit recommended by scientists and policy makers. That study highlights the Canadian oilsands and almost all coal reserves in the U.S. as carbon deposits that must remain in the ground in a carbon-constrained future.

Climate Legacy: Report Offers Stark Reminder Why Fossil Fuel Industry Is So Intent To Avoid Accountability For Pollution

If the governments of the world get serious about tackling climate change and adopt aggressive limits on global warming emissions, many fossil fuel companies’ could see their assets become stranded, forcing them to fundamentally change their business models or go out of business altogether.

But there’s another reason why those companies are so desperate to forestall any and all attempts to rein in climate emissions by holding polluters accountable: fossil fuels companies themselves are responsible for a massive amount of the greenhouse gases cooking our climate.

The Climate Accountability Institute has updated its Carbon Majors Project in time for the climate talks in Lima, Peru, “detailing the direct and product-related emissions traced to the major industrial carbon producers in the oil, natural gas, coal, and cement industries” through 2013. CAI has found that the carbon-based fossil fuels and cement produced by just 90 entities were responsible for 65% of the 1,443 billion metric tonnes of CO2 emitted between 1751, the dawn of the industrial era, and 2013.

Some 50 investor-owned companies are among the 90 entities on the Carbon Majors list, and they are collectively responsible for nearly 22% of all global warming emissions up to 2013, while the 36 state-owned companies on the list are responsible for another 20%.


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