Behind the Numbers

Entries Tagged as 'Environment'

IPCC doom, gloom and an LED light at the end of the tunnel

November 17th, 2014 · · Energy Policy, Environment

The latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a super-synthesis of the state of agreed knowledge about climate change, adaptation and mitigation. Imagine thousands of research papers summarized in three major volumes (released over the past year), with this new report the grand summary of that. And even that condensed into a 40-page summary for policymakers.

Now I will humbly boil that down to a few key observations: climate change is happening and costs are piling up; it’s caused by human activity, primarily the combustion of coal, oil and gas; staying on our current pathway risks ever-greater danger of irreversible adverse impacts around the world; and, perhaps most importantly, we still have time for a soft landing if we act quickly.

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Climate Change: The Great Educational Challenge

September 23rd, 2014 · · Education, Environment, Nova Scotia

This blog is the third in CCPA-NS’ series called “Progressive Voices on Public Education in Nova Scotia.”


The People’s Climate March showed an incredible level of solidarity across our planet and was a visible way to capture the news cycle and send a message to world leaders to act. But, climate change itself is not news. For those of us who are latecomers to the scene, Al Gore’s 2006 award-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” should have alerted us. If that didn’t do it, surely the Fourth Report (2007) and the Fifth Report (2013) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would have. We can no longer hide from the extremely unpleasant fact that climate change is the most serious crisis humankind has ever faced. We must take action commensurate to the weight of this remarkable challenge.

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What’s wrong with the tar sands boom? (in one graph)

August 5th, 2014 · · Economy & Economic Indicators, Environment, Income Inequality, Uncategorized

So let’s say that you don’t care about pipelines. Let’s say climate change doesn’t concern you or your children. Let’s say you aren’t concerned about the radical alternation in the landscape of northern Alberta.

What if when I say “tar sands” and you say “Show me the money!”

Well even if you didn’t care about the above, you should care about the money and where it has been going since the tar rush began. The value of crude oil since 1986 has risen 50% from $379/m3 to $570/m3 ($2010). That has created a resource rush like Canada has never seen. At its epicentre, the richest Calgarians have seen their average incomes rise over $600,000 (inflation adjusted) an increase of over 180% since 1986…make it rain!

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Financial Risk and Alberta’s Tar Sands

July 16th, 2014 · · Alberta, Environment

When it comes to global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that what matters is the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions going forward. This amounts to about 30 years of emissions at current levels – a global carbon budget that would provide the world a 66% chance of staying below 2°C. There is some debate about whether an upper limit of 2°C is itself too high – it poses unacceptable and catastrophic consequences for the most vulnerable countries – but nonetheless the 2°C target has been adopted in international negotiations towards a new treaty to address climate change.

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Will Enbridge’s Pipeline Ever Get Built?

June 18th, 2014 · · British Columbia, Environment

You have to wonder why the Harper government bothered with process at all. It’s like there was never any doubt that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would get approved. But historians may look back on this moment as the beginning of the end of pipeline politics.

Opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline is BC’s largest social movement. A large majority of British Columbians are opposed to the pipeline. BC First Nations, who hold the ultimate trump card – the constitutionality of their rights and title, have said no means no. Thousands testified to the Joint Review Panel (and its arguably limited flawed process). Even friend of fossil fuels, Premier Christy Clark, maintains her five conditions for BC’s approval have not been met.

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Leitão’s Budget: Austerity in All but Name

June 6th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Environment, Quebec, Taxes and Tax Cuts

Both before the budget was tabled and during its presentation, Finance Minister Carlos Leitão spoke of “rigour” and “responsibility,” but never used the term “austerity.” Yet, this is truly an austerity budget: many government departments will be receiving less next year than they have this year. Here is a summary of the budget cuts:

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Anticosti: fool’s gold

March 26th, 2014 · · Environment

The elections campaign is currently in full swing in Quebec, and three out of the four political parties represented in the National Assembly agree on the economic interest which lies in producing shale oil in Anticosti. Between the environmental risks of producing fossil fuels on this island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the $14 billion economic benefits for both the Quebec government and its society, the choice seems inevitable: dig deep, but dig well (pun intended), i.e. by meeting the “highest environmental standards.” Even Daniel Breton, former Environment minister and ex-environmental activist, has rallied behind the cause and accepted the idea that we should at least explore the potential of these deposits, held by the new public-private partnership “Quebec, Petrolia, Maurel, and Prom.”

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Ukraine and the Arctic Council

March 23rd, 2014 · · Environment

When the Arctic Council meets this week in Yellowknife, participants will no doubt be thinking of the Ukraine. But they probably won’t be talking about it, at least during the official sessions.

Ukraine will be on their minds because Russia, which accounts for half of the Arctic region, is one of the eight nations making up the council, along with representatives of six Indigenous Peoples’ organizations.

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Fact-Checking Rock Stars

January 17th, 2014 · · Aboriginal Issues, Alberta, Environment, Media, Saskatchewan, Satire

Has anyone else noticed the explosive rise of fact-checking in the Canadian media as of late? This is certainly a welcome development. Instead of the usual “He said, she said,” muddle in the name of balance, we are in the throes of a renewed quest for pure facts and unadulterated veracity. Surely this sea-change in fact-checking must be in response to some scandalous claim by a major politician or some other Canadian that wields an immense amount of power over our daily lives.

Unfortunately, no.

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Alternative Person of the Year Award for 2013: Pipelines

January 7th, 2014 · · Environment, Quebec, Satire

The Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS) has released its third Alternative Person of the Year Award. In 2011, rating agencies had been its recipients whilst last year Chinese labour camps rose to the top. This year, competition was rough. After lengthy discussions, our jury did come to a conclusion: in 2013, oil pipelines came first.

In contrast with preceding editions, we did not choose a subject which goes under the radar, but one which is discussed using the wrong terms of reference. In Québec, especially since the Lac-Mégantic disaster last July, the ongoing conversation on oil transportation has often taken strange turns. As early as August, commentators praised the merits of the Line 9B Reversal Project, which was developed to bring Alberta’s tar sands oil to Québec, in the name of security and economic development. The reaction of oil producers and their experts following the trauma of last summer’s tragedy was swift.

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