The heat dome building over British Columbia this weekend is expected to shatter records and spread east across the Prairies. Dangerous heat has already obliterated records across the western U.S. and from eastern Europe into Siberia.
What used to be the joyful beginning of summer has become a time of dread for those of us attuned to climate breakdown.
Weather forecasters are running out of descriptors. One B.C. meteorologist calls it “an unfathomable temperature anomaly.”
But, what’s truly “unfathomable” for most is that this will be one of the coldest summers of the rest of our lives. Very possibly of all human lives. These are the cool old days.
Far too many headline writers and pundits still meet each extreme event with warnings of a “new normal.” That’s a phrase that really has no place in our new vocabulary, suggesting, as it does, that we’ve made things really bad, but they’re now somehow stabilized.
If only that were true. In fact, the science is quite clear: the climate will get less and less hospitable until we drive climate pollution to zero. It will stabilize only then, and only if we have the blind luck not to have careened across any of our planet’s tipping points.
Those tipping points will be one of the warnings in the next big report from world scientists. You may have heard that Agence France-Presse got hold of a leaked draft of the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It made for sobering reading.
Heat domes, tipping points and all the other climate news: it’s enough to make us crazy.
If you’re feeling that way, you’re certainly not alone. It can help to remember that there are, in fact, more and more of us all the time. Solutions are scaling. Opposition to climate pollution is growing.
You might want to check out a video released this week by a new Canadian outfit, the Climate Emergency Unit. The video uses archival footage to tell the extraordinary story of transformation during the Second World War and leaves you with a renewed sense of what’s possible.
New solar cheaper than existing gas or coal
For almost half the world, it’s now cheaper to build a new solar farm than keep an existing gas or coal-fired plant running.
That’s the latest finding from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and it applies to countries with 46 per cent of the world’s population, including China and India.
Massive solar deal in Alberta
How big is Alberta’s solar boom? Construction started on Wednesday for a project southeast of Calgary that will have 1.3 million solar panels.
There’s currently 290 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity operating in Alberta. This new Travers Solar project should be finished next year with 465 MW of capacity — enough to power more than 100,000 homes. And Amazon just announced it will buy 400 megawatts from the project. It’s the second big announcement by Amazon in Alberta — it recently committed to buy power from a new 80 MW solar farm in southern Alberta.
U.S. bans (some) solar products from Xinjiang
China is by far the world’s biggest producer of solar products, and the province of Xinjiang is a major production centre. But Xinjiang is more infamously the centre of detention camps, disappearances and China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghurs.
Almost half of the world’s polysilicon comes from Xinjiang. This week, the U.S. restricted imports from five Chinese companies it says are using or accepting forced labour. “The United States will not tolerate modern-day slavery in our supply chain,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
Great Barrier Reef “in danger”
Hot ocean water has been causing mass bleaching events on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. A UNESCO committee has proposed adding the natural wonder to its List of World Heritage in Danger. Australia is vowing to fight the move even though its own reef authority downgraded the reef’s condition from “poor” to “very poor.”
Terry Hughes, a scientist who has been speaking out about the state of the reef, said the UNESCO proposal “is pointing the finger at Australia and saying: ’If you’re serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, you need to do something about your climate policies.’”
Quebec and feds lead on nature conservation
Quebec has done the most of any province to conserve nature, according to a report card by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). The organization gave Quebec an A-, and the feds got the same grade for land protection along with a B+ for work on oceans.
Quebec committed to protect 17 per cent of its land by 2020 and almost got there (16.7 per cent).
Canada exceeded the goal of protecting 10 per cent of marine areas, although CPAWS points out some of these areas are still being endangered by licences for oil exploration off Newfoundland. Back in 2015, less than one per cent of Canada’s oceans were protected, and the feds upped that to 13.8 per cent in the past six years.
Ontario, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador all got an F — Alberta and Ontario were judged to be actively undermining nature protection.
Canada’s climate accountability act
It’s been a long and tortured process to get accountability legislation in Canada, but Bill C-12 has a fair chance of finally becoming law. The House of Commons passed the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act with a vote of 204-114, and the Senate has agreed to delay its summer recess by two days in order to pass a budget bill and likely C-12 as well.
“Extraordinary measures” needed
This week, the Parliamentary Budget Office conducted a side-by-side comparison of Canada’s climate targets and policies and issued its findings.
As John Woodside reports, “it would take ‘extraordinary measures’ to achieve the Budget 2021 targets, let alone the more ambitious ones set in late April. Offering a sense of scale, the PBO says rising to this challenge would require an extra six million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2030 — which would require half of all vehicles sold from 2022 on to be zero-emission and charged with zero-emission electricity.”
Headwinds for LNG
A proposed liquefied natural gas project in Nova Scotia is being strongly opposed by Mi’kmaw groups and dogged by concerns about the proponent’s cleanup liabilities in Alberta. The company behind the Goldboro LNG project has been trying to land almost $1 billion in federal funding but hasn’t been successful so far and has set itself a deadline of June 30 for a final investment decision.
Meanwhile the GNL project in Quebec just got its formal assessment from Environment Canada. Alexandre Shields has the story in Le Devoir. The federal scientists actually cited last month’s report by the International Energy Agency that called for an end to new fossil fuel expansion. They concluded that “if the project is approved, emissions from the project and upstream emissions could have a negative effect on Canada’s plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Alberta’s impotent inquiry
Alberta’s bumbling, expensive and long-delayed inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns appears to be nearing its end. Max Fawcett argues that “the fiasco and farce of the Allan Inquiry should serve as a reminder of why government-sanctioned investigations into the political speech of private citizens should not be tolerated.”
Those $5,000 incentives for better insulation or heat pumps might be good politics, but at our current pace, it will take 142 years to retrofit residential buildings and 71 years to retrofit commercial ones, according to a new report from Efficiency Canada.
Adam Radwanski explores some of the authors’ recommendations, including “borrowing from the Dutch retrofit model Energiesprong, in which ‘market development teams’ would operate on the ground across the country. They would bring together property owners with similar building types, then work with all sides of the retrofit equation — contractors, suppliers, customers, public officials — to launch projects aimed at producing best practices that could be replicated elsewhere.”
More electric school buses
School kids in B.C. could get a new fleet of electric school buses starting this year.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank has agreed to deploy up to $30 million to finance the purchase of as many as 280 zero-emission school buses.
An electric fire truck
The City of Brampton has approved the purchase of an electric fire truck. The trucks are made by a company called Rosenbauer, based in Austria. Rosenbauer toured one of the trucks around North America last year and convinced Brampton’s fire department to replace one of its pumper trucks with a new zero-emission Rosenbauer RT.
“The truck has many exciting features, from reducing carcinogens on scene to the latest in ergonomic technologies, and will help enable us to become a leader in environmental sustainability. We look forward to using it to protect our community,” said Bill Boyes, chief of Brampton Fire and Emergency Services.
Here’s a peek at one of the trucks out for a spin in Washington, D.C.
It feels wrong to sign off this week without acknowledging the horrific discoveries of mass, unmarked graves of Indigenous children. My thanks to Khelsilem, a spokesperson for the Squamish Nation, for pointing non-Indigenous readers to this article.
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