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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

The death toll continues to rise, after wildfires on the United States’s West Coast destroyed homes and has given Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, some of the worst air quality in the world.

Even Canada has been feeling the effects of the U.S. wildfires. Almost all of British Columbia was under air quality warnings from Environment Canada because of wildfire smoke drifting up the coast.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom toured communities that had been devastated by the state’s raging fires and said the deadly, record-shattering fire season should end all debate over climate change.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

Volunteer Elizabeth Stoltz of Heisson waters the Fort Vancouver Garden in Vancouver, Wash., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Stolz said things were extra dried out because of the wind and smoke.

The Canadian Press


Noteworthy reporting this week:

  1. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s political push to have Indigenous communities play a bigger role in energy development has its first real-world example. The province announced it will provide a loan guarantee for a First Nations investment in a natural gas-fired generating facility it says will further reduce the province’s reliance on coal.
  2. In Tamsin McMahon’s years covering the California wildfires, she’s seen – and felt –the toll they take: “Wildfires were not supposed to be something that happened where I lived.” But then came what scientists have termed California’s “new normal” – the annual ritual of soaring temperatures, dry winds and wildfires that has made this state of 40 million people a bellwether for how modern society will cope with a changing climate.

Firefighters watch as they burn a fireline near the Bear Fire in Oroville, Calif., Sept. 10, 2020. Officials dealing with catastrophic fires on the West Coast have had to counter social media rumors that the blazes were set by antifascist activists, publicly pleading that people verify information before sharing it.

Max Whittaker/The New York Times News Service


A deeper dive

Husky’s oil expansion is a tough sell, but promises a cleaner outcome

Emma Graney covers energy from The Globe and Mail’s Calgary bureau. For this week’s deeper dive, she talks about the possibility of net-zero emissions oil

Husky Energy Ltd. wants Ottawa’s help to rescue its $2.2-billion West White Rose drilling expansion off the coast of Newfoundland. The company announced last week it’s going to review the project - and its future operations in Atlantic Canada - as it struggles with extreme market volatility.

It’s a tough sell to federal government with a long-stated goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, a theme that will likely weave throughout the Throne Speech later this month.

Husky’s case for government investment in West White Rose centres on money and employment; it estimates the project will create around 250 jobs and generate more than $3-billion in royalties and taxes.

But there’s another thread to this story – emissions.

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Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s energy Crown corporation, estimates each barrel of oil from the province’s offshore basin generates 12 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about 30 per cent less than the global average, and 70 per cent less than Alberta’s oil sands.

Further, Husky is in the midst of feasibility assessments for emissions offset projects on its floating production, storage and offloading vessel, the SeaRose. The company told me those reduction measures would offset any new emissions from the West White rose platform.

With government investment, Husky says, the two projects combined could result in Canada’s first net-zero oil platform.

- Emma


What else you missed

Debt swaps could free funds to tame climate, biodiversity and virus threats: Forgiving a share of a country’s hefty foreign debt, in exchange for the government devoting those resources to fighting climate change threats and biodiversity loss, could tackle several big problems at once.

Southern Africa’s hunger upsurge blamed on climate and COVID-19: Zimbabwe is the worst affected country, with its number of food insecure people expected to reach 8.6 million by the end of this year.

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Concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere hit record high: The sharp, but short, dip earlier this year represented only a blip in the buildup of climate-warming carbon dioxide, now at its highest level in three million years, according to a UN report.

Judge allows oil flow through second Great Lakes pipeline: Enbridge said it will fully resume operation of a Michigan Great Lakes oil pipeline after a partial shutdown this summer because of damage to a support structure.

One of three entangled humpback whales off B.C. coast free of fishing gear: Rescuers have yet to locate and confirm the condition of the two other whales that are also entangled in fishing gear.


Opinion and analysis

There’s nothing natural about the disasters ravaging the Earth

Elizabeth Renzetti: “I’m pretty sure that very few people gazing up at the doom-coloured sky and watching ash blanket the streets in San Francisco thought, ‘Oh, there’s Mother Nature in all her glory.’”

The oil sands have a future, and it includes polluter pays

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Editorial board: “Getting the federal government and the province on the same page should be the the first step in entrenching polluter-pays in principle, and in practice.”


Here’s what readers had to say

Last week we published a story about the effect lawns have on the environment, and a look at their history dating back to when they were introduced to Canada. Here are some commenters who supported changing the idea of lawn care:

A crew of students cuts the grass at Ontario Place, May 17, 1988, in time for season's opening in two days.

James Lewcun/The Globe and Mail

  • Barbara1945: When I read this article I thought what a reasonable and interesting historical perspective. When I looked after a lawn I introduced white clover and tried to take a natural approach with nematodes etc. and manually pulling crabgrass etc; however, I immediately thought of how my son-in-law would react and certainly the reaction of the many commentators is very typical.
  • Ews1: I am an Indigenous person as defined by the Government of Canada. I do not live on a reserve in poverty. I was educated in a prestigious girls school. Attended the University of Toronto. Pay my share of federal and municipal taxes. Have had a successful career. Now live in retirement on money I have saved. I do not need to show my wealth by having a fancy lawn. I do not believe in trying to tame nature. I see myself as a steward of the land on property I am living on. I am of the opinion the article is making interesting points about decolonizing lawns. What’s all the fuss about?
  • Bravesparrow: The amount of negative emotional comments on this article is upsetting to me. Also the intensity of the negativity. I wonder why so many people responded so vehemently. What makes us flip out-- fear perhaps? Guilt perhaps even?
  • diGGydOO: I didn’t cut my lawn too much this summer, not because of decolonization, but rather because I am a deadbeat and my rider had a few issues. There were lots of flowers and various meadow-like plants that drew in a lot of pollinators and it was nice.

Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of Chantal Underdown doing wetland conservation.

Chantal Underdown

Handout

My name is Chantal Underdown and I live on a small island in Howe Sound. Seeing first-hand the impacts of climate change on habitats, and plant and animal species particularly on Canada’s West Coast, I like to help in a hands-on way. I help with community outreach programs for salmon, and volunteer with habitat and species conservation work around freshwater streams, and ocean shores. One local stream has salmon return for the first time in years and an effort to replant eelgrass beds has also been showing signs of success. My biggest focus currently is my baseline study of amphibians and their habitats on Bowen Island, B.C. As summers get hotter, amphibians stand to lose critical habitat. By learning about what we have, we can determine strategies to locally support their survival. Islands can be a great last refuge for a species if we pay attention. Small things like not using pesticides, not releasing pet-store animals like goldfish and turtles into outdoor waters, keeping dogs out of wetlands in spring where amphibians have laid eggs and valuing our swamps and wetlands, can all make a big difference.

Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.


Photo of the week

Alberte and Laust, students of Samsø Frie Skole school look through a magnifying glass during science class of 5th and 6th grade outside on September 07, 2020 in Samso, Denmark. On Samsø, a sandy 114 square kilometers island of around 3,800 inhabitants, the progressive Samsø Frie Skole had pondered the move outdoors for years prior to the pandemic. The school tries to give a bigger emphasis than traditional schools on explaining the relationship of humans and nature, amid climate change and other growing challenges. With reopening of schools countries around the world are grappling to move classes outdoors, where the virus is far less likely to spread than indoors. In Europe’s Nordic countries, including Denmark and Norway, outdoor schooling has long been engrained and is now gaining rapid momentum.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images


Guides and Explainers


Catch up on Globe Climate

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Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

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