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.
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.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
- 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.
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.
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
Guides and Explainers
- We’ve rounded up our reporters’ content to help you learn about sustainable ways to live life at home, travel, invest, and generally to learn about our species at risk.
- If you like to read, here are books to help the environmentalist in you grow, as well as a downloadable e-book of Micro skills - Little Steps to Big Change.
Catch up on Globe Climate
- Some of Alberta’s oil sands tailings ponds are leaking into groundwater
- Finance and investing can’t self-isolate from climate change
- Canada needs a green recovery. Can Chrystia Freeland deliver?
- Big oil patch companies have a big reason to think more green