Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
If you like blueberries, you might want to listen to what is happening to bees.
A new study shows that a lack of wild bees and managed honey bees is limiting pollination and yields for certain crops on farms in British Columbia and across the United States. The study used data from 130 farms, but found that blueberries were the most affected by limited pollination. They also tested apples, highbush blueberries, sweet and tart cherries, almonds, pumpkins and watermelons.
In the U.S., crops dependent on pollinators generate more than US$50-billion each year. Climate change could negatively affect the relationship between plants and pollinators. As long as we enjoy the food we eat, that could be bad for us too.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Alberta is introducing new rules to try to fix a decades-old problem that has resulted in tens of thousands of inactive oil and gas wells littering the province. The new liability management framework will introduce mandatory well cleanup rules, overhaul a system that assesses companies’ fiscal health before granting them regulatory approval for wells, and allow farmers and ranchers to demand well reclamation on their land.
- Changing our cities to be more green could take just 15 minutes. The core idea is simple: Everyone should be able to meet their daily needs within 15 minutes of home, on foot or bike. And change is coming, with tentative steps taken at city councils from Vancouver to Toronto. Read The Globe’s editorial on what it will take to build a better city.
A deeper dive
Alberta is having a moment with Europe
Many European companies and countries are seen as leaders in the energy transition and addressing climate risks in their portfolios and assets. So, it should come as little surprise that some of these companies are reconsidering their stakes as another crisis – a global pandemic – has triggered a massive drop in demand for crude. Not to mention the pressure being put to bear on those companies by investors around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. All of these issues are contributing factors as we watch the European retreat from the oil sands pick up speed.
As Jeffery Jones explains from Calgary, Total SA, Deutsche Bank and Zurich Insurance Group are the latest among multinational oil companies, financial institutions and insurers to pull back from Canada’s energy sector. Each company has its reasons for snubbing the oil sands, but it is the Paris-based Total that is the most grim assessment, saying it now considers its stakes in Fort Hills and Surmont to be “stranded assets”, given its climate commitments and and the likelihood that the resource will not be produced by 2050.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has criticized the pushback against fossil fuels, saying the oil patch does not get the credit it deserves for its improvements in environmental performance. But with ESG demands increasing, the question now is whether Europe’s retreat is inevitable.
Europe’s actions are doing something else, too. They’re putting a spotlight on Canada’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To that end, this week Emma Graney outlines the challenges for the federal government’s commitment to create a national strategy around hydrogen – a fuel that produces no direct emissions.
And who is leading the foot race to develop the hydrogen sector? Europe.
- Ryan MacDonald
B.C. tabs Thompson Rivers University to study wildfire prediction, responses: The research will help in providing more information about the changing nature of wildfires and improved approaches to battling the blazes, and the province will contribute $5-million.
Rising seas could menace millions beyond shorelines: A new study found that as oceans rise, powerful coastal storms and extreme high tides will be able to reach farther inland, putting tens of millions more people and trillions of dollars in assets worldwide at risk of periodic flooding.
Total writes off $9.3-billion in oil sands assets, cancels CAPP membership: Total said it is leaving Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers because of a “misalignment” between the organization’s public positions and those expressed in Total’s climate ambition statement announced in May.
Environmental law group seeks to stop Alberta’s inquiry into who funds oil critics: The United Conservative Party government contends foreign interests are bankrolling environmental opposition to Canadian fossil-fuel projects, but Ecojustice wants to suspend the inquiry until there’s a decision on whether it’s legal.
More than one endangered southern resident killer whale believed to be pregnant: The whales appear to be in healthy condition, which it delightful news for the endangered animals because their food of choice, chinook salmon, has many species in decline as well.
Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest surge in July, worst in recent days: Environmental groups say there are worrying signs of what may come, and could signal a repeat of last year’s surging destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.
Opinion and analysis
We risk losing ourselves, if we lose the polar bears
James Raffan: “Consider that what is happening to the bear is not separate and distinct from any other life on Earth, especially the lives of those of us who contribute to climate change.”
The environment shouldn’t suffer because of our COVID-19 precautions
Vince Palace: “Indeed, a visit to the cleaning products aisle of any local supermarket will provide enough evidence that household cleaners are now in high demand. But many of those contain chemicals that can then find their way into the environment.”
Canada can lead on climate change, if leaders match words with deeds
Mary Robinson: “I hope Canadians will join me in calling on their government to align its policies with its climate responsibilities and demonstrate the exemplary global leadership it has shown in the past.”
Here’s what readers had to say
- Westerlies44: This is an ideal time for people to come together to build an efficient inexpensive electric car for wide use, hopefully followed by an all-electric transport truck. Just 10M Canadians kicking in $100 would raise $1B, enough to finance a plant and get production happening. Old auto manufacturing plants can be obtained to quickly produce these simple vehicles. I’d buy one. I’m sure I know hundreds of people who would do likewise. Now is the time.
- Ric_hard: They cannot beat the oil companies welshing on promises to clean up their mess if you just give them an opportunity to make a profit. How many billions were lost to WE versus how much will the clean up cost Canadian taxpayers?
- Andrew From Toronto: Look to see how the EU does it. My bet is that the governments who drive the “green” agenda will also be prioritizing women and youth over “green”.
Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of Bryant M. Serre working with green infrastructure planning.
I am a passionate environmentalist, and multiaward-winning early-career academic from Belfountain, Ont, and a member of the Community Climate Council; working to bridge strata of urban hydrology, land use planning, and sustainability policy.
My ongoing research within Ryerson Urban Water (RUW) prods fundamental questions of climate change, urban resiliency, and equity-progressive action within the built form. I recently won the Rain it in 2020 case competition with my RUW team,and have been developing software to educate homeowners on their effect on urban water cycles, through downscaling water balance metrics to urban microclimates. Our work will go onto help property owners in their selection and implementation of green infrastructure technologies, build climate literacy among urbanites, all the while working to topple excessive urban flooding and the environmental impacts of excess stormwater.
As a researcher, I strongly believe in collaborative sustainability science. Hence, why the RUW team plans to share their technologies with municipalities globally as a means for them to calculate and administrate an accurate and equitable stormwater surcharge, based off of actual runoff contributions, rather than, as seen most often, property values or surface-cover ratios. Looking forward, I hope to bring Toronto and Southern Ontario municipalities to the forefront of climate- and stormwater-resilience.
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
- Without Alberta, Canada can’t hit its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, Natural Resources Minster says
- Arctic scientists turn to local communities for support as pandemic sidelines research
- B.C.‘s Indigenous power producers fear they’ll be short-circuited by Clean Energy Act changes
- How should Canada approach green stimulus plans? We asked architects of Obama’s strategy