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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Are you counting down the days until spring? So are we. Only 35 more days to go until we can officially say winter is over.
That means it is the same countdown for the March equinox (vernal equinox), when the sun passes Earth’s equator and day and night will be almost equal as we get more sunlight. Sounds nice!
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Conservation: To save Great Salt Lake, Utah explores radical options – and other water-starved states are taking notes
- Oceans: Commonwealth secretary casts organization as authoritative voice on ocean protection at IMPAC5
- Listen to The Decibel: A success story in Indigenous-led conservation
- Agriculture: Agtech pushes the boundaries of food production and fuels a debate about who is considered a farmer
- Adaptation: Canada’s EV revolution has a problem - not enough skilled labour to support it
- News from The Narwhal: ‘Keep it quiet’. Workers told not to report oil spill at remote B.C. worksite, insider says
A deeper dive
The Fusion question is no longer how but how soon
Ivan Semeniuk is The Globe’s science reporter. For this week’s deeper dive, he talks about a future with fusion.
One rainy day last October I found myself standing in a construction site near Devens, Mass., in a pocket of rolling countryside west of Boston.
I was in the basement of a large, partially completed building that was still open to the elements. Above me was a concrete ring supported by pillars with a forest of metal scaffolding reaching upward to the roof.
It did not look much like a historic site, but it crossed my mind that one day it could be.
In the coming months, the concrete ring and pillars will be the base for SPARC, a demonstration nuclear fusion reactor that is being built by Commonwealth Fusion Systems. If it is completed when expected, in about two years, it will become the first privately operated device to attempt to reach “net energy” — the term of art in fusion science for a device that can release more energy than it takes in.
Nuclear fusion has been held up as the ultimate answer to humanity’s energy needs as long as I have been reporting on science. For most of that time, the prospect of harnessing the same process that powers the sun and the stars has remained tantalizingly out of reach. The world’s large fusion effort, the giant International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), has been under construction in France for about 15 years and is still years from operation.
What has changed is that researchers and tech companies have begun to explore shortcuts to fusion energy that are opening up thanks to new technologies and materials that were not available a generation ago. Commonwealth Fusion Systems is a prime example of this trend. By making creative use of a material called a high temperature superconductor, the company says it can create a machine that will do what ITER will do, but at a size and scale that could pave the way to commercial power generation.
Others are similarly preparing to take their ideas from the drawing board to working prototype. General Fusion, a Vancouver-based company, is also in the hunt and has begun clearing a site in the U.K. for its demonstration reactor.
With all of this activity under way and more, I am taking readers on a journey to explore the landscape of commercial fusion at a crucial turning point. Is fusion for real? Is it our best bet for a post-carbon future? Where is Canada in this race? It’s a great time to be asking those questions. I invite you to have a look at my report and prepare for ignition.
Also: listen to Ivan talk on The Decibel about everything you need to know about fusion energy
What else you missed
- First Nations, B.C. groups launch coalition to save Pacific salmon from extinction
- Rural Nova Scotians want compensation from power utility and a more resilient grid
- Cleanup, remediation of Keystone pipeline leak in Kansas to cost around US$480-million, TC Energy says
- Carbon capture and storage technology is too expensive, takes too long to build: report
- EverWind Fuels gets approval for North America’s first green hydrogen facility
- Asia set to use half of world’s electricity by 2025, IEA says
- B.C’s pink sea urchins are on the move to shallower waters thanks to climate change
- Biden, Lula to put focus on democracy, climate during visit
Opinion and analysis
Heather Exner-Pirot: For the oil patch, ‘just transition’ is buzzword legislation, not sound economics
Blair Feltmate and Prashant Shukle: Extreme weather cost us $3.1-billion in 2022 – this is Canada’s climate wake-up call
Ned Bell, Stefanie Colombo, David Dzisiak, Larry Johnson, Ian Roberts, Mary Robinson, Dallas Smith: Shuttering salmon farms not just threatens jobs but also hurts the environment
- The energy sector remains a tough place for environmentally conscious investors. Some may have consoled themselves in the expectation that oil and gas producers would transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, enticed by growth in solar and wind power and the rise of electric vehicles. But dazzling profits from fossil fuels may be impossible for energy executives to resist.
- BP reported a record profit of $28-billion for 2022 and hiked its dividend, but infuriated climate activists by rowing back on plans to slash oil and gas output and reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
- Big Oil more than doubled its profits in 2022 to US$219-billion, smashing previous records in a year of volatile energy prices where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reshaped global energy markets and, in some cases, the industry’s climate ambitions.
Do you know a young person trying to make a difference when it comes to climate change?
Pivot Green wants to support young Canadians working together with other generations on positive, impactful ideas and actions that help address the climate challenges of our times.
The Canadian Youth Climate Action Award provides $1,500 and a plaque to the successful applicant. Two runner-up prizes of $500 each will also be awarded to projects of merit. The awards will be given to the programs/projects which best meet the Pivot Green mission and values.
Applications for the Award will have a closing date of March 25, 2023. Award recipients will be announced on Earth Day 2023. For more information, please contact email@example.com
Do you know an engaged individual? 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
Ahead of Valentine’s Day...
Guides and Explainers
- Want to learn to invest sustainably? We have a class for that: Green Investing 101 newsletter course for the climate-conscious investor. Not sure you need help? Take our quiz to challenge your knowledge.
- We've rounded up our reporters' content to help you learn about what a carbon tax is, what happened at COP 26, and just generally how Canada will change because of climate change.
- We have ways to make your travelling more sustainable and 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
- The last ice merchant of Ecuador
- Your home isn’t built to last against extreme weather
- New fishing tech could help save North Atlantic right whales
- How the Canadian military plans to go green
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