PICS CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 27 JULY 2011
Some highlights from this weeks News Scan:
- Studies show forests have bigger role in slowing climate change
- A climate hazard, medium rare, please
- Study calls for scaling back Canada gas projects
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business in partnership with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: email@example.com.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Study calls for scaling back Canada gas projects
July 14, 2011. A new report from the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation says increasing the use of natural gas as a substitute for dirtier fuels such as coal may cause unwelcome environmental effects and not help meet targeted cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier studies have suggested that at carbon prices as low as $40 per tonne, natural gas could displace the majority of coal-fired generation. The authors conclude that although natural gas contains less carbon than other fossil fuels, fighting climate change requires slower, not faster addition of new natural gas production capacity. The report also suggests that governments in Canada must take much greater care before giving the green light to the development of unconventional resources such as shale gas. The report calls for governments to require producers to disclose chemicals in fracturing fluids used to crack open the shale deposits containing natural gas, as well as to mandate the installation of carbon-capture equipment at gas-processing plants.
There is a surge of unconventional gas production across North America, including in British Columbia. The BC government has maintained a commitment to expanding natural gas development despite a decline in revenue from royalties. Easily accessible conventional gas is running out, so companies are turning increasingly to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, which raises a number of environmental concerns. As a result, the report calls for provincial governments to extend normal environmental assessment requirements to natural gas development, since most natural gas wells in Canada currently are exempted from such regulatory requirements.
Sizing the clean economy: a national and regional green jobs assessment
July 13, 2011. Researchers at the Brookings Institute have worked with partners to define and comment on the size of the clean economy in the US. The clean economy has been widely celebrated as a source of economic renewal and potential job creation. Yet, not only do these activities and jobs related to environmental aims pervade all sectors of the US economy, they are also hard to define and measure. Some of the key findings include that the clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole, and that strong industry clusters boost the growth performance of metropolitan areas in the clean economy. Also notable is that the US’ clean economy employs about 2.7 million people, more than the fossil-fuel industry and twice the size of the biosciences sector.
Policies in BC have started the province along the path to becoming a serious player in the clean economy. The Globe Foundation produced a report last year assessing the merits of BC’s clean economy, and more recently, KPMG produced a cleantech report card for British Columbia that made some similar points to those noted in the Brookings study. As Vancouver embarks on its Greenest City 2020 campaign, some of the methodologies expressed in the Brookings report may help to inform the city’s business case for action.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Businesses could cut a cool 20% off fridge energy bills
July 18, 2011. A new Carbon Trust guide sets out easy steps businesses can take to cut refrigeration energy bills by up to 20% at low or no cost. Refrigeration can use significant amounts of energy, typically accounting for up to 50% of energy costs for businesses such as food supermarkets and those involved in meat, poultry and fish processing. For small shops with refrigerated cabinets the proportion could be over 70%. In fact, almost all buildings have some form of refrigeration. The refrigeration systems guide includes a range of useful tips and advice such as the use of locally calibrated chillers and recovering the heat emitted by refrigeration equipment.
In the ongoing quest to make our communities more sustainable, we often overlook those initiatives that have become familiar. This is an example of an area where there are quick wins to be had from tools that were originally designed without thought for climate implications. BC Hydro is encouraging people in the province, through its ‘Be efficient with refrigeration’ campaign, to consider the climate impact when making decisions on refrigeration.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Studies show forests have bigger role in slowing climate change
July 14, 2011. A recent study published in the journal Science has drawn attention to the role that forests and trees play in reductions of atmospheric CO2 levels and climate change. The study, conducted by theCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, found that forests absorb more carbon dioxide than previously thought, thereby strengthening the case for improved forest retention and reforestation efforts. The study also lends support to carbon credit schemes dealing with forest conservation and reforestation. In particular, tropical regrowth forests captured amounts of CO2 much higher than previously thought.
BC has one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest in the world: the Great Bear Rainforest. The BC government has enacted legislation to protect some of the region’s old growth forests and to promote eco-based systems management, while also committing funds to support sustainable development and long-term ecological health. This study suggests that BC’s forests could offer larger sinks for carbon storage, creating opportunities for BC to support additional mechanisms for forest conservation such as carbon credits or other eco-based services. In addition to the conversation of forests, the research has implications for BC’s carbon footprint, which includes afforestation and deforestation activities in the province.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
A climate hazard, medium rare, please
July 18, 2011. Not all food is created equal when it comes to climate change, according to a recent study conducted by Environmental Working Group and CleanMetrics. The Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health outlines the environmental impact of various meat, meat alternatives, and vegetables using a life-cycle assessment that reviews the greenhouse gas emissions produced throughout the entire life cycle, or ‘cradle-to-grave’, covering usage of fertilizers, water, and other energy inputs into the production process from the farm to your table and beyond. The result is a carbon footprint of each food item that can enable consumers to make better, lower-carbon food choices. Lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon are the worst offenders, though meat and dairy that are certified organic and grass-fed are the least damaging of this group. Some of the better choices include lentils, beans, and fresh vegetables such as broccoli.
The implications of this study are two-fold. Eating less meat is good for the planet, and it’s also good for your health. ‘Meatless Monday’ is catching on, with EarthSave Canada launching their Meatless Monday initiative. The Meat Eaters Guide is an opportunity to engage people around making good food choices, while addressing climate change in the province. Restaurants are offering meatless Monday choices, and entire towns are getting involved. Aspen, Colorado has launched a community-wide campaign to bring meatless Mondays to restaurants, schools, organizations, and homes.
Report offers new framework to guide K-12 science education, calls for shift in the way science is taught in US
July 19, 2011. According to a report by the National Research Council (NRC), climate change and renewable energy are subjects that all students should learn about by the end of high school. The report compiled recommendations from a committee that consisted of 18 members, both scientists and education specialists, from across the US. The report advocates for evidence-based approaches to teaching, and emphasizes the role of the national academies, which seek to aggregate research from scientists, devise a methodology for understanding the results and highlight the consensus. The framework is the first step in the development of new K-12 science education standards. The framework lays out the broad ideas and practices students should learn and will serve as the basis for specific standards developed later.
In British Columbia, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) has completed a review of climate change education across post-secondary institutions. This report recommends there should be more climate change education at BC’s post-secondary institutions. As the NRC report points out, teaching of the topic should begin earlier and be part of overall science education in K-12. The report from the NRC is an important compliment to the PICS study because, if university students began their post-secondary learning with a strong understanding of climate change, it would alter the curriculum needed in universities. Currently, the Ministry of Education provides an Interdisciplinary Guide, developed in 2007, to help teachers integrate environmental concepts into teaching and learning. Also, the Ministry of Education established the Sustainability Education Framework in 2008 with the vision to encourage more environmental learning in the K-12 education system.
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