BP oil spill dispersants concern Nova Scotia environmentalist

29 12 2014

Bill C-22 is ‘an absolute, total abdication of regulatory responsibility’

CBC News Posted: Dec 29, 2014 9:38 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 29, 2014 9:38 AM AT

Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12, 2010.

Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12, 2010. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)

A Shelburne County environmentalist is raising concerns about a toxic chemical that could be used off Nova Scotia in the future.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil platform erupted in flames in 2010, it spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but some research says the cleanup was worse because about 6.8 million litres of the chemical Corexit 9500A was used to disperse the oil.

The dispersant used by oil company BP, when mixed with crude oil, was found to be 52 times more toxic than oil alone to some microscopic plankton-like organisms called rotifers.

“When you mix this stuff with the oil, you create a compound that is substantially more dangerous than even the dangerous dispersant on its own or even the dangerous oil on its own and this is the issue that we have,” says John Davis, a founder of the No Rigs Coalition.

He says Shell has already put out bids to use Corexit if there is a spill at a well planned for the Shelburne Gully.

“The creators of CoRexit will tell you it’s less toxic than dish soap. All you have to do is read the warning label to know that it’s a highly, highly dangerous chemical.… There is no doubt in my mind that if Shell made the effort they could find ways to clean up the oil and not just be prepared to disperse it and put it under water and out of sight,” he says.

‘Total abdication of regulatory responsibility’

Davis says there is legislation in place to prevent the use of chemicals like Corexit, “but what happened here is that the federal government has decided to put forward legislation called Bill C-22 — which in fact creates a circumstance where the oil company can go and utilize the product, the dispersants, and then report after the fact to the regulatory agencies. It is an absolute, total abdication of regulatory responsibility.”

Bill C-22 was introduced by the federal minister of Natural Resources earlier this year.

It would pre-approve emergency plans for oil and gas companies to deal with spills, such as the speedy use of dispersants, or chemicals used to break oil into smaller particles in the event of an oil spill at sea.

Davis says he worries the chemical could end up on the Georges Bank, pointing out the Labrador Current would carry any material right to the fertile fishing grounds.

“It’s that [upwelling of water] that provides much of the nutrients that makes Georges Bank such an important biological place — and so important to us as an economical generator,” he says.

A publication in the February 2013 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Pollution, found that on their own, the oil and dispersant were equally toxic. But when combined, the oil and dispersant increased toxicity to one of the rotifer species by a factor of 52.

‘High and immediate human health hazards​’

Dispersants cause giant pools of spilled oil floating atop the sea to break up into tiny droplets that then dilute with water just below the surface. The process helps creatures including turtles, birds and mammals that need access to the surface, and also ensures less oil flows ashore where it can choke coastal wildlife. However, it increases the amount of oil just below the surface, potentially contaminating the organisms that live there.

Scientists at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes in Mexico and the Georgia Institute of Technology now say Corexit 9500A is far more harmful than previously thought to a key dweller of those sub-surface depths.

An Environment Canada study states the dispersant is 27 times safer than common dish soap, but some say that figure is dangerously misleading. The study also states that five of Corexit’s 57 ingredients are linked to cancer and can pose “high and immediate human health hazards.”

In all, the British Petroleum oil leak was the largest offshore petroleum spill in U.S. history, sending 4.9 million barrels (584 million litres) of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.





Stanford: Pathways to 100% Renewable Energy

19 12 2014





Guardian: 2014 Hottest Year on Record

17 12 2014

According to data from NOAA, 2014 is sure to set a new temperature record

A thermometer.
 A thermometer. Photograph: Alamy

I can make this pronouncement even before the end of the year because each month, I collect daily global average temperatures. So far, December is running about 0.5°C above the average. The climate and weather models predict that the next week will be about 0.75°C above average. This means, December will come in around 0.6°C above average. Are these daily values accurate? Well the last two months they have been within 0.05°C of the final official results.

What does this all mean? Well, when I combine December with the year-to-date as officially reported, I predict the annual temperature anomaly will be 0.674°C. This beats the prior record by 0.024°C. That is a big margin in terms of global temperatures.

For those of us who are not fixated on whether any individual year is a record but are more concerned with trends, this year is still important. Particularly because according to those who deny the basic physics and our understanding of climate change, this year wasn’t supposed to be particularly warm.

For those who thought that climate change was “natural” and driven by ocean currents, this has been a tough year. For instance, using NOAA standards, this year didn’t even have an El Niño. NOAA defines an El Niño as 5 continuous/overlapping 3-month time periods wherein a particular region in the Pacific has temperatures elevated more than 0.5oC.

Interestingly, we are currently close to an El Niño, and if current patterns continue for a few weeks, an official El Niño will be announced. But it hasn’t been yet, and if we do get an El Niño, it will affect next year more than this year. How could the hottest year have occurred then, when the cards are not stacked in its favor? The obvious and correct answer is, because of continued emission of greenhouse gases.

As I write this post, I am attending one of the premier earth sciences conference, the Fall AGU Conferencewhich is held each December in San Francisco. Thousands of scientists, including a large number of climate scientists are meeting, presenting, and sharing the latest research about our planet.

Here, among the experts, there is little fixation on the record. On the other hand, there was little fixation on the so-called “halt” to global warming that the climate-science deniers have been trumpeting for the past few years. The latest data paint a clear picture. The Earth is warming. The oceans are warming, the land is warming, the atmosphere is warming, the ice is melting, and sea level is rising.

These climate science deniers have had a bad year. It has been shown that in many cases, their science is in error and their understanding of the Earth’s climate faulty. This record temperature, according to NOAA, has made their life even more difficult. The so-called “halt” to global warming was never true in the first place, as I wrote recently. But now, a claim that global warming has stopped cannot be made with a straight face.

Of course, the science deniers will look for something new to try to cast doubt on the concept of global warming. Whatever they pick will be shown to be wrong. It always is. But perhaps we can use 2014 as a learning opportunity. Let’s hope no one is fooled next time when fanciful claims of the demise of climate change are made.





Chief Ninawa Huni Kui: Carbon Trading Scheme “REDD” is a False Solution to Climate Change

16 12 2014





Lima Talks: Fossil Fuel Industry Becomes the Real Enemy

16 12 2014





’Watered-down’ deal struck at UN climate talks

15 12 2014

T&T  DEC 15

Karl Ritter THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

   LIMA, PERu • Climate negotiators salvaged a compromise deal in Lima early Sunday that sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but rejected a rigorous review of greenhouse gas emissions limits.

More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.   They argued all day Saturday over the wording for the watered-down deal, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.   The final draft of the deal alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru’s environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference centre on the grounds of Peru’s army headquarters.

It also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a “loss and damage” mechanism agreed upon in last year’s talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.   “We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world” Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they “may” instead of “shall” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.   Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

In Lima, the momentum from last month’s joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The goal of the talks is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

 The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead of Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

“I think it’s definitely watered down from what we expected” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.   

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed”   

Chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern acknowledged that negotiations had been contentious but said the outcome was “quite good in the end.” He had warned Saturday that failing to leave Lima with an accord would be “seen as a serious breakdown” that could put the Paris agreement and the entire UN process at risk.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the UN talks reflect a wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries led by China and India as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.   

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem is “everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share”

According to the UN’s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming — defined in the UN talks as exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 19th-century averages.

It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.




Klein: 3-Day Workweek to Save the Climate

15 12 2014

By Naomi Klein bigissue.comNo Logo author Naomi Klein says we must revolutionise our working lives if we are to combat climate change and save the free world…

Imagine an ordinary, full-time working week, one that requires just 21 hours of hard graft. Imagine a less frantic existence – three days on, four days off. Imagine more time with the family, more time strolling round the park, more time listening to your favourite music while cooking at a leisurely pace. A lovely idea – but does it really stack up?

The phrase ‘three-day week’ might, for readers of a certain age, conjure up memories of the early 1970s: electricity blackouts and TV broadcasts stopping at 10.30pm. Yet a growing number of people are advocating a 21-hour working week as the solution to the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Naomi Klein is the latest big thinker to back the idea of a shorter working week and sees it as part of a transition toward a low-carbon economy and a move away from “shitty” long-hour, low-paid jobs, as she outlines to The Big Issue…

When did you begin to think free-market economics are a threat to life on Earth?

When I started hanging around with climate change deniers, it became clear they understood the current economic system could not survive if climate change was real. You can’t hold on to ideas like freedom from regulation and liberating profit in the face of a crisis like climate change, which clearly demands collective action and strong regulation. We need to cut our emissions so deeply that it threatens the whole growth model of free-market capitalism.

Some economists are now talking about moving beyond the idea of growth and our obsession with GDP. Is that a good thing?

It’s exciting that people are talking about these things. We know chasing endless growth doesn’t deliver well-being or economic stability and is leading to widening inequality. So it’s much easier to challenge now. It’s really about having a strategic economy, focusing on parts of the economy we want to expand or extract.

You write about “selective degrowth” and ideas like a shorter working week and a universal basic income to discourage “shitty work”. Do you think people are ready for those ideas?

I think people know they’re overworked. And overworking is intimately tied to a particularly wasteful model of consumption – you have no time after work to do anything other than grab a takeaway, and less time for low-consumption activities like cooking.

Does the environment movement need to become more radical?

The environmental movement has a history of elitism. Not the entire movement – there have been grassroots outsiders engaging in confrontation tactics – but there’s a history of conservation and hunting clubs, bringing in royalty and so on. It’s not exactly been part of the left, which is why there’s been suspicion between progressive political movements and the environmental movement. There’s a lot of work to be done between natural allies.

So it’s time to stop pretending big companies are going to change everything?

There’s been a bias among many big environmental organisations to build coalitions with other elite groups. You’d be amazed by how much time green groups in the US spend thinking about how to get the Pentagon using green energy. Really? Is that the best we can hope for?

The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible

And it’s time to get angry?

Yes – I think people should be angry. A lot of environmentalist discourse has been about erasing responsibility: “We’re all in this together… We’re all equally responsible.” Well, no – you, me and Exxon (Mobil) are not all in this together.The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible.

Do you think working people will see the connection between climate change and their own pressing struggles?

Most people don’t have good choices. They use fossil fuels because they have to – not because they love Exxon or Shell. We’re seeing an important discussion around fuel poverty. Fossil fuels aren’t delivering energy people can afford easily, if about a quarter of people in this country are choosing not to turn the heat on at times because they can’t afford the bills. I think people will start to see that action on climate change can address pressing issues.

How do you stay optimistic when the picture looks so bleak?

I don’t think you can engage with this material without being on an emotional rollercoaster. Our elites have never treated climate change as a real crisis, they only pay lip service to it. But a wide social movement can change that. Pressure from below can force recalcitrant elites to respond.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein (£20, Allen Lane), is out now