No. 167 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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LOCAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
Something happened in the closing months of 2006, creating a consensus that "something must be done" about global climate change, even among Conservatives. Among many, there is a real sense of urgency.
Accordingly, on January 10th, Vic Derman, a Saanich councillor, brought a motion to the CRD Board asking that climate change be considered as a central factor in all relevant board decisions and major projects.
Some members of the Board were taken aback, and in their nervousness, they voted to table the motion for two months to allow the CRD staff to report back on what this might mean.
Similarly, Oak Bay’s Councillors deferred setting up a Climate Change Task Force until they understand more about what it means.
So what do we need to do, now that we have decided to do something?
If the CRD looks in its files, they’ll find a 1992 report titled Healthy Atmosphere 2000 produced by the CRD Task Group on Atmospheric Change 15 years ago, when the dangers of global warming were already well known.
The Task Force spent a year preparing its report, described by Medical Health Officer Shaun Peck as a "comprehensive blueprint for action", and there has been progress on some of its recommendations, such as capturing the methane gas from Hartland Landfill, developing a regional bicycle strategy, and emphasizing high density development in existing urban areas.
On other proposals, such as setting goals for CO2 reduction (20% below the 1990 level by 2000); establishing a vehicle trip reduction goal; doubling BC Transit’s share of regional transport; and moving to true cost parking (eliminating hidden subsidies) we have seen little progress.
There are four things we need to grasp as we finally sit down to tackle global warming.
The first is that 70% of the problem is tied to our use of energy, which means the way we drive, travel, heat our buildings, and use electricity. Over the last 100 years we have built a world that is hugely dependent on fossil fuels, but in the larger historical picture this is only a phase that serves as a prelude to the next great energy revolution.
Over the next 50 years we will undertake a complete retrofit of our planet’s energy systems, emerging with a world that is up to ten times more efficient powered primarily by energy from the sun, wind, tides, and other renewables, and some biofuel. For transport, as well as far more walking, cycling and transit, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that average 100 miles per gallon (42 km per litre) will become the norm, using electricity and biofuels.
The second is that it’s not going to be easy. When we look at the 376 cities that have signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to meet the Kyoto goal by 2012, very few look set to succeed. Only Portland, Oregon, is close. It has reduced its emissions to 0.7% above the 1990 level, primarily (it seems) by good planning, emphasizing growth within the city’s urban containment boundary. Many of the factors that determine the way we travel and heat our buildings are set by provincial and federal policies, which are outside local control.
The third is that whenever we save energy or travel more efficiently, we save money. We also reduce air pollution, which reduces health care problems and costs. Whenever we walk more, we increase our social wealth, as people stop and talk to each other more.
The fourth, and perhaps most important, is that very little will be achieved without public participation. The public is primed and ready to act, but they need to be invited to play an active part, and to see leadership.
The leadership needs to come from the CRD, from each Municipality, and from Victoria’s many businesses, schools, colleges, churches, and non-profit societies.
We need to see active efforts to make buildings far more efficient; to reduce our trips; to increase cycling, walking and transit; to see progress on LRT and the EN commuter railway; to see a $2 toll on the Malahat with the income used to fund a fleet of coaches; and so on. We need challenges and contests to see which individuals, streets, businesses and municipalities can reduce their emissions by the most.
If every CRD, municipal and other major building had an appointed Energy Manager, for instance, they would quickly find ways to reduce costs. If the free or very low cost parking fees that many businesses and institutions charge were increased to cover the market value of the land, the income could support more transit and cycling.
There is no shortage of ideas – witness the sustainable sewage treatment ideas that Stephen Salter brought back here from Sweden.
The best thing that the CRD, Oak Bay and other municipalities can do is open the process up to involve as many people as possible, creating a Great Festival of Climate Solutions.
This is exciting: we are entering the next great energy revolution. So let’s boogy!
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A BANK FOR WIND POWER
Now that most people are finally accepting that the perils of global warming are real, we are entering a period of intense public education. Those who were previously deniers are quick to jump on what they think are quick fix solutions such as nuclear power and "clean coal".
They also like to argue that renewable sources such as wind and solar cannot be relied upon because "Look! The wind’s not blowing today!" How do we answer them?
Here in BC, we have the world’s best power-storage system in our heritage dams, where you can shut off the turbines when there’s wind coming into the grid and accumulate power behind the dams.
We absolutely do not need coal-fired power to firm up wind energy – that’s just an argument to cover for the fact that the Liberals are approving dirty coal-fired power because the coal industry made big political donations. Between 2004 and 2005, Teck Cominco gave $870,000; Fording Coal $268,000; and Placer Dome Canada $225,000 to the B.C. Liberals. (The Tyee, June 14 2006).
In other parts of the world, however, the need to firm up wind energy is an important issue. North Dakota has enough wind on its farms and plains to power a third of the entire US grid – but there has to be a way to store it when the wind’s not blowing.
Down in south Australia, a young chemical engineer named Maria Skyllas-Kazacos may have solved the problem with "flow batteries".
In a normal battery, electricity is stored in chemical form inside the battery, limiting the power that can be stored to the size of the battery. In a flow battery, the energy-rich chemicals are pumped out of the battery into storage tanks, allowing fresh chemicals to soak up more charge. A battery’s capacity can now be increased just by building a larger tank.
Maria has been working on the problem since the 1980s, and has developed a method that uses vanadium to facilitate the flow of electrons with almost no loss of power.
On King Island, between Australia and Tasmania, she has used a flow battery to increase the proportion of wind energy entering the island’s grid from 12% to over 40%.
A flow battery can deliver 80% of the energy that is used to charge it, and maintain its efficiency for years.
There’s a BC connection, too –Vancouver based company VRB Power Systems (www.vrbpower.com) has signed a $6.3 million contract to build a 12 MW battery at a wind farm in Donegal, Ireland.
It is also possible that in the future, electric vehicles may be able to recharge their flow batteries by refilling the tank with energized electrolyte. It’s technical stuff – but these are the kinds of development that will be critical as we fashion a post-carbon world. (Details from New Scientist, Jan 12 2007).
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BANKS ISLAND WIND FARM
In January, I told you about the Hecate Energy Field in the waters east of Haida Gwaii, with 15,000 MW of potential wind energy. This month it’s the Banks Island Wind Farm on the mainland side of Hecate Strait, with a further 3,000 MW of potential.
In January, the Katabatic Power Corp developed a partnership with German Deutsche Bank AG to start work on permitting for 700 MW. Katabatic (from the Greek word for a wind that flows downhill) already has a contract with BC Hydro for the 25.5 MW Mount Hays wind farm, south of Prince Rupert.
If the wind energy from Banks Island was used to charge electric vehicles doing 10,000 km a year (assuming more cycling, walking and transit), 11,000 GWh a year from 3,000 MW would charge 4.4 million vehicles.
The Hecate Energy Field could power 22 million electric vehicles, or 11 million at 20,000 km a year (EVs use an average 250 watt-hours per kilometer) See. www.katabaticpower.com
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS COURSE
In December, I gave an 8-hour course on The Global Climate Crisis: Seeking Solutions that Work at Royal Roads University, attended by 37 people. The response was fantastic, so I am repeating it on Sat March 3rd.
If you want to learn how we can move to a post-carbon world, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 90%, you’ll find it exciting and invigorating. Every participant gets a CD of my Powerpoint, packed with examples. To register ($95), call Royal Roads 250-391-2600 Ext 4801. or online at www.royalroads.ca/continuing-studies/PAGI1220-Y06.htm
They have been living in the Earth’s oceans for over 410 million years, and they can swim as fast as 77 kph. Our ancestors have been fishing them for the last 4,000 years, but since 1940 there has been a massive acceleration.
In 1950, we took 400,000 tonnes of tuna out of the ocean. Today, using hooked lines up to 50 miles long and pursed seine nets 2 km long and 250 metres deep, the world’s tuna fishing fleets take four million tonnes, driven by the commercial incentive to catch as much tuna as possible at the lowest possible price.
It’s not surprising the supermarkets are so full of canned tuna, or that stocks are collapsing. The Atlantic bluefin tuna, used for sushi and sashimi, is massively over fished; the southern bluefin in the Indian Ocean is down by 90%.
All 23 exploited stocks are in trouble, some close to extinction. There is also a significant bycatch of sharks, turtles, seabirds, small whales, juvenile tuna and other fish which are tossed back into the ocean, dead.
There are five global tuna fisheries management organizations, but their decisions have been driven by commercial interests.
In January, for the first time ever, all five organizations met together in Kobe, Japan, to discuss the problem.
There are many solutions, including adopting best practices, setting catch limits, and requiring fishermen to produce certificates of origin (to stop illegal and unreported and unregulated fishing), and we can be thankful that the World Wide Fund for Nature is present at the talks, speaking up for the principles of global sustainability.
Their new report Tuna in Trouble: Major Problems for the World’s Tuna Fisheries is an excellent backgrounder to the crisis. See www.panda.org
ENOUGH BLOOD SHED
Do you sometimes feel hopeless about the seemingly never-ending news of war, civil war, and conflict around the world? Whenever you watch TV or read the mainstream media, you must flash yourself this reminder: This is the world as viewed by the corporate media. Another world exists alongside this.
In 2006, Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford wrote a wonderfully uplifting book called Enough Blood Shed: 101 Solutions to Violence, Terror and War (New Society Publishers), which describes through stories the progress that is being made by civil society to bring an end to war and violence.
The results are in fact very encouraging. If you want to learn more, on Wed Feb 15th Mary Wynne is speaking at UVic on Another World is Possible: What Works to Prevent Violence, Terror and War? (see Diary) in a fundraiser for the Langford Firefighters, who are helping to train and equip firefighters in Afghanistan as part of the worldwide citizens’ outreach that is steadily transforming the world.
Remember Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan organic farmer whose crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seeds, who was taken to court by Monsanto for stealing their seeds? That got Saskatchewan organic farmers roused, and in 2001 their Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF) decided to take legal action against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience to protect their crops from contamination.
Since then, Monsanto has withdrawn its application to get GMO wheat approved in Canada, and no new GMO crops have been commercialized in Canada, but there have been many more incidents of contamination. In 2005, the OAPF was denied certification as a class action, and in December 2006 their case went to three judges at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. The court has reserved its decision, pending consideration of the additional materials. For details, see www.saskorganic.com/oapf
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The gardening year starts with seeds, and there’s no better place to start than the Seedy Saturdays that happen during February (Victoria Conference Centre, Feb 17th). You’ll find local organic seeds of every variety, plus speakers, workshops, and great company. Organic broccoli? Arugula? Mesclun Mix? You’ll find them all there.
ACTION OF THE MONTH: THE MOUNTAIN CARIBOU
Like the tuna, they’ve been around a heck of a lot longer than we have, and like the tuna, we’re crowding them out. Over 90% of their population is found BC, and they’re down to only 1900 animals.
In the wilderness areas from the Kootenays northwards, 17 of the 18 herds are losing numbers. The government’s Mountain Caribou Science Team, which met for two years to find ways to help their recovery, determined that protecting their habitat is what matters, especially high elevation oldgrowth forest, but logging and motorized recreation continue.
It’s not predators that matter - it’s habitat. The increase in the South Selkirk herd shows that recovery is possible when habitat is protected, and other management actions are taken.
The government’s Species at Risk Coordination Office has prepared a draft mountain caribou recovery plan, and is seeking input until February 28, 2007, but it falls short of what the science team said was necessary.
Rather than protecting the habitat the science team identified, it relies on interventions including killing predators such as wolves and cougars, and leaves much of their habitat open to logging, motorized recreation and other industrial uses.
Action: Write to the Premier, and call for the necessary steps to protect the caribou’s habitat. We humans have other places where we can log and play with our motorized toys, but the caribou have nowhere else to go.
Premier Gordon Campbell, PO Box 9041, Stn Prov Gov, Victoria V8W 9E1. firstname.lastname@example.org
More: see www.mountaincaribou.org
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