Carbon Neutrality is not enough.

US Believes only way out of global warming is to go carbon negative

Nuclear power plant

US is looking at ways of becoming carbon-negative.

A good start would be to deny the XL Pipeline. However: sequestration has its advocates. To suck up some of the dangerous CO2 levels of the past few decades.

With the mostly failed campaign to prevent climate change from raising global temperatures by more than 2 degrees Celsius, and no real prospect of rolling out significant amounts of renewable power generation in time to prevent a global meltdown, it looks like society only has two real options: Roll out a lot of nuclear power stations right now, or start burying (sequestering) gigatons of carbon dioxide underground. The nuclear option is looking unlikely — but sequestering carbon might just work, if some recent studies are to be believed. A new report from the Risky Business Project has laid out the long-term consequences of continued climate change for various geographical areas of the United States. Rather than focusing on incredibly dense scientific language, the RBP is led by the business community and emphasizes research conducted by economic firms. The goal was to create a report that would discuss the disruptive impact of climate change on businesses and the US economy. The result is an approachable report that discusses likely impacts to the US by splitting the country into multiple regions and estimating the chances of various outcomes. The following graph, for example, shows how the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events impacts observed conditions, even if no single storm, heat wave, or abnormally cold winter can be directly linked to global warming.

ExtremeWeather

With our mostly failed attempt to keep climate change below 2 Celisus, the new critical question is how governments might hold the increase to as low a level as possible. Despite improvements, no one seriously expects renewable energy to be ramped up in time to prevent climate change far in excess of 2C — the only way to avoid this limit would be to convert to nuclear or renewable power at a breakneck pace across the entire planet for the next few decades.It’s not going to happen. So what can we do? It turns out, we might be able to do rather a lot. Whenever the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues its reports, a great deal of energy gets expended arguing about the reality of climate change. Some of the IPCC’s  more interesting ideas go undiscussed as a result, including the long-term potential for CCS — carbon capture and storage. According to the IPCC, CCS systems are absolutely vital to minimizing the long-term impact of greenhouse gas emissions. [Read: Nuclear power is our only hope, or, the greatest environmentalist hypocrisy of all time.]

Going carbon negative

Many companies today tout various technologies they claim allow them to be carbon neutral, but the only way to hold climate change below 2C in the long term is to actually go carbon negative. This can be achieved through the use of bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS for short. The idea is straightforward — as of last year, approximately 10% of total planetary energy was provided by biomass. Plants absorb CO2 as they grow, but the process of turning biomass into fuel typically releases that energy back into the atmosphere. What the IPCC proposes is using the biomass for energy, then using some of the energy generated to sequester the carbon underground in either old oil and gas deposits or in porous rock (known as saline formations) across the US.

Saline formations

Estimates of how much carbon could be stored in saline formations vary widely; the characteristics of the rock strata and its ability to store CO2 over the long-term are barely known — until recently, such rock held little interest for the oil and gas companies that have conducted most US geological research and therefore only a little information is available. The IPCC believes that carbon sequestration is vital to limiting the impact of CO2 buildup — if we fail to do so, we could see spiking values well in excess of 600 ppm (currently we stand a little over 400 ppm).

BECCS and carbon sequestration

The long-term goal is to sequester up to two gigatons of carbon per year by 2050, though scientists at Stanford have estimated that as much as 10 gigatons of carbon could be sequestered through this method by that point. Carbon sequestration in geological formations isn’t the only option, but it’s one of the few ideas that’s both achievable and reasonably well understood at this point. There are a few technologies being developed that might help us with carbon sequestration, but really there just hasn’t been much research into it yet. Other ideas, like seeding the ocean with iron particles to increase carbon sequestration have problems of their own — locking more CO2 into the depths increases ocean acidification, which is already becoming problematic for a number of species. When the ocean is too acidic, many crustaceans can’t form strong shells — the calcium carbonate that they rely on is in short supply. Coral is also negatively impacted, which reduces habitat and food supply for the species that depend on its abundance. [Read: ‘Supergreen’ hydrogen creation could capture carbon from the air and de-acidify the oceans.] The sheer vastness of the ocean means it may be possible to lock up some carbon in specific areas, but overall, there may not be enough headroom to meaningfully defray the long-term environmental impact of continued fossil fuel use. The alternative is to find a way to sequester carbon geologically — or get used to a world without any ice caps.

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Tiébélé

The African Village where every House is a work of Art

Thanks: Olga Stavrakis from TravelwithOlga.com  Much changed since I was there……original photo collection is amazing:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/rietje/sets/72157615598783227/with/3375700723/

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

All photography by Rita Willaert

Burkina Faso is by no means an area frequented by tourists, but at the base of a hill overlooking the surrounding sun-drenched West African savannah lies an extraordinary village, a circular 1.2 hectare complex of intricately embellished earthen architecture. It is the residence of the chief, the royal court and the nobility of the Kassena people, who first settled the region in the 15th century, making them one of the oldest ethnic groups in Burkina Faso.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

I found these rare photographs of the village from a dedicated Flickr user Rita Willaert who traveled to Tiébélé in 2009 despite all odds (see all her photos of the village here). The village keeps itself extremely isolated and closed to outsiders, most likely to ensure the conservation and integrity of their structures and to protect the local traditions.  There is interest in developing the site as a cultural tourism destination to generate economic resources for conservation but it is a delicate process.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

Travel blogger, Olga Stavrakis from TravelwithOlga.com also visited the site in 2009 and recalls her visit. She writes:

… It was only through a process of year long negotiations that we were permitted to enter the royal palace the entrance of which is pictured here. They were awaiting us and the grand old men of the village, the nobility, were all seated waiting for us. Each of the villages has muslims and animists (local religions) and no one much cares who believes in what. However, we were told in advance that we must not wear anything red and we may not carry an umbrella. Only the chiefly noble family is permitted that privilege and to do so would constitute a great affront to our hosts… 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

A royal residence in West Africa is not what we might think of when we imagine royal palaces. In Tiébélé, the Cour Royale is made up of a series of small mud brick structures inside a compound, covered with natural clay paints in elaborate geometric patterns to differentiate them from the homes of the common people.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

The chief’s house has the smallest door for protection.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

Olga and her group were even granted access to the interiors of the structures and found that even in a palace compound, the kitchen is simple, differing only from the rest of the kitchens in West Africa by the presence of a few extra clay and iron pots.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

“Most meals are cooked in one pot over a brazier,” explains Olga, “There is little cutting and preparation required. They generally make a starch foofoo or thick paste like porridge which is then dipped into a sauce of vegetables and peppers. The richer the family the more goes into the sauce. Foofoo is made of cassava, yam, plantain, or corn.”

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

Some of the most elaborately decorated houses however are not actually living quarters but mausoleums for the dead, who are laid to rest in the same compound.  The photograph by Rita Willaert below is an example of one of the village mausoleums.

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

Some of the art is symbolic while a lot of it is purely decoration– all a result of the traditional skills of the isolated Kassena culture. DIY Level: 1000!

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

 

Cour Royale à Tiébélé

 

See dozens more photos of the village by Rita Willaert and read more about Olga’s account of her tour around the village on Travel with Olga

Go, Eden…

How Gateway stokes a simmering fury among B.C. natives

Eden Robinson

Contributed to The Globe and Mail   http://wp.me/p2d9OT-uY

Last updated Monday, Jun. 23 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

Author Eden Robinson. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)

Eden Robinson is the award-winning author of the novel Monkey Beach.

Where I come from, people will spit at you if they think you support Enbridge. That’s because we not only get the pipeline risk, but also the tanker risk, and the inevitable splashes that come with loading diluted bitumen into the tankers, which would mean constant micro-spills. Despite being bombarded with a lot of pretty ads reassuring us that our fears about tanker accidents are unjustified, the world-class tanker-safety system in the Douglas Channel, so far, amounts to one orange plastic triangle nailed to a tree.

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My mother is Heiltsuk and my father is Haisla, both small coastal First Nations on the west coast of British Columbia. I live in Kitamaat Village, the main Haisla reserve 11 km from the city of Kitimat, which is the proposed terminus of the pipeline. Kitimat is widely regarded as a blue-collar, pro-industry town. When a recent plebiscite was held to decide whether or not the municipality should support the Enbridge bid, many pundits expected Kitimat would deliver a ‘yes,’ but instead came back with a resounding ‘meh.’ Initial excitement over the announcement that Enbridge was building a pipeline to Kitimat dampened considerably when people discovered that the number of permanent jobs for locals, in the end, would amount to some dock workers. Add to that the persistent coffee-house rumours that the Chinese partners were negotiating to bring in their own ‘experts’ under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to help build the pipeline, and the plebiscite’s rejection of Gateway is less mysterious.

My reserve was not allowed to vote in the plebiscite because we’re not residents of the city of Kitimat. We’re also one of the First Nations bringing Enbridge to court. Our position is complicated by the fact that we’re partners in the current liquefied natural gas (LNG) rush. We’ve leased our reserve on Bish Creek, or Beese, as our traditionals call it, for LNG site development. We’re one of the native groups that would stand to gain the most by supporting Enbridge, and there is low-key support here for the project by food-on-the-table conservatives. But their backing is muted because the opposition to it is overwhelming and vitriolic.

Proponents have argued that you already have tankers plying the Douglas Channel delivering petro product and nothing has happened. But these are baby tankers compared to the monsters that are coming. And if the current tankers have an accident, our first responders will most likely be local volunteer Coast Guards who had to fundraise to get a new speedboat.

My mother’s home, the island community of Bella Bella, the main reserve of the Heiltsuk Nation, is 400 km south of us. The Heiltsuk have absolutely nothing to gain from this project, and everything that they hold near and dear to their hearts to lose. Opponents can mock our love of our home as sentimental, but it won’t change what we feel. The land and the ocean are living, breathing entities that supported us, clothed us, fed us, and nurtured our culture from time immemorial. Our ancestors walked here. We want our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and their great-grandchildren to walk here.

The Haisla are pragmatists. The Heiltsuk have only engaged in peaceful protests. We are quiet moderates in comparison to other First Nations that oppose the pipeline.

If Enbridge has poked the hornet’s nest of aboriginal unrest, then the federal Conservatives, Stephen Harper’s government, has spent the last few years whacking it like a pinata. Their Omnibus budget bills gutted everything from our education to our sovereignty and (yes, you are reading this correctly) our right to clean drinking water. Their casual disregard of the staggering levels of violence against Native women in Canada continues to be infuriating. As is their expectation that, if lectured sternly and thoroughly at every opportunity about the economic benefits of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the First Nations of British Columbia would obediently lie back and think of Canada.

We’ve had a bulls-eye on our backs since the Harper Conservatives got their majority and the mood in our base is simmering fury. Every Native politician knows if they co-operate with the Conservatives, they risk being branded as Stephen Harper’s Uncle Tom. Supporting Gateway would be political suicide.

The Harper Conservatives (and to a lesser extent, the B.C. Liberals) have punted their responsibility to address unextinguished aboriginal title and concerns to the First Nations residing along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline route and the coast of British Columbia. The government has done so by distancing itself from the political backlash following the June 17 conditional approval of the project and the resulting flurry of court cases.

If the Northern Gateway Pipeline fails to be built, history will say it was partly because Enbridge failed to lobby the First Nations of British Columbia early or intensely enough. But the Harper government’s role in this debacle will not be forgotten, and, whatever the outcome, its legacy will be an entrenched native antipathy to any Conservative agenda.

Three Political Paths to Stop Northern Gateway

Federal approval handed huge power to British Columbians. Our job is to get organized.

By Kai Nagata, Today, TheTyee.ca

nagata.jpg

 

Several friends told me this week the Northern Gateway pipeline “finally feels real.” Even people who were cavalier about the inevitability of federal approval described feeling unexpectedly emotional. A few I didn’t even realize had the issue on their radar are suddenly speaking eloquently and passionately — not so much about the details of the proposal, but about the way Ottawa’s decision was carried out.

Enbridge CEO Al Monaco says it will be at least “12 to 15 months” before they’ll be ready to build. With that window in mind, the common question for those who want to stop it is: “How?”

Some are well-positioned to challenge this decision in the courts — First Nations governments best of all. The Crown committed a costly legal error when it left Enbridge to its own devices for so many years, attempting “consultation” deep in unceded territories. Those court cases could last for years and many of us who are not First Nations or trained lawyers will certainly donate to see them succeed.

Some pipeline opponents also promise to physically interfere with construction, should it ever proceed. More blockades like the Unist’ot’en camp may well spring up in the north. Environmental groups are already fundraising to hold workshops on civil disobedience.

Other critics are thinking big-picture about the demand for oil and how to undermine the business case for raw bitumen exports. Whether clean-tech entrepreneurs or climate policy advocates, these groups aim to shift the market conditions that make projects like Northern Gateway profitable in the first place.

Put it this way: there are many ways to stop the pipeline. Some combination of the above would probably stifle Northern Gateway eventually. But British Columbians can’t afford to spend another five years fighting a single project that never should have been proposed in the first place. There’s so much else we need to work on.

I believe the swiftest, most decisive way to stop Enbridge is political — and the most powerful tool most of us have is our vote. That’s why I chose to join Dogwood Initiative. We’re political organizers without partisan baggage. We believe decisions should be made by the people who have to live with them. And we know if First Nations and B.C. voters had a democratic say over this project, Enbridge would be packed up and gone tomorrow.

Three political paths

Tyee columnist Bill Tieleman is right when he writes that a Conservative election loss in 2015 would likely end Enbridge’s pipe dream for good. Opposition leaders Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May have each promised to cancel the project should their party form government. Supporting their candidates federally is certainly one political path to stopping Northern Gateway. What do we do until then?

Bear in mind our provincial government also has jurisdiction and retains the right to say no. That was made clear in the federal announcement on Tuesday: “The proponent will need to seek various regulatory approvals from the federal government and the governments of British Columbia and Alberta … The Province of British Columbia would be responsible for issuing approximately 60 permits and authorizations.”

Recognize that number? “British Columbia has the power to grant or withhold 60 permits,” Premier Christy Clark told a university audience in Calgary back in 2012. Later that day she told reporters: “If British Columbia doesn’t give its consent to this, there is no way the federal government or anyone else in the country is going to be able to force it through. It just won’t happen.”

Clark is still saying no, for now. Meanwhile, Enbridge’s Al Monaco says “we’re not looking at these conditions as something we’re opposing. These conditions will help us make a better project. It’s up to B.C. to decide whether the conditions are met and it’s up to us to try and close the gap.” Pushing the Clark government toward a final rejection of those permits is the second political path to stopping Enbridge.

That brings us to the third and perhaps least understood course of action. Under a law unique to British Columbia, the people themselves have the right to draft a bill on a matter of provincial jurisdiction. With support from 10 per cent of fellow voters around the province, that bill can be handed over to MLAs to pass into law. For example, a law denying provincial permits to a pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen over hundreds of streams and rivers.

The first major challenge lies in the difficulty of the petition process. Not only must you gather signatures on paper, you have to round up support from 10 per cent of registered voters in every riding in the province. At the bare minimum that’s 320,000 people across all 85 electoral districts — within a three-month deadline.

Assuming canvassing teams pass this Herculean challenge, further pitfalls await. Mr. Tieleman was the strategist behind the Fight HST campaign and probably knows the legislation better than anyone in the province. As he points out, “The government can indeed chose to hold an initiative referendum, but the results are not binding. Or it can simply introduce the bill proposed by the petition into the B.C. legislature, but not even debate it, let alone pass it.”

Tieleman calls the law toothless, fundamentally flawed and designed to fail. Yet he marshalled thousands of volunteers to try it anyway. It begs the question: why bother?

Process versus political reality

The truth is that the initiative to end the harmonized sales tax wasn’t just about the merits of HST versus PST.

As campaign spokesman Bill Vander Zalm wrote in March 2010, “The campaign to defeat the HST has ballooned into something much bigger and even more significant than protesting an unjust, illegal and unethical tax. As profound as those arguments are, there is something deeper and even more powerful afoot. People are rising up to take back their democracy.”

Gordon Campbell didn’t just impose an unpopular tax; he misled the people of British Columbia. He broke a major election promise. Worse, it was later discovered his party planned it that way all along. At that point it doesn’t matter how many loopholes are built into the Recall and Initiative Act, none are big enough to jump through when hundreds of thousands of voters want your hide.

Mr. Tieleman says “Our victory depended on Campbell’s multiple miscalculations, including his decision to hold a binding referendum in 2011.” Tieleman is being modest. Fight HST was designed from the start to put Campbell in checkmate. It ended the premier’s elected career.

The underlying purpose of launching a citizens’ initiative, whether on sales tax or oil tankers, is not only to change legislation. The mechanism itself forces you to build massive, organized political power — the kind no elected official can afford to ignore.

It’s a high mountain to climb. The question is what lies at the top. What motivates people to commit to the journey?

Put it this way: what is the legacy of the HST victory? We switched back to paying PST last year. His Excellency Gordon Campbell is now Canada’s high commissioner in London. And four years after the election that started the whole scandal, Campbell’s successor Christy Clark stormed back to win a stronger majority government.

Where are the boxes and boxes of petition signatures? Presumably safe in a vault at Elections BC. Those people can never be emailed or called, invited to a workshop or asked to donate to a new campaign. Even if they could speak to each other, the threat of the HST has passed. Their affiliation was momentous, but short-lived.

Building beforehand

Here’s where Dogwood’s strategy differs. As of today we have not approached Elections BC to launch a citizens’ initiative. Instead we’re building ahead. We call it a democratic insurance policy in case Premier Clark pulls her own version of the HST flip-flop and gives a green light to Enbridge. The longer that day is delayed, the closer to ready our organizers will be.

So far Clark is standing up to Ottawa, which puts her in line with First Nations and a democratic majority of B.C. voters. That’s good, but we imagine she’s going to come under a lot of pressure to keep the door open for Enbridge. As the company pulls out its chequebook and starts knocking off the NEB’s conditions, we’ll be watching closely to see if Clark’s position shifts. As her own government told the joint review panel at the Enbridge hearings, “‘trust us’ isn’t good enough”.

Here’s where we’re at. In the 48 hours following the federal announcement on Northern Gateway, 48,000 new supporters signed our pledge at LetBCvote.ca. Total signatures now surpass 200,000 — collected in person, online and through cell phones.

We have the benefit of technology that campaigners could only dream of back when the Recall and Initiative Act was introduced in 1995. The other night we signed up our first community hall full of supporters via text message (try it out if you like: text “vote” to 604-265-4967). We’re investing in mapping software to make our teams on the ground more efficient. And social media has extended our reach like never before.

But those bells-and-whistles should not obscure the off-line, social core of the project.

The simple fact is every door we knock on prompts a face-to-face conversation between two neighbours. That in itself is positive. From there, every new signature represents another voter who shares our values — or someone we can help get registered to vote. Every canvassing shift teaches you more about your community. And every few blocks you meet someone who loves the idea so much they want a clipboard too.

The most exciting number to me so far is 7,000. That’s the number of British Columbians who’ve taken the brave step of offering to leave their house so they can talk about democracy with strangers. New volunteers get a phone call from their closest team leader and an invitation to the next local training workshop. (Apologies if it takes us a few days to get to you right now — we’re thrilled by the response but our systems are a little stretched.)

Before the federal announcement, we had teams in 33 ridings. Now powerful allies are stepping forward to say they want to work together to defeat Northern Gateway democratically. We’re in discussions with Unifor, Coastal First Nations and a raft of smaller groups — many of which are already established in their home communities.

Whether they take a formal hand in the initiative preparations or work on parallel projects in complementary ridings, our goal is to form a network of allied organizers across all 85 B.C. ridings.

The citizens’ initiative should be thought of as a last-ditch scenario. A final democratic line of defence if our provincial politicians let us down. But if they hold fast to their rejection of the Enbridge proposal, our training and preparation will not be in vain. As Bill Tieleman points out, there’s a federal election next year. Only one party supports Northern Gateway.  [Tyee]

Kai Nagata is the energy and democracy director of the Dogwood Initiative.