The gaping hole in the National Energy Board’s Review of the Northern Gateway Pipeline

by Simon Donner

In the decision to recommend the Northern Gateway Pipeline for approval by the Canadian government, the National Energy Board ignored the very purpose of a pipeline: getting the product to market.

Embedded GHG emissions vs. B.C. targets

The panel did not consider the impact the pipeline would have on oil sands development – creating the product or the impact of using the oil that would be transported by the pipeline – getting someone to use the product.

This is like making a decision about a road without asking whether it would affect the communities the road is supposed to connect. For one, the emissions embedded in the oil that would be transported by the proposed pipeline make a mockery of provincial and federal greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Nevermind, said the Joint Review Panel. From the report:

Many people said the project would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and social effects from oil sands development. We did not consider that there was a sufficiently direct connection between the project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development or other oil production activities to warrant consideration of the effects of these activities.

While we can sympathize with the panel, which has specific terms of reference that places some issues outside their mandate, the logic in the report is fatally flawed.

As Chris Turner writes, the core argument for additional pipelines from Alberta has been to encourage economic expansion, via increased operations in the oil sands. If the panel is correct, and the Northern Gateway pipeline would not lead to any further oil sands development, then why build the pipeline?

Either the panel is wrong, or the case for the pipeline is wrong. Which is it?

Climate book suggestions for the holidays

In the science and nature section of your local bookstore, if you still have a local bookstore, there are plenty of good books about climate change.

The best-known options of the past few years includes scientists’ takes on the science and the battles over the science, like Jim Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren and Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, and detailed takes on the groups that sought to cast doubt on the scientific consensus, including James Hoggan’s no-holds-barred The Climate Cover-up” (with Richard Littlemore) and Merchants of Doubts from Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

If a friend or member of your family is looking to dive deeper into the history of our relationship with the climate, and how that might influence thinking about climate change today, here are a few suggestions. They may not be in the local store, but they can all be found via online retailers:

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Welcome to the new Maribo!

In 2006, a naïve young climate scientist realized he had become a climatic Kevin Bacon to friends and family. None of them studied or worked in the areas of physical science, environmental science or environmental issues. Yet they were all interested in news about climate change simply because there was one person in their community who studied climate change for a living. Maribo was his attempt to engage and expand that community.

The new edition aims to continue that open conversation about climate and global change, but with a few more hands on deck.

We hope to bring science, stories and perspective that you won’t hear somewhere else. In addition to the regular posts, there will be interviews with experts on new research, dispatches from the field, and stories from students and other young scientists.

Stay tuned.