Canada is sitting on 12 ‘carbon bombs.’ Here’s where they are
Just under the surface of B.C. and Alberta, in a rock formation known as the Montney Play, lies enough potential greenhouse gases to blow past Canada’s 2030 emissions targets 30 times over.
It’s one of 12 fossil fuel reserves researchers in the journal Energy Policy have identified in Canada — called “carbon bombs” — that would each release a billion tonnes or more of carbon into the atmosphere if their resources were extracted and burned. This would be catastrophic for the world’s efforts to slow rising global temperatures, the authors argue.
But development in the Montney is set to ramp up in the next few years, and government subsidies for the natural gas industry mean many of these projects have been earmarked to make important contributions to the economy.
Kjell Kühne, the lead researcher on the paper and a director of Leave it in the Ground, an initiative aimed at stopping the extraction of fossil fuels, says Canada needs to find a way to stop these projects, or risk increasing our contribution to climate-related disasters.
“You are basically betting on humanity continuing to burn down the house at the same rate in order for you to make money, and that is a very risky bet,” he said.
A different approach
Kühne and others identified 425 “carbon bombs” around the world, and collectively, they would blow the carbon budget needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 C twice over.
Researchers measured the carbon dioxide emissions that would result if each country extracted and burned its largest fossil fuel reserves.
Thinking about these projects as “carbon bombs” includes the downstream emissions of actually burning the fuel, which is a better way of measuring climate impact than how the Canadian government tallies emissions, said Julia Levin, associate director of Environmental Defence, who was not involved in the research.
The Canadian government reports only carbon dioxide emitted in Canada. It does not count the greenhouse gas emissions produced when those fossil fuels are exported and burned somewhere else.
“It allows countries — big producers of oil and gas, like Canada — to completely abdicate climate responsibility for the oil and gas that we pull out of the ground,” said Levin.
To prevent catastrophic global temperature rise, Canada needs to “end production by 2034,” she said.
“The science is unequivocal.”
The Montney Play
Canada’s largest carbon bomb — and the sixth largest in the world — is the Montney Play.
The natural gas, which is mostly methane, is extracted by hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, a water-intensive process that leaks methane into the atmosphere.
Methane traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide while it’s in the atmosphere, and is responsible for about 30 per cent of the rise in global temperature since the industrial revolution, according to the International Energy Agency.
Methane, however, doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide; around 12 years instead of centuries. This means preventing methane emissions is a potential emergency intervention to keep temperatures lower in the immediate future.
“Methane is responsible for half a degree of warming right now,” said Kühne. “Fracking is one of the worst things you can do in the midst of a climate emergency.”
New developments in the heart of the Montney had been halted since 2021 since the outcome of a B.C. Supreme Court case between the Government of B.C. and Blueberry River First Nations, whose traditional territory overlaps with a large swath of the formation. A judge ruled that the cumulative effects of resource development infringed upon their Treaty 8 rights.
An agreement reached between the First Nation and the province earlier this year means the First Nation has more control over what happens on their land.
That doesn’t mean extraction of natural gas in the area will stop. While companies are restricted in building new well pads in some areas, new wells can still be drilled on existing sites. The pads that already exist in the Montney are at about a quarter of their capacity, according to research by Allan Chapman in the Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection.
Natural gas is a major driver of the economy in northeastern British Columbia, provides thousands of jobs and is an important source of revenue for the province.
This is why Dan Davies, MLA for Peace River North and a member of the opposition B.C. Liberal Party, says it’s important for the industry to continue and even grow, because people still need it.
Natural gas is what heats homes in the region through the frigid winters, he pointed out.
“It really is the heart of northeastern B.C., the oil and gas industry,” he said, adding that oil and gas royalties pay for important public services such as schools and hospitals.
Davies argues that natural gas from Canada can be an environmental win if it helps countries such as India and China get off coal. Natural gas does have lower emissions than coal, but switching from one fossil fuel to another will not result in the emissions reductions necessary to avoid a temperature increase of more than 1.5 C, according to the IEA.
Two of the other carbon bombs in Canada are natural gas formations, five are in Alberta’s oil sands, and three are metallurgical coal mines, meaning the coal is used for making steel and not for generating electricity.
Of the two remaining gas formations, extraction in the Liard Basin was suspended in 2021, according to the B.C. Energy Regulator.
Two of the three coal mines have yet to begin extraction.
Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is invested in at least two of the projects, including the Montney Play. The company did not respond to multiple interview requests from CBC News.
‘A climate clown’
Levin and Kühne agree stopping these projects is important if Canada hopes to meet its climate goals.
But instead of stopping them, federal and provincial governments are subsidizing them.
The provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia have provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel companies in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Natural Resources Canada spokesperson Keean Nembhard told CBC News that the federal government is committed to ending “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies this year.
Asked which subsidies specifically have been deemed inefficient, Nembhard said there is no internationally agreed-upon list of inefficient subsidies, but that officials in the federal Department of Finance and Environment and Climate Change Canada are working on a tool to identify what this means in a Canadian context.
“To date, Canada’s efforts to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies have resulted in the phasing out or streamlining of nine tax measures that benefited the fossil fuel sector,” he said in a statement.
But Levin says the word “inefficient” is essentially meaningless in this context.
“Inefficient has no definition,” she said. “The word was used as a loophole to allow G20 countries to do whatever they wanted.”
Kühne says ending subsidies for fossil fuel projects is important to give the world a chance at curbing rising temperatures around the globe.
“The Canadian government is more a climate clown than a climate leader,” said Kühne. “It has the highest per capita emissions in the world and is giving subsidies to [the] fossil fuel industry.”
Canada's economy rebounded in January in surprise 'double-barrelled blast of strength' – CBC News
Canada’s economy showed a rebound in January, with real gross domestic product growing by 0.5 per cent for the month, Statistics Canada reported Friday.
The figures came after a contraction of 0.1 per cent in December.
January’s report was better than economists had been expecting. In a note, Andrew Grantham of CIBC Economics said the January figure was above the 0.4 per cent consensus expectation of economists’ forecasts.
Statistics Canada said the main drivers of growth for the month were also the largest contributors to the December decline.
“In January, the wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sectors all rebounded from declines recorded in the previous month,” the federal agency said.
After remaining relatively flat in the second half of 2022, the accommodation and food services sector was also among the top contributors to growth in January.
Advance figures for February released at the same time by Statistics Canada indicate that the economy continued to expand that month, although the 0.3 per cent increase is less than what was seen in January.
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Douglas Porter, the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said today’s “double-barrelled blast of strength is well above even the most optimistic views.” He said the January and February figures have BMO projecting first-quarter growth of 2.5 per cent.
Grantham said the strong growth in January, plus the surprise further advance in February, leaves overall GDP tracking at almost three per cent for the first quarter of the year, which is above the 0.5 per cent expected by the Bank of Canada.
Forecasters said the good start to 2023 economically could impact the central bank’s path on interest rates. Earlier this month, the Bank of Canada left its key interest rate target unchanged at 4.5 per cent. It was the first time the central bank kept its key policy rate on hold since it began raising it last year in an effort to cool rising prices.
“Suffice it to say that if the strength seen in the opening months of the year persists, the [Bank of Canada] is going to find itself in a tough spot,” Porter said.
Canada’s Climate Crisis: An In-Depth Look at the Current State and What’s Being Done to Combat It
Canada’s annual average temperature increased by 1.9C from 1948 to 2021. According to the Government of Canada, northern regions exhibited an increase in annual mean temperature three times over the global mean warming rate.
Climate change affects food security, biological diversity, and people’s health. Many believe that Canada’s dealing with a climate crisis and wondering what’s been done to combat it. Here’s a quick overview of the current situation and the plans the government has available to tackle this problem.
What’s the Current Climate Situation in Canada?
According to the last update from the Climate Action Tracker, the action taken by Canada has been rated as “highly insufficient.” That means the country isn’t in line with the global agreement made in Paris to stick to the 1.5C limit.
Furthermore, CAT experts believe the emission reduction target by 2030 is only enough to be in line with a 4C warming. They warn that Canada should strengthen their climate policies and targets while offering more support to others to reach set goals.
Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan
The plan for reducing emissions by 2030 was adopted in March 2022, and the government itself describes it as achievable but ambitious. The idea is to lower emissions in 2030 by 40% when compared to 2005. It’s worth noting that Canada has a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
According to this plan, the country will invest over $9 billion to promote pollution-cutting effects. The strategy includes:
- Improving electric vehicle infrastructure. People who want to purchase ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles) can hope for financial support.
- Greening buildings and homes. The idea is to adopt revised building codes that are in line with the environmental goals.
- Clean energy projects. These include investing in solar and wind power, electricity, and other projects.
- Reduce gas and oil emissions. It seems to be the most ambitious part of the plan, especially since Canada keeps supporting the Trans Mounting pipeline and exporting LNG to Europe.
Some other details include empowering farmers to implement sustainable practices and communities to launch climate action projects.
What Can You Do to Help with Climate Change?
Collective action is important to restrict climate change, and some suggestions for individuals include the following:
- Consider how you travel. Use public transport or walk when possible. If you are heading to far destinations, consider not taking frequent long-distance flights. For example, if you want to go to Vegas to enjoy casino games, consider playing online roulette while at home, which can provide immersive fun while reducing your carbon footprint.
- Use LED lightbulbs and energy-efficient appliances. Many modern appliances come with an energy efficiency rating.
- Eat veggies to reduce a carbon footprint. It takes less energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce vegetables. Apart from lowering your carbon footprint, this is a healthy diet that could help you lose pounds and manage weight.
- Focus on reusing and recycling items. Consider shopping for second-hand clothes and not purchasing anything you don’t absolutely need. Consider donating the items you don’t need anymore, and make sure to recycle those that you throw away properly.
A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy
The federal authorities adopted this long-term plan in 2020, and its goal is to secure a future with a healthier environment and economy. The main principles of this plan include the following:
- Making energy-efficient structures more affordable. The idea is to make locations where Canadians live easier to purchase, maintain, and upgrade while ensuring houses and buildings energy-efficient.
- Affordable and eco-friendly transportation. From clean electricity supply to ZEVs and other details, the idea is to reduce congestion while making communities healthier.
- Carbon pollution pricing. The idea is for pollution to be pricey but ensure that the households get back more than they pay.
- Achieving a clean industrial advantage. The country aims to focus on “Made in Canada” services and products with low carbon footprints.
- Embrace the power of nature. Restoring and conserving natural spaces while planting billions of trees is another way to reduce pollution and fight climate change.
The government has released the final National Adaptation Strategy for comments. It’s the first strategy of this type that was designed by working with Indigenous People, municipal, territorial, and provincial authorities, as well as other relevant platforms. The idea is to design shared priorities and unite everyone across Canada to take joint action to decrease climate change risks.
Scientists are racing to find the most effective climate change solutions, with the potential options leaving them divided. However, they agree on one thing – it’s necessary to take strong action in the soonest possible timeframe.
Canada has already adopted a climate change action plan, and the only question is if it’s aggressive enough. It remains to be seen whether some changes to the strategy will be made in order to reach the long-term goals of dealing with the climate crisis.
Debt in Canada: What’s normal for your age?
If you’re like most people, you have at least some debt. Your mortgage, car payment, credit card balance, and student loans are all liabilities that contribute to your total debt.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how much debt is normal for your age, though?
Below, I’ll outline the average and median debt by age in Canada, so you can see how your finances compare. Then I’ll explain some of the key reasons why Canadians’ debt is increasing.
Average debt by age group in Canada
First of all, it’s important to understand that debt is normal. Very few Canadians are 100% debt-free. Even those with near-perfect credit scores likely have an auto or student loan they’re paying down.
These are the debt metrics measured by Statistics Canada during census surveys.
Here’s the average debt by age group in Canada as of 2019, according to the latest data sets from Statistics Canada:
Note – this data applies to individuals who are not in an economic family. The numbers differ for economic families, which include married/common-law partners and families with dependent children.
The total debt measured includes:
- Mortgage debt
- Lines of credit
- Credit card debt
- Student loans
- Vehicle loans
- Other debt (doesn’t fit in the categories above)
Median debt by age group in Canada
Looking at average debt provides a decent overview of the data. However, the averages are very skewed by the debt incurred by Canada’s ultra-wealthy taxpayers.
When calculating the average, all values are added together and divided by the total number of values. This means that a few extreme values can greatly influence the result.
In contrast, the median is the middle value in a dataset when values are arranged in order. As such, it is less affected by outliers and provides a more accurate representation of typical values.
For example, a multi-millionaire with a $2-million mortgage will skew the average higher than the average Canadian.
For a more accurate look at Canadian debt, I find that the median data as of 2019 provides more accurate insight:
Why is consumer debt increasing in Canada?
Over the past year, consumer debt has notably increased. This is especially true for credit card debt. The average monthly spending per credit card increased by 17.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a recent report by Equifax Canada.
In the report Rebecca Oakes, vice-president of Advanced Analytics at Equifax Canada, stated that “Gen Z and Millennials are driving up higher consumer spending the most.”
Even though inflation is slowly easing, it’s still relatively high. The high inflation has driven up the cost of everyday goods, including groceries and fuel. This, in turn, means that Canadians are spending more per month than they were before 2022, when inflation started to rise.
Unfortunately, workers’ pay hasn’t grown with inflation. This means that the average Canadian simply has less money to spend, increasing their reliance on credit cards to purchase daily necessities.
- Pent-up demand and travel
Oakes goes on to state that “Pent-up demand and increased travel with the easing of COVID restrictions, combined with soaring inflation, have led to some of the highest increases in credit card spending we’ve ever seen.”
It makes sense that Canadians would be eager to travel after several years of travel restrictions, even if it means incurring more credit card debt.
- Increased interest rates
To keep inflation under control, the fed steadily increased interest rates throughout 2022 and is discussing more rate hikes this year. As the federal interest rate has increased, variable interest rates, such as those offered by credit card companies, have also increased.
Those who carry a credit balance over to the next month must now pay even more interest on their credit card debt, increasing their overall debt.
Creating a plan to manage your debt
Accruing debt in the short-term may be inevitable due to high-interest rates and inflation. However, it’s important to create a plan to get your debt under control.
A reliable budget plan paired with consistent action is the best way to get out of debt.
Revisit your monthly budget to find areas where you can save, try to pay down high-interest credit card debt as quickly as possible, and consider taking up a side hustle to earn extra money that you can put towards your debt.
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