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Posts Tagged ‘LNG

Killing the Fraser

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Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

Sailing into Unknown Waters

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LNG tanker
file photo: Reuters

There is a lot wrong with the present BC government’s obsession with establishing an LNG industry. It is, of course, based on fracking – which has been creating earthquakes in BC, a place which, you might think, has quite enough of an earthquake risk already. We also know that the industry has been understating the release of methane from fracking – and that is far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It is also the case that the costs of producing and storing power from wind and solar sources have been dropping rapidly – far faster than any other power producing source anticipated. That means that whole idea that there is a need for some kind of intermediate step between phasing out coal and switching to 100% renewables is redundant.

The siting of LNG plants has also been one of significant controversy, mainly because of sensitive ecological issues which have been ignored by our deliberately crippled environmental review process. There is an LNG plant operating here already – and has been for many years. It is operated by what is now called Fortis BC, which used to be BC Gas. They developed an LNG program to reduce their storage costs. Gas gets produced year round but demand is heavily seasonal. They were also interested in developing new markets in an exercise called load spreading – for example using natural gas either in its compressed or liquid forms for transportation. Which is where I came in. As a policy analyst and transportation economist for the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum resources in the early 1990s I was lobbied by BC Gas to try to get CNG powered buses for BC Transit, and LNG for BC Ferries. The first did happen, the second didn’t. But CNG in transit had a very chequered history.

The LNG plant is located at Tilbury on the Fraser estuary.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.58.38 PM

One of the reasons the Port is so keen on getting rid of the tunnel is the potential to increase traffic on the river – including much larger LNG tankers for exports. People like Todd Stone have been denying this, but the evidence is overwhelming. But what that also means is that due diligence has not been done in assessing whether such a proposal is desirable at this location. I used to be a Fortis shareholder, as my financial advisor was very keen on their performance and its impact on my portfolio. We had a very interesting discussion about the meaning of the words “risk assessment” – particularly when it came to the expansion of the Tilbury terminal.

I am indebted to Kevin Washbrook, who has been very diligent in researching this issue and bringing it to the attention of Fraser Voices – one of the groups opposing the tunnel replacement. That is another reason for the insertion of the map: the proximity of the terminal and the idea of very large LNG vessels passing under the bridge is a concern, but because of the way the way that all the proposals in the area are viewed as standalone and no cumulative assessment has been done, the concern is not now being addressed.

As Kevin says

Canada is way behind what is legally required in the US and not at all prepared for security or safety risks of building LNG terminals near coastal communities.  The Wespac proposal on the Fraser River is particularly egregious.  I don’t think there is any way it would be approved in the US.

The comparison to security procedures in the Port of Boston is interesting.   There a major bridge over the Tobin River is closed every time an LNG tanker transits underneath.

I don’t have any sense that the Province has considered this in their planning for the new 10 lane Fraser River crossing.   Security closures during rush hour when LNG tankers are transiting the river?  That won’t go down well.

There is a full report as a pdf file. Part Five is a focused review of the Wespac proposal on the Fraser River and is of particular interest.

To give you a taste of what is covered I am going to cut and paste the Executive Summary here

The pursuit of an LNG export industry in British Columbia is taking place without the government oversight needed to protect the public from safety and security risks.

US regulatory processes provide clear guidance on how to screen LNG proposals for these risks, and how to enforce security protocols around LNG facilities and tankers. Both are needed to protect communities and critical infrastructure from the risks posed by LNG. Similar regulatory processes could easily be established in Canada – if governments chose to make public safety and security a priority.

However, in British Columbia LNG export proponents choose siting locations according to their own criteria. When these proposals enter licensing, permitting and approval processes, those sites are taken as a given:

• NEB export licensing decisions consider only whether proposed exports will impact Canada’s domestic supply of natural gas;

• Our federal government, with responsibility for marine safety, has not established a pre-screening process for marine LNG facilities or a process for assessing the security of our waterways for the movement of LNG tankers;

• The voluntary TERMPOL review process does not consider security concerns;

• Federal Marine Transportation Security Regulations contain no terminal siting criteria or waterway assessment protocols;

• Federal and provincial environmental assessment processes address accidents, but not the likelihood and consequences of deliberate attack; and

• The BC Oil and Gas Commission, with authority over the permitting of coastal LNG facilities, does not explicitly require assessment of the risk of deliberate attack on those facilities, and excludes consideration of LNG tankers and marine approaches to proposed facilities from hazard identification and emergency planning processes.

In short, no government agency, federal or provincial, is tasked with asking fundamentally important questions:

• Is this a safe place to build an LNG terminal?

• Is this an appropriate waterway for the movement of LNG tankers?

As a result, as project reviews gain momentum, there is valid concern that approval processes will attempt to mitigate risks through design requirements for projects that should have been rejected at the outset because they are poorly sited.

The best way to manage security and safety risks around LNG development in BC is to avoid creating those risks in the first place. Canada and British Columbia need to establish transparent and well justified site selection and waterway suitability assessment processes for LNG export proposals to ensure we avoid these risks. A preliminary pre-screening process will be an important tool for eliminating poorly sited project proposals, and will save proponents and government time and money that would otherwise be spent in lengthy approval and permitting processes.

Fortunately, the hard work of developing a pre-screening process has already taken place in the United States. Studies by Sandia National Laboratories have determined justifiable hazard planning distances for assessing risk posed by proposed LNG facilities and LNG tanker movements on nearby populations and critical infrastructure.

The Sandia Laboratory findings have been incorporated into a comprehensive waterway suitability assessment process used by the US Coast Guard to screen LNG marine terminal proposals for safety and security risks. USCG waterway suitability findings from this process are used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the US agency in charge of LNG terminal approvals) in their decisions on LNG terminal proposals.

Canada should look closely at existing US regulations – they provide a ready made and proven template for developing our own pre-screening process to protect the public from LNG risks during the process of LNG terminal site selection.

However, even if government did develop a comprehensive pre-screening process, British Columbians would still face risks from LNG export projects. Our federal government has failed to establish a preparedness and response regime for ship-source incidents involving hazardous substances like LNG, despite long identifying such a regime as a priority. The LNG industry has not established a dedicated response organization such as the one in place to address oil spills. Coastal first responders are likely unprepared to deal with the serious hazards posed by a worst case incident involving loss of containment and fire on an LNG tanker. Canada has not established a regulatory regime for bunkering LNG–fuelled vessels, nor, apparently, a certification program for LNG bunker barges.

Further, existing marine security regulations in Canada are underdeveloped and reactive. They do not incorporate, as normal operating procedure, moving exclusion zones around LNG tankers that are common practice in US ports. In addition, neither our Port Authorities nor LNG proponents themselves appear adequately resourced to enforce such exclusion zones if they were applied.

While the probability of a deliberate attack or serious accident on an LNG tanker or facility may be low, the consequences for our communities or critical coastal infrastructure of such an attack could be catastrophic. Government has a responsibility to properly assess and prepare for these risks before BC exports LNG.

Our governments have shown themselves to be keen supporters of development of an LNG export industry. However, before LNG exports proceed, they must show they are just as keen to protect public safety and security from the risks posed by that industry.

BC and Canada should place a moratorium on approved and proposed LNG exports until key regulatory issues are addressed, including 1) developing a proper site screening and waterway suitability assessment process for evaluating LNG export proposals 2) establishing mandatory and enforceable security procedures to address the risk of deliberate attack on LNG facilities and tankers and 3) creating a robust preparedness and response regime for ship source incidents involving LNG, and ensuring that LNG bunkering is properly regulated and LNG bunker barges are properly certified.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 19, 2017 at 3:37 pm

NORTHWEST B.C. ABORIGINAL NATIONS DECRY “DEEPLY FLAWED” LNG ASSESSMENT PROCESS

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The following is a Press Release that came into my inbox. I somehow doubt that the mainstream media will cut and paste the whole thing – so that’s what I am going to do.

“OUR DISAPPOINTMENT IS PROFOUND”

TERRACE, BC, September 1, 2016 – Northwest Aboriginal nations have emerged from two days of meetings with the federal government demanding that its “deeply flawed” environmental assessment of a massive LNG proposal be delayed, in light of unfair and incomplete consultation with affected First Nations.

“CEAA (the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) has fundamentally misunderstood its fiduciary obligations to meaningfully consult the proper title holders,” said chief negotiator Glen Williams of the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs.

A powerful alliance of hereditary leaders from Gitanyow, Heiltsuk, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxsan, Takla Lake, Lake Babine and Wet’suwet’en Nations made it clear to CEAA through a series of meetings in July and August that plans by Malaysia’s state oil company, Petronas, to build a $36-billion liquefied natural gas pipeline and an export facility at the mouth of the Skeena River cannot and will not proceed without their support.

CEAA is nearing the end of a review process that started under Stephen Harper and will conclude with advice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on whether to decide for or against the project. Williams says the agency has been biased from the outset, and still seems “more than willing to act as an advocate for the flawed research of foreign multinational corporations rather than for the interests of Canadians.”

Despite pressure that Premier Christy Clark is exerting on the Trudeau government to decide in favour of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project in the coming weeks, northern First Nations are demanding an extension of at least four months to the CEAA process so that full consultation can occur. It was a message delivered loud and clear during this week’s two-day meeting with CEAA in Terrace.

“Despite strong commitments by Prime Minister (Trudeau) to fix Canada’s broken environmental review process, the only difference so far between Harper and Trudeau is our tremendous disappointment in the lack of change,” Williams added. “We expect better from Mr. Trudeau. Our disappointment is profound.”

Murray Smith, spokesperson for the Gitwilgyoots Tribe, one of the Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams, said he was shocked by the disrespectful tone CEAA brought to the meetings. He said the agency neglected to acknowledge Aboriginal territorial rights and title during its presentations, yet went out of its way to acknowledge the Prince Rupert Port Authority as having “jurisdiction over the federal lands.”

“It is appalling that an agency of the federal government could be so ignorant of Canadian law and recent court decisions. Do they seriously believe that a rogue federal agency like their so-called port authority owns our lands, that they can destroy our resources without even talking to us? Why hasn’t our new Prime Minister paid any attention to his own words about nation-to-nation building?”

Murray continued, “Trudeau offers an open door for known corrupt foreign companies like Petronas and (Chinese oil company) Sinopec, yet he says nothing is more important to him than building relationships with First Nations people, but his actions so far do not reflect that at all.”

Presentations were made to CEAA regarding scientific data collected from several studies that confirm the uniqueness of salmon habitat at the mouth of the Skeena River, which is unlike any other area on the Canadian Pacific Coast. The Skeena is the second-largest salmon producing river in the country, and the estuarine ecology of Lelu Island (the site of Petronas’ planned gas hub) and Flora Bank (where Petronas plans a shipping facility) is unique, and uniquely fragile.

Hereditary leader and Wet’suwet’en spokesperson Chief Na’Moks commented that, “science undertaken by Skeena Fishery Commission was done over many years by the leading researchers and experts in their field, and by researchers from Canada’s leading universities. The proponent’s research was conducted by hired consultants tasked with trying to come up with justifications for an incredibly foolish decision by the Prince Rupert Port Authority to site a massive industrial development on top of irreplaceable salmon habitat. The work done to date by Petronas’ consultants has been rejected by CEAA at least five times as being flawed, but now CEAA seems to be buying into the deeply flawed justifications for a project that was simply sited in the worst possible place.”

Independent science, like that of Dr. Patrick McLaren, a geologist and leading expert on sedimentation dynamics, showed that if an LNG tanker berth was placed near Flora Bank it would cause irreversible damage to one of the most productive juvenile salmon nurseries in the world. McLaren’s testimony called into question evidence provided by the proponent, which grossly understates the impacts PNW LNG would have on already stressed salmon stocks.

“The risk from losing the sand from Flora Bank is far greater than the risk of accepting that no harm will come to Flora Bank,” Dr. McLaren said in his presentation.

Gitanyow chief Glen Williams said, “CEAA heard from real scientists who have conducted comprehensive research on the issue on all the potential impacts on our food supply, the ecosystem, the air, and the place we live. The science has been peer-reviewed and published in the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. When are we going to see any honour from government? When can we find comfort in a process that is really meaningful?”

-30-

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 1, 2016 at 10:42 am

Posted in energy, Environment

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Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chiefs Question Trudeau on Eviction Notice

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Lelu Island

The following items arrived in my inbox today from Greg Knox of skeenawild.org

Instead of trying to convert the pdf documents into text that is then pasted into the blog engine, I am posting them as pdf files which you can either download or read in many browsers.

The issue is the proposed construction of an LNG terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert: I got the map from fisherynation.com

Lelu Island letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

Port Authority (1)

Port Authority letter (2)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

Canada (and BC) can grow GDP and cut GHG at the same time

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I came across this story by clicking on link bait “Something else Donald Trump is wrong about” on Vox. But I decided not to simply retweet that, firstly because we have all seen far too much about that fake tan monster and secondly this is important in both a Canadian and a BC context. (And I thought the people I wanted to reach might be less interested in that attention grabbing headline – “here’s some good news about the planet” seemed better to me!)

The Sarah Palin of BC politics currently occupying the premier’s chair is convinced that LNG is both an economic saviour and a way to reduce GHG emissions. It is, of course, neither.

Our newly elected  Liberal government in Ottawa – elected on promises to reduce GHG and committing in Paris to hold global warming below 1.5℃ – is now wavering. Not only because they allowed the Woodfibre LNG plant to go ahead, despite the very obvious shortcomings of the current (i.e. previous Conservative, Harper driven) EA process. But also because of the re-election of Brad Wall, which was obviously what Catherine McKenna must have been worried about when she started talking about national unity as being more important than the survival of life on earth.

So what Vox did was reprint a table from the World Resources Institute which shows that 21 countries have managed to reduce their GHG since 2000 while at the same time as increasing their GDP.

Decoupling_sparkline_graphic_v2

By the way, the stated reduction in US emissions is has been shown to be wrong, mostly because of the way they have counted methane.

You will notice, of course, that Canada is not among them. BC, of course, had been following a somewhat different track thanks to its adoption of the carbon tax. But that progress has been slowing, as the carbon tax has been stalled, and so much attention is now devoted to exporting fracked gas. Not only is the market for LNG now swamped, so that finding a customer for BC LNG will not be easy despite our generous tax and royalty regimes, but the way that methane leakage from fracking and LNG processing is measured has been updated with better data to show that it has little advantage over coal in reducing GHG.

There is no one answer to how this decoupling has been achieved – but there are some useful pointers in the article you just have to scroll down below that big table. But also there is, in BC, at present, a really good analysis of just how BC can improve its performance. And if you suppose that it might just be possible that none of the proposed LNG plants actually get built, and we elect a government in BC that is actually serious about reducing both CO2 and CH4 emissions – as opposed to just taking credit for past success – then progress does actually seem possible. Although if we try to do both, it’s very unlikely.

At the time of writing, there is still time to make yourself heard as part of the consultation on the BC Climate Leadership Plan. But even so, the table above ought to enough to silence the people who keep talking about growing the economy and saving the environment as though they were at odds with each other.

UPDATE From The Tyee interview with Nancy Oreskes, Harvard climate professor and co-author of Merchants of Doubt

Oreskes said Canada cannot seriously address climate change while also building more giant pipelines to deliver Alberta’s oil sands bitumen or British Columbia’s fracked natural gas to proposed export terminals on both coasts.

“If Trudeau can say we’re going to do all these things,” she said, “that says to me that they have not truly assimilated what is at stake here.”

Trudeau raised eyebrows when he told a Vancouver sustainable business summit last month that “the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our [climate] goal.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark similarly promotes liquefied natural gas as a climate solution: a “bridge fuel” to help China get off dirty coal power.

Oreskes called their positions dangerously “wishful thinking.”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Fraser Voices vs Fortis BC

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My email inbox has been filling up today with a contretemps on LNG on the Fraser playing out in the letters page of the Richmond News. Since I have learned that it is sometimes a bit tricky getting to see on their web page what has been printed in the paper, I thought it might be useful to set out the correspondence here.

The day started with an email from  Viviana Zanocco who is the Community and Aboriginal Relations Manager in External Relations department of FortisBC to undisclosed recipients.

Good morning,

As part of our commitment to sharing project-related information with you in a timely manner, attached is a letter in which we respond to misinformation presented in a recent letter to the editor published in the Richmond News; we’re sharing it with you prior to its distribution to the media.

In the letter, a local resident said the George Massey tunnel replacement project is being driven by the needs of LNG proponents and could impact fish and fish habitat. This is something we’ve heard repeated in the community as the discussion about the bridge replacement unfolds and requires clarification.

The fact is that LNG carriers that could one day ply the waters of the Fraser River would be able to do so even if the tunnel remains in operation. WesPac Midstream LLP is proposing to build an LNG marine terminal next to our Tilbury LNG facility, which we’ve safely operated on the shores of the Fraser River since 1971. The jetty would be built to accommodate vessels in the same size range or smaller than the existing vessels currently operating on the Fraser River. WesPac has confirmed publicly that the concept under review wouldn’t be impacted regardless of whether or not the tunnel remains in operation.

We also believe that LNG will play an important role for the marine transportation industry in reducing emissions and potential environmental impacts associated with the use of heavy oil and diesel.

FortisBC’s  Richmond News_ Letter to the Editor is a pdf file you can read from that link

I am indebted to Susan Jones of Fraser Voices for the following rebuttal

In the letter to the Richmond News it is stated:

 

Whether the George Massey Tunnel is removed, replaced or expanded – or how the proposed bridge project is constructed – will have no impact on the WesPac proposal.

 

[This is] simply not true

 

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) discussed LNG ships and the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project with the Gateway group.

 

The following are some notes I have on this topic.  Those FOI emails acquired by Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change and newspaper articles indicate that the LNG operations were included in the discussions between PMV and the federal and provincial governments.

 

BC Government representatives began a series of meeting with Port Metro Vancouver in early 2012 as the port made it clear that:

 

“The tunnel is also a marine bottleneck. It was not designed for the size of ships used in modern day trade, which must access the Fraser River in Richmond and Surrey. As a result, the tunnel is becoming a significant obstacle to international trade on the Fraser.”

(Robin Silvester, CE0, Port Metro Vancouver: Vancouver Sun, April 29, 2012)

 

Discussions were underway about clearances for the new potential crossing and Port Metro Vancouver made it clear to the government that plans should include air drafts to accommodate large ships:

 

“Liquid bulk tankers with larger air draft requirements (e.g. LNG) should be considered,”

 

(Port Development Strategies Manager, Jennifer Natland, Nov. 29, 2012 to Project Planners)

 

On September 20, 2013, the B.C. Government announced plans to build a bridge instead of replacing the tunnel.  Port Metro Vancouver was included in the following meetings for planning and design.  Emails show that port staff urged the province to design a taller bridge, even though that would mean higher costs, a more challenging design and a steeper grade for Highway 99 traffic on both approaches.

 

On July 16, 2014, Port Metro Vancouver CEO, Robin Silvester queried:

 

“What is the air draft of the largest length LNG vessel that we could imagine in the river?”

 

Port marine operations director Chris Wellstood responded:

 

“…we feel that the 61-metre MAX air draft would allow for the larger part of the world’s LNG fleet” – tankers up to 320 metres long- to pass under new bridge and head up the Fraser.””

In another exchange of emails:

 

“On a June 5th a follow up meeting between PMV and Gateway was held to discuss PMV’s height requirement and as a result of that meeting Gateway was going to provide a revised drawing with a 130 m one-way channel for clearances…

…The main issue with additional height for the bridge is that the shore landings need to be higher and longer which increases the overall cost of the project…

…Please let me know if you see a problem with the original height requirements requested by PMV in 2012…”

 

(Chris Wellstood, Director Marine Operations & Security, Habour Master to Cliff Stewart, to Cliff Stewart, Vice President, Infrastructure Delivery, Port Metro Vancouver, July 15, 2014)

 

A June 2014 briefing note by port officials following a meeting with provincial counterparts cautions:

 

“…there are multiple challenges with high costs to achieve PMV’s requested height” of 65 metres”.

 

These negotiations did not include the public or the local governments.  The public have not been provided with credible information for other options such as upgrading the existing tunnel, twinning the tunnel, a smaller bridge or retaining the status quo with better transit and restrictions on truck hours.

 

In spite of repeated requests for the business case for this Project, the provincial government has failed to produce this information.  This should have been presented to the public and local governments for comment in the early planning stages.

 

Also considerations of safety with LNG vessels on the river has not been addressed.

 

This LNG production and export are putting the public at great risk as they contravene international LNG Terminal Siting Standards as outlined by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO).  The Standards claim LNG ports must be located where they do not conflict with other waterway uses as all other vessels must be considered as ignition sources.  The narrow, highly populated lower Fraser River, and narrow shipping lanes through the Gulf Island do not meet the international safety standards of wide exclusion zones.

 

If that is not enough you might also like to read Elizabeth May’s trenchant comments on BC’s approach to LNG tanker safety 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 24, 2016 at 4:54 pm

The “Forces of No” are Market Forces

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Christy Clark is worried about the opposition her increasingly inappropriate policy direction has created

“There are people who just say no to everything, and heaven knows there are plenty of those in British Columbia,” said Clark.

Well, she has been pretty good at saying no herself: no to doing something about child poverty, for instance, or funding transit expansion. The real big issue she faces is the one she created for herself by going all in on LNG. The opposition to that is mainly due to local environmental impacts, but what is most likely to stop these projects is the way that demand for LNG has dropped while supplies are flooding on to the market. The prospects for any of the BC proposals being financially viable are somewhere between slim and none. Don’t take my word for it: read this report from The Brattle Group.

increasing competition has significant ramifications for the many LNG export projects now in development across North America and for buyers of LNG that have signed long-term contracts for export capacity from new North American LNG export projects. Many of the proposed projects that are not yet under construction are already facing an uncertain future due to the collapse of global oil and LNG prices. Additionally, the start-up of several new LNG projects in the next few years is likely to result in an over-supplied LNG market. LNG export developers and buyers of LNG that have signed long-term contracts for LNG export capacity are hopeful that the worldwide LNG supply glut is temporary and that market conditions in the post-2020 time frame will improve.

The Brattle Group are not in business just to say No to projects in BC.

And Scotiabank agrees with them, too!

And it is not just that the costs of wind and solar generation are falling, it is also that the problems of storing that power are getting solved too.

“Solar storage will become more competitive as new battery technology drives prices down, and wind storage more attractive as technical advances in areas such as composite materials enables the power generated by wind turbines to increase.”

That report is mainly about how to evaluate batteries, but there are other promising energy storage solutions too – like pumping water uphill, or pumping air into gas bags under a lake. There’s a good summary at The Guardian examining the options, from a UK perspective, of course.

And if the market forces are not convincing enough, there is also the impact of that agreement we signed in Paris to try to reduce global warming to no more than 1.5ºC. The physics of that mean that there cannot be any more new fossil fuel based power generation added by 2018.  It is not just the LNG plants and the pipelines that cannot be built if we are to hit this target.

Well-established science that says global CO2 emissions need to peak and decline before 2020. Wait until after 2020 and the costs of reducing emissions rise rapidly, as does the risk of exceeding 2°C. The 2018 deadline is consistent with this. It just happens to be a more meaningful way of looking at where we stand, and the consequences of the decisions being made today to build a school, a data center, or 10,000 diesel-powered farm tractors.

UPDATE And it would seem that the same Brattle report is inspiring Merran Smith to write about the possible impact of renewables too.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 28, 2016 at 10:05 am