Canadian Environmentalists Call on All Parties to Clean Up the Great Lakes
Ontario environmental organizations today handed all parties their vision of the three key elements that should be included in Ontario's Great Lakes Protection Act (GLPA).
The Liberals promised a Great Lakes Protection Act in the Throne Speech and both opposition parties pledged to protect water quality in their platforms. First reading of the new act is expected this spring.
The groups are urging that the Great Lakes Protection Act:
- engage citizens and support vibrant waterfront communities and economies
- protect and restore Great Lakes' biodiversity
- improve water quality and quantity
The groups agreed that the Great Lakes Protection Act needs to connect people with their lakes by improving the health of natural areas, shorelines and beaches, reducing sources of pollution from air and land, attacking destructive invasive species, and by using Ontario’s high tech innovations, regulations and natural services (like wetlands) to reduce the impacts of cities on water quality and quantity.
“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to four out of five Ontarians,” says Derek Stack, executive director at Great Lakes United. “It’s time to connect—in law—the basic necessity of clean water with how we treat our Lakes’ ecosystem. It’s time to clean up our act.”
On some Great Lakes people have begun swimming at beaches again after years of fear of contaminated water. "These places, like Blue Flag beaches on Toronto’s waterfront, serve as reminders that local investments in sewage treatment facilities can improve people’s quality of life," says Claire Malcolmson, water programs manager at Environmental Defence. "We want this experience to spread to other communities in the Great Lakes basin."
“If the Great Lakes Protection Act helps municipal governments pay for needed water and sewer infrastructure investments, people can enjoy improvements to their waterfronts and water quality quite quickly,” says Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer at Ecojustice.
“Despite their values, Ontario’s wetlands continue to be lost at an alarming rate,” says Mark Gloutney, director of Regional Operations—Eastern Region Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The protection of wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin and coast is critical to maintaining the ecological integrity and biodiversity of the Great Lakes.”
"Wetlands are needed by 80 percent of Great Lakes fish at some point in their life cycle for spawning and or nursery habitat. But 70 percent of Great Lakes coastal wetlands have been lost due to development and or pollution. We need to put in place new policies to protect what wetlands we have left,” says Mary Muter, chair, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Ontario.
Stronger action on the Great Lakes has been expected for some time. Evidence has been mounting that the Great Lakes are reaching a tipping point, and the province is aware of this. In 2009, the province released a discussion paper on the Great Lakes and toured the province seeking input from stakeholders.
"Our hope for the Great Lakes Protection Act is that it will better align the work of various Ministries, municipalities, stewards and agencies that work on the Great Lakes. Many different decisions are made every day that affect the health of the Great Lakes and we hope this new Act helps to better allocate public resources for the benefit of the Great Lakes,” said Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and Counsel to Canadian Environmental Law Association.
The environmentalists' Statement of Expectations and legislative drafting notes were written by Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Great Lakes United and the Sierra Club Ontario Chapter, with input from Conservation Ontario and World Wildlife Fund. Already the documents have the support of 16 other groups.
Environmental Defence launched an online petition last week to demonstrate public support for the ideas outlined in the Statement of Expectations for the Great Lakes Protection Act. The petition can be found by clicking here.
The Statement of Expectations on the Great Lakes Protection Act and legislative drafting notes can be downloaded by clicking here.
For more information, click here.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association works to protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUCpartners with government, industry, other nonprofit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.
Ecojustice is the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to using the law to defend Canadians’ right to a healthy environment.
Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
Great Lakes United is a cross-border coalition of groups working to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River ecosystem.
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Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6bd9fda1316965a9ba24dd60fd9cc34d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3KaMnkmf0tc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
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A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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