It’s a small simple chart which has a huge significance for Canada and the climate.
They conclude “no projects currently under construction are set to be completed that year or beyond.”
Due to the collapse in the oil price, the tar sands producers are seriously struggling. There is too large a gap between the high cost of production of the tar sands and the current price of oil for many to invest over the long term.
It is worth remembering that the crisis in the tar sands comes at a time when there is growing public pressure to build a clean energy future that does not hitch Canada’s economy to the destructive boom and bust cycle of oil.
This concern can be seen in the growing opposition by front line communities across the country to new tar sands infrastructure such as pipelines and for support for building a safer, renewable energy economy.
For the industry, these concerns would be easier to dismiss if it sat on a cushion of high oil prices.
But the cushion has burst.
Because of the oil price plunge, some half a million barrels a day of planned production capacity has been cancelled or put on hold over the last eighteen months.
Around this time last year, Oil Change International (OCI) identified some 39 tar sands projects delayed or on hold.
The pain continues. In recent days, two Calgary-based smaller tar sands producers have announced multimillion-dollar fourth-quarter losses. Sunshine Oil sands reported a $326 million net loss; whilst Connacher Oil and Gas reported a loss of $56 million.
Indeed, last month CBC reported how “increased competition, low prices and climate change policy have put the future growth of Alberta’s oil sands in doubt—and that has the federal government concerned.”
They also reported that there was concern about investment in the sector, post-2020. Quoting a report by the Federal Department of Finance, it suggested that further tar sands expansion could be “vulnerable.”
The government report outlined how “As the marginal supplier of world oil, because of its high costs and climate change footprint, Canadian oil sands would face the brunt of the post-2020 reduction in oil demand (despite the price approaching $80.”
Allan Dwyer, a finance professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary told CBC news: “The report confirmed my main concern—which is, long term, the oil sands are not viable.”
The tar sands are not viable on price and they also fail the climate test.
As any regular reader of this blog or any reports from OCI will know that as the third largest reserves in the world, with projects that lock in a half a century of pollution once built, the dirty tar sands are incompatible with keeping global warming to internationally acceptable limits.
It is a conundrum that the government has long failed to address: At the end of last month, for example, the Canadian Press reported how the “Federal Environment Minister won’t say if Canada can develop oil sands and meet climate targets.”
Increasingly, civil society organizations such as OCI have been calling for a “climate test” to be undertaken as a key part of meeting those targets.
As Hannah McKinnon from OCI explains: “The crux of the climate test is using our actual climate goals (limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C) to define the types of infrastructure that are going to be economically viable, necessary and appropriate over the coming decades in the safe climate future we are committed to.”
The bad news for the Canada is that the tar sands sector fails the test badly.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.