November 19, 2014

Framing carbon pricing the right way

Former Canadian reform party founder and leader Preston Manning has a piece in the Globe and Mail this morning about the pitfalls to avoid when trying to sell the Canadian public on carbon pricing. He is currently a member of the Canadian Ecofiscal Group’s advisory board. He has five recommendations for improving communication with the general public around the benefits of carbon taxation, which includes making scientists and academics the lead messengers for the movement. “Most importantly, if scientists and academics are to be credible voices for economy-environment integration, their presentations need to be much more ‘receiver oriented’ – employing concepts and language readily understandable by public audiences, rather than academic ones,” Manning writes.

 

Keystone XL’s fate remains undetermined

While opponents of the controversial pipeline were celebrating the U.S. Senate’s narrow defeat of the Keystone XL approval bill last night, the issue remains far from settled. The bill failed to overcome the filibuster-proof 60 votes needed. But these numbers will change in January with the swearing in of a number of newly-elected Senators that support the pipeline. The president has hinted that he would likely veto any stand-alone Keystone approval bill, but Reuters reported Wednesday morning that anonymous sources inside the White House are now floating the possibility of trading approval of the pipeline in exchange for Republican support for some of the President’s other legislative priorities.

 

The heartland of coal production

Americans may think of the Appalachian region of the United State as coal country, but the Powder River Basin in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming has become the largest source for American coal over the past decade. Forty per cent of the nation’s coal production now comes out of this region. The Guardian has an inside look at the world’s biggest coal mine, Peabody Coal’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine. The operation spans 11,300 hectares of prairie where extraction remains profitable because the raw material is so close the surface. Twenty-one freight trains leave daily to transport coal to over 100 power plants across the country.

 

Acid flashbacks

As consequential as the Acid Rain Accord and subsequent environmental gains may have been, Canadian lakes continue to suffer the long-term consequences of acidification. A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that the depletion of calcium levels in Ontario lakes will take thousands of years to return naturally. “While we’ve stopped acid rain and improved the pH of many of these lakes, we cannot claim complete recovery from acidification,” the study reads. “Instead, we may have pushed these lakes into an entirely new ecological state.” This symptom of acidification has led to traditional forms of plankton being replaced with a new form called Holopedium. This new arrival has already begun to clog filtration systems for drinking water, and has the potential to disrupt the entire food chain.

 

Transit may cut car traffic much more than ridership alone suggests

How much traffic does a transit line keep off the streets? Looking at ridership alone only tells part of the story, according a new study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association. The full impact of a transit line on motor vehicle traffic can far exceed the direct effect of substituting rail or bus trips for car rides. This is partially because households living near the light rail walked more and traveled shorter distances when they did drive. Walking increased 151 percent among people living in the transit-oriented communities, the study found. That was possible because, following the addition of light rail, city, regional, and state agencies took steps to encourage walkable development around the transit line. And it worked. The total driving mileage avoided by households living near transit amounted to three times the avoided mileage due solely to switching from driving to transit.

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