Dry for a while – open burning ban – CO2 limits imposed

There isn’t a drop of rain in the forecast for the next few days and only a slight chance of moisture over the weekend. That has prompted the BC Forest Service to issue their summertime open burning ban for our region which will last until October 15th. The current fire danger is high in the Alberni Valley, that’s the highest value on the Island. So please be careful. Campfires are not banned but caution should always be taken.

As I’ve shown many times on this blog, the jetstream is generally what controls our weather, bringing us rain and wind when it floes over top or near us and ensuring dry, warm, or cold weather when it abandons us to the north or south.

Here is today’s analysis of where the jetstream is in the atmosphere right now.

As you can see, it’s kind of all over the place, weak and disorganized but generally seems to be travelling north of us over our ridge of high pressure that is bringing us all the nice weather.

20140603-065954-25194146.jpgBy later this week it looks like it will get a little more organized and straighten out a bit and likely direct a little more flow our way from the Pacific. This might moderate our temperatures a bit and give us more opportunity for fog.

Speaking of fog, there were some wisps of fog this morning hanging about the Valley, but
20140603-065505-24905307.jpg they’ve already burned off providing another great view from the webcam.

I wanted to finally mention the big news out of the USA yesterday where President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency introduced major new limits to CO2 from coal fired powerplants. Unlike Canada, which has very few coal fired electricity plants, the USA still has many. 48 of 50 states have a coal fired electricity station. The plan is to have emissions from those “thermal” coal fired stations cut by 30% by 2030. . In case you are wondering what our biggest source of CO2 is in Canada? It is the energy sector, thanks to the Oilsands. Our government has not announced plans to curb emissions from that sector. Eventually we as a country will be forced to face the problem of our economy being completely reliant on jobs from an industry that is built to emit CO2 in vast quantities. It is not viable, but that is another topic.

Will these limits in the US make a difference to climate change? It’s a big step. The EPA estimates savings to the US economy of $48-$82 Billion in health care and climate disruption related costs. Current CO2 emissions from electricity generating stations in the US are around 2 billion tonnes per year or about 6% of total global emissions in 2012 of 31 billion tonnes.. So seeing as coal is the #1 generator of electricity in the US, cutting their emissions by 30% will likely result in a cut of 1-2% in global emissions. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider it is only one sector, of only one country in the entire world. That’s a big chunk to be able to be made in one go, and it speaks to the amount of reductions that are possible by taking simple steps like phasing out coal fired plants that are nearing the end of their workable life anyway.

What will replace them? In most cases, probably nothing, as the plan seems largely focused on reducing energy consumption as a whole and thus increasing the energy and carbon efficiency of the economy.

The EIA shows that CO2 emissions from the US economy has already started to decline, which is good.. And most of that decline is through efficiency improvements rather than recessionary pressures.

We can also see that because of low natural gas prices, coal has already been declining as an energy source in the US. This policy could accelerate that decline and hopefully make it permanent.

20140603-073210-27130761.jpg If large producers use this opportunity to shift to natural gas in a big way, expect your natural gas prices to rise. In terms of CO2 reductions though, this might only be a stop gap since obviously natural gas is still a major source of CO2 emissions. What will be interesting will be to see how many, and some will, major utilities shift to solar, wind, or most likely, a combination of large scale alternative energy sources to replace capacity in their systems.

All over the world, including in India, solar power plants are being installed for prices competitive,or cheaper, than coal fired plants.

And that is where this policy could really make a difference. With the USA finally stepping up to make a major shift in its energy and emissions capacity, the worlds other major emitters in China, India, the UK, Canada and Russia are more likely to follow suit. As costs already pile up from climate disruption related weather events, they must.

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