Why I must Protest – Kinder Morgan – Pacific Rim National Park Oil Spill – Climate Change

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On Saturday morning my family and I will be making the trek to Vancouver to join in the protest against the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The last time I attended a major protest was in 2003 for the Iraq War…. before I even had a family… it has been a long time.

(If you would like to join us, or would like me to carry a message of support for you please get in touch at alberniweather@gmail.com or chris_alemany@portalberni.ca or Facebook or Twitter @chrisalecanada)

And on Monday night at 7PM at Port Alberni City Hall I will be attending a  vigil on the same issue that is part of a national day of action against Kinder Morgan.

As a Councillor for the City of Port Alberni I am tasked to make decisions and actions that will serve our community not only while I am in office but long after.  Nearly every session at the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September had some element of Climate Change involved and none of it was positive.  This problem is hitting communities and taxpayers today.  We cannot pass the buck to the next group of politicians… that has already been allowed to happen too many times over the past decades.  In order to protect our communities and ensure they are the most prosperous they can be now and long into the future, we must take action, and that includes standing up to other levels of government that would force unwise decisions upon our citizens.

Here is why:

Oil Spills in Barkley Sound and Pacific Rim

If the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is improved, oil tanker traffic in front of Barkley Sound (entering Juan de Fuca) will increase by nearly seven fold.

Here’s one at this moment, headed to Puget Sound.


While oil tankers have plied these waters for decades without incident, our Coast remains named the “Graveyard of the Pacific“.  We see a significant number of distress calls and marine incidents every year.  All it would take is for one oil tanker to lose power during a major storm and she could be on the rocks at Cape Beale or Port Renfrew in a matter of hours. The commitment by the company to fund a new Marine Response Unit in Port Alberni means they recognize that threat too.

If you have watched the boondoggle on the Central Coast though, with the tug boat that sank and leaked a few thousand litres of diesel you will know that our ability to clean stuff up on the water is rudimentary at best.  Diesel is relatively easy to clean up… much of it even evaporates. (Picture below from DeSmog.ca)


The diluted bitumen carried by the oil tankers will be heavy, thick, and may even simply sink and foul an indeterminate amount of the ocean floor (Gov of Canada 2013 study).  Here are the results of that study.

The major results of the studies were:

  •   Like conventional crude oil, both diluted bitumen products floated on saltwater (free of sediment), even after evaporation and exposure to light and mixing with water;
  •   When fine sediments were suspended in the saltwater, high-energy wave action mixed the sediments with the diluted bitumen, causing the mixture to sink or be dispersed as floating tarballs;
  • Under conditions simulating breaking waves, where chemical dispersants have proven effective with conventional crude oils, a commercial chemical dispersant (Corexit 9500) had quite limited effectiveness in dispersing dilbit;
  •   Application of fine sediments to floating diluted bitumen was not effective in helping to disperse the products;
  •   The two diluted bitumen products display some of the same behaviours as conventional petroleum products (i.e. fuel oils and conventional crude oils), but also significant differences, notably for the rate and extent of evaporation.

Our best hope appears to be that if there is an oil spill, it is a flat calm day….

The threat to our coastal fishery industry, our health, and the precious Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Broken Group is significant.

The only prevention method is to not have the tankers there in the first place.

Climate Change and Extreme Ice Loss

Last Thursday the United Nations released the latest “Emissions Gap” (pdf) report: (Chapter 6 – Page 59/60)

Activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by national, regional, and municipal governments, as well as businesses, civic groups, and individual citizens have substantially increased in recent years. These actions need to expand even further in number and ambition in order to achieve the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement: to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and to work towards a 1.5°C target. To reach these goals net GHG emissions need to reach zero by mid-century.

…. An important component of any future emissions accounting analysis would be to evaluate if individual projects are compatible with the 1.5°C and 2°C limits. Determining a project’s absolute emission reductions does not necessarily speak to whether the project is aligned with the internationally recognised 1.5°C and 2°C limits for global temperature rise.

I have bolded the quotes above to emphasize the fact that in order to avoid catastrophic changes to our planet, the world’s governments have agreed to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2ºC” and work towards “a target of 1.5ºC” and that is only possible if we are net-zero by 2050.

That is only 33 years away.  That is well within my lifetime and probably the lifetime of the majority of Canadians.

Is the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure with projects like Kinder Morgan “compatible with the 1.5ºC and 2ºC limits”.  No.  They cannot be.  The first criteria is that the projects reduce consumption and emissions.  This pipeline expansion will increase them.

Kinder Morgan is not compatible with 1.5ºC or 2.0ºC global warming targets.

Watching the Ice go away…

I have talked extensively about Arctic sea ice loss and its potential impact on weather in our region in posts in the past.  Today, I return to the topic with the following three graphs from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Figure 2a. The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of November 1, 2016, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2016 is shown in blue, 2015 in green, 2014 in orange, 2013 in brown, and 2012 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Figure 2a. The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of November 1, 2016, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2016 is shown in blue, 2015 in green, 2014 in orange, 2013 in brown, and 2012 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data.
Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

And below are graphs showing all of the years in the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice satellite record with 2016 sticking out as way below the lowest at both poles.

img_9552 img_9553

Clearly multiple years of hottest-ever global temperatures are having a major impact on our poles.

In the Northern Hemisphere this likely means more bouts of meandering for the jetstream. 

In the Antarctic the scientists at NSIDC say:


 The rapid early reduction in sea ice cover in this region may create favorable conditions for the break up of the eastern Peninsula ice shelves at the end of austral summer. Similar sea ice trends and weather conditions were present during the spring seasons preceding past ice shelf retreats (e.g., 2001 to 2002). Extensive open water, created by the downsloping fosters warmer air and surface melting, and allows longer-period ocean waves to reach the ice front of the ice shelves.

All of these reasons, and more (including local Flooding, Fires, Drought, etc etc), are why I will be in Vancouver on Saturday protesting with thousands of others to stop this pipeline and keep that oil in the ground.  That is why I will be at Port Alberni City Hall on Monday night attending a vigil for the same cause.

This is the fight of our generation.  As loyal readers interested in the weather and how it affects us every day and residents and citizens of this beautiful region, and the world, I hope you can support me.