The oil sands industry is in the throes of a major expansion, powered by C$20 billion ($19 billion) a year in investments. Companies including Syncrude Canada Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. affiliate Imperial Oil Ltd. are running out of room to store the contaminated water that is a byproduct of the process used to turn bitumen — a highly viscous form of petroleum — into diesel and other fuels.
By 2022 they will be producing so much of the stuff that a month’s output of wastewater could turn an area the size of New York’s Central Park into a toxic reservoir 11 feet (3.4 meters) deep, according to the Pembina Institute, a nonprofit in Calgary that promotes sustainable energy.
To tackle the problem, energy companies have drawn up plans that would transform northern Alberta into the largest man-made lake district on Earth. Several firms have obtained permission from provincial authorities to flood abandoned tar sand mines with a mix of tailings and fresh water.
One big concern surrounding end-pit lakes is that the contaminated water will spread through the boreal ecosystem, the tract of trees and marshland that stretches around the top of the world from Canada to Russia and Scandinavia. Boreal forests store almost twice as much carbon as tropical forests.
A train hauling crude oil caught fire in Canada sparking debate about reliability.
Rail safety has become a central issue in Canada since the July disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in the center of the lakeside town, killing 47 people.
But in contrast to Lac-Megantic, where the explosions razed dozens of buildings in the center of town, pictures from near Gainford showed Saturday’s fire was burning alongside a road in open country, with fields and forests on either side.
Still, Gainford residents were asked to leave their homes because of the risk of another explosion, and Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said the evacuation would continue for as long as needed – up to 72 hours. The main east-west highway traversing central Alberta was also closed.
This overpass helps bears cross a highway in Canada.
Bear hair study in Banff proves animal highway crossings work
For three years, researchers from Montana State University spent their summers collecting bear hair. The samples, collected on both sides of the 50 mile stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway that cuts through Banff National Park, prove what the researchers had suspected: wildlife underpasses and bridges were helping enough bears move back and forth across the highway to keep the populations healthy.
The Trans-Canada Highway stretches nearly 5,000 miles acrowss the country, rolling through each of the nation’s 10 provinces and connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The 100 miles that pass through Banff National Park is a blip in the entire stretch of highway, but a potentially deadly obstacle for the wildlife that live in the park. Demand for a bigger, faster road system prompted a widening of the highway in the 1990s. During construction, engineers lined the highway with fencing and built underpasses and bridges for animals to cross, with the theory they would reduce collisions and provide animals safe passage. However, the decision was controversial as there was little data to backup the hunch.
Many Canadian cities and towns are ill-prepared for the rising frequency of catastrophic weather events like the southern Alberta floods, a costly delay that hits taxpayers’ wallets, climate change experts say.
[A] community’s ability to react during a disaster is one thing. Minimizing the impact of a flood is another. Now, the province faces a potentially decade-long cleanup effort that could cost $5 billion by BMO Nesbitt Burns estimates.
Disaster risk management experts say the Alberta situation should serve as a wake-up call to municipalities across the country of the need to spend money and time mitigating the risks before disaster strikes, especially as climate change is predicted to bring bigger and more frequent severe weather events.
"We go from disaster to disaster … being sure that we protect a life so people are protected and then finding the best way how we pay for that," said Slobodan Simonovic, author of Floods in a Changing Climate: Risk Management. “But what we are doing is we are simply reacting to that, paying for that. We are not investing in the reduction or minimization of the future.”
On average, Canada gets 20 more days of rain now than it did in the 1950s. While flooding – the costliest natural disaster for Canadians – was once mainly a spring event due to the combination of frozen ground and rainfall, it’s now increasingly happening in the summer.
I completely missed the major flood in Calgary last month. City looks totally flooded my muddy river water. I’m not sure what happened at this point, but I suspect flash-storms, a fast river system (boxed in by old-school engineering), and poor drainage systems. I’ll investigate.
Canada International Development Agency (CIDA) is a government agency that assists developing countries with disasters, food security, education, health, and sustainability. It is now a conduit for selling military equipment.
The Harper government is merging Canada’s foreign aid agency with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
It also plans to leverage billions in spending on military equipment into making Canada an arms exporter.
The two moves, revealed in Thursday’s federal budget, put to sleep any doubts about the government’s desire to use all means possible to advance Canadian business and commercial interests throughout the world.
The government says its decision to roll the Canadian International Development Agency into Foreign Affairs was a reflection of increased “linkages between our foreign policy, development and trade objectives.”
The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will continue to tackle poverty in developing countries, the government said, and there were no immediate signs it was planning to implement new cuts to Canada’s approximately $4.5-billion aid budget.
The government will also retain a minister for development and humanitarian assistance, and said it plans to strengthen the minister’s position by enshrining its roles and responsibilities in law for the first time.
Water from the world’s shrinking glaciers was responsible for almost a third of the rise in sea levels between 2003 and 2009, shows new research.
An international team of scientist compared data gleaned from two NASA satellites as well as traditional ground measurements from glaciers around the world.
Their work, published in the journal Science , is the most accurate estimation of how glaciers contribute to sea level rises to date.
"For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise," says lead author Assistant Professor Alex Gardner, assistant geography professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets."
The most significant ice losses occurred in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas, the study found.
The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the period, leading to a rise in ocean levels of about 0.7 millimeters per year.
By contrast the glaciers in Antarctica, smaller ice masses that are not connected to the ice sheet, made scarcely any contribution to sea-level rise over the study period.
AMAP is one of five Working Groups of the Arctic Council.
The primary function of AMAP is to advise the governments of the eight Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) on matters relating to threats to the Arctic region from pollution, and associated issues.