How CO2 is Measured

Today, world leaders are meeting in Paris to discuss climate change at the COP21 conference. They are going to be discussing many issues around climate change from how to lower emissions to how to deal with rising sea levels. It is up to every country to change how their policies to be more sustainable and the wealthy countries that made their riches by exploiting the environment need to do even more. How then, do they decide what to do and based on what information?

The CBC is doing a series of investigations into issues and the like related to climate change that people may still be unclear on. One of their first articles is about how CO2 is measured.

When we measure carbon dioxide, can we tell how much came from burning fossil fuels?

Yes. The carbon in carbon dioxide comes in different forms called isotopes, namely carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14. Levels of each vary depending on the source of the carbon dioxide, says Doug Worthy, study lead for Environment Canada’s greenhouse gas observational program.

Natural gas, coal and oil each also have distinct signatures for carbon-13, Worthy said.

Meanwhile, higher levels of carbon-14 mean that carbon dioxide sample is mostly from natural sources, such as plants. Lower levels mean it’s mostly from burning fossil fuels.

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Alberta Finally Understands That the Environment Exists

Alberta has finally decided to update their energy and environmental policies after years of ignoring the fact that their policies are killing nearly everything within the province. Premier Rachel Motley has announced sweeping changes that will bring Alberta into the 21st century. They are going to phase out their coal plants and put on caps on how awful the tar sands can be!

Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips dropped nothing less than a policy cluster-bomb of mandated targets, rules and often the mere hint at mechanisms and subsidy packages to enact it all. Alberta will follow British Columbia in introducing a cross-economy carbon tax, $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 the following year—rebate and offset programs to come. The province will mimic Ontario and mandate the end to coal power by 2030—compensation and negotiated phase-outs to come. Methane emissions from venting, flaring and leaking, will have to be cut nearly in half in a decade—a goal that drillers and others will struggle now to meet in near-lockstep with the Obama administration’s approach on the greenhouse gas that’s more intense than carbon.

Lastly, there’s the oilsands policy, designed to get the biggest nods and high-fives out of foreign partners and environmentalists: a hard cap on emissions from that sector, 100 megatonnes. When Notley was asked about Oil Change International’s tweet that this means “no new tar sands growth,” the premier furrowed her brow and said no. Furrowing and shaking their heads along with her were four oilsands executives invited to share the announcement, from Suncor, Shell, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Murray Edwards, the CNRL chairman few watchers expected to appear at such an event, was gushing in his congratulations about the collaboration between industry, the province and green advocacy groups: “This plan recognizes the need for balance between the environment and the economy.” The cap was set at 100 megatonnes, with more room for bitumen upgrading; Alberta’s oilsands currently produce 70. So there’s room to expand the traditionally vilified resource for years to come, and much more if they make good on pledges to slash the per-barrel emission rates. CNRL and counterparts get room to grow, and the climate change panel report by University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach predicts that in most cases, the designed changes won’t cost more than $1 per barrel for most operators.

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Vertical Kelp Farming

Farming the Sea: why eating kelp is good for you and good for the environment from Patrick Mustain on Vimeo.

GreenWave is a new non-profit that wants to improve our food sources while cleaning the seas. Kelp usually grows on the ground or sides of anything inorganic underwater, what GreenWave has done is to build an efficient way to harvest kelp from these sources. A benefit of this is that kelp naturally cleans the water around it so now we can get kelp in a faster way while cleaning the water.

As a result of their approach, GreenWave has won the Buckminster Fuller 2015 challenge.

This new approach moves us from growing vulnerable monocultures to creating vibrant ecosystems, which work to rebuild biodiversity and produce higher yields. The infrastructure is simple: seaweed, scallops and mussels grow on floating ropes, stacked above oyster and clam cages below. From these crops ocean farmers can produce food, fertilizers, animal feeds, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biofuels and much more. The farms are designed to restore, rather than deplete our ecosystems. A single acre filters millions of gallons of ocean water every day, creates homes for hundreds of wild marine and bird species and absorbs the overabundance of nitrogen and carbon (with kelp sequestering 5x more carbon than land based-plants) that are killing billions of organisms. The design requires zero-inputs—there is no need for fresh water.

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Keystone XL is Done, COP 21 Set to Start

You probably already heard the good news about the end of Keystone XL with Obama killing the proposal. This is a good symbolic step in ending the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, plus this comes just a few weeks before COP21.

COP21 is the upcoming United Nations climate change conference which is set to run from Nov. 30 to Dec.11. In the light of Keystone being killed it gives people hope that Obama will actually do something about climate change.

On the Canadian side of the border Prime Minster Trudeau (who loves pipelines, sigh) has cast Catherine McKenna as Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. A new title acknowledging that climate change is real and has to be dealt with – a step forward from the idiotic climate approach from the Conservatives previously in power.

Keystone XL being nixed may be just the thing North America needs to show up at COP21. With the pipeline project over, other countries may actually start respecting North America on environmental matters.

TransCanada first applied for Keystone permits in September 2008 — shortly before Obama was elected. As envisioned, Keystone would snake from Canada’s oilsands through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Democrats and environmental groups latched onto Keystone as emblematic of the type of dirty fossil fuels that must be phased out. Opponents chained themselves to construction equipment and the White House fence in protest, arguing that building the pipeline would be antithetical to Obama’s call for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

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Improve Your Soil to Fight Climate Change

Suburbanization and poor land policy have done incredible damage to soil and food systems. It turns out that the damage down to the soil itself is a contributing factor to the increased speed in human-created climate change. So to slow down the rate of climate change we can improve our soil and you can do so locally or on a large scale.

“We need to focus on the carbon dioxide supply into the atmosphere, but we really need to focus on the demand side as well,” says Larry Kopald, co-founder of The Carbon Underground, a nonprofit that’s advocates for soil carbon storage. “We have to put the CO2 back into a sink where it’s demanded and where it is useful, and improve the reabsorption of the carbon that is already out there.”

Constant plowing causes erosion, allowing soil content to flow into waterways or be blown away. And climate change itself exacerbates soil carbon loss, recent research has shown.

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