This week a group of climate experts published a letter detailing the climate impacts of the proposed tripling of the Trans Mountain pipeline which carries oilsands diluted bitumen and other fuels from Alberta to the Port of Vancouver. The group represents 27 climate experts – a mix of economists, scientists and political and social scientists – from major British Columbian universities who were recently rejected from the pipeline hearing process because they proposed to discuss the project’s significance for global climate change.

According to Simon Donner, associate professor from the University of British Columbia and climate variability expert, “the government is ignoring the expertise of not just scientists, but policy analysts and economists.”

“You'd have an easier time finding a seat at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals than an expert who thinks the energy policy is consistent with Canada meeting this government's own promised emissions target,” he told DeSmog Canada.

For Donner, the exclusion of climate experts from National Energy Board (NEB) pipeline hearings throws the legitimacy of the environmental assessment process into question.

“The NEB and the federal government want to make a decision about the environmental and social impact of the pipeline expansion without considering one of the biggest long-term threats to the environment and society – climate change,” he said.

In the letter the group of experts said the Trans Mountain pipeline “alone is expected to lead to 50 per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year than all of British Columbia currently produces.”

They also pointed out that “the purpose of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is to increase the oil sands’ access to global markets…additional bitumen production needed to meet the pipeline capacity would increase Canada’s annual CO2 emissions by over 27 million tonnes.”

To meet our 2020 target – to reduce emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels – Canada must significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Oilsands represent the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and are expected to account for a full 78 per cent of emissions growth by 2020, the letter states.

Increases in oilsands production are canceling out the emissions gains made in other sectors, including the transportation sector. The authors point out that, despite repeated promises, the Canadian government has failed to regulate emissions from the oil and gas sector.

“The problem is that Canada has no system to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector,” Donner said, putting greater pressure on the need to account for climate impacts on a project-by-project basis. 

“If we had a system for evaluating if proposed carbon-intensive projects are compatible with our federal emissions target, then the National Energy Board's decision [to reject climate experts] would be reasonable. But with no federal policy, these hearings are the only option.”

Full list of ousted climate experts and letter signatories:

  • Simon Donner, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia;
  • Kathryn Harrison, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia;
  • George Hoberg, Professor, Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia;
  • Laurie Adkin, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies Programme, University of Alberta;
  • Phil Austin, Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • Kai Chan, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia;
  • Jay Cullen, Associate Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria;
  • Lori Daniels, Associate Professor, Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • Peter Dauvergne, Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues and Professor of International Relations, University of British Columbia;
  • Ken Denman, Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria;
  • Erica Frank, Professor and Canada Research Chair, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia; 
  • David Green, Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia;
  • Kevin Hanna, Associate Professor of Sustainability, I.K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • Sara Harris, Senior Instructor, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • Milind Kandlikar, Professor, Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia;
  • Karen Kohfeld, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University;
  • Ken Lertzman, Professor and Director of The Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems and Management, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University;
  • Alan Lewis, Professor Emeritus, Department of Zoology and Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • Jane Lister, Senior Research Fellow, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia;
  • Ian McKendry, Professor, Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science Program, University of British Columbia;
  • Karin Mickelson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia;
  • R. Dan Moore, Professor, Department of Geography and Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia;
  • Rashid Sumalia, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit, University of British Columbia;
  • Douw Steyn, Professor, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia;
  • David Tindall, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Department of Forest Resource Management, University of British Columbia;
  • Hisham Zerriffi, Assistant Professor and Ivan Head South/North Research Chair, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia;
  • Kirsten Zickfeld, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University.

Image Credit: TransMountain

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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