By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
VICTORIA – A delayed, discredited, but highly-anticipated environmental audit of the British Columbia government’s…
VICTORIA – A delayed, discredited, but highly-anticipated environmental audit of the British Columbia government’s carbon-cutting program by auditor general John Doyle says the pollution-reduction plan isn’t credible.
The audit drew immediate fire from the government and operators of the program who accused Doyle of ignoring evidence and lacking proper expertise to examine the carbon-trading system.
“We concluded that the provincial government has not met its objective of achieving a carbon neutral public sector,” said Doyle’s report.
“An Audit of Carbon Neutral Government,” was released Wednesday after a series of earlier leaks prompted the Speaker of the legislature to delay its release for one day.
Doyle’s report said Crown-owned Pacific Carbon Trust, formed to ensure the province reaches its goal of carbon neutrality, has not purchased credible carbon offsets and it paid above-market rates for the carbon offsets it purchased.
“Government is reporting on its efforts to reduce emissions and its progress in achieving a carbon neutral government,” stated the audit. “However, the PCT has not provided sufficient information in its reporting about the cost and quality of its purchases.”
But barely an hour after the release of Doyle’s report, B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake called a news conference to dismiss its conclusions.
“We reject entirely his conclusion that the offsets he examined are not credible,” said Lake.
He noted that international carbon experts have endorsed B.C.’s carbon purchasing and measuring methods, while one of Doyle’s independent expert advisers, University of Ottawa Prof. Stewart Elgie, quit due to concerns about the audit’s direction.
The Pacific Carbon Trust board of governors issued a statement critical of the report just as Doyle’s audit was released.
“The board of directors takes its governance responsibilities extremely seriously and we are concerned by the findings and statements in this report,” said the statement. “We are most concerned that the conclusions are contrary to the auditing opinions provided by eight other independent expert bodies that reviewed these carbon offset projects.”
The statement said the board was concerned that eight other independent entities reviewed and found B.C.’s offsets are credible. The directors also expressed concern that Doyle’s lead investigator told directors at the start of the audit that he considered the offset results weren’t credible.
Lead auditor Morris Sydor, who commented on the audit on behalf of Doyle, said he believed he was the person who raised the concerns with the carbon trust’s board of directors. Sydor, who described himself as a tenacious auditor, said he recalls telling members of the board he was looking for answers.
The audit examined two offset projects, the Kootenay-area Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project and the Dawson Creek-area Encana Underbalanced Drilling Project.
“We found that both offset projects started without showing that the value of offsets was considered to the extent that it provided the incentive for going ahead — an important consideration for demonstrating the eligibility of offset projects,” stated the report. “We also found that neither project had a baseline that could be supported.”
Sydor said the office of the auditor general was prepared for the political and industry backlash the report has received after discovering last summer there appeared to be an orchestrated campaign underway to discredit the audit.
“Basically, it was an attempt to try and negate the impacts of our report before it actually came out,” he said. “We were not surprised when the information started coming out that letters had been sent out indicating concern about issues we were examining and whether we were qualified or not.”
Leaked letters that surfaced before the report’s release showed that carbon trading experts were concerned about Doyle’s report, calling it useless and saying it created controversy where none exists.
The Speaker of the B.C. legislature Bill Barisoff held back Tuesday’s scheduled release of Doyle’s audit, citing a possible breach of Parliament involving distribution of the report prior to Barisoff’s office receiving the document.
Independent MLA Bob Simpson said he received an embargoed copy of the report from the office of the auditor general on Monday and New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Krog said he was almost certain the NDP also received a copy.
Doyle’s office issued a statement saying he regularly shares embargoed copies of his reports with who he considers interested members of the legislature.
New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming said the overall thrust of the report questions the use of public money to help private businesses purchase carbon offsets.
“That has never passed the public-nod test,” he said.
Doyle’s report makes six recommendations, including: that the Pacific Carbon Trust provide greater transparency about the cost effectiveness of the offsets it purchases.
“For the projects examined in this audit, we found that the Pacific Carbon Trust had to pay more than market rates for both offset projects,” said the audit.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:58 AM - 0 Comments
The CBC provided us with an interesting case study in science reporting on Monday as its “community team” blog trumpeted “UN climate change projections made in 1990 ‘coming true.’”
Climate change projections made over two decades ago have stood the test of time, according to a new report published Monday in the journal Nature.
The world is warming at a rate that is consistent with forecasts made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 22 years ago.
Climate scientists from around the world forecasted the global mean temperature trend for a 40-year period, from 1990 to 2030—and at this halfway point the report authors have found the projections “seem accurate” after accounting for natural fluctuations.
These are absolutely all the numbers you are going to get out of this news item. And if you peruse the new assessment of the 1990 IPCC predictions, which was actually published on the Nature Climate Change website, what you find is a more nuanced picture than the CBC’s “They nailed it, no worries” interpretation implies.
David Frame and Dáithí Stone write that the 1990 IPCC report predicted a rise in global mean temperatures of between 0.7 degrees C and 1.5 degrees C by the year 2030; on a linear interpolation, we might have expected half the increase to have occurred by now. The actual observed warming during the past 20 years (almost all of it taking place in the first ten) has been in the vicinity of 0.35 degrees C to 0.39 degrees C, “on the borderline” of the range given in 1990. In other words, the IPCC’s point estimate was high, and the overall warming has been consistent with the outer confidence bounds of their stated prediction, but barely.
Frame and Stone think, with some justification, that this is a pretty good performance given the simplicity of the climate models available at the time. It’s especially good, they think, because the models could not predict what would happen in the economy, or below the planet’s crust. Their story is that the Earth caught a series of lucky breaks despite the substantive failure of greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
The highlighted [IPCC] prediction assumed a business-as-usual scenario of GHG emissions; three other scenarios were considered and in fact Scenario B (which assumed a shift to natural gas, a decrease in the deforestation rate, and implementation of the Montreal Protocol, all independent of global climate negotiations) was closer to the mark as of 2010, especially with respect to methane emissions… Of course, [even these Scenario B] predictions were based on idealized future scenarios that did not foresee the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc industry, or the growth of some Asian economies, so one could argue that the prediction is right for the wrong reasons.
The authors conclude by noting that predicting the future is a lot harder than predicting the past—and, unfortunately, the resolving power of crystal balls has not improved much since 1990.
…the 1990 prediction following [the IPCC's] business-as-usual scenario covered a full 0.4ºC range due solely to uncertainty in the climate sensitivity that has not narrowed substantially so far, whereas a larger range was implied by the examination of further scenarios of emissions and a larger range still should have been considered owing to uncertainty in the evolution of natural forcings and internally generated variability.
Believers in and skeptics of the threat from anthropogenic climate change will both find promising fodder in this paper for conversion into mountains of delicious hay. (Mind the carbon emissions, though.) I’ll resist the temptation to join in that exercise, but it is very clear that the authors’ “Well done” message to the IPCC carries a sizable asterisk. If the CBC is going to report on a scientific paper, why not show some indication somebody has read it?
By Julia Belluz - Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:37 AM - 7 Comments
Do energy rebates help the environment or fund home makeovers that would have happened anyway?
When the federal EcoEnergy retrofit initiative was cancelled on March 31 of last year, the Toronto Environment Office had already been working for several months on designing a home energy retrofit program for low-income owners and renters. Lawson Oates, director of the environment office, says his team expected to piggyback on federal and provincial incentives to offset costs for the program. In particular, they were motivated by EcoEnergy, which had been launched by the Conservatives in April 2007, offering grants of up to $5,000 per home to carry out energy saving improvements and hopefully reduce carbon footprints. But by 2010, after spending $91 million on 85,000 home renovations, the federal government announced the program had been too popular and suspended it a year ahead of schedule. This left the city of Toronto’s scheme in shambles, and short nearly $50,000.
Bureaucratic foul-ups may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to troubles with energy rebate programs. With EcoEnergy poised for a revival—an extra $400 million was allocated for the initiative in the Conservatives’ now-defunct 2011 budget—experts across the board are questioning whether the subsidies are any use at all, or simply free money for renovation projects people would do anyway. Still others complain that poor management of the program has wreaked havoc on the entire retrofit industry.
Those who perform energy audits—building experts licensed under the program to assess houses for inefficiencies—say the on-again, off-again approach of the government has put their businesses in limbo. The Toronto-based energy auditing organization GreenSaver says it will experience a sudden reduction in business this week, after the deadline for post-retrofit audits (those who signed on to the program before it expired still had one year to complete a required final audit after their renovations were completed). “Right now, we are busy like crazy because people are trying to get to the deadline in the next two or three days,” says Vladan Veljovic, GreenSaver’s CEO, “but our business is going to drop off to nothing.”