COP23: Canadian Perspective (J.Q. Stanley)

The year 2017 has shown us in horrific detail the immediate and devastating results of anthropogenic climate change. The symptoms of a planet in the throes of environmental sickness have manifested themselves this year with a turbulent Atlantic hurricane season, hellish Californian wildfires, and at home, ravaging spring floods in Quebec. These events, and others like them, provided ammunition to the ever growing list of environmental issues which were tackled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany this November.

In 1992 the global conversation surrounding climate change began in earnest following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the subsequent adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a conference of parties (COP) have formally met in various parts of the world since 1995 in order to have an open dialogue concerning environmental issues on a global scale.

This year from November 6-17 the 23rd conference of parties met in Bonn, Germany along with those additionally involved in the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. (1) Along with indigenous leaders, opposition party members, NGO representatives, and citizen experts, the Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna represented Canada on the world stage this year at COP23. McKenna used her platform to express Canada’s plans to implement a national carbon pricing policy, the further reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, and made some serious strides in working to phase out Canada’s usage of fossil fuels; a stark deviation from current U.S. goals. (2)

In a bizarre turn of events, the U.S. delegation in Bonn presented an event on the role of “clean fossil fuels” and faced denouncing jeers from an unofficial counter U.S. delegation led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Canada rose to the top and declared an international alliance with Britain’s Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry to disband with coal entirely as a viable power source.

In explaining the new coalition dubbed, “Powering Past Coal”, McKenna said “Canada is committed to phasing out coal. We’ve created an alliance with the U.K., we’re going to get other countries around the world to help support moving forward on a coal phase-out. Coal is not only the most polluting fossil fuel but it’s also terrible for health.” (2) The two ministers will work in union together to push for the elimination of unbated coal powered plants across the globe. While at the conference, McKenna tweeted “Burning coal [is] responsible for 41% of our global emissions. The largest single source world wide. Phasing out coal represents a massive opportunity and #ClimateAction” (4) Back at home Canada has committed itself to becoming completely free of coal produced energy by 2030.

Canada’s participation in the conference of parties this year also saw an unprecedented shift towards welcoming an indigenous perspective on climate change action.  This came as a result of wording contained within the Paris Treaty which calls for a UN platform for indigenous and local community climate action. (5) In honoring this, and holding true to the Trudeau government’s call for more indigenous representation, the Assembly of First Nations participated as an envoy at COP23. The delegation, led by indigenous leader Bill Erasmus, engaged in the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, a meeting to promote an acknowledgement of native knowledge of environmental processes and solutions. Erasmus detailed the importance of a global ingenious voice, “The parties need to respect and take into account traditional knowledge when scientific measures are being used, recognize Indigenous Peoples’ authority in their own homelands and territories when it comes to climate change.” (5) In support of Canada’s federal government, Erasmus has affirmed his faith that Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna will continue to honour the Paris Treaty and the rights of indigenous peoples.

As part of the robust Canadian involvement this year, COP23 also saw the formation of a North American Climate Leadership Dialogue created with both Mexico as well as a somewhat rogue alliance of 15 U.S. governors working in opposition to the current Trump administration’s views on climate change. The alliance aims to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as aligned within the Paris Climate Agreement, and offers an optimistic representation of potential future agreements to further champion climate change action. (6)

Ultimately, Canada’s role in COP23 was a crucial one. As an influential industrialized nation, and both a neighbour and competitor to the U.S., a Canadian perspective and call to action against the devastation being done to our planet must be as loud as can be. However, in order to stay true as a world leader in this human endeavour, Canada must not forget its own part in contributing to global climate change. “The first thing you have to do is have a plan; you have to implement your plan, and then you have to ratchet up ambition.” Catherine McKenna said before leaving for the COP23 conference, “That’s part of the Paris agreement, and that’s what we’re absolutely committed to doing.” (7)

For the sake of the planet, let’s work together to make sure she’s right.

(J.Q. Stanley is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is currently enrolled in Professor Olive’s environmental policy course).




Nitrogen Pollution Poses Threat to Canada’s Freshwater (By V. Nader)


Source: The Great Lakes have the potential to become a dead zone due to nitrogen pollution.

“Rain, rain go away/ Come again another day!” This nursery rhyme resonates a lot with me considering the heavy downpour that Ontario has been experiencing this summer. The heavy rain has gone so far to cause record-breaking water levels in various regions across Canada, such as Lake Ontario! Unfortunately, there is nothing the rhyme can do because the rain is here to stay as a result of climate change.

The warmer weather onset by climate change has resulted in more rain, which, unfortunately, has increased nitrogen pollution in Canada’s water supply. The following tweet made by Catherine McKenna sheds light on the issue:


Nitrogen is a naturally occurring element that is necessary for the survival of all plants and animals. However, as a result of the industrial revolution, humans have invented a reactive form of nitrogen that has enabled the food production process to keep up with the growing population.

According to the N-Print Project, “humans create over two times as much reactive nitrogen as nature. In contrast, human activity contributes just 5-10% of CO2 emissions. Much of this reactive nitrogen has accumulated in the environment, where it causes a series of negative impacts to human and ecosystem health.” This reactive nitrogen stems from agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels and causes various environmental impacts such as smog, acid rain, coastal ‘dead zones’, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion and increased greenhouse gases. It also affects human health, including respiratory disease and an increased risk for birth defects.

The increased rainfall as a result of climate change has caused more nitrogen run-off from agricultural activities to pollute the water supply, thus exacerbating algae growth and expanding dead zones in coastal areas. A study in the Science journal reveals that the amount of nitrogen pollution in American rivers can increase by 19 per cent by the end of the century if countries continue contribute to produce GHG emissions at a high rate, thus severely impacting various water bodies, most notably the Great Lakes.

It is clear that nitrogen pollution has significant and negative implications for the environment – the most pressing being the one for Canada’s water supply. Canada is more susceptible to the impacts of climate change and resource development interaction since it is warming more rapidly than equatorial regions due to its northern location and economic reliance on resources. Hence, urgent action is required to prevent degradation and destruction of Canadian freshwater ecosystems as a result of the effects of climate change and resource development.

Fortunately, action has been taken in the form of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which was launched in 2010 by the U.S. federal government. The action plan has a major focus on the following:

  • Cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful/nuisance algal blooms
  • Restoring habitat to protect native species

However, President Trump recently attempted to cut the budget of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million (U.S.) to $0 as his administration argued that “state and local groups are engaged and capable of taking on management of cleanup and restoration of these water bodies.” Thankfully, his proposal was rejected by his party, the Republicans, because everyone, but Trump, recognizes the great importance of safeguarding water and the environment. Under his administration, I expect a significant increase in nitrogen pollution and the degradation of the environment due to his encouragement of coal fuel. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the only thing in place to help protect the water otherwise.

In my opinion, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a great short-term plan as it focuses on cleaning up the water body, but long-term plans involving the reduction of the output of excessive nitrogen is imperative. Proposed solutions put forth by University of Victoria researchers Sybil Seitzinger and Leigh Phillips for reducing nitrogen include genetic modification of grains to reduce their nitrogen levels, switching to lab-produced meat, and more basic measures like improved sewage treatment and more efficient application of fertilizers. I think Canada should adopt a limit on nitrogen output and implement incentives for farmers to reduce the usage of nitrogen in their production. Also, as hard as this idea may be to propagate, the Canadian government could encourage people to reduce their intake of foods that output a lot of nitrogen in its production, such as livestock. They could encourage it by advertising different foods to people or running a campaign about the downsides of eating meat. I personally am a meat eater, but I would not mind eating alternative foods if it means saving the environment. We must all work towards saving our finite resources somehow!

G20 Meeting Recap (by V. Nader)


McKenna’s tweet demonstrates the G20 countries’ near unanimous agreement to commit to climate change action.

My assumption last week that Canada is a role model for other countries to emulate has been proven as TRUE! A recent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a global market research and consulting firm, has revealed that Canada is seen as having the most positive influence on world affairs today. The poll asked citizens of 25 countries the following question in 2016: “Thinking about the next decade, would you say the following countries or organizations will have an overall positive or a negative influence on world affairs?” The results can be seen in the chart below.


Charted by Statista

According to a Forbes article, “the U.S. image dropped 24 percentage points since last year’s ranking due to much of the world losing confidence in President Trump’s leadership as well as rising international skepticism about his “America First” policies.”

Interestingly enough, this change is reflected in a sentiment shared by former Canadian diplomat, Tom Bernes, after the G20 summit – which took place between July 08 – July 09, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany – when he said the G20 “is left trying to find the leadership that in the past the United States has provided as an anchor to the system.” It appears that the world is losing confidence in the U.S.’ ability to act as a global leader and, perhaps, Canada will take on the role in the next decade.

Similar to the G7 meeting, 19 out of 20 countries, the outlier being the U.S., reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Accord at the G20 summit. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, along with leaders of the other countries present at the summit, were displeased with President Trump’s decision. All 20 countries were able to agree on all points in the communiqué except for the energy and climate change section. The leaders of the G20 countries, less the U.S., state that the “Paris Agreement is irreversible.” However, while the U.S. believes otherwise due to Trump’s desire to utilize cheap energy sources, they, according to the communiqué, “will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally- determined contributions.”

I believe this statement has no merit whatsoever, it is simply issued to appease the other countries. Trump considers the Paris Agreement as just another bad deal that the U.S. got itself in and, as we can observe by now, he is committed to renegotiating all bad deals. This can be seen below in his tweet about the G20 meeting.


Despite Canada’s and the U.S.’ disagreement on climate change, amongst other issues, McKenna’s tweet reassures all that the Canada-U.S. relationship is not impacted.


A method Trudeau is employing to promote climate change action in the U.S. is by meeting with and mobilizing individual states. For example, Trudeau’s Prime Minister website reveals that he will be visiting Rhode Island on July 14th to “deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Summer Meeting of the National Governors Association.” Numerous U.S. governors will be present at the meeting to discuss issues of common concern, one of them being “common solutions on climate change.” Since Trump is adamant about disregarding climate change on a federal level, Trudeau will work with the U.S. on a state level.

I think it will be arduous to mobilize individual states, but it will definitely be worthwhile. It has been effective in the past with California and Canada, specifically Quebec and, recently, Ontario, participating in a cap-and-trade system which was implemented in 2014 to reach the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. If Trudeau can encourage more states to participate in similar initiatives, then climate change action in the U.S. will become a reality despite a Trump presidency.

As time passes, it is becoming more evident that Canada is the new global leader. I do not think it would be a stretch to say that it could replace the U.S. in the next few years in terms of its power. Former U.S. presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, tweeted a while ago that the U.S.’ affirmation of the Paris Accord is more than climate change, it is about reasserting their status as a global super power. The tweet can be seen below.


Canada is surpassing the U.S. in terms of taking initiative on various causes and the G20 summit has only affirmed that Canada is filling the void created by Trump.

The 150th Year of Canadian Environmental Politics (V. Nader)



Canada’s 150th year is a great year for environmental policy. Source

July 01st, 2017 marked Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary since Confederation and our 150th year is significant in terms of environmental policy. Over the last several weeks alone, it is evident that Canada has made great strides towards becoming a global environmental leader. The Canadian government has proved that they are serious about combating climate change by reaffirming their participation in the Paris Accord, providing substantial funds for environmental friendly projects in cities across Canada, introducing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and much more! Although the government’s efforts are not fool proof, as they approved the construction of pipelines, however they are making an conscious effort to ensure these pipelines do not cause considerable damage to the environment.

All of the environmental actions the Canadian government has taken this past year gives me the impression that Canada is experiencing its fourth wave of environmentalism. This wave of environmentalism is addressing sustainable development and climate change. Before I get into why I believe this to be so, I will give a brief background on Canada’s waves of environmentalism.

Canada’s waves of environmentalism began after the formation of the federal government in 1867 when, as mentioned in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, “North Americans saw the continent as a destructible place and realized that resources, especially wildlife and forests, were not limitless” (Olive 2016, 81). The first wave involved the creation of national parks, which served a dual purpose of conserving forests and driving tourism, and it was solidified with the enactment of The Rocky Mountains Park Act of 1887. Much later in the 1960s, the second wave of environmentalism occurred when people became aware of environmental issues, especially concerning pollution and energy. This wave can be said to be spearheaded by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau because of his ambitious environmental agenda which led to the establishment of the Department of the Environment in 1971 and the enactment of various policies that addressed pollution. Finally, the third wave of environmentalism in the late 1980s and early 1990s dealt with problems surrounding acid rain, wildlife, and ozone layer of which Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took great care. It is said that “Mulroney is arguable Canada’s ‘greenest’ prime minister given the number of environmental treaties and laws made during his time in office” (Olive 2016, 86). Given Canada’s environmental history, it is clear that we are currently experiencing a fourth wave of environmentalism.

I believe all of the necessary components are aligned to make way for Canada’s fourth wave of environmentalism. Under the previous Harper administration, voters, federalism, and an economy based on natural resources were considered constraints to Canada’s domestic national policy concerning climate change. However, in 2017, all of the components for a wave are in place which are: the current administration is run by Justin Trudeau, who is pro-environment just like his father in the second wave of environmentalism; the establishment of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which requires all provinces to adopt environmental policy set forth by the federal government (for example the national price on carbon); and Canada’s goal of phasing out the use of coal energy by 2030 in favour of alternative energy, such as nuclear plants.

Further evidence that supports that Canada is experiencing a wave is the country’s economic prosperity.


Canada’s economy expanded at an annual pace of nearly four per cent in the first quarter, more than three times the growth seen in the U.S. in the same period.

The only difference I noticed between this wave and previous waves is that it is not in accordance with the current US administration’s stance on environmental policy. Typically, Canada follows suit on the US’ waves of environmentalism and mimics their actions, but with Trump’s anti-environment beliefs, Canada, for once, is taking the lead. It is refreshing to see Canada standing strong and having a mind of its own as opposed to adhering to the whims of the US’, especially with the US federal administration’s decision to prioritize profits over their environment. As previously discussed, President Trump’s stance towards environmental policy has several negative implications for their country and the global environment, however we can have comfort in knowing that Canada is taking great care of our environment, and, as a result, has become an extraordinary model that other countries can emulate.

Farewell Paris, Bonjour Coal (V. Nader)

Expect more heavy pollution in the USA under a Trump presidency.

This week on “Keeping up with the Soft Wood Lumber Dispute,” Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted the following last Thursday on June 01st:

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 10.09.56 PM

His action plan to support the softwood lumber industry involves “$867 million in measures to support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. measures targeting softwood lumber.” The funding will be used for various activities that support workers and, as mentioned last week, expand the industry overseas to Asia and diversify beyond the US. Moreover, the plan mentions that Canada will continue to force the US to reconsider their decision as “a negotiated settlement is not only possible, but in the best interests of both countries. This tells me that Canada is acquiring Trump’s business lingo to, hopefully, communicate with him in a way in which he will better understand.

What’s more, Trudeau’s tweet was on the same date that President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that deals with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump decided this shortly after the 43rd annual G7 meeting as he felt that “compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” He retweeted those in support of his decision:




Trump’s retweets of his supporters and the surge on Wall Street are attempts to convey the economic benefits of withdrawing from the pact, however he fails to note the environmental disadvantages. Trudeau was quick to respond and tweeted the following:


Clearly upset with Trump’s decision, he stated that “we will also continue to reach out to the U.S. federal government to discuss this matter of critical importance for all humankind, and to identify areas of shared interest for collaboration, including on emissions reductions.”

Trump’s reasoning to withdraw is that the use of coal energy is economically beneficial for the US as, according to him, it will aid in job creation and saving money. Thus, he cannot be part of a climate agreement that aims to reduce GHG emissions and divests from non-renewable fossil fuels. Unfortunately, this has various negative environmental implications and reverses the many years of effort former US president, Obama, put in towards addressing climate change.

Former president Obama’s administration had many ambitious plans for combatting climate change, some of which are detailed in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. She notes that his “plan is the boldest made by any American president on the issue of climate change” (page 298), which completely contrasts with President Trump’s belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government for financial gain. However, due to US’ withdrawal, Canada might continue trade of fossil fuel with the US opposed to searching for new markets in the Asia because we no longer experience pressures “to commit to a Paris protocol target that is in line with that of the United States” (Olive 2016, 299). Nonetheless, I do not think this is likely because of Trudeau’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and his absolute abhorrence to Trump’s policies. Canada’s target, under the Paris Agreement, is GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

So, what does Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and revival of the coal industry mean for the environment? Well, it is safe to say a lot of bad things for the environment. Coal cannot be clean and involves high consumption of water and heavily pollutes the air. Air pollution results in acid rain, loss in biodiversity and species’ habitats, health risks, and much more. I understand that Trump, as a businessman turned president, is trying to maximize profits and jobs, but he is very poor at cost-benefit analysis. The costs outweigh the benefits and jobs can be generated through the implementation of renewable resources. I think this decision goes against all of the progress that has been made as of late, but we can only hope for the best and see how ‘renegotiations’ of the deal go.






New Student Blogger: Victoria Nader

Starting May 2017, I have a new summer student blogger! Let me introduce you to Victoria Nader.


Nader is pursuing an Honours Bachelor’s of Arts degree at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is completing a major in Canadian Studies with a double minor in Political Science and French Language Studies. She is passionate about marginalized communities in Canada and conveys this through her work as Food Centre Coordinator at UTMSU’s Food Centre where she provides healthy and environmentally sustainable solutions for food insecure students. In her leisure, she enjoys personal fitness, nature, and looking at memes.

Pan-National Climate Agreement

Two weeks I wrote that Trudeau was busy approving pipelines in Canada. Now, I am writing that he has passed a rather historic climate deal with the provinces. This is a man having his cake and eating it too (for now).

Here is the official government announcement of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Essentially, all provinces have agreed to a price on carbon (set at $10 dollars starting in 2018 and increasing $ from there – meeting a $50 minimum by 2022).

All provinces except Saskatchewan. Brad Wall, the premier of SK, has adamantly (and stubbornly) refused to sign any deal that includes a price on carbon. As I have written elsewhere, he would prefer to use carbon capture and storage (and perhaps other geo-engineering plans) to off-set CO2 emissions in the province. SK is the biggest emitter of CO2 per capita in the country.  The province is clearly an outlier. A problematic one.

Here is a good article from CBC that explains where each province stood on carbon pricing back in October, before the pan-national deal. BC, AB, MT, ON, and QU have all had various forms on carbon pricing in the past. Notably, BC and AB have a tax and ON and QU use cap-and-trade (click chapter 8 on the left for past blog posts explaining these policies). Thus, a price on carbon is not new to them – in fact, they have been waiting a while for the federal government to catch up and address climate change. However, BC did make a deal with Trudeau regarding the specific price of carbon, since the province’s revenue neutral carbon tax has been in place since 2008 and works a bit differently than other provincial plans. Premier Christy said BC would be unwilling to sign a plan that has the province meeting a $50 minimum tax by 2022 – instead, the province would like to continue with their established carbon tax and “make-up” the difference in the price of emissions (if there any) by other means.

This climate deal is an important step forward in Canada. However, it is not clear if passing pipelines and carbon prices in the same two-week period will get the country anywhere close to its 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement.


Fracking: What is it? (By C. Gagliano-Veiga)

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking is the process of extracting oil or natural gas underground through different types of rock formations – usually shale (Hawkins 2015). This process occurs by sending highly pressurized and large amounts of fracking fluid through horizontal wells to create fractures in the rock formations. These fractures allow for the release of oil or natural gas through now penetrable circuits to the surface through extraction.

Before fracking even occurs, exploration of the recoverable oil and natural gas is made in order to determine the maximum yield with the least amount of environmental impact (Mehany 2016). The rock formation then has to be examined by geoscientists and geo-engineers to determine the amount of recovery time of the environment (Mehany 2016). Production of the extraction site are then made, which include access to the site and building of the physical infrastructure. After the fracking occurs, the collected oil or natural gas has to go through different stages to be completely refined and processed in order to be redistributed (Mehany 2016). Following the completion of a fracking operation in a specified area, restoration to the land should be made in order to maintain the least amount of impact with an attempt to return the land to its former state (Mehany 2016).

There are many opinions about fracking, primarily due to the fact that it uses approximately 2-5 million gallons of fracking fluid per operation, which is primarily made out of 90% water, sand, and other chemicals (Lee and Weingarten and Shemin 2015). There are also other environmental and health concerns considered with fracking.

Fracking Concerns

There are two environmental concerns when it comes to fracking and water: water contamination and water consumption.

Water Contamination

            To get to the contained resources, a vertical well is placed through several different layers of earth until it reaches the rock formation, passing through aquifers containing groundwater. Fracking fluid has the capacity to contaminate as it does contain chemicals such as different types of acids, but also because of the release of gas that includes methane, which happens during the fracking process (Lee and Weingarten and Shemin 2015). Therefore, there is a possibility of contamination of the groundwater through instances such as accidental blowouts and pipe leakages (Mehany 2016). There is also a possibility for contamination of surface water through other instances such as improper waste removal or surface spills (Mehany 2016).

 Water Consumption

Water consumption is another key issue as each fracking operation uses anywhere between 2-5 million gallons of water. In 2011, a study was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency which found that, “approximately 35,000 fractured wells across the U.S required an estimated 70 to 140 billion gallons of water each year which is equivalent to the total amount of water used annually to support 40 to 80 cities with a population of 50,000 or about 1 to 2 cities of 2.5 million people.” (Mehany 2016, 446). Therefore, not only are there environmental concerns when it comes to fracking, but also other concerns when it comes to overconsumption.

 Air Pollution Concerns

            There are also a number of air pollution concerns as natural gas contains methane, which has likelihood to escape during the fracking process. In 2012, a study found that “producers of natural gas are losing an average of 4% of the gas to the atmosphere” (Mehany 2016, 446). There are also other emissions accumulated by the use of fracking machinery as it a large scale industrial operation. Therefore, along with environmental and overconsumption concerns, there are also concerns to human health.

 Geomechanical Pollution

            There are many geoengineering processes that control seismic activity of faults due to the deformation of the earth’s crust. Fracking, which is a large scale industrial operation, puts stress on the Earth’s crust therefore having the capacity to induce seismic activity (Klose 2012). Fracking generates micro quakes, which are earthquakes that are too low on the richter scale for scientists to record (Lee and Weingarten and Shemin 2015). These micro quakes are fairly harmless by themselves and do not pose major threat. However, when they occur simultaneously, they can produce earthquakes with a high of 5.6 on the richter scale (Lee and Weingarten and Shemin 2015).

Why do we Frack?

Fracking occurs because oil or gas is trapped between impenetrable layers of rock that cannot be accessed with normal drilling. Oil and natural gas is a commodity that is bought and sold on world markets, therefore there is a high demand for them (Merrill 2013). According to President Obama in his 2012 State of Union, he declared that there were 600,000 additional jobs given to workers in the United States for fracking alone (Merrill 2013). Therefore, fracking occurs for economic purposes due to its large impact on job and world markets.

In conclusion, there are many debates about fracking, both its influence positively on the world market, but most importantly its negative impact on the environment.


Hawkins, J. “Fracking: Minding the Gaps.” Environmental Law Review 17, no. 1 (2015): 8-21. doi:10.1177/1461452914563217.

Lee, Jin-Yong, Matthew Weingarten, and Shemin Ge. “Induced Seismicity: The Potential Hazard from Shale Gas Development and CO2 Geologic Storage.” Geosciences Journal Geosci J 20, no. 1 (2015): 137-48.

Mehany, Mohammed S. Hashem M. “Identifying Cost Centers and Environmental Impacts Needs Assessment for Fracking Life Cycle in the United States.” Procedia Engineering 145 (2016): 444-51.

Merrill, Thomas W. “Four Questions about Fracking” The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom.”. Case Western Reserve Law Review 63.4 (2013): 971-994.

Klose, Christian D. “Mechanical and Statistical Evidence of the Causality of Human-made Mass Shifts on the Earth’s Upper Crust and the Occurrence of Earthquakes.” J Seismol Journal of Seismology 17, no. 1 (2012): 109-35. doi:10.1007/s10950-012-9321-8.

Back to Class

September already. Classes resume at the University of Toronto Mississauga this week. I am once again teaching the introduction to environmental policy in Canada. This is the course for which I wrote the book The Canadian Environment in Political Context. This year-long course is offered on-line so students from the three UT campus’ can enrol in the course. This year I have 145 students in the course.

In the fall semester we will start making our way through the book, but linger on chapter 5 (my favourite – on Species at Risk!) and then put down the book, only to pick up the The Oak Ridges Moraine Battles :


(Photo Credit: University of Toronto Press).

This book will give students a look into their backyards as we explore urban sprawl and habitat loss. The focus will also be on policy actors at multiple scales: federal, provincial, Indigenous, and non-governmental.

In the winter semester we jump back to The Canadian Environment in Political Context and start focusing on energy and climate change. These are big topics and there is a lot to learn… and even more to debate. Next year (2017, I mean) is Canada’s 150th birthday. The class is going to celebrate this by learning about our Arctic history. We are a Northern nation, after all. And while the Northern territories were not part of Canada 150 years ago, it is important that we know how our big country came together to become a Northern nation. We will be reading Polar Imperative:


(Photo Credit: Douglas &McIntyre)

The course ends will chapters 11 and 12 in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. Here we look back at where Canada has been and then look forward to where we might be headed.

In the next 8 months you can expect this blog to be updated with new information for the class and text. You can also expect a lot of posts on conservation, and then Arctic policy in the context of climate change and Canadian history.


Ontario + Quebec +… Mexico = CC Agreement?

According to the Globe and Mail, the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec have signed an agreement with Mexico on climate policy. Why wouldn’t Canada sign the deal? Good question.

As pretty much every chapter in The Canadian Environment in Political Context explains, federalism means divided and shared powers between two or more levels of government. In Canada, the Constitution divides power over environmental issues between the provinces and the federal government. With regard to natural resources and energy, the provinces have the bulk of the power (see Chapter 8 specifically). Essentially, the federal government cannot make climate policy because the federal government does not have jurisdiction over natural resource extraction on provincial lands. It cannot regulate CO2 emissions from sources it cannot control. (The US government is similar, but their federal government found a loop hole – it declared CO2 a toxic chemical and regulates it under federal chemical legislation).

Ontario’s provincial government has power to make policy regarding Co2 (and other emissions) inside the province. Quebec’s provincial government has the same power. Both provinces have adopted fairly stringent climate policy. They have also created an agreement – with the state of California – to engage in cap and trade together. They can trade permits to emit CO2 between the provinces and states.

Okay, so today, Ontario and Quebec signed an agreement with Mexico. What does that mean? It means that companies or industries that produce CO2 in Ontario or Quebec can purchase emission-reduction credits in Mexico. Sounds complicated, right? Imagine if a cement manufacturing company in Ontario wants to emit more CO2 than it has permits (or permissions) to do so. The company would either have to buy another permit OR it can reduce emissions in Mexico somewhere to offset its emission in Ontario. The company in Ontario pays an emitter in Mexico to keep the fossil fuel in the ground. That means overall in North America, emissions go down. They might rise in Ontario and go down in Mexico. They might rise in Quebec and go down in Ontario… or California…or Mexico. The CAP goes down over time – that means that emissions have to go down. More fossil fuels stay in the ground. But it can uneven… here or there.