After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Vancouver’s 100-mile carbon hot spots

(Page 2 of 2)

Environment Canada calculated $25 a while back. The famous Stern Review for the UK government calculated $23 a few years ago. All of these are remarkably close the B.C. Carbon Tax rate of $25 per tonne of CO2, which increases to $30 next summer. As insurance statistics are highlighting, the social cost of climate pollution is increasing over time as our weather systems become more energized and destructive.

This series will use the B.C. Carbon Tax rate as a rough approximation of the economic damage to humans from each tonne of CO2. Using that, here are the annual climate damages for each of our 100-mile hot spots:

  • $69 million in damages from Vancouver city’s carbon emissions. City residents pay 92 per cent of that via carbon taxes. The rest comes from untaxed landfill emissions. Plans to reduce climate damages 33 per cent by 2020.
  • $37 million in damages from local cement manufacturers. They pay for about half. The other untaxed half comes from limestone as it is chemically altered to produce cement. Lobbying to exempt their exports.
  • $5 million in damages from local hothouse growers. They pay for all of it but are lobbying to stop paying.
  • $4 million in damages from BC Hydro’s Burrard Thermal based on a five year average. They pay for all of it and plan to reduce climate damages even more.
  • $255 million in damages from YVR flights. They pay only for a small percentage of climate damages caused only by B.C.-bound flights. They successfully lobbied B.C.'s Liberal government to remove existing B.C. fuel taxes on international flights. Also planning to cut fuel costs further by stopping buying mostly Canadian oil and instead tankering in jet fuel from Asia. Fighting against paying proposed EU carbon tax on flights to and from Europe starting next year. Plan to double annual climate damages by 2029. A text-book example of how free-loading on pollution damages enables biz plans that rapidly increase pollution damages. Here are three more examples…
  • $425 million in damages from Neptune coal shipments. Pays nothing for climate damages done by this coal. Short term plans to expand the climate damages they profit from by +50 per cent.
  • $1,300 million in damages from Pattison’s Westshore coal shipments. Pays nothing for climate damages done by this coal. Short term plans to expand climate damages they profit from by +33 per cent. B.C. Coal industries making record profits but paying nothing at any of the points in this profit chain for their climate damages.
  • $1,300 million in damages from Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain Pipeline to the earth's atmosphere. Some of this Albertan oil is sold in B.C., and so pays our carbon tax (with the exception of a billion+ litres sold at YVR). But from what I’ve been able to figure out, most of this pipeline’s oil leaves B.C. and evades paying for climate damages. The existing pipeline carries more oil than all of B.C. uses. But that isn’t enough apparently: Kinder Morgan has plans to more than double the oil flow and thus increase the climate damages they profit from by +144 per cent.

These economic damages to humans come in the form of droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, extreme weather, forest die-off, crop and livestock losses, extinction of economic species, increased diseases, death of corals reefs, collapsing fisheries and dislocation of millions of humans, among many other things.

For decades, economists have said that stopping climate change requires that carbon fuels pay the full price of their climate damages. British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the UK government’s definitive report on climate change costs said:

"The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay  ... Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming."

Around the world an increasing number of major carbon polluting economies -- including Europe, Australia, California, B.C., Quebec, a collection of U.S. states and soon several pilot regions in China -- are requiring that big chunks of their carbon pay for the damage it does. But in all these cases, some carbon pays for damages and some still doesn’t.

As this series will show, in our area, only the carbon sources that refuse to pay for most of the damage they profit from are still dramatically increasing that damage. Until we make all our carbon pay for the damage it does, our efforts to cut climate pollution everywhere else will be wiped out many times over.

Report card

I will end today’s introductory article with a quick report card on each of the eight local carbon hot spots. In follow-up articles this series will profile each of these hot spots to explain the unique issues, current controversies, damages vs. payments and possible solutions for each.

Note: A larger version of the landscape 100-mile carbon graphic can be found on the Visual Carbon website.


Take our survey and qualify to win a ski weekend at The Westin Whistler and lift tickets for Whistler Blackcomb.

More in Climate Snapshot

"Carbon tsunami" lead by Enbridge Northern Gateway takes aim at BC

A flood of mega-carbon projects threaten to quickly turn British Columbia into one of the world's dirtiest economies.

Car Carbon series: cool new animation, plus the jaw-dropping impact it left out

What weighs sixteen billion pounds yet hides in plain sight?
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.