Climate activists like to put their banner up and take credit for opposition demonstrations against development projects involving energy. But the truth is, climate change is the last thing on the minds of those objecting to the projects. This report gets at the realities:
Safety, water, economics come before climate for foes of local energy projects (here)
OTTAWA — New research suggests that polarizing debates over the impacts of climate change are not the driving force behind local opposition to major energy projects.
And that’s something governments and regulators need to consider as they push the transition to clean energy infrastructure such as tidal power, wind farms and hydro electricity.
A report to be released Thursday at an industry-sponsored energy conference looks at six controversial case studies across Canada, ranging from the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal in northern British Columbia to a gas-fired electricity plant in Oakville, Ont., and shale gas exploration in rural New Brunswick.
The joint project of the University of Ottawa and the Canada West foundation found that local communities are demanding a greater role in major infrastructure, whether it be wind farms, hydroelectric dams or pipelines.
The study concludes that “the world of elite, centralized decision-making is a thing of the past.”
Notwithstanding the pitched public battles over climate science and environment policy, the researchers found that in the cases they studied, global warming was not a principal driver of most local opposition.
“Climate change bore hardly at all on the local community attitudes in any of the cases,” writes lead author Michael Cleland.
Using public opinion research and interviews with project opponents, proponents and local authorities, the report found a “far more important” list of concerns: safety; the need or rationale for the project; economics; local environmental impacts such as water contamination; poor consultation and communication; and local involvement in decision-making.
The findings have implications that go far beyond today’s headlines over stalled oil pipeline applications.
As the study’s authors write, “the vast majority of future decisions will focus on new ‘clean’ energy infrastructure to underpin a very low GHG economy.
“As the case studies show, clean energy may be as controversial as hydrocarbon energy at the local community level.”
See also Ban Ki-moon Listen to the Masses (here)
And Power (and $) to the People (here)