I'm not sure that Harper/Enbridge will get the Northern Gateway pipeline/tanker port up and running before climate change closes in on them.
The drought of 2012 is going to send a shockwave through world food prices well into next year and quite possibly beyond that. The Third World already lives in a state of permanent food insecurity. Many of these countries are also being hammered by the impacts of climate change, mainly droughts or floods or both.
The two emerging economic superpowers - India and China - are also facing serious water and food shortage threats. Food insecurity could lead to chaos between the relatively poor and vulnerable masses and the very small affluent minority driving both nation's economic miracles.
If leading climate change scientists like James Hansen are right, we are already locked into global warming. Until such time as we find a way to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere much faster than we emit the stuff, our world seems destined to get hotter and dryer.
Food insecurity destabilizes entire nations. It was a principle cause of the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia when a food vendor set himself on fire in protest.
Globalized free trade, however, is utterly dependent on trade among stable governments across stable regions and continents. Global warming presents a threat to the very international stability without which globalized free trade falters.
A severe and widespread food crisis next year could place a powerful spotlight on climate change and carbon emissions, particularly the higher-carbon fossil fuels such as Athabasca bitumen. The large economies cannot afford to have entire regions of the world disrupted by political and social, potentially even military, upheaval. It's just plain bad for business.
If climate scientists like Hansen are right and climate change has landed on our doorstep far sooner than they had expected, the future of fossil fuels, especially the dirtiest varieties, is very much up in the air.
I suspect Steve Harper's urgency to get Athabasca developed as quickly as possible and its products transported to the world markets without delay reflects his awareness of the uncertain viability of bitumen and the possibility of a market collapse.