Thursday, March 03, 2016

It's Time to Tell Justin to Shut Down Athabasca.

What's the point of taking the gags off federal government scientists if you don't want to listen to them? What's the point of having federal government scientists at all if you plan to ignore their informed advice?

When it comes to climate change, Canada, and especially future Canadians, are, frankly, buggered. Tory or Grit (or, for that matter, NDP), makes no difference, to them it's just a political football not a crisis that threatens the survival of civilization.

How else can you square the logic of the Dauphin when he tosses out the notion that we need to pimp ever more bitumen in order to fund a transition to clean energy. It ignores what I think of as "the juncture" at which we find ourselves today.

What then is this juncture? It's a point in time when we're confronted by a confluence of events and forces that we can no longer avoid. Climate change, overpopulation and over-consumption. They're barreling down on us from different directions while we're staring at our feet.

At this juncture people around the world are already dying en masse from the impacts of global warming - droughts, floods, crop failures, and the armed conflicts that spring from them. From here on in, every additional tonne of greenhouse gas we create by extracting safely sequestered fossil fuels from the depths that they might be burned adds to the dying. It really does. Some of that can't be helped, some but by no means all. Some of it isn't anchored in need but in opportunity and affluence at the expense of inconsequential lives elsewhere.

People are dying by the tens of thousands and a lot more are going to die, many of them at gunpoint. Petro-states are destabilizing nations around the world. In today's early onset stage this is manifesting in famine, resource wars and mass migration. We're only getting started.

It would be one thing if, at this juncture, we were selling relatively low-carbon fossil energy but we're not. We're selling the highest carbon, dirtiest synthetic oil on the planet. We are very much culpable for what that causes in remote corners of the world, the poorest, most vulnerable and susceptible nations of all.

At this juncture we're getting clear warnings, a lot of them, and they're deadly serious. For starters, that 2 degrees Celsius target we once set was way off. It was never more than a political number anyway. Today's overly-optimistic "never exceed" number is 1.5C but we have already emitted enough atmospheric GHG to ensure that 1.5C of warming is already "locked in" even if we somehow managed to stop all CO2 emissions today.

We know all about the 1.5C target. We accepted that very number at the Paris climate summit last December. We advocated for it to be the measuring stick, not 2C any longer. What we cannot find the integrity and courage to do is lift up the carpet, look underneath and see that we've already achieved 1.5C (deferred).

What that means is that people who advocate for ever greater trade in diluted bitumen simply don't care about the dismal future they're bequeathing to our grandkids or the deadly near future we're inflicting on less advantaged spots around the world. Oh I suppose they may regret it. They may be tinged with remorse, maybe a little guilt. But that's not caring. Caring, in this case, equates to causing as little future harm as possible. When it comes to Canada's federal and provincial leadership, we're nowhere near that point - just the opposite.

The best scientific minds tell us that nothing short of an "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry can avert catastrophic, runaway global warming. Our leaders, however, toil to achieve an induced expansion of our trade in high-carbon fossil energy. At this juncture there's no room for second guessing. No one, not even Trudeau, deserves the benefit of any doubt.

This is a matter of science. It's a matter of every Earth science - biology (terrestrial and marine), botany, zoology, geography and geology, hydrology and oceanography, meteorology and climatology, glaciation, physics and chemistry, atmospherics and more. At this juncture it's amazing that they're all speaking with one voice and their message is one of warning. Only it's not their voice we're hearing. What we're hearing is another voice that drowns out even the powerful collective voice of science. We're hearing is the political voice, the corporate voice, and it's carrying an entirely different message. What we're left with is an utterly Orwellian voice from a perfectly delightful young man telling us that the path to a green future rests with selling the blackest energy. It's the voice of lethargy, inertia. It's the voice of leaders with feet of clay.


chris said...

The market will rule on this before the politicians do. For once it might even rule in favour of your grandchildren.

Western Canadian Select (WCS) is now about US$22.00/barrel and costs the most efficient producers about $40.00. Even with some truly magic arithmetic that won't last long.

The Mound of Sound said...

I suspect you may be right on that, Chris. If today's news reports about a game changing breakthrough in storage battery technology are accurate, the economic viability of fossil energy, particularly the costly and high-carbon stuff, is over.