Thursday, July 09, 2009

Farewell Athabasca

Steve and Mike may think the Athabasca Tar Sands are pivotal to Canadian prosperity through the 21st century but not if what Steve was sincere in joining other G8 leaders on global warming.

An 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. Let's face it - there is no way, none, that we're going to meet that promise without breaking our addiction to fossil fuels. Sorry Steve, Sorry Mike -- they've got to go. Leave the damned bitumen in the ground.

According to BBC News, reaching that target will require revolutionary change.

The commitment by G8 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 suggests that the leaders of those nations are serious about starting a fundamental revolution in the way society meets its energy needs.

Nothing else than a top-to-bottom refit can do the job.

Virtually all electricity generation will have to come from renewables, nuclear power or so-called "clean" coal - if that technology can be made to work on a commercial scale.

The amount of electricity generated in Western countries will have to rise significantly - doubling or even trebling - as transport and the heating systems for homes and businesses switch away from fossil fuels.

Alongside a re-fuelling revolution would go a frugality revolution, as societies put an end to energy wastage.

The article points out that politicians usually don't get around to any tangible action on targets that are 40-years off. This problem is unique because you can't introduce changes of this magnitude without decades of preparation and progress.

Steve's promise spells an end to any nonsense about "intensity based" emissions reductions for the Tar Sands. That has to be totally ruled out. There's no way you can increase emissions for the dirtiest energy project on the planet and slash overall emissions 80% within just two generations.

And Mike - just treat the Tar Sands like asbestos - don't worry about the flip-flops - just say "no."


LMA said...

Ignatieff prides himself on being a pragmatic leader, one who adjusts his policies according to changing circumstances. So, now that circumstances have changed and Canada has made a global commitment to reduce emissions, it's time to come up with some new nation-building, unity projects that will help this country decrease its' dependence on fossil fuels, and, as you put it, just say no. What a challenge, and what an opportunity for growth and progress.

Anonymous said...

This is the issue. Anyone with the national plan that is needed needs to step forward.

The Mound of Sound said...

It is an enormous challenge, LMA, and as you note an astonishing opportunity to transition into a new energy structure and a new economy.

Canada stands to benefit more than just about any other nation. That's because cutting emissions by 2050 and shifting over to alternate energy won't be enough to stop climate change. There's enough persistent CO2 up there already that we won't be able to escape fairly radical climate change.

Canada will be one of the handful of genuinely viable nations by the end of the century. The closer you are to the equator the harder you stand to be hit. We have a terrific opportunity to adapt alternate energy to what is likely going to be a much different society from the 19th and 20th century model we're just now having to give up.

I would argue that the more easily we're able to transition to a new energy system and a new economy, the easier it will be for us to retain the very best parts of Canadian society and civilization.

If we continue to wallow behind the "power curve" we'll probably pay severely for that in the medium and long run.

I can think of nothing more important now than to start the dialogue about what we will face in 20, 40 and 60-years and what we need to consider and plan for in the way of adaptation and remediation. Once we understand the dimension of the change that's bound to come, grasp that it's not apocalyptic and that we do have options to deal with it, I think you'll find the Canadian public willing to rally behind a serious effort.

Our government has the resources, and the responsibility, to get that information out, to build public awareness and to facilitate discussion and debate - now.