Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why Do We Trust In Those Who Fail Us?

This one is directed to you Libs but it might just as well be you Dippers too.   Why, with the climatic devastation that's already impacting our world, our one and only biosphere, do we support leaders intent on steering Canada into runaway global warming?   Why do we support people who, for their own political advancement, would condemn our grandkids to live in a Canada far worse than anything we have ever known?

In case you're in any doubt, I'm referring to Michael Ignatieff and, yes, Jack Layton too.   In fact the reference sticks to any of the gaggle of Fossil Fuelers, the inveterate Tar Sanders of Parliament Hill.

Canada is not alone.   Most Western pols talk up their committment to environmentalism while pimping for Big Carbon.   In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, NOAA's James Hansen relates his lamentable exchange with that most enviro-friendly nation of them all, Norway:

"I hoped that Norway, because of its history of environmentalism, might be able to take real action to address climate change, drawing attention to the hypocrisy in the words and pseudo-actions of other nations.

So I wrote a letter to the prime minister suggesting that Norway, as majority owner of Statoil, should intervene in its plans to develop the tar sands of Canada. I received a polite response, by letter, from the deputy minister of petroleum and energy. The government position is that the tar sands investment is "a commercial decision", that the government should not interfere, and that a "vast majority in the Norwegian parliament" agree that this constitutes "good corporate governance". The deputy minister concluded his letter: "I can however assure you that we will continue our offensive stance on climate change issues both at home and abroad."

A Norwegian grandfather, upon reading the deputy minister's letter, quoted Saint Augustine: "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

The Norwegian position is a staggering reaffirmation of the global situation: even the greenest governments find it too inconvenient to address the implication of scientific facts.

Hansen makes clear that we have to act and time is running out:

"...our planet is close to climate tipping points. Ice is melting in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica, and on mountain glaciers worldwide. Many species are stressed by environmental destruction and climate change. Continuing fossil fuel emissions, if unabated, will cause sea levels to rise and species to become extinct beyond our control. Increasing atmospheric water vapour is already magnifying climate extremes, increasing overall precipitation, causing greater floods and stronger storms.

Stabilising climate requires restoring our planet's energy balance. The physics is straightforward. The effect of increasing carbon dioxide on Earth's energy imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of ocean heat gain. The principal implication is defined by the geophysics, by the size of fossil fuel reservoirs. Simply put, there is a limit on how much carbon dioxide we can pour into the atmosphere. We cannot burn all fossil fuels. Specifically, we must (1) phase out coal use rapidly, (2) leave tar sands in the ground, and (3) not go after the last drops of oil.

On this point, the Athabasca Tar Sands, Hansen is emphatic.  That bitumen sludge must be left in the ground.  It is the planet's filthiest fossil fuel and promises of new, clean technologies - the same nonsense we've heard for about two decades now - are greenwash.  Likewise, when the Liberal leader makes passing, vague references to dealing with Athabasca's CO2 and water issues, it's more of the same - greenwash, enviro-bullshit.

"...fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognise an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used. Solution therefore requires a rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.

A carbon fee is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade with offsets", a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

 I believe Hansen is right.   The only way we'll tackle global warming is to levy a carbon tax on the fossil fuel companies - oil, bitumen, coal and gas - at the point of production.  Better yet, we should make the fossil fuel companies, Tar Sands included, financially responsible for every environmental impact including non-carbon air pollution and groundwater contamination.  Of course that would reveal the truth about all the Fossil Fuelers - the Athabasca Tar Sands are completely unviable without the very real and immense subsidy realized from government complicity in looking the other way.
Hansen is also right when he warns that we're wasting our time trusting hypocritical politicians who deliberately mislead the public by claiming they're serious about the gathering environmental calamity while, in the same breath, praising Athabasca as Canada's path to fossil fuel superpowerdom.

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