Sunday, February 03, 2013

Parting Thoughts from Obama's Energy Secretary, Steven Chu

Excerpts from a letter by outgoing Obama energy secretary, Steven Chu, to employees of the Department of Energy.

"The average temperature of our planet is rising, with majority of the temperature increase occurring in the last thirty years. During the three decades from 1980 to 2011, the number of violent storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, as tabulated by the reinsurance company Munich Re, has increased more than three-fold. They also estimate that the financial losses follow a trend line that has gone from $40 billion to $170 billion dollars per year. Most of those losses were not insured, and the country suffering the largest losses by far is the United States.  As the President said in his recent Inaugural Address, “some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.” 

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity has had a significant and likely dominant role in climate change. There is also increasingly compelling evidence that the weather changes we have witnessed during this thirty year time period are due to climate change

Virtually all of the other OECD countries [Canada excepted], and most developing countries including China, India, Mexico, and Brazil have accepted the judgment of climate scientists. 

Ultimately we have a moral responsibility to the most innocent victims of adverse climate change. Those who will suffer the most are the people who are the most innocent: the world’s poorest citizens and those yet to be born. There is an ancient Native American saying: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” A few short decades later, we don’t want our children to ask, “What were our parents thinking? Didn’t they care about us?” 

Coming from the modern Canadian petro-state, secretary Chu's warnings are particularly distressing.   With all of our main political parties; Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat; resolutely committed to the extraction and export of high-carbon fossil fuels, coal and bitumen, our country has descended to a sullied place many of us never thought we could possibly reach.

Recalling yesterday's Liberal leadership forum there was possibly just one of the nine who might be like-minded with secretary Chu.  One, maybe, and not a frontrunner at that. 

By the way, it was recently announced that America's greenhouse gas emissions have now fallen to the lowest level since the 1990's.  And Canada's?

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