Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tying Our Hands on Climate Change

Can there be a more difficult, dangerous political problem to a petro-state than climate change? Is it even possible to say "no"? What kind of leader would it take to accept the warnings of science that 80% of proven fossil energy reserves have to be left in the ground if we're to have a fair chance of averting climate catastrophe, runaway global warming?

Look around you. Do you see that type of bold, courageous leadership anywhere in Canada's mainstream political parties? The Tories? Obviously not. The Liberals? Not really. The New Democrats? Hardly.

You might look to history for precedents. When did a nation give up a means of real-time prosperity for the benefit of others or future generations? Economists would dismiss such a thing as irrational for it is rational, in their lexicon, to favour the current interest even at the cost of some future interest.

It would seem to follow that, when you're on the side of dirty energy, it's tough if not impossible to be on the side of clean energy. You can make claims but you still have one foot on the dock and the other on the boat, unwilling to truly leave the old for the new.

This prime minister offers up the fanciful notion that we'll use the revenues from peddling the world's dirtiest ersatz petroleum to fund our transition to clean, alternative energy.

He won't come right out and say it but the right honourable gentleman not only wants to continue our bitumen trafficking, he wants to facilitate a great expansion of our production and export of dilbit. That is, after all, the sole purpose of the Energy East and vastly expanded Kinder Morgan pipelines. Both are needed to enable a massive expansion of the Tar Sands.

But what about that warning about 80 per cent of fossil reserves having to be left untouched, unburned, in the ground? How can we double or even quadruple our extraction of bitumen and not offend that warning of what awaits civilization, all life on Earth, if we don't shut this sludge business down? One leading climate scientist, James Hansen, has even addressed Athabasca directly and said, burn that and it's "game over."

These pipelines aren't a short term proposition either. They're fair warning that the energy companies, and their minions in government, are in it for the long haul. How does that square with Schellnhuber's ominous warning at the December climate summit in Paris that avoiding runaway climate change requires nothing less than the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry?

Treasury Board czar Scott Brison recently addressed a call to put government scientists on a short leash.

In response to the Star’s questions, Brison’s office sent a statement indicating Canadians “deserve” to know how evidence informs their policy choices.

“If we want Canadians to trust their government, their government needs to trust them,” Brison’s statement read. “It also needs to trust public servants to do their job. As a government, we are fully committed to ensuring that government science informs our decisions and that this information is available to the public.”

Okay, fair enough. Good to hear. Now, where is the science that says expanding the production and export of bitumen is a good thing, a safe thing? Where is the 'government science' that informed this decision? Show it to us. Let's see it. Of course you already would have if it existed to support your decisions. You're bullshitting us and on, of all things, what could be a life or death issue to our grandchildren.

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