Friday, November 25, 2016

Focus on What Really Matters Most

Our government has many priorities. The prime minister has said that he wants to be known, first and foremost, as a free trader. He's all about increasing trade, maximizing growth in GDP.

Mr. Trudeau also says he wants real action on climate change. So far that's been stalled on vague statements about carbon pricing that have triggered strong push back from the fossil provinces - especially Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The prime minister is now expected to appease the petro-provinces by approving at least one pipeline to the Pacific, in all probability the Kinder Morgan project that will see an armada of heavily laden supertankers navigating through Vancouver's Coal Harbour and on through the province's southern coastal waters.

This government still has no means, no technical solution to a major dilbit spill in these challenging waters. Once the diluent separates out the remaining bitumen sludge sinks to the bottom at depths that are essentially unreachable. Perhaps hoping to cover its tracks in such a disastrous event, the Environment Minister has approved the chemical nightmare, Corexit, as an oil dispersant even though it merely causes spilled oil to sink, not disperse, which would help deliver its content of toxins, heavy metals, acids and carcinogens to the seabed that anchors the chain of marine life on the coast.

Trudeau knows there's no way to clean up a dilbit spill and yet he's ignoring that troubling fact - and the long term wellbeing of coastal British Columbians - to accede to his political imperative and appease the petro-province premiers.

Is that what really matters most to Canadians? Is exporting the costliest, highest-carbon synthetic petroleum what is best for us and our grandkids? Of course not. It is, however, what the prime minister's handlers see as most politically opportune. Liberal fortunes trump (and I use that word advisedly) the wellbeing of Canadians hands down.

Yet we hear nothing from this government, nary a word, about the "climate emergency" now spreading across the Arctic. The Stockholm Environment Institute, in conjunction with the Arctic Council and other scientific groups, today released a blunt warning in the form of the Arctic Resilience Report which concluded that we're at risk of triggering 19 "tipping points" that could greatly accelerate the onset of runaway global warming not merely in the Arctic but across the globe.

The tipping points are addressed in Chapter 3 beginning at page 64 of the 240-page report. Among other things it notes that all Arctic nations are vulnerable to at least 10 of the 19 identified tipping points while Canada, Russia and the US are exposed to 18.

Regime shifts in the Arctic encompass a broad range of dynamics that typically occur on a time scale of decades to centuries, and a spatial scale from local and landscape dynamics, to subcontinental ones, with consequences that may be felt globally. The rest of this section summarizes the most established regime shifts reviewed in the academic literature. Most (12 out of 16) are difficult to reverse or irreversible on a 100-year time scale. The evidence supporting the existence of these regime shifts comes primarily from contemporary observations, paleo-records and models (13 regime shifts); experimentation has only been possible on six. In fact, the scales at which these regime shifts dynamics occur, both in space and time, make experimentation a rare option. Hence, identifying the mechanism underlying some Arctic regime shifts is a challenging task that relies heavily on modelling and the synthesis of studies of long-term changes in the ecology, hydrology, geology and climate of the Arctic. Most of regime shifts identified occur in marine and polar systems; the others occur in tundra, temperate and boreal forests, and freshwater lakes and rivers.

The report itemizes each of the tipping points with an explanation of the individual regime, the consequences that flow from it and what, if anything, can still be done by way of response. The discussion explains that these regime changes are not linear, it's not a steady state progression, but are subject to abrupt and fairly dramatic change. It also shows how many of the 19 tipping points can combine to create a synergy that can evolve into a cascade effect.

It's a well written, balanced paper that's within the comprehension levels of non-science types like yours truly. It's a pretty easy read for a research report.

The Arctic Resilience Report is ultimately a warning that we don't have the luxury of time to respond to the irreversible changes now underway. Catastrophic runaway global warming could be a matter of years away. We must come to appreciate the speed of the changes underway, how we suddenly became confronted with 19 tipping points. Government institutions, it notes, are moribund and, as currently organized, incapable of keeping up with the pace of change. 

If there was ever a time to go on something akin to a war footing, this is it. This is what matters most to the future of our country, not bloody bitumen pipelines, not half-assed proposals about carbon pricing. It's time for Mr. Trudeau to focus on what really matters most to Canada, not what's best for his political fortunes.


Owen Gray said...

Our politicians are still afraid to ditch the neo-liberal model, Mound. But, unless they do, what awaits us is extinction.

The Mound of Sound said...

I can't see anything, short of insurrection, that could free us, our nation and our government of neoliberalism, Owen. I have no sense that there's any popular will for that sort of change. It's "Jesus take the wheel" from here on in.

the salamander said...

.. not surprisingly.. I read your article twice .. there were no comments the 1st time, two there on the 2nd read. I had intentions to comment initially, but knew I needed time (that precious problem solving ingredient) and a 2nd read.. to form a shred of an idea.. AKA a comment.

I realize know that you got it right at the very end.. about Trudeau.. He must be challenged.. He must respond..
He's not an asshole rich commercial realtor like Donald Trump.. He is a Canadian & right now its him and his crew that have their hands on the steering, the rigging, the navigation of the ship named Canada.

Canadians.. and certainly Canadian mainstream media need a simplistic rational understanding of just where the ship is heading and why. And what its cargo is.. and why. Perhaps its a thin analogy.. but perhaps its apt, workable.. so all can understand.. especially as so much of 'growing the economy' seems based on getting resources to ports where ships will sail off into our waters from.

The how & the why of Dilbit & LNG - coal & raw lumber - military arms & farmed salmon etc... being the miracle exports to Asia is a wondrous and strange tale. How much of the policies driving those extractions & shipping is actually foreign owned demands is yet another wondrous tale.

If ownership of the ship named Canada is being parceled up like franchises, condos, or stock market shares.. maybe a part of that mysterious Canadian Identity.. is the saying of ... NO ... this is not where we want to go. This is not what we signed up for as working crew aboard this ship. We would actually loke to feed the world, or help educate the world - at least the societies and cultures, the people who are rational and appreciative. We did not sign up to deliver military arms to dictators.

Its depressing.. wondering how to move what seems a gigantic unmoveable beast.. but sometimes you can light a fire or snap a blowtorch on and apply heat.. and things like that pick themselves up and move off.. The simplistic mantra government insults us with daily.. with the able assistance of mainstream media is 'Its the Economy, stupid!' Actually its not.. its the fabric of community, family, people, culture .. all embedded within our environment - and its politicians and government and political parties that are stupid....