Saturday, February 03, 2018

Setting the Record Straight on Trudeau, Notley, Bitumen, and Our Future.

What's the difference between all-out nuclear war and catastrophic climate change? So far we haven't been stupid enough to resort to all-out nuclear war.

Both of them can end civilization, indeed most life on Earth. The way we're going it's unclear which will get the job done first.

Canada, of course, doesn't field a nuclear arsenal but it sure as hell is doing its bit on the other threat, runaway global warming. We have huge proven reserves of the filthiest, most dangerous, high-carbon ersatz oil on the planet, Athabasca bitumen. And we've got two provinces and a succession of federal governments hell bent on getting as much of that deadly crap as conceivably possible to foreign markets.

When challenged on this, our prime minister pops a fuze and says the only thing he can come up with. Here's what he told an angry crowd yesterday in Nanaimo:

"We wanted a national carbon reduction plan, a national emissions plan that is going to allow us to reach our climate goals, to reach our Paris commitments but in order to do that, part of moving forward is approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It is something many people feel very strongly about on either side, but that is the nature of the compromise we had to make in the best interests of Canada."

That's some ripe horseshit to be sure. Flogging Black Death is "part of moving forward." It's "in the nature of the compromise" that the Liberal government "had to make in the best interests of Canada."

If that's "moving forward," in what direction exactly is Canada heading? Well, given that Trudeau's climate goals were set by Stephen Harper and we're not on track to even meet those, you can probably figure out where Justin is taking us.

One of America's top climate scientists and advocates, James Hansen, had this to say five years ago about the Tar Sands.

"To avoid passing tipping points, such as initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, we need to limit the climate forcing severely. It's still possible to do that, if we phase down carbon emissions rapidly, but that means moving expeditiously to clean energies of the future. Moving to tar sands, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, is a step in exactly the opposite direction, indicating either that governments don't understand the situation or that they just don't give a damn."

Hansen isn't alone. Climate science backs him up. When Justin Trudeau and his environment minister burst onto the floor of the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, they scored big by urging that the old target for maximum global warming, then at 2 degrees Celsius, be cut to a humanity-saving 1.5C. McKenna and Trudeau didn't hear, nor heed, the warning of another top world climate scientist at the Paris Summit, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber's warning that any hope of holding global warming to 1.5 C would depend on an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry.

Schellnhuber said if we want to do this we can if the petro-states move quickly to shut down their fossil fuel resources and rapidly transition to alternative energy. It doesn't sound like Hans had Trudeau's let 'er rip energy policy in mind.

Here's the thing. Trudeau, Notley and their Oil Patch patrons, frame this as a purely economic issue. Schellnhuber argues it goes way beyond economics.

In the end it is a moral decision. Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision.”

Oil field experts say that these new pipelines are 30-year investments. Barring some collapse of markets, those investing the hundreds of billions of dollars into these pipelines have confidence that they'll reap their rewards. And, so long as the Oil Patch has reliable and indulgent governments like Harper's and Trudeau's, they're probably taking a safe bet.

Trudeau sees calls for real action to fight climate change as "sanctimonious crap." Ask David Suzuki:

Trudeau called him personally June 28, 2015, to talk about the Liberal platform on climate change that was to be revealed the next day. “I didn’t call Justin, he called me,” Suzuki said. “He wanted an endorsement and he wanted to tell me exactly what his program was.”

The program includes support for the Keystone XL pipeline, a rejection of the Northern Gateway pipeline and a commitment to work with the provinces to establish a cap-and-trade system.

“I said, ‘Justin, stop it, you’re just being political, you just want to make headway in Alberta,’” Suzuki says he told Trudeau. “You’re for the development of the tar sands, you’re for the Keystone pipeline, but you’re against the Northern Gateway, you’re all over the damn map!”

Suzuki went on to advise Trudeau that taking the target of a two-degree rise in temperature seriously means 80 per cent of the oil sands has to stay in the ground. Suzuki believes stopping oil sands development will mean “no debate about pipelines or expanding railways or shipping stuff offshore—none of that comes into it.”

Suzuki says this is when the exchange turned nasty. “He said, ‘I don’t have to listen to this sanctimonious crap.’ I proceeded to call him a twerp.”

Mr. Trudeau obviously won't be talking about this but if you want to know how Athabasca bitumen impacts humanity's chances of averting climate catastrophe, a good place to start is this 2012 U. Vic. paper by Neil Swart and Andrew Weaver. I suppose, in Trudeau's mind, that's just more sanctimonious crap.

Hansen, Schellnhuber, Suzuki, and Weaver, there are plenty more voices backing them up. You can't reconcile their science with Mr. Trudeau's political bafflegab. 

Schellnhuber is right. This is a moral issue. It's a deadly serious moral issue. Deadly as in lethal. Remember how we used to export asbestos to sketchy markets offshore even though we knew it would condemn people in the Third World to a horribly painful end? Well, we're doing something along those same lines with bitumen.

Climate change is already claiming innocent lives, predominantly in the poorest, most vulnerable corners of the world. They're dying from heatwaves, drought, flooding, severe storm events, sea level rise, crop failures and more. We've now got a new phenomenon, climate wars - wars that are triggered in whole or in part by the devastation of climate change. The civil war in Syria began as the result of famine caused by crop failure. And this is just the early onset stuff. There's a lot more coming their way. These people are collateral damage to our economic imperative. 

I'm one of a growing number of British Columbians steadfastly opposed to the machinations of Harper-Trudeau, Klein-Notley, the Tar Sanders and their very sketchy dilbit pipeline operators with their horrible accident track record. They've shown us what these pipelines do to the territories they cross. Ask the people of Kalamazoo, Michigan. That, of course, was Enbridge. But what do you know about the current contender, Kinder-Morgan? Let's put it this way. If they were operating school buses instead of pipelines you would probably wind up home-schooling your kids.

And when it comes to an armada of lumbering, dilbit-laden supertankers navigating British Columbia's very challenging and dangerous coastal waters, there are many problems. The odds aren't on our side. We've had Coast Guard and RCN officers, merchant mariners, all advise Trudeau's National Energy Board that  a supertanker calamity isn't a matter of if but when and how often.

It was March 24, 1989, nearly 30 years ago, that the Exxon Valdez came to grief in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Ten million gallons were spilled. But that wasn't dilbit. It was conventional crude oil, kid's stuff. That spill covered 1,300 miles of coastline, 11,000 square miles of ocean.  More than a quarter of a century later the oil still isn't cleaned up.

On March 24, 2014, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the spill, NOAA scientists reported that some species seem to have recovered, with the sea otter the latest creature to return to pre-spill numbers. Scientists who have monitored the spill area for the last 25 years report that concern remains for one of two pods of local orca whales, with fears that one pod may eventually die out.[33] Federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 US gallons (61 to 79 m3) of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles (725 km) away. Some of the oil does not appear to have biodegraded at all. A USGS scientist who analyses the remaining oil along the coastline states that it remains among rocks and between tide marks. "The oil mixes with seawater and forms an emulsion...Left out, the surface crusts over but the inside still has the consistency of mayonnaise – or mousse."[34] Alaska state senator Berta Gardner is urging Alaskan politicians to demand that the US government force ExxonMobil to pay the final $92 million (£57 million) still owed from the court settlement. The major part of the money would be spent to finish cleaning up oiled beaches and attempting to restore the crippled herring population.

The Exxon Valdez spilled conventional crude oil and yet Trudeau and Notley want to put us to that very risk only with something vastly worse, dilbit, diluted-bitumen. Bitumen, a persistent sludge laced with acids, abrasives, toxins, heavy metals and carcinogens, that will head right for the sea bed where it will remain for decades contaminating the coastal waters, devastating the marine ecology. To borrow Hansen's words, "they just don't give a damn."

The Trudeau government put the lie to its vaunted "world class oil spill clean up" preparations when Dame Cathy's environment ministry was caught having approved an incredibly dangerous chemical, Corexit, for use in BC waters as an oil dispersant. We know a lot about Corexit from its use during the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills. 

If you don't know about this chemical that our federal government has cleared for use in British Columbia's coastal waters, watch this.

If you've got the stomach for it and want to watch the entire Vice expose on Corexit, you can watch it here.

This is the reality of what Justin Trudeau wants to do to our coast, intends to do to our coast, tells us he is going to do to our coast.

Pushing ever more bitumen onto world markets is morally reprehensible. Worse yet, it's a betrayal of our own kids and grandkids. Shipping it in the most lethal possible form, dilbit, rather than requiring that it be refined on site, in Athabasca, to remove the most odious components - the acids, the abrasives, the heavy metals, the carcinogens, the pet coke, and the sludge - is equally reprehensible. To even imagine using Corexit in British Columbia's coastal waters is fiendishly reckless. And they're doing it all just to put a few extra bucks in Rachel Notley's and her Oil Patch patrons' pockets.


Hugh said...

We can and should be getting away from fossil fuels. My view is that switching to clean renewables is possible but will result in a smaller overall economy.

Getting away from fossil fuels means less land, sea and air travel and shipping, for example. This means lower GDP.

Shrinking the economy is contrary to what Govts see as their mandate.

Why can't we have a stable, non-growing economy? Why does Govt see it as a major problem?

Chuckstraight said...

Great article. Baffles the mind to hear the constant need for economic growth. Isn`t that the problem?

Danneau said...

Gollee, Sarge! you must be one of Ron McLean's commie pinko friends to be so worried about climate when it's so cold outside!

I'll gladly join that brigade, and advocate for shrinking the economy (I've already shrunk my own personal economy a bunch). But I see people both near and far who just don't see that there is a problem and continue to live smug lives of deep consumption and having lots of children and flying off to a holiday as an integral part of their existence.

We're losing, sadly, and I find myself quoting Mick's line from Memo From Turner: You'll still be in the circus when I'm laughing in my grave.

Hugh said...

We don't need growth. It's a hoax. We need a stable, sustainable, fair economy.

The ones who want constant growth are the real estate developers, banks and oil companies. They're the ones Govt seems to listen to.

The Mound of Sound said...

GDP as a measure of a healthy economy if not, it seems, even a healthy society, is of relatively "recent invention," a legal doctrine that urges caution.

Even the guy who came up with it, a US govt. economist, Simon Kuznets, in 1937 in a report to Congress urged that it not be mistaken for a measure of wellbeing. His caution was quickly ignored and remains that way today. In the postwar world GDP served as the mainspring driving our obsession with perpetual, exponential growth.

It's more than a ridiculous pursuit. It's utterly mad. Yes I'm saying that Justin Trudeau, like the modern era leaders before him, is succumbing to an economic madness.

Let's put it this way, thank to a compound interest calculator. Year 1, a steady state economy of 1. Then you begin implementing growth policies of 3%. Year 2 would therefore be 103%. Year 3 would be 103 plus another 3%. 50 years of this would have grown your Year 1 economy 4.38 times. That's nearly 4.4 times as much production, as much consumption, as much waste.

By Year 100, your economy and associated activity has swelled by more than 19 times. 150 years of 3% annual growth and your economy has swelled by 84 times what it was in Year 1. Another 50 years, two centuries, and it's a plainly impossible 369 times larger. Your Year 1, $1 economy is not just over 369 times as big. That's 369 times as much production, 369 times as much consumption, 369 times as much waste and pollution. At Year 250 it's a staggering 1,600 times bigger. By the end of the third century, your economy is more than 7,000 fold the size it was in Year 1.

Now that might be okay in some circumstances, not that I can think of any. It is not, however, viable for a very finite, already heavily overburdened planet Earth. In terms of a biosphere such as our one and only it's the equivalent of an extremely aggressive malignancy.

It can't be that our prime minister is mathematically incompetent. It's just that he, like his predecessors, has chosen to ignore the road down which they're driving the herd and where it ends (just up ahead). If anything, he's stampeding us to the edge of that cliff and, well, he doesn't care.

I really hoped that Trudeau would be a new generation of leader, one who accepted where we were, where we were heading and how to change course. He's not that leader. He's discouragingly remarkably like Harper.

Hugh said...

Pumping dilbit all the way from Alberta to Burnaby uses a lot of electricity. New electricity in BC would come from things like the insane $10 billion Site C dam.

"The Site C project will result in the largest exclusion of land in the 40-year history of BC's Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)."

Hugh said...

The 2017 BC Budget shows Total BC Provincial Debt growing at over 6% a year. Using the divide by 72 rule means this debt would double in 12 years. If you express alarm about growing debt you are told to look at the debt/GDP and debt/capita ratios. Since debt grows every year, as long as GDP and population grow every year, everything is ok.

You eventually run into a wall called 'reality'. You then need to find a new planet earth.

See p. 140

Toby said...

"You eventually run into a wall called 'reality'. You then need to find a new planet earth."

But at your 6% per year growth then the new earth would only suffice for 12 years.

Hugh said...

Tourism, for example. It runs on fossil fuels: airplanes, cruise ships, cars, trucks, buses, motorboats, motorcycles, ATVs, skidoos, trains.

Do we hear govt saying they'll reduce tourism?