So how should we rate Canada’s response to the climate crisis? One word: Awful! Actually it’s worse than awful and worsening still despite a mild shift in public opinion fueled by the short sighted goals of elected officials. Additionally, if industry is slow to adapt to new realities, it seems the banks and financial markets are slower still, reluctant to admit the full consequences of injustice and inaction, always hungry to create short-term profit for investors, rewarding well compensated executives, the environment be damned.
One does not have to look very far or very long to find reports of seemingly ubiquitous decisions by Canadian political, corporate or financial leaders that will continue to frustrate and resist any real change in economic behaviour in relation to the climate crisis. While Canada’s stated objectives within global UNFCCC negotiations are bad enough—our present emissions commitments are nowhere near the necessary commitments of the Paris Agreement—the consequence of our present efforts leaves us well above the 1.5o atmospheric warming levels.
We continue to miscalculate our carbon emissions. Despite government assertions, once the product (oil or gas) is extracted, processed, and transmitted to any of our coastlines we are not absolved of any downstream effects when our resources are combusted elsewhere. Such a practice sets up a vicious cycle where actual combustion abroad negatively affects environments in China and India for instance. As these emission levels are calculated, we next complain that other countries are not doing their own transition work towards cleaner technology. In such calculations, hypocrisy abounds.
So how have recent reports described Canadian climate change response. Let’s start with Canada’s 12 carbon bombs. Here’s the good news—of the 425 such projects around the world we only have 12 within our borders, the majority in BC and Alberta. But “our bombs” are nuclear in scale. They are big, destructive, and barreling (sic) steadily ahead. The most important bomb is a shale gas formation in the Northeastern Peace region of BC called the Montney Play. A CBC investigation names it as “a rock formation […] [with] enough potential greenhouse gases to blow past Canada’s 2030 emissions targets 30 times over.” This project is heavily subsidized by federal and provincial governments. They employ the technology of Fracking, a process which fractures the ground (causing considerable seismic activity) through an intensive water injection process which renders most of the water unsuitable for any future use. A by-product of the process comes through the release of methane. “Methane traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide while it’s in the atmosphere, and is responsible for about 30 per cent of the rise in global temperature since the industrial revolution, according to the International Energy Agency.” According to one analyst “fracking is one of the worst things you can do in the midst of a climate emergency.”
Local MLAs and some municipal politicians with some indigenous leaders prize short-term economic activity and employment over future climate inevitabilities. While the concern for employment and community prosperity is understandable one does wonder what sort of community workers will enjoy as the affects of climate change continue to accelerate.
Provincially, the NDP government continues to claim a commitment to political, social, economic and environmental change—and then do exactly the opposite, sometimes on the same day. A recent article in The Tyee describes the recent BC provincial budget as a “Snooze on climate action.” Premier David Eby’s first budget “took a nap on the climate front, spending about one-fifth of what is needed to tackle the current emergency and setting the province up to miss its own climate targets […] Moreover, the budget sets B.C. up to overshoot its own climate targets — putting it in a weak position to tell polluting industries to meet their own emissions reductions targets.”
In other BC news the provincial government is once again on a collision course with First Nations in the granting of approval for Cedar LNG. Critics say it’s incompatible with the province’s climate goals. Still with Crown and Indigenous relations jump to the federal scene and to Alberta. “While federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault (recently) spoke softly about the Alberta Energy Regulator’s disgraceful nine months of silence about the flow of 5.3 million litres of toxic sludge from Imperial Oil Ltd.’s Kearl oilsands mine 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, there was a hint of steel in his remarks. Guilbeault called the AER’s failure to report the pollution spill from a drainage pond to Environment Canada or the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation “very worrisome,” which has to be in the running for understatement of the year. The two First Nations are most impacted by the risk from the spill of water containing arsenic, dissolved metals and hydrocarbons […] “Our systems are failing Indigenous peoples, clearly,” Guilbeault said. “And we need to find solutions.”
So why are our systems failing Indigenous peoples? Where are the solutions for all peoples and for our battered and fragile earth? A better question is why are our systems dysfunctional? We know the solutions—we simply fail to enact or enforce them. We have detailed analysis in hand which provides both historical record and credible impact prediction. We know what must be done–So why do so many corporate leaders and politicians at all levels simply refuse to embrace transitional economic and environmental practices? These leaders are gambling with our lives; they threaten our children’s future; they punish vulnerable persons; they ravage the earth unsustainably. The effects of climate change continue to appear—increased numbers of extreme weather events; rising sea levels eroding coastlines; threats to Arctic Indigenous sovereignty and cultural practice; wildfires rampage almost everywhere on earth at different times; access to clean water diminishes as air quality suffers, and the steady loss of biodiversity continues unabated. Add to these the growing number of climate refugees which now raises questions of security and stability and the picture becomes clear.
The gift of life and environment we have been given is fast disappearing, and we are both victim and agitator. We have not held our governments, the financial industry and the fossil fuel lobby to account. Their response has been just awful: It’s been worse than awful. A single poorly conceived decision regarding resource management can obliterate the constructive efforts of literally thousands of innovative persons and groups. Project Drawdown meets liquefied natural gas, and loses as we continue to enjoy the benefits of tremendous wealth—rich in natural resources, in skills, in access to technology, and in the ability to accrue capital to accomplish our heart’s desire. British Columbia is a wealthy province within a wealthy country. We can and should do more and better. Time is running out, especially as feedback loops such as methane emissions from Arctic permafrost drive ice melt which will change ocean currents and the waters which cover 71% of earth’s surface, the majority of it being salt water. .
Truthfully, money talks. Find out where your money–your surplus funds if you have them–is invested. Here in North America, it’s tricky. Banks are invested heavily in fossil fuel industries. I have now come to accept that the only way to push back and to demand real change is to follow the money and divest from fossil fuels. Please consider signing the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty. Talk about these things with anyone and everyone. If it seems like we are taking from the earth more than it can withstand or replenish, acknowledge this. While some natural processes are beyond the point of no return, many can still be turned around. Read anything by Naomi or Seth Klein. Watch any video hosted by Katherine Hayhoe. Join the Anglican Communion Environmental Network mailing list. Get involved somehow, locally, now.
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