Good Sunday Morning,
The Club of Rome has been ringing the alarm since it published "Limits to Growth" in 1972. And this weekend it held an international air travel free conference entitled "We Don't Have Time." They joined forces with Scientists Warning and organizations like the Citizens Climate Lobby and a youth organization based in Seattle called This is Zero Hour, to unveil what they called "The Climate Emergency Plan."
I was made aware of this event by a network of climate emergency action advocates who operate a website called the Climate Emergency Declaration in Australia where Elizabeth's speech to the House Emergency Debate on Global Warming is linked as an example of political leaders who champion real climate action. Last week, the Trump administration quietly released The National Climate Assessment, mandated every 4 years, which says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion US since 2015.
Some are still in denial about the climate breakdown, even as they are searching for bodies in the California wildfires. But the US military has known for some time that the consequences are real and is tapping the IPCC report to prepare for what's to come. Climate breakdown represents a real and tangible security threat. And yet on Friday the Green Party of Canada was compelled to issue a press release in response to Bill Morneau's economic update entitled "Security threat of climate emergency ignored by Finance Minister."
“There’s an utter lack of understanding and virtual silence on the climate emergency we face,” Elizabeth is quoted as saying. “Nothing in the report responds to or even mentions the recent warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Meanwhile, as we reported last week, Canada is among the worst offenders as the world falls short of climate-change targets. As we shared with you last week, the CBC reported that a study published in the journal Nature Communications found current emission reduction efforts in Canada, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia would result in a 5.1 C warming of the planet by the end of this century, if all other nations set similarly unambitious targets.
A piece published by the BBC last summer gives a good indication of what this means. Simply passing 2 degrees C could flip us into a system of catastrophic feedback loops with dramatic consequences that were well explored by Gwynne Dyer at the beginning of this decade. "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself," co-author Prof Johan Rockström, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, told BBC News. "We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."
In the face of mounting evidence that we really don't have time, it would be much easier to offer some encouragement to our current Prime Minister in the efforts he is making on the climate file, if the spin and deception wasn't so persistent. This week in Calgary he met protesters with a podium at the ready (something we don't rate here in BC) which made it look more like a photo-op than anything else. Then he went on to parrot the line that we are "forced to sell our oil at a discount (the price differential) loosing 80 million dollars a day." And the media dutifully reported the spin.
But if you listen closely to this piece on Power & Politics (I've cued it up at the right spot) you can hear that "Suncor has no exposure to the differential and therefore shouldn't have to reduce its production. We upgrade or refine over 70% of the barrels we produce in Alberta and we should be allowed to benefit from that and the pipeline space we contracted which has insulated us from local price discounts." In other words, making the same point we made last week. If you refine or upgrade the bitumen in Alberta you can get full world price. But if you insist on increasing your production of raw bitumen in excess of your capacity to ship it to markets that don't want it, you will naturally trigger a massive price war.
As Andrew Nikiforuk wrote in the Tyee, Alberta’s problem isn’t pipelines; it’s bad policy decisions. "The Alberta government has known for more than a decade that its oilsands policies were setting the stage for today’s price crisis," writes Nikiforuk. "Which makes it hard to take the current government seriously when it tries to blame everyone from environmentalists to other provinces for what is a self-inflicted economic problem. In 2007, a government report warned that prices for oilsands bitumen could eventually fall so low that the government’s royalty revenues — critical for its budget — would be at risk. The province should encourage companies to add value to the bitumen by upgrading and refining it into gasoline or diesel to avoid the coming price plunge, the report said."
As usual Andrew does a fine job accurately representing the facts. He details how, during Alberta’s so-called oil price crisis, the three top oilsands producers — Suncor, Husky and Imperial Oil — are posting record profits. All three firms have succeeded this year because they own upgraders and refineries in Canada or the U.S. midwest that can process the cheap bitumen or heavy oil into higher value petroleum products. This points once again to the reason Canada needs a comprehensive energy plan.
J David Hughes wrote this for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as part of the Corporate Mapping Project. "Like it or not, we need to plan for a major transition over the coming decades from our reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy. Fossil fuels are the major source of energy for Canadians and people around the world (providing 85 per cent of global primary energy in 2017). But hydrocarbons—oil, gas and coal—unfortunately also have major environmental impacts from both extraction and combustion. Given this reality, Canada’s policy of selling off its remaining non-renewable energy assets as fast as possible makes little sense. Canada’s production of conventional oil peaked in 1973 and natural gas peaked in 2001, meaning the only hope for significant growth is from oil sands and fracked oil and gas, both of which have high environmental impacts."
A viable energy plan has to recognize that the world is shifting as it awakens to the real and existential threat of climate breakdown. There are new advances in energy storage being developed including Tesla's battery parks and towers made of concrete blocks that store kinetic energy. I hope to explore these some more next week but today we need to return to the economic outlook tabled by the Finance Minister. Its centerpiece seems to be the accelerated depreciation of capital costs for industry. Things like robotics and automation will now probably be wholly tax deductible the year they are purchased. Not that they weren't wholly tax deductible before, it just used to take a few years to write them off.
This will probably be welcome by profitable operators in the tar sands. The Huffingtron Post reported again that in February, Suncor, which employs about 6,100 people in Alberta's oilpatch, announced it's introducing more than 150 autonomous, 400-tonne heavy-haul trucks at several oilsands mines over the next six years. As these robotic trucks start to drive bitumen back and forth, 400 human drivers will be replaced, each earning about $150,000 a year. Meanwhile Rachel Notley is lamenting that the Alberta oil industry didn't get even more handouts.
The Guardian reported recently that the G20 nations are still led (by the nose) by the fossil fuel industry. "Climate action is way off course in all but one of the world’s 20 biggest economies, according to a report that shows politicians are paying more heed to the fossil fuel industry than to advice from scientists," writes Jonathan Watts. One of the authors of the report that is referenced states: “There is a huge fight by the fossil fuel industry against cheap renewables. The old economy is well organized and they have put huge lobbying pressure on governments to spend tax money to subsidize the old world.”
The UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, in December – the COP24 conference – will start a two-year process for governments to deliver on their commitments to reduce emissions. Of course Elizabeth will be there and last week she asked Catherine McKenna in the House: "When will this government commit to a path that leads to 1.5 degrees, the Paris target?" A valid question if Trudeau want's to be seen as a climate leader.
But I'm not holding my breath. I'm pretty sure we all know who the real climate leader is here in Canada and she understands that the climate is fundamental to everything else. A healthy global ecosystem is the basis of our economy, our social well being, our peace, our freedom and the hopeful future we all wish for our children. That is why Elizabeth needs to be in the leader's debates next year and why we must pressure the new commissioner to insure that none of the other party leaders will be able to hold the debate hostage like they did in 2015.
Green voices matter. Even though none of her 46 amendments to bill C75 were accepted by the government, Elizabeth and her Hill staff keep presenting solutions and improvements to a wide range of legislation. Here is a video of her in action, explaining the process. You can of course keep up with all that Elizabeth does inside and outside the House by reading her week in review. As we mentioned in our SGI fundraising email last week, we need her voice in parliament, now more than ever.
And speaking about action, you might enjoy this article that came across my desk which celebrates the first passing of a Green bill in PEI's legislature. It shows that you don't have to be in government to affect change. But you do have to have the courage to speak for those who can not speak for themselves. And you have to have the fortitude to distinguish fact from spin and constructively challenge cabinet members to do the same.
Kevin Taft told us this Fall how deeply the oil industry has embedded its hooks into the three mainstream parties here in Canada. And Bill MacKibbon just wrote in the New Yorker how deliberate the deception is: "Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, understood that its product was contributing to climate change a decade before Hansen testified. In July, 1977, James F. Black, one of Exxon’s senior scientists, addressed many of the company’s top leaders in New York, explaining the earliest research on the greenhouse effect. “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon-dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” he said, according to a written version of the speech which was later recorded, and which was obtained by InsideClimate News. In 1978, speaking to the company’s executives, Black estimated that a doubling of the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by between two and three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as ten degrees Celsius (eighteen degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles.
"Exxon spent millions of dollars researching the problem. It outfitted an oil tanker, the Esso Atlantic, with CO2 detectors to measure how fast the oceans could absorb excess carbon, and hired mathematicians to build sophisticated climate models. By 1982, they had concluded that even the company’s earlier estimates were probably too low. In a private corporate primer, they wrote that heading off global warming and “potentially catastrophic events” would “require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”"
The alarm bells have been ringing softly for so long that most people don't even hear them anymore. But that doesn't mean the fire is out. What it means is that we need more people like Elizabeth to turn up the volume in the halls of power. What it means is that now is the time to act. Now is the time to volunteer. Now is the time to help fund the efforts of those dedicated to saving humanity. We don't have time to waste. As McKibbon reminds us: "We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate."
Have a politically active weekend and don't forget to mail your PR ballot!
Until next Sunday,
"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015
This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues. And if you are on twitter please join in on this hashtag.