Fos­sil fu­els vs. hu­man­ity

Should Canada leave 173 bil­lion bar­rels of oil in the ground?

Bayview Post - - Currents - David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Na­ture of Things and au­thor of more than 30 books on ecol­ogy. (Writ­ten with files from Ian Han­ing­ton).

The U.S. pres­i­dent may think global warm­ing is a hoax per­pe­trated by China, but his ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­cluded Earth’s av­er­age tem­per­a­ture will rise 4 de­grees Cel­sius over prein­dus­trial lev­els by 2100 if we fail to ad­dress the causes.

The 500-page state­ment de­tail­ing this fright­en­ing sce­nario, pre­pared by the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion, wasn’t a warn­ing, though. It was meant to jus­tify the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to stall fed­eral fu­el­ef­fi­ciency stan­dards for cars and light trucks. The state­ment’s au­thors claim global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture will rise in any case, so freez­ing fuel-ef­fi­ciency stan­dards won’t make enough of a dif­fer­ence.

It’s an as­tound­ing con­clu­sion but not un­usual. A com­mon re­frain from Cana­di­ans who re­ject the need to ad­dress cli­mate change is that Canada’s con­tri­bu­tion to over­all global warm­ing is so small that it makes no dif­fer­ence what we do, so we might as well go full speed ahead.

Sci­en­tists of­fer de­tailed ev­i­dence that we must leave most fos­sil fuel re­serves in the ground if we are to avoid the worst con­se­quences of cli­mate change, but our prime min­is­ter has stated, “No coun­try would find 173 bil­lion bar­rels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

As Cana­dian cit­i­zens, we are on the hook for the $4.5 bil­lion our gov­ern­ment paid to buy an old pipe­line, along with bil­lions more to ex­pand it. The gov­ern­ment is also con­sid­er­ing a mas­sive oil­sands project that will ul­ti­mately drive up green­house gas emis­sions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Nar­whal, “The pro­posed mine would pro­duce 260,000 bar­rels per day of bi­tu­men at its peak, cover 24,000 hectares and — dur­ing its 41-year life­span — tap into re­serves in the neigh­bour­hood of 3.2 bil­lion bar­rels.”

Mean­while, the B.C. gov­ern­ment has given the green light — along with at least $5.35 bil­lion in sub­si­dies — to a mas­sive $40 bil­lion liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas project in north­ern B.C. The joint ven­ture be­tween Royal Dutch Shell, Mit­subishi Cor­po­ra­tion, Malaysian-owned Petronas, Petro China and Ko­rea Gas Cor­po­ra­tion would in­clude a 670kilo­me­tre pipe­line to carry mostly fracked gas from Daw­son Creek to Kiti­mat, where it would be liq­ue­fied and ex­ported in tankers.

Ex­ten­sive re­search shows that in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment have se­ri­ously un­der­es­ti­mated emis­sions of the po­tent green­house gas meth­ane (which is what nat­u­ral gas is mostly com­posed of) and that frack­ing causes nu­mer­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, from earth­quakes to wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion. Yet the B.C. gov­ern­ment is of­fer­ing “the largest and most prof­itable multi­na­tion­als in the world” car­bon tax breaks, elim­i­na­tion of the LNG in­come tax and re­duced elec­tric­ity rates, the Nar­whal re­ports.

It’s as if many who are sup­posed to rep­re­sent our in­ter­ests ei­ther lack the imag­i­na­tion, fore­sight and longterm think­ing needed to deal with a cri­sis as mas­sive as hu­man-caused cli­mate dis­rup­tion, or they’ve given up and de­cided short-term eco­nomic gain and pos­i­tive elec­tion prospects are more im­por­tant than en­sur­ing we and our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren have a vi­able fu­ture. It’s time our gov­ern­ments started rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of cit­i­zens over those of the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

Gov­ern­ments should rep­re­sent in­ter­ests of cit­i­zens over the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try

DAVID SUZUKI

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