Oil export plan diminishes Canada’s stature

Once upon a time, I felt qualified as a British Columbian and as a Canadian. Then along came Enbridge’s Northern Gateway plan...

By John How

Once upon a time, I felt qualified as a British Columbian and as a Canadian. Then along came Enbridge’s Northern Gateway plan.

Gateway, simply put,  is a scheme to transport tar sands via pipeline along the path of least resistance, from Alberta to a marine trans-shipment facility in Kitimat or other port-of-convenience.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] reports that burning just half of the carbon bound up in The Tar Pits (what else can you do with it, after all?) will double the amount of carbon dioxide that mankind has managed to shovel into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

That’s enough to power an increase in mean global temperature of roughly 3.8 Celsius degrees. As temperature increases exceed 3.5°, model projections suggest significant extinctions ranging from 40 to 70 per cent of species.

A warmer globe will greatly reduce Earth’s snow and ice. In Canada’s North, it will defrost huge areas of permafrost, allowing methane frozen in the muskeg to muscle its way back into the atmosphere.  Methane is over twenty times more potent than CO2  as a greenhouse gas. That release will shift global warming into hyper-drive.

Reduced snow cover equals more liquid water in the hydrological cycle equals rising sea levels. If you know anyone contemplating moving to Richmond, you might want to mention that to them. The current estimate to buttress just Greater Vancouver against sea-level rise is $9.5 billion. The great conveyor-belts of the weather — the jet streams and deep-ocean currents – derive their energy from the thermal difference between the poles and the equator. Changing those temperatures fundamentally changes the entire climate equation.

Here’s how the head of the IPCC put it in his address to the recent Doha confab on climate change.  Based on present trends, a one-in-20 year hottest day is likely to become a one-in-two year event by the end of the 21st century.

His warning has been echoed by Britain’s Lord Stern at the recent Davos summit, who now says that temperatures will rise four to five degrees this century.

We frankly lack sufficient understanding or computing power to foresee fine-scale effects that such changes will create.  All we can say for certain is that we’ll see more energetic ‘events’ more often:  think super-storm Sandy.  Again. And again. And again.

So now perhaps you can appreciate my lack of enthusiasm for Gateway? No matter how many engineering gimmicks the project incorporates, there are no good ways of executing a bad idea.   And Gateway is a very bad idea indeed.

Planned tar sands emissions will triple by 2020, putting us 7.4 per cent our 2020 target [instead of meeting our Kyoto commitment for a 17 per cent reduction]. A new London School of Economics study – prepared for the World Summit of Legislators – looks at 33 countries.  It includes 17 of the top 20 emitters representing 85 per cent of global emissions. And 32 of those 33 economies have made progress on significant climate legislation.   For the first time, one country has distinguished itself by failing to propose, let alone attain, comprehensive greenhouse gas controls.  Oh, Canada!

We bailed out of the Kyoto club:  the only nation to do so.  Kyoto was, in the words of the Rt. Hon. Steve,  just “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”

Let’s not forget what’s at stake here: that petrogoo can command $17.3 trillion dollars, at today’s prices. Is it any wonder that our Albertasaurans are as crazed as a Colombian cocaine cartel to get their crud to market? But at what ultimate cost?

I hail from a generation of Canadians who could slap a mapleleaf on our backpacks and wander unhindered, even welcomed, over most of this Earth. But no longer.  Prime Minister Harper’s tarsands policy has done for Canada’s international  reputation what whaling did for Japan’s. Gateway will further degrade my birthright and greatly diminish the legacy I’m able to bequeath to my kids. Are we truly that “thuggish petro-state”?

John How lives in Terrace, B.C.


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