Climate Change

Perverse leadership in ‘immunity via collective failure’ globally.

Don’t know about you, but I find there is nothing inconsistent with trying to lose weight and each day increasing the number of Krispy Kreme’s delicious, world class doughnuts that I eat.

John Horgan’s BC NDP government seems to believe inconsistency can be ignored because they are claiming to fight climate change as they are doing all in their power to expand fossil fuel production. They’ve even sacrificed their alleged commitment to UNDRIP.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland spoke similar nonsense to CBC.

Can net-zero and the energy sector co-exist?

“…there’s nothing inconsistent about the federal government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a thriving oil and gas sector…”

Freeland insists Canadians recognize that the two goals are compatible.

“And I truly believe we can do both.”

In response, long time climate activist Bill Henderson composed an open letter to Minister Freeland. It is reproduced here, with permission:

Climate change is a suite of potential dangers. Canadian governments have agreed in international treaties going back three decades to try to limit GHG emissions so as to stay safe below an emissions ceiling to prevent the possibility of ‘dangerous climate change’: existential, civilization if not humanity threatening dangers such as runaway warming or abrupt climate change.

Climate science long regarded 450ppm/2C as the guardrail to stay safe but many knowledgeable climate scientists led by Dr. James Hansen argued that 2C was too deep into potentially dangerous territory and that humanity would only stay safe if we limited emissions and warming to 350ppm/1C.

As the science of our novel climate change predicament got more precise the international agreement Canada signed at the Paris COP recognized that keeping emissions and subsequent warming as far below 2C as possible was the very least we should be doing to protect our global society’s safety and our kids future.

Now, after three decades of mitigation failure, with GHG emissions continuing to increase globally, it will take an immense global effort requiring deep systemic change to even stay under 2C. And, considering only the runaway warming danger, the evolving climate science strongly suggests that there is a potential cascade of latent feedbacks and a threshold to Hothouse Earth as close as one more failed mitigation decade.

But GHG emissions continue to rise. This is why Greta and the kids are out in the streets. We know better but we don’t/can’t get to effective mitigation action. Very few governments globally have achieved even their modest emission reduction targets.

The few jurisdictions leading in emission reduction – the UK, Germany, California, for example – are only achieving a fraction of their emission reduction needed and almost all nations have lapsed into ‘immunity via collective failure’ where what mitigation planning exists are plans to fail like Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework which is projected to not even meet its too small by half Harper-era targets.

Our climate predicament is dire, an emergency, we are rapidly heading for warming that promises to crush our civilization and all we love and care about, and our governments are getting worse not better at achieving needed emission reduction. We need leadership and action urgently but instead our governments are choosing collective failure.

In this dire climate context Minister you have argued that we can still have a thriving oil and gas sector which implies, in our present economic governance, an energy sector that continues to expand production. Ms. Freeland, you are by far the most thoughtful and competent member of your Liberal government. It is therefor so distressing to hear you miseducating Canadians about what has to happen in regards to fossil fuel production in Canada.

Half a decade ago McGlade Ekins clearly showed that in order to stay under 2C we would have to regulate a managed decline of fossil fuel production, especially of the oilsands in Canada. Since that time the urgency has only increased, the carbon budget has gotten smaller and, far from the kicking-the-can-down-the-road 100% by 2050 obfuscation target, we need something like a 60% reduction by 2030.

Ms. Freeland, we desperately need leadership. Now; from Canada that is one of the worlds largest producers of fossil fuels; a real plan – not another plan to fail.

We need leadership in getting out of denial and ongoing collective failure. Leadership in recognizing that we must commit to rapidly winding down fossil fuel production, to including supply-side policies because climate is an emergency.

After three decades of failed mitigation and with a projected 2.5-4C rise in global mean temperature this century, with fossil fuel production projected to keep increasing past 2040, we desperately need Canadian leadership.

And, first of all, we need honesty and leadership from those in government that we would expect to trust, that we would expect to protect the best interests of all Canadians, today, but especially generations of Canadians into the future.

There is no safe future without effective mitigation urgently.

Effective mitigation now must mean a regulated managed decline of fossil fuel production in Canada and globally. No new infrastructure; no new production facilities – oilsands or LNG; a Green New Deal style plan to build renewables and help fossil fuel producing regions transition. Nothing less.

Most urgent of all, we need your leadership in stopping miseducating Canadians about what effective mitigation must now mean. The all important first step is getting out of denial.

The Liberal government attempt to balance continuing fossil fuel production expansion with pretend climate mitigation has been perverse leadership in ‘immunity via collective failure’ globally.

Pretending to be climate leaders while continuing to do what ever you can to expand production is unconscionable. Our kids need real climate action, not continuing denial.

We do need to build a national consensus on climate action. It must be about emission reduction of a scale needed and that must mean a managed decline of fossil fuel production. A winding down of production could still be a money maker for the oil and gas industry – better profit margins on reduced production – and that would be great for the needed transition, for the broader transition to a post-carbon economy.

Now this is a too long email but I have barely sketched how your messaging this week has miseducated and harmed Canadians. I’m hoping you care about our common future and doing the right thing and that, responsible for your actions, you will consider my plea for real leadership instead of continuing denial.

We should be doing everything in our power to reduce emissions; we should be doing everything possible to get back under the relatively safe 350ppm/ 1C guardrail. We have to stop lying to ourselves about our failure to achieve effective mitigation.

Thanks for your time. If you (or a delegate from your office) would like an informing dialogue on this effective climate mitigation subject I’d participate fully at your direction.

Bill Henderson, Gibsons, BC

Climate crisis: CO2 levels rise to highest point since evolution of humans

Once we hit 2C warming, the report said the world will become a profoundly different place.

There will be almost no coral reefs remaining, the Arctic will be completely free of ice during summer at least once a decade, and huge numbers of animals and plants will become extinct as their habitat becomes smaller and smaller.

Devastating heatwaves and wildfires will become more frequent and could make some inhabited parts of the world impossible to continue living in.

The impact for humans will be enormous, the report said, particularly in areas already vulnerable to sea level rise such as the low-lying coastal regions of Bangladesh and Vietnam, and island territories like Kiribati and the Maldives.

Rising waters will drive millions from their homes, and crop yields will fall dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

The report concluded “limiting global warming to 1.5C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

Categories: Climate Change

6 replies »

  1. Thanks for posting Bill’s letter, Norm. I have all but given up any expectation that Canada and the western provinces will do the right thing, the essential thing. For us, cognitive dissonance has become our basic operating system.

    At the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 there appeared to be a global consensus to hold global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That elicited a warning that few heeded. It came from the then director of the Potsdam Institute, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. He said the goal was feasible but it depended on the “induced implosion” of the fossil energy industry. Unless governments moved to rapidly introduce alternative energy and shutter fossil energy producers there was no realistic chance of a 1.5C world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for posting Mr. Henderson’s letter Norm. Bill does a great job laying out the urgency required to deal with the climate change crisis we find ourselves in but I think the main takeaway here is how deceitful our government is to it’s own citizens. Perpetuating the madness that Canada can somehow meet it’s emission targets and at the same time continue to develop fossil fuel assets is completely irresponsible. Canada is a tough country to govern but that is not an excuse for backing away from the action we must take to do our part in battling the climate change crisis.


  3. This morning at 8:41am on ‘NW in the Resident Redneck spot all who question the wisdom of building a pipeline to supply the LNG facility in Kitimat were called “morons”.

    Listeners were informed that cutting Canada’s GHG emissions is a waste of time unless other countries do so, and not only is the Kitimat project desperately needed, but 37 more similar projects are required to get China off coal.

    He didn’t deal with the fact that at the very least there is a genuine argument being advanced about whether LNG is a viable transition bridge when total life cycle emissions are considered, or that a bridge should not even be considered given other more climate-friendly energy options are quickly coming on line.

    He did make the very helpful suggestion that we “pay off the greedy out of work Chiefs, and move on.”

    That should earn CKNW a welcome pat on the head from CAPP. Something that would have disgusted the former Top Dog.


  4. Perhaps if China doesn’t cut back on their emissions there is little chance for improvement in the climate. however, we can help them and not by exporting LNG at the cost of our Canadian environment. We can simply make it so expensive they will not buy. How will that help us? It will cause them to have a look at how they operate. They go to the country with the lowest prices. Right now that is us.

    If we remain with our current infrastructure, we may not be improving things but we’re not making it worse. Increasing production, will increase pollution.

    China uses coal and regardless what the LNG proponents say, China will continue to use coal as will Japan. Its cheap. The other country which needs to get a grip on their pollution is India.

    Perhaps it is time we looked at tariffs based on pollution products create. If countries such as Canada, Australia started imposing a tariff on coal purchased in our countries we’d make a few extra tax dollars to be used for research and imitigating pollution. “a tax on products which are created and in the process create a lot of pollution, tax it. It may cause some bright individual to create another product which does the same things, but doesn’t create the pollution. i.e. extra tax on all things plastic. We might go back to glass, which is easier on the enviornment and can be easily recycled.

    Building these pipelines is not going to help anything except perhaps some shareholders’ portfolio. if Alberta is concerned about jobs Jason could stop laying off government workers. laying off 200 instructors in Edmonton will most likely negatively impact 300 other workers. His reduction in doctors salaries isn’t going to help much of anything either. Oh, wait it might, they may move to B.C. good old Jason is determined to drive Alberta into extinction.

    If Kenny were truly interested in Alberta’s prosperity he’d have implemented a 2% sales tax and used the money to clean up the abandoned wells, which would have created a few jobs. The money could also have been used to assist local governments stay a float and maintain their infrastructure.


  5. e.a.f. – Putin built a nice, big gas pipeline into China. The Russians were expecting a $9+/mBTU price. China refused, offering Moscow something closer to $5/mBTU. Russia, badly needing foreign capital, allowed China to sew up the price. It was recently reported in the Barents Observer that China has two huge drilling platforms busy on the Arctic seabed in Russian waters. It seems they have already discovered two huge methane fields that, in partnership with Gazprom, will soon come online even as the Chinese continue their exploration.

    We need a price of $9 per million BTU to break even. It’s expensive to get LNG to Asia. Our price is no longer viable. China doesn’t need us. There’s a glut of cheap methane to be had. That’s why Chevron, the lead partner on the Kitimate LNG plant is trying to dump it and has already taken a $2 billion write down on that asset. The other half of the Kitimat plant is owned by an Australian gas producer. It’s not leaping at the chance to get Chevron’s half dirt cheap. And the pipeline? Foreign owned.

    Norm has done an excellent job in chronicling the collapse of gas royalties received by the BC government.

    As for coal, we really should stop exports of thermal coal and consider ramping down the export of metallurgical coal also.

    If you start putting tariffs on fossil energy exports, i.e. an export carbon tax, you’re going to have to include bitumen but it too no longer commands a viable price on world markets. That explains why Kinder Morgan was going to shut down the Trans Mountain pipeline and why the feds had to buy it. Ottawa can’t sell that. They’ve tried. Now they’re going to have to drain the treasury to pay for the Trans Mountain expansion. As the costs skyrocket the chances of unloading it on the private sector are virtually gone.

    When the biggest investment firm of them all, BlackRock, with seven “T”rillion dollars in assets under management, says it wants nothing to do with the Tar Sands or bitumen, the writing is on the wall. Kenney, who is about to hammer Albertans with a brutal austerity budget, is still talking about financing Tar Sands operators. See anything a bit illogical there? Maybe, as Norm, says it’s just “perverse.”


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