CBC’s The Current recently ran a segment on whether Canada’s climate change goals can be reconciled with new pipeline construction. Tzeporah Berman effectively made the case that Energy East, Kinder Morgan, and the Northern Gateway would be means of increasing bitumen sands production, even beyond the unacceptably high cap chosen by the Alberta government, and argued that they are fundamentally incompatible with the climate action Canada committed to in Paris.
In the same segment, Canada West Foundation CEO Martha Hall Findlay seemed to do everything she could to evade the issue of climate change, arguing that Canada simply must enlarge its economy and its emissions and that anyone concerned about climate change should focus on reducing demand (which she expects will increase when pipelines increase Canadian wealth). Her argument boiled down to saying that Canada has an opportunity to profit now, and simply shouldn’t concern itself with what impact new oil infrastructure will have on the climate.
This argument from entitlement — sticking to the assumption that Alberta and anyone else that happens to have oil resources has the right to dig them up and burn them regardless of the impact on people around the world, future generations, and nature — needs to be challenged on ethical terms. Yes, we need to fight climate change by reducing oil demand. At the same time, building infrastructure to serve a world of higher demand is, at best, a wasted investment and, at worst, a choice to lock in pollution that will profoundly threaten the prosperity and security of people around the world.