The climate case against Trans Mountain

2018-06-02

in Canada, Economics, Politics, The environment

Writing in The Globe and Mail Thomas Homer-Dixon and Yonatan Strauch have a solid explanation for the incompatibility between the Trans Mountain pipeline and the climate commitments Canada has chosen for itself:

For these [pipeline] opponents, further massive investment in the extraction and export of some of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel on Earth is nonsensical – idiotic, even. In a dangerously warming world, we should be investing in a clean-energy future, not entrenching Canada more deeply in the economic past.

Continued investment in the oil sands generally, and in the Trans Mountain pipeline specifically, means Canada is doubling down on a no-win bet. We’re betting that the world will fail to meet the reduction targets in the Paris Climate Agreement, thus needing more and more oil, including our expensive and polluting bitumen. We’re betting, in other words, on climate disaster. If, however, the world finally gets its act together and significantly cuts emissions, then Canada will lose much of its investment in the oil sands and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, because the first oil to be cut will be higher-cost oil such as ours.

There are more sophisticated analyses of the situation which are necessary, concerning global budgets and international negotiations, but it’s fair and accurate to say that Canada’s progress toward decarbonization depends on not making heavy new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. If the Trudeau government or any other keeps pushing in that direction, Canada seems likely to end up the poorer while the world will be further imperilled both by the emissions we generate and the diplomatic consequences of putting fossil fuel profits before collective action to avert planetary disaster.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan June 2, 2018 at 11:40 pm

Also important:

The German climatologist and oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf puts it bluntly: “We are catapulting ourselves way out of the Holocene.” If humanity stays on its current climate trajectory, he goes on, “we will not recognize our Earth by the end of this century.”

That’s the lens through which many of the pipeline’s most adamant opponents see the issue. To them, adaptation measures such as better flood protection or a little economic tinkering at the edges, such as a modest carbon tax, don’t remotely cut it. We face an implacable imperative: Humanity either undertakes fast and deep cuts in its carbon emissions or, some time later this century, civilization starts to unravel. This imperative has a moral component, too: Canadians should do their part to cut emissions, even if some countries aren’t currently pulling their weight. Otherwise, we’re simply free-riders, and that’s not who we are, or should be, as a country.”

My paper Canadian Climate Change Policy from a Climate Ethics Perspective relates to this.

. September 1, 2018 at 1:28 am

“Prime Minister Trudeau had permission to redo the review and he squandered it. His broken promise and litany of fraudulent excuses that followed have not only failed all of us—whether we are against or in favour of the pipeline—he has miserably betrayed himself.

The prime minister participated in the disintegration of his integrity by adopting an elaborate fiction about the economic benefits of the project and it being in the public interest; about having undertaken proper consultation with First Nations and ensuring marine tanker traffic is safe; about it being a commercially viable infrastructure project and the $4.5 billion purchase price a good deal for Canadian taxpayers.”

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/08/31/opinion/commercial-viability-trans-mountains-expansion-just-took-huge-hit-federal-court

. February 2, 2019 at 4:00 pm

John Ivison: PBO report on Trans Mountain purchase is sombre reading for a government that likely overpaid

Morneau may not have been fleeced, but certainly paid at the high end of the valuation scale, apparently assuming that everything would proceed smoothly

. February 8, 2019 at 10:05 pm
. February 20, 2019 at 4:18 pm

NEB rejects environmental group’s call to expand scope of Trans Mountain pipeline review

Group asked board to apply same standard to project as it did with Energy East

. February 20, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Decision on Trans Mountain pipeline’s fate might not come until summer

Cabinet won’t decide pipeline’s fate until new round of consultations with Indigenous communities is complete

. May 30, 2019 at 3:23 pm

The highest-value target is making sure that Canada does not build a completely useless and anachronistic pipeline to British Columbia so they can produce yet more tar sand oil. It’s a waste of money, a waste of time, and it’s precisely the wrong signal to send to the rest of the world. The people who are fighting it are magnificent.

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