The climate case against Trans Mountain

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.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

10 thoughts on “The climate case against Trans Mountain”

  1. 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.

  2. “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.”

  3. The world is against Trans Mountain

    Friday marked the end of a global week of action against insurers of Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion project. The protests, calling on its insurers to cut ties with the federally owned pipeline, spanned 25 actions across four continents.

    Over the course of the week, Indigenous rights and climate activists from Vancouver to Kiribati to Sierra Leone called on Liberty Mutual, Chubb, AIG, W.R. Berkley, Lloyd’s of London, Starr, Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting, and Marsh to publicly pledge to refrain from doing any future business with the project.

    “The reason we’re here is to drive out insurance companies from insuring fossil fuel industry projects, and in particular Liberty Mutual today (with) the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said 350 organizer Andrew Larigakis, from outside Liberty’s office in Vancouver.

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