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.

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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.

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