Rivers: Who do we hold accountable if we fail to stop climate warming?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 19th, 2019


“President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and others who oppose action to address human-induced climate change should be held accountable for climate crimes against humanity.” (Jeffrey David Sachs- special adviser to the UN)

heavy smoker

He had no idea what he was doing to his body.

Have we learned anything from the tobacco companies? For decades they understood the consequences of smoking and second hand smoke. But rather than changing their product, or at a minimum, informing the public, they lied – hiding the truth about the dangers, sowing confusion and misleading the public about the health hazard of their products. It was deliberate and it was manslaughter – a crime against humanity.

So now we find out that the oil companies did the same thing. Their research as far back as the fifties pointed to today’s evolving climate change. And they too established a program of disinformation and outright lies, enabling climate deniers like GW Bush and Stephen Harper to employ the uncertainty they created as an excuse to resist climate action.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

Alberta’s latest enabler Jason Kenney has just opened his energy war room, furthering the notion that Alberta is under attack by the environmentalists. And he’s poured $30 million to make himself battle ready for the fight to the finish against the 16 year young Greta Thunberg and those other fearsome greenies. And the chest pounding, hype and propaganda are working.

Albertans were motivated to donate more than anyone else in the last federal election, hoping to get the pro-oil Conservatives elected. And now Kenney’s blind defence of big oil has even spilled over into the classroom. Parents at one Alberta school have threatened a teacher not to use a balanced approach, pros and cons, when it comes to teaching about the oil sands. According to the oil zealots there can be no discussion of a downside to Alberta’s biggest industry.

A few days ago Mr. Kenney rode into Ottawa to shake hands with Mr. Trudeau and pretend he wanted to mend fences, offering him one heck of a Faustian bargain. Green light another monster oil sands project and reap some kind of political peace in exchange. It was an offer he thought Trudeau couldn’t refuse. But chances are pretty good he will.

The Teck Resources proposed Frontier mine oil sands project would convert 24,000 hectares of mostly northern Alberta wetland into two massive open mine pits, a bitumen processing plant and a tailing pond for the toxic waste residue. And it would likely need another pipeline to move the estimated 260,000 barrels of bitumen a day the project will produce.

Four million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) a year will be pumped into the atmosphere every year for the next 41 years. The project would last over a decade beyond the PM’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions. And that does not account for the GHG emissions resulting from burning all that oil.

Trudeay and Kenney - the handshake

Kenney did eventually shake the Prime Ministers hand.

And is Kenney serious? How would Trudeau square approving this massive carbon emitting project with his 2030 emissions target. He would lose any credibility he has on the climate change file and with it the support of the third parties, whose support he is counting on for this current mandate. Mr. Kenney may not be the devil but he came to Ottawa to steal Justin’s soul and then to damn the rest of us to an ever faster and more aggressive global warming.

Look at Australia which has just experienced its hottest day ever amid the worst bush fires in the nation’s history. The massive area of scorched earth will take decades before it can be rehabilitated, its wine industry has been dealt a blow and a toxic cloud has blanketed its largest city and drifted across the Tasman Sea as far as New Zealand. The fires have emitted half of the annual GHG national contribution of carbon, and they are still burning.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, mainly to Asia. Much like Canada it has an obscene carbon footprint, not even counting the emissions from the coal it exports. It once dabbled with a carbon tax, but like we did in Ontario the Aussies booted out their environmentally conscious government for one led by a series of right wing climate action deniers.

And speaking of Ontario, premier Doug Ford is as busy as ever eliminating every single climate change mitigation program the previous government had initiated – as if somehow the climate is a partisan issue. And the provincial auditor general has warned that Ford will not come anywhere near the provincial 2030 emission reduction target. But nobody, including his environment minister, expects him to, anyway.

Ford scrapping carbon tx

He means every word in the sign before him – unfortunately.

So far he has cancelled the provincial cap and trade carbon pricing system, eliminated rebates for home energy conservation and electric vehicle (EV) purchases, cancelled plans for high speed rail travel, ended the provincial EV charging station program and the requirement for charging to be available in new housing. He has shut down almost 800 renewable energy projects, is fighting the federal carbon tax up to the Supreme Court, and has just canceled Hamilton’s light rail transit system.

Transitioning to a zero carbon society is unlikely to be accomplished at zero cost. But as we have already seen, the consequences of climate change will be much more costly. Just ask the Australians. And the fact is that the cost for many of the transitional changes can be phased in as existing infrastructure gets replaced. Or the costs can be redistributed and shared, like the carbon tax, to avoid major impacts for those in need.

Pennywise and pound foolish are those who would avoid transitioning as quickly as possible to a lower carbon footprint. Financial debt can be paid off, but restoring the earth’s climate and the life it supports, once we have passed a tipping point will be impossible. Which do we think future generations would object to the most? And who do you think they will blame for these climate crimes against humanity?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


Background links:

Crimes Against Humanity –     Tobacco Crimes –    COP 25 Madrid

Australia –    Alberta Political Donations –     Teacher Threatened

Kenney –     Natural Gas –    Oil Sands –    Alberta War Room

Oil Deception –     More Australia –     Hamilton

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3 comments to Rivers: Who do we hold accountable if we fail to stop climate warming?

  • Joe Gaetan

    Who do we hold responsible? The right answer is (drum roll) ourselves. According to the Carbon Footprint Calculator, there is a positive correlation between spending and carbon footprint (A positive correlation exists when one variable decreases as the other variable decreases, OR when one variable increases while the other increases). If we want to point a finger at which elected government is less or more interested in climate change we need look no further that “their” spending habits.
    If you don’t believe there is a positive correlation between money spent and carbon footprint, take the carbon footprint calculator survey. Try it first with your real spending habits and then again, only this time by reducing your spending to zero. The result, zero spending equals zero carbon footprint for that category. Your Carbon Footprint and your spending are positively linked and that goes for the government you voted for as well.
    Government spending (of any stripe) and that includes our own municipality, contribute to global warming, regardless of how worthy the spending may be (even planting a tree will have an initial negative effect, which is offset over time).
    Governments that use deficit spending to win elections (we all know who they are), regardless of how the money is spent, incrementally contribute to climate degradation.

    Calculator Link: https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

  • Fred Pritchard

    Oh, and Merry Impeachment to one and all.

  • Fred Pritchard

    The core issue is the lack of ethics in the Conservative movement on this topic. They keep kicking the problem down the road to push their other agenda on social issues. However, we are already seeing the planet suffer the consequences. Until Conservatives stop lying and bring some integrity to their policies, and uneducated voters keep casting ballots for them, nothing will change. 66% of Canadians voted to fight climate change, instead of embracing the change, Kenny and Dumb Doug double down on the 1950’s ideas. Perhaps Canadians who suffer losses to floods and fires need to sue them personally for their inaction. Perhaps insurance companies should start refusing to insure people in jurisdictions where inaction on climate change exists. That would fire up voters and the CON’s would be forced to see the facts.