In the 117 months that Harper was Canadian Prime Minister, not a single major tars sands pipeline was approved. In just 13 months as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau approved two major pipelines, Kinder Morgan’s line to Vancouver and Enbridge’s line to Lake Superior. These two pipelines will add more than double BC’s current annual total release of CO2 to the world’s atmosphere and will stoke global warming.
The Arctic is melting at record speed. In November 2016, temperatures in the high Arctic were 20oC above the historic norm and sea ice was the lowest extent ever recorded for that time of year. Ice is a good reflector of sunlight while open water absorbs light and means more heat absorption. As the Arctic warms, the permafrost will melt releasing large quantities of frozen methane, a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
Already, Canada has seen increasingly unstable weather patterns, more frequent and stronger storms and hotter summers. The Calgary area flood, southwestern BC’s real winter, more frequent floods in Manitoba, the severe storms in Atlantic Canada and the hot spring that fuelled the Fort McMurray fire are all expected results of global warming. In the Arctic, sea ice is becoming precarious for hunters and the melting tundra is causing homes to crumble and collapse.
The increase in severe weather events will require more investment in firefighting equipment, flood controls, and landslide and avalanche protection. Vancouver might even need to buy snow removal equipment! These, and other costs of global warming, will be paid for by the working class in higher taxes and insurance, as well as the suffering due to power cuts or even losing their homes. The ruling class will ensure that they do not pay the cost of climate change and will even seek to profit from it.
Canada has one of the highest levels of CO2 release per person in the world. The two pipelines will increase the shipment of tar sands’ bitumen by nearly a million barrels a day. The increased total emissions (extraction, refining and final use) will be around 150 megatonnes of CO2 a year (Lee, April 2016, CCPA). This is over 20% of Canada’s current total releases. The Canadian government walks away from the climate bomb as most of the releases will be in other countries where the bitumen is used. But, wherever the carbon is burned, it impacts the global climate systems – climate change knows no boundaries.
Many Canadians have not taken climate change seriously, thinking its impacts will be elsewhere. It is true there are already terrible impacts elsewhere. There are also terrible impacts in Canada. Global warming is real and is hitting people everywhere hard.
While Trudeau made a fine speech at the Paris Climate Conference, his actions boost climate change. This is moral and environmental bankruptcy. Building pipelines is not an answer. Urgent and decisive action is needed now to stop global warming making life for humans unbearable on this planet, the only one we have. Capitalism, with its lust for profits, cannot answer the looming climate catastrophe.
The excuse, as always, is that pipelines are good for jobs. This is an outright lie. The cost of the lines is over $14 billion and they provide a few hundred long-term jobs. The same money if invested in renewable energy, insulating buildings and good public transit would provide far more good jobs. However, the ruling class has no intention of changing their ways – they want their profits. Democratic public control of the energy sector is vital for a just transition to clean energy and good jobs.