The year 2019 ended the hottest decade on record by being the year of climate emergency declarations. Globally, “one in ten people now live in a place which has declared a climate emergency,” reports The Verge. Canada declared a climate emergency in June of 2019.
Canada is locked-in to a Fossil-Fuel-Expansion Obsession
In spite of declaring a climate emergency, Prime Minister Trudeau continues to be all-in the for the fossils. Canadian taxpayers bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion in 2018 and are now footing the bill for an expansion project whose cost estimates have ballooned to $12.6 billion from $7.4 billion. And it gets even worse.
Trudeau is now poised to announce the approval of the Teck Frontier project, a new giant Tar Sands mine—the largest ever—which will dump more than 4 million tonnes of carbon per year into the atmosphere until the 2060s. And yet just a few months ago in Madrid, Canada promised it will be at net-zero-emissions by 2050. This is very agonizing to watch. “They know [Trudeau and his cabinet] — yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair,” wrote Bill McKibben in TheGuardian.
Climate Solution? Energy Transition is the Answer
On January 3, 2020, Ottawa-based Abacus Data released a poll titled, “Energy transition: a widely accepted concept; Canadians want governments to work on it, not against it.” The poll shows that “75% say it [transition] is a global trend, beneficial for Canada in the long term. Most feel it is necessary and will happen.”
Yet business-as-usual persists, with most governments slow to announce bold emission control measures, and with some even in denial.
The Trudeau Government, caught in a bind between the fossil fuel economy and the need to transition to renewables, is not acting as quickly as Europe and Asia.
Europe has discovered that shifting a fossil fuel company to renewable energy can be surprisingly simple, because many of the needed technical and management skills are the same.
All of Norwegian oil giant Statoil’s wind energy department, for example, was recruited internally. Little was needed to retrain its engineers. If Statoil moved its offshore wind business into a separate company, it would be one of the 15 largest companies on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
And if the solar division of French oil company Total SA were separated from its parent company, it would be one of the world’s largest solar businesses.
With increasing divestment and the falling demand for oil, transition to ever-cheaper renewables is in the best interests of the industry. Instead of buying pipelines and giving billions in fossil fuel subsidies to shore up an economically non viable “zombie” industry, Canadian citizens, through their governments, could take a smarter tack.
That is to give the industry government subsidies only on condition that it publish plans to transition to renewables at the rate of 8.5% a year. Compounded, the transition would be complete in 10 years, by 2030.
What about Alberta?
There are 60,000 old oil wells in Alberta with geothermal energy waiting at the bottom. And Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan form the sun belt of Canada, receiving over 2375 hours of sunlight a year. They could switch broadly to free unlimited solar energy, including concentrated solar power, which now serves communities in the US, Spain, Morocco, India and China.
Transforming the energy grid to upload all this power could be modeled loosely on FDR’s depression-based Rural Electrification Administration, still operating, and being copied in other countries.
All this development would stimulate the economy and increase employment.
Further procedural information is available on The Climate Mobilization website, and from daily Twitter reports of exciting worldwide innovations from Canada’s Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema), Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson (@mzjacobson), and Singapore’s green energy CEO, Assaad Razzouk (@AssaadRazzouk).
A Win-Win Situation for Climate
A win-win situation awaits us all: it simply requires political will, knowledge of existing solutions, and Canadian savvy and can-do. We can and must collectively urge our governments to act quickly and dynamically to meet the emergency.
Elizabeth Woodworth is a writer on climate change science and activism, co-author of Unprecedented Climate Mobilization; of Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival (with co-author and IPCC expert reviewer Dr. Peter Carter and Foreword by Dr. James Hansen); and co-producer of the COP21 video, A Climate Revolution for All.
Other articles with Elizabeth Woodworth..
Unprecedented Crime: Something Has Gone Awfully Wrong
A Global Climate Revolution
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