Share to raise climate awareness

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Ministers are meeting soon to decide what the pandemic recovery will look like. Their decisions will shape Canada for decades to come. We need to build back better by tackling economic inequality and racial injustice. But more importantly we need to invest in bold climate action. Canada’s Green Recovery needs more climate ambition. If we don’t get climate right, nothing else matters. (Editorial comment)

Create green jobs by investing $81 billion over 5 years to move Canada towards zero emissions; ensure stimulus funding does not go to polluters; raise billions by ending handouts to fossil fuel corporations. — LeadNow Just Recovery campaign.

The Last Chance To Get Climate Policy Right, Below2C

The following article by Mitchel Beer was previously published in The Energy Mix.

Last Chance to Get the Climate Right

Old habits are hard to break. Addictions are the toughest of all.

So when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to Houston in March 2017 and declared fealty to a fossil fuel industry already entering its sunset years, he showed it was bound to be a long, hard climb back to more sober-minded policy-making.

“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there. The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably.”

The question for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland as she settles into her new cabinet portfolio is whether that statement still rings true in the context of a global health emergency, an accelerating climate crisis, a mounting wave of fossil fuel divestment and stranded assets, and the meteoric rise of clean energy alternatives.

Emerging trends…

Nearly 3½ years since Trudeau’s speech, the world has changed. Canada, for the most part, has not. But now time is running out for the federal government to get this particular monkey off its back while the new, post-carbon economy takes shape, around the world and in real time. With Canadian jobs, prosperity and innovation hanging in the balance, a new finance minister and the return home of the world’s most respected central banker may add up to the country’s last, best chance to avert the devastation that would result from missing this opportunity.

It isn’t as though Ottawa was taken by surprise. By the time Trudeau spoke in Houston, the early signs of the fossil industry’s now-accelerating collapse were in plain sight. Oil prices had been below historic levels since 2014, with some traders predicting 10 years of poor markets as far back as 2016. Fossil fuel divestment was gaining momentum. Renewable energy investment was rising as technology prices began to plummet, and analysts had already long suspected that electric vehicles would soon be cheaper to own and operate than the internal combustion variety—with dire consequences for the industry that supplies the raw material for gasoline.

Those emerging trends are now a landslide. In late May, the European Union Union confirmed “green strings” on a €1.75-trillion recovery plan and budget. In mid-July, Democratic nominee Joe Biden added a US$2-trillion climate plan to his campaign platform. And on August 11, Biden named a running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, who’d proposed a $10-trillion climate plan and boasts a strong record for promoting environmental justice and prosecuting rogue fossil fuel companies.

No Coherent Post-Carbonization Plan

Those milestones leave Canada as one of the last Western democracies with no coherent plan to cut ties with the industries that brought us a mounting global climate emergency. It’s a position that is helping to shatter Alberta’s fossil fuel-dependent economy, as oil and gas investment declines and jobs evaporate. It will cost Canadians millions of well-paid jobs in every part of the country, as a rapid transition away from carbon picks up speed just about everywhere else.

“If we’re caught flat-footed by a Biden victory, we may watch as entire sectors of our growing clean energy and cleantech sectors pack up and move to greener pastures in the U.S.,” Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray warned in an early August blog post. “Or they may just wither as they fail to secure the government support needed to commercialize innovations.”

But you wouldn’t know it to listen to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan. In mid-August, with divestment announcements swirling and fossil fuel companies themselves declaring billions in stranded assets, O’Regan said Canada’s tar sands/oil sands producers will boost their output over the shorter and longer terms—even as the country scrambles to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“There is no way we are reaching net-zero [greenhouse gas emissions] without Alberta,” O’Regan told the Financial Times, adding that fossil industry investment will be critical to funding the country’s energy transition. “Our prosperity and our economy are still highly dependent on it,” he said. “It is what we do.”

Freeland Hints at a Different Path

Which essentially suggested zero policy movement since Trudeau’s Houston speech, in spite of extensive, meticulous analysis on the massive potential to build back better after the pandemic, in Canada and around the world. No change, that is, right up until Freeland herself hinted at a different path.

To [the] question about decarbonization as part of our economic plan going forward: Of course, it has to be part of it,” she said shortly after she was sworn in. “I think all Canadians understand that the restart of our economy needs to be green. It also needs to be equitable. It needs to be inclusive. And we need to focus very much on jobs and growth.”

Of course, the incoming minister’s remarks would include a strong talking point on a green restart—to coin a phrase, because it’s 2020. How her statement of intent translates into policy and action will depend on how well the government navigates the complications on the road to a green recovery.

Those complications begin at the top. Officials in Freeland’s new department are believed to be skeptical that the country will need green stimulus, or possibly any stimulus at all, after the pandemic. And up to now, the incoming minister had apparently been “less convinced than many other Liberals that climate ambition was a decisive factor in their re-election to government last year,” as Globe and Mail columnist Adam Radwanski wrote in mid-July.

But Canadians themselves are telling a different story. Two different questions in the same national poll in late April showed that, by a 23-point margin, respondents were more likely to support specific green job and recovery measures than a more general call to address climate change through post-pandemic stimulus.

In the main survey by Ipsos Canada, part of a wider omnibus poll covering 14 countries, a solid 61% of Canadians agreed pandemic recovery efforts should prioritize climate action. But a separate question commissioned by campaigners at SumOfUs showed 84% public support for a green recovery plan in response to the pandemic. The lower number was almost precisely the proportion of 2019 voters who supported parties with platforms calling for faster, deeper carbon cuts. The higher one showed that green jobs are a political winner in every part of the country.

A Link Between a Green Recovery and Women Workers

Federal policy-makers are also quite rightly focused on the gendered nature of this recession, Radwanski reported two weeks later. At first glance, that line of thought pulls them farther from a green recovery focused on sectors that have not traditionally employed women in large numbers. But as Tim Gray told me in a mid-August interview, high-tech fields are generally doing better at hiring a more diverse work force than legacy industries like oil and gas.

All of which brings to mind the old line about the number of psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb: only one, the joke goes, but the light bulb has to want to change. If Ottawa is really interested in stimulating job creation for a diverse work force while simultaneously bringing the country into the new, low-carbon economy, there’s a road map for that.

National advocacy group Efficiency Canada points to energy efficiency trades training as a ticket out of job loss for women caught in the COVID-19 “she-cession.” Much the same case can be made for the full menu of energy and other technologies on the road to a green, just recovery.

“Within the traditional trades sector, the work force is aging, the sector will be in need of new workers, and it’s going to have to have much greater gender diversity if it’s going to continue to function,” said the group’s policy director, Brendan Haley. “If it’s a challenge to try and move toward a more diverse trades community, there’s no time like the present.”

Moreover, “a gender-balanced recovery is not about trying to protect people who were in precarious, service-based employment by putting them back into that precarious situation,” he added. “It’s to provide higher-wage, longer-term, more secure employment,” whether those jobs are in child care, education, or a sector like energy efficiency.

A pivot toward women in trades and STEM would also help focus a green recovery on jobs and industries on the cusp of meteoric growth, in contrast to fossil fuel industries that are “de-manning” (by which, sadly, they do not mean hiring more women) even faster since the pandemic.

So, there’s no obvious reason for Ottawa to choose between two equally worthy policy objectives. But green recovery advocates may still end up winning all the arguments and losing the final decision. With any addiction, clear thought and visionary planning are early casualties. And Canada’s addiction to the fossil fuel economy dates back decades.

Carney’s Impact?

That’s why the return of Mark Carney—former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, driving force behind the finance sector’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and now United Nations special envoy on climate action and finance—is just the jolt of reality this country needs.

“Trudeau is leaning on the former Goldman Sachs banker as a sounding board for what officials are characterizing as an ambitious economic recovery plan,” Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. “The plan will seek to tackle everything from deficiencies in the social safety net to climate change, infrastructure, and immigration.”

The Bloomberg report, with its mention of climate and infrastructure and its reference to an initial announcement this fall, was the most specific published news on Canada’s green recovery in months.

There is much uncertainty about how Carney’s role will evolve. But the story so far may suggest a government that is considering two of the key steps in addiction recovery: admit you have a problem, and get the help you need. Even if the details have to wait for a September cabinet retreat, and for all the mail-in ballots to be counted in the U.S. election, Ottawa must not foreclose the essential option of making its pandemic and addiction recovery a green one.

Related articles….
The Two Sides to Canada’s Post Pandemic Recovery
To Save Our World, We Must End The Carbon Economy
From the COVID Frying Pan Into the Climate Fire

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License

Share to raise climate awareness


  1. According to Mitchell Beer, “… we need to invest in bold climate action ….Create green jobs by investing $81 billion over 5 years to move Canada towards zero emissions; ensure stimulus funding does not go to polluters; raise billions by ending handouts to fossil fuel corporations.”
    With all due respect, Mitchell Beer’s take on what we need to do is at odds with other leading minds on our existential predicament, including, for example: Gail Tverberg, Dr. Tim Morgan, Dr. Nate Hagens, and Dr. Tim Garrett. And let’s not overlook Rob Mielcarski, one of Canada’s most informed voices on climate change science, and author of the un-Denial website.
    Why, asks Rob, “… do none of our political or intellectual or business leaders understand the single most important aspect of the thing they care most about — economic growth? The answer of course is that the human species evolved to deny unpleasant realities.”
    Don’t look for references to the work of Tverberg, Morgan, Hagens, Garrett, and Mielcarski to appear any time soon in the published work of Mitchell Beer and his followers. They tend to cherry pick the “good news” stories about renewables, clean energy, decline of fossil fuels, and the like. And it appears Beers may even have taken to blocking opposing comments on his Energy Mix website – at least two of my comments were submitted for review, but then, with no explanation, not posted.
    Moving right along, Rob cites a passage from a recent article by Dr. Tim Morgan, who, in turn, cites Dr. Hagens that counters Beer’s viewpoint —
    “The Great Simplification will occur when the credit-supported part of the economy is removed. Economic activity will contract and less energy will be needed because it will be increasingly unaffordable to many parts of the population. People will be forced to adjust living standards downward and self-organize around energy with greater emphasis on local supply chains and regional economies. I expect that the mix of energy sources will be similar initially. That will probably change as declines to meet the decreased carrying capacity of a society deprived of fossil energy productivity. Then, I imagine the world will move increasingly toward lower productivity energy sources like wind and solar. A viable economy may very well be created based heavily on wind and solar. It will, however, support a much poorer world than we have known for many decades in the world’s advanced economies. Most ideas and analyses about future trends in energy and the economy fail to recognize that they are the two aspects of the same thing. That is why they are so far off the mark. This basic misalignment is painfully obvious because the energy sector represents only 2.5% of the S&P 500 valuation but underlies probably 95% of U.S. GDP.
    That is what Dr. Hagens calls energy blindness.”

    • Thank you Frank, as always, for being brutally honest about our climate reality as we skip from decade to the other. And indeed the larger picture does look pretty bleak.

      Mitchell is a personal friend and climate colleague. I do consider him an eternal optimist. And of course he is not alone in highlighting the huge potential of alternative energy sources and emerging technologies that may make the post-fossil transition less traumatic. And Frank, what are your thoughts on the work of Tony Seba whose work on clean disruption is revolutionary?

      Thank you for your feedback and ongoing support.

      • Rolly, I was pleasantly surprised to find my comment to Mitchell’s article accepted for publication. Thank you. Sorry for my long reply —
        Re your view of my comment as being “brutally honest,” please understand that I consider myself to be little more than a filter for the advanced-level theories, research findings and thinking of academics in the Physical Sciences and in associated fields. I have no personal educational background in these knowledge domains. However, I do bring an advanced level of education that enables me to critically assess the validity and reliability of published sources of information in these fields without fully comprehending the content.
        Regarding the work of Tony Seba, this is the first I have heard of him. I did take a quick look at his website, and he describes himself as an educator, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, advisor and board member, with an MBA from Stanford School of Business, and B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT. I know nothing about his work on clean disruption.
        But let me apply the criteria Canadian Rob Mielcarski of un-Denial would likely use to assess Seba’s work as it relates to advancing a solution to our existential climate related crisis:
        “There are two and only two topics required to understand the basis of every success and problem in our civilization: thermodynamics and genetic behavior.
        By thermodynamics I mean:
        • the laws of thermodynamics that govern our universe
        • the relationships between energy, economy, wealth, population, and pollution
        • the relationship between debt and surplus energy
        • the maximum power principle of biology
        • the history of energy use
        • the types, sources, qualities, density, scalability, and applications of energy
        • the discovery rate, consumption rate, and reserves of non-renewable energy
        • what is and is not feasible with, and the dependencies of, non-fossil energy
        By genetic behavior I mean:
        • human behaviors that are mostly hard-wired
        • genetic behaviors that contributed to our unique success and predicament
        • why those genetic behaviors evolved”
        Rob goes on to ask: “Why is it that every famous intellectual understands many topics except the only two topics that really matter: thermodynamics and genetic behavior?”
        Rob includes in his list of famous intellectuals — who are NOT familiar with the only two topics that really matter — 35 names, including these 22 which you will probably recognize:
        Steven Pinker; Sam Harris; Noam Chomsky; David Suzuki; David Attenborough; Neil deGrasse Tyson; Stephen Hawking; Lawrence Krauss; Elon Musk; James Hansen; Richard Dawkins; Frans de Waal; James Lovelock; Jared Diamond; Ken Burns; Chris Hedges; Niall Ferguson; Alan Greenspan; John Kenneth Galbraith; Joseph Stiglitz; Paul Krugman; and Michael Shellenberger

        Rob goes on to list the names of those who do understand thermodynamics and genetic behaviour who are distinctly not famous. (You can find these names on his website)

  2. To the author’s informative background paper I would add that we now need a pathway towards net zero emission by 2050.

    It seems the only way we are going to get there is to have clear yearly reduction targets for every emitter (i.e. personal, corporate, government, service organizations, etc.) and a new carbon tax (or levy) with rebate. This leads to the following much abbreviated action plan:
    1) Declare the initial year for this GHG reduction plan (say 2020) and the target year (2050) for net zero GHG output. This yields 1/30 = 3.33 % per year reduction every year for every emitter’s own GHG output at the initial year. This is also the same % reduction for every province and the whole country.
    2) Introduce a new carbon levy with rebate, where the rebate depends on how closely the emitter meets its target; any deficit gets added to next year’s GHG reduction target.
    3) Task the tax department with collecting and refunding the levy, and track yearly progress of GHG reduction for every emitter, province and territory and the country.
    There are of course many domestic political problems to resolve, as well as international ones, but we must start the process very soon.

    • Indeed there is no better time than now to start the process as our government prepares for its September 23 Throne Speech. Unfortunately the corona crisis is taking all the oxygen out of the political will to tackle the climate crisis/

      Thank you for the feedback Hans

  3. Well, this is turning into a rollicking conversation! That’s when I would hope any writer would declare mission accomplished. (In the small sense. 2050 is a bit bigger.)

    Re: your reply to Hans, Rolly, we’re definitely seeing corona taking up all the oxygen in the room. I guess something had to, after the carbon price stopped doing that.

    So it’ll be important, and I’m sure not 100% satisfying for any of us, to see how the government threads that needle in the Throne Speech. In the last couple of days, with case counts rising again and the possibility of a second wave becoming more imminent, we’ve seen new indications that they’ll be emphasizing direct supports like housing and child care…and I sure hope no one on this site would second-guess either of those priorities. There’s also been talk of a green lens for those primary programs, and at that point (as with any throne speech), the devil will be in the details.

    We’ll be digging into this story in tomorrow’s Mix. But as one probably whimsical example — I don’t have any advance indication that they’ll do this, if they defined a comprehensive approach to housing as bringing every home to net-zero by 2050, including a heat pump, wiring for an EV hook-up, and climate resilience improvements in every retrofit, organized the kind of mass, deep retrofit program that Ralph Torrie and others have been advocating, then declared 15-minute neighbourhoods with Curitiba-style transit access an essential cornerstone of the plan and agreed to work directly with cities to get it done…I’m exaggerating to make the point, but that wouldn’t be nuthin’. It would still leave major, essential pieces of a climate agenda unaddressed, but it would be a corona program that also took a big bite out of emissions.

    Frank…first things first. The $81 billion figure at the top of this post wasn’t in my original post — I think it was part of Rolly’s commentary. And as far as I can tell, I have no record that we’ve ever blocked any of your comments on our site. In fact, I’ve just been reading over one that was a judgement call, since we typically either block or edit personal attacks on individuals and organizations. In this case, it looks like I published and responded, and we got into a good conversation on the page. If any of your comments haven’t been getting through, **we need to know that**. So if they’re still timely, please resubmit. If they aren’t, please don’t stop sending.

    And just to get one alarming bit of your reply out of the way — to my knowledge, I have no “followers”, and I really hope that’s right. If I do, it’s by accident, and they should stop it right now. The purpose of The Energy Mix is to compile and share useful information as widely as we can and build a community of knowledge and action, not follower-ship.

    I can’t see that we cherry-pick our content — not when we’re constantly covering current and anticipated climate impacts, not when the Energy Mix headline on the Below 2°C page on the day we’re having this conversation is ‘Pandemic Brings Scant Reduction as Atmospheric GHGs Continue to Rise’. We deliberately strike a balance between crisis and solution stories, partly because the future is *not* cast in stone, but mainly because we’re convinced (and keep hearing) that readers are looking for pathways to address the crisis, not just assume all is lost. I do believe that the only way we’ll lose the battle of our lifetimes is if we convince ourselves it’s already lost. I don’t see any guarantees that we’ll win, but that’s all the reason I need to keep emphasizing the crisis emergency *and* the viable paths out of it side by side.

    We do run stories on degrowth, but like anything else we publish, they have to pass the sniff test. I scan through 1,000 or more headlines each week, and a good share of the material is either unvarnished spin (from “friendlies” as well as fossils, BTW), or honest content that still isn’t completely thought out. My biggest concern about degrowth advocacy is that it triggers all the pushback we’ve seen about climate hawks being tree huggers who don’t care about people who’d be happy to get any job, green or otherwise, whether they’re in downtown Toronto or a developing country. You can pretty much pre-write the response from climate deniers like Bjorn Lomborg. And my concern is that we aren’t going to win a fight in which we would have nothing to offer the people whose jobs, or lack thereof, we’re talking about.

    And after all that, one lesson from the pandemic is that driving a spike through economic growth *doesn’t* cut emissions to any meaningful degree, since fossils are still supplying the remaining demand. By contrast, the right kind of pandemic-driven housing program would drive down demand, starting right away, increasing over time, and permanently — once the net-zero features are in, you can bank on the energy demand and carbon reductions year after year. It creates jobs in the hundreds of thousands, and they’re distributed across the country, not in a single region that becomes dependent on that single industry. And it gets the job done in a way that brings more people onboard, rather than driving them away and marginalizing our own message.

    Rolly, I don’t consider myself an optimist, and certainly not an eternal one. What I look for every day is pragmatic strategies that will build wider, deeper public demand for the fast, deep emission reductions we need — not by bashing away at public audiences (since we’ve already reached anyone who’s open to that), but by starting the conversation with people’s own day-to-day priorities and discovering together how the things they already need and want lead to carbon reductions. (More on that here: *That’s* how we build a big, loud, irresistible constituency for the bigger-picture changes that have been stalling out, like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. But if our strategies to date were going to work, they already would have…and we’re running out of time to keep missing our mark.

  4. About Mitchell’s comments:
    I begin my response with this brief description from of the YouTube video of Mitchell’s TedxTalk (which he referred to in his comment) entitled Climate Change: What if we’re asking the Wrong Question? Which I highly recommend by the way –

    “What the Second World War was to our ancestors, Climate Change is to our lifetime. We can win this battle, as long as we don’t give in to climate despair and convince ourselves that it’s already lost. The solutions are within our grasp, but they depend on political will that will only be driven by much wider public demand for actions that cut carbon, create many millions of jobs, and build stronger, healthier, more resilient communities.”

    I’ve referred to Mitchell as “an eternal optimist” but I stand corrected. He’s more of a pragmatist as one can see in the last paragraph of his feedback. I too believe that we have the solutions but what is clearly missing is the political will to get to those solutions. The politics of climate change are evolving but far too slowly to meet the gargantuan challenge of reversing the rise is emissions required to get to net-zero 2050. A case in point is the apparent shift in the Liberal government’s Throne Speech, originally expected to focus on “Green Recovery” but now turning back to focusing on the pandemic and the economy – some would say, the old normal.
    And of course, the pandemic should be a priority but the argument that we must first deal with COVID-19 before the climate crisis is deeply flawed. Our decision-makers cannot act on climate with the scope needed to solve the problem, and the gap is widening.

    About Frank’s comments:
    Frank, as always, thank you for your feedback and for stimulating the conversation. I must confess that I do not have any expertise in thermodynamics or genetic behavior, but my instinct tells me that these are most certainly not the only two topics that really matter in understanding the world we live in.

    • Four points –
      1/ I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a “rational skeptic” (in an irrational world) who bases his objective and subjective reasoning on a study of empirical evidence as presented by recognized authorities in their knowledge domains. It is from this cognitive framework that I will challenge the thinking of others.
      2/ Rolly, you write: “I too believe that we have the solutions but what is clearly missing is the political will to get to those solutions.” Question: What one or two article(s) posted on your website (or Mitchell’s Energy Mix) would you direct me to that you think (a) best defines the nature of our climate change crisis and (b) lays out in detail the proposed solution(s)?
      3/ For my part, I would direct you to the works of Dr. Nate Hagens, many of which are featured on my website ( ). Hagens, who teaches “Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament” to graduate students at the University of Minnesota, employs a systems synthesis approach to research. He has spent the last decade searching for the “Big Picture” questions and answers to our predicament. Here is the link to just one of his many presentations featured on my website — my March 1, 2020 repost of his article, which I re-titled as: “Humanity has become “a mindless, energy-hungry, CO2-emitting Superorganism,” says Dr. Nate Hagens”. The ShortLink is
      And to give you an idea of just how BIG his BIG PICTURE system synthesis thinking can get, consider that he prepared a collection of 34 videos (on You Tube) for his students to communicate his take on our situation. These 34 videos are also available on my website.

      • Thank you for sharing Hagens’ work.

        As for your request under point 2, I only wish I had the time to comply. But surely “the nature of our climate change crisis” is so obvious – just look at the evidence all around us. And solutions, follow the science.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here