Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should resign.
That’s laughable presently. The Trudeau government is still enjoying an extra long honeymoon; Canadians are still as happy about the change to ‘sunny ways’ as Americans are distraught with the specter of at least four years of slime, sleeze and shame.
But our PM is a dead man walking. Trudeau and his government have already done lasting harm to our country by failing to respond effectively to the foremost issue threatening Canada: climate change.
There are still four more years in the Trudeau government mandate. At the moment few Canadians recognize/realize/are informed enough to be aware how badly this government has blown the climate leadership mantle that the We-are-back Liberals assumed at Paris. Trudeau has not taken climate change seriously even as the Arctic melts in winter. Before these four years are up developments in the fast moving climate impacts and climate science promise to strip our PM naked as just as ineffectually short-term and self interested as the string of governments from Mulroney to Harper who all promised action and then did less than nothing – all the while stoking production by the world’s fifth largest producer of fossil fuels. Resignation and disgrace will be Trudeau’s only choice and legacy.
You think not? You think Trudeau and his government have lead, done a lot on the climate file? You still think that now, post-Harper, we are finally on the right track to climate action? (Or maybe more accurately, you think the Trudeau government has had a reasonably successful first year on the whole series of issues important to Canadians, especially the economy, and have made a good start on emission reduction to meet our Pars commitment?)
First of all, do you underestimate how important effective climate action is now? How much, much more important climate is – much more important than even the economy? Obviously, Trudeau is governing in tune with public opinion, but Canadian’s perception of the climate change dangers and what effective mitigation is needed now is clearly entrapped in society-wide denial. In Canada, (in the Western world, globally) climate change and effective mitigation must be shoehorned into continuing political and economic BAU. Canadians might read on their phones that climate is a catastrophe brewing but, hey, climate can be mitigated by just tweaking our very fortunate lifestyles. (But we’re so deep in consumer debt, only puny, cosmetic carbon taxes please.)
Canadians don’t know that the carbon budget math for staying safe from dangerous climate change now necessitates a 100% by 2030 emission reduction plan for developed countries like Canada and a much needed evolution past Kyoto thinking to reducing fossil fuel production (McGlade and Ekins) instead of just focusing upon domestic emissions. But this isn’t politically or economically possible so the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is an expected failure that just wastes more precious time. Look at the present climate science, what’s happening in a fast warming world, our historic failure to properly mitigate, and the Framework is just more frog in boiling water. Like Mulroney, Chretien, Martin and Harper before him Trudeau promises real action, then aims for a more realistic target (Harper’s now untenable 30% of 2005 levels by 2030), and then strikes out and will miss even this woefully inadequate target.
But as the climate problems and science grow more dire society-wide denial just increases – can I show it to you more clearly?
Obama’s chief science and climate adviser John Holdren was recently interviewed bu Elizabeth Kolbert at Yale 350. Holdren is super well informed but he, like everyone else in government is in deep denial:
e360: You’ve said that the goal of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system is gone. We’re already experiencing that, and the question is can we avoid catastrophe? Where do we draw the line between dangerous and catastrophic?
Holdren: I’ve likened the current situation with respect to climate change to driving a car toward a cliff in the fog and the car has bad brakes.
Energy represents an enormous capital investment. In the global energy system, replacement cost is probably $25 trillion or even $30 trillion. That’s an investment that turns over in the normal course of things in 30 to 40 years. That’s the average lifetime of these energy facilities – refineries, transmission lines, power plants, drilling rigs. You can’t take a $25 trillion investment and turn it over overnight. So there’s this enormous amount of inertia in the energy system. That’s the bad brakes in the car. And the fog is we don’t know exactly where the tipping points that could really turn it into a catastrophe are, but there are quite a few of them that are understandable in terms of how they would work.
e360: Doesn’t that lead us to the idea that, well, we don’t have 30 years to turn this around?
Holdren: I’m not saying, “Business as usual is fine.” We’re not in business as usual at the moment. We are moving faster to turn that over. We are retiring coal plants. China is retiring coal plants at a rate that was unimaginable a few years ago. It’s showing in the data, in the emissions data. We’re not in business as usual. But still, no matter what we do, we can’t stop it overnight.
Holdren through out the whole interview basically reiterates the ‘we are still going to use fossil fuels for awhile yet’ mantra so familiar to Albertans because climate MUST fit into a very rigid political and economic business as usual that, realist that he is, he won’t challenge. We are already deep into dangerous climate change maybe even over tipping points to catastrophe but our mitigation efforts must be constrained into what is possible within our present political and economic systems which only allows market-based incremental changes .
What about ‘leaving it in the ground’? Holdren:
“This whole question of fossil fuel and leaving it in the ground, there’s a short-term and there’s a long-term aspect. In the short term, we can’t leave it all in the ground because the United States and the world as a whole are still 80-plus-percent dependent on fossil fuels for our primary energy. As I’ve already argued in terms of just the capital investment in that energy system, you can’t change that overnight. If someone says, “Leave it in the ground” meaning leave it all in the ground starting now, I say, “That’s simply not feasible.”
If, on the other hand, somebody says, “By leave it in the ground, I mean we know that we cannot afford from the standpoint of climate to burn all the fossil fuel that’s out there” – that’s a different matter. There have been very good studies that show if you burn all the fossil fuel that’s out there, both the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet go away and sea level goes up by about 65 or 70 meters [213 or 230 feet].
I subscribe to the leave it in the ground notion – as a long-term proposition, we’ve got to leave a lot of the fossil fuel that’s out there in the ground, or else learn how to burn it and put the CO2 back in the ground. “
But not today. Not a thought even of regulated wind down of production (McGlade and Ekins) beginning today but continuing use of some fossil fuels for a little while because that wouldn’t be possible. Well, that wouldn’t be possible in today’s political and economic BAU; that wouldn’t be possible because the American dream isn’t negotiable; because the laminate of investment stretching into the future is sacrosanct; because those in this world that have power today (and all of us indirectly because we are so dependent upon continuing economic expansion) refuse to even consider actually leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
This is denial.
Already deep into dangerous climate change and can we avoid catastrophe – let’s stay with the now untenable 2050 mitigation timeline; let’s not consider our luxury lifestyle carbon footprints and the level of emission reduction that would be possible if we were really serious about climate and our duty to future generations; let’s not consider climate as maybe an emergency requiring emergency action not possible within BAU.
This is denial.
There is no possibility of effective climate mitigation without US climate leadership but for all of Obama’s rhetoric during his Administration US emissions fell only around 5-7% and much of that was nat gas replacing coal, the economic recession, and continuing outsourcing of emission heavy manufacturing. The Obama Admin sought to expand fossil fuel production where ever possible with only minor constraints on issues such as Arctic drilling late in their second term. Deep into dangerous climate change and can we avoid catastrophe? James Hansen just gave President Obama a D mark on his two Administration’s climate action.
Obama will soon be gone but Prime Minister Trudeau will be around when reality forces us from denial. He and his government will have no good answer for why they didn’t act in the interests of all Canadians when they had the mantle of climate leadership and a strong mandate from the Canadian people. Trudeau chose to stickhandle climate as one issue amongst many and then like previous governments just kicked the can down the road instead of initiating real action like a regulated wind down of the oilsands and no new LNG infrastructure in BC. Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. If you claim at a world gathering like Paris to be serious on climate, promise leadership and then fail because you need the revenue and jobs from continuing fossil fuel expansion, you should and will resign in disgrace.
Bill Henderson is a Climate Change activist from Canada