Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dear Planet: Sorry That We're Climate Assholes


50,000 protest climate chaos in London, UK

I THINK MOST CANADIANS LIKE TO THINK OF THIS COUNTRY as a warm and fuzzy place to be. Sure, we've got problems - genocide of the aboriginal population, all those Chinese who died building the railroad before we deported the ones who survived, the war in Afghanistan, that sort of thing. But all that imperialism and stuff aside, we're really quite lovely. The kind of people you'd like to have over for dinner and to meet your mom.
Sorry folks. While you were napping we elected a bunch of neanderthal wingnuts who are pretty retrograde on every issue. And the ones who aren't wingnuts, like Stephen "Napoleon" Harper, are certifiable sociopaths. I won't get into how we got stuck with them - that's for another post. But do you know what they've been doing about climate change? I mean, holy shit! Our kids are going to have to start sewing American flags on their backpacks when they go on vacation so that they don't get spit on and beat up.
First off, in 2006, the Tories abrogated our commitment to the Kyoto Protocol - the agreement that Canada had signed committing us to reducing our carbon emissions. Then we've spent every opportunity since then trying to derail any climate deal anywhere that would commit us to doing anything. Internationally acclaimed author and journalist, George Monbiot put it this way:

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations from striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007 it single-handedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country which had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.
In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed that the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.
The simple reason is oil, in particular, the Alberta Tar Sands. There's plenty of reasons why the Tar Sands are an absolute and total disaster. For instance, it takes up to four barrels of water to clean and process one barrel of oil. The giant toxic lakes of "tailings" that the refining process generates are so poisonous that special measures have to be taken to frighten off birds and other animals that would die were they to come in contact with it. Processing tar sands oil, which produces triple the carbon emissions of crude oil, requires burning enough natural gas each day to heat three million homes. By 2020 the tar sands will release more than twice as much carbon as all the cars and trucks in North America. But with the tar sands development valued at $200 billion so far it's no wonder that the Tories are committed to allowing Canada's carbon emissions to increase by 2% over 1990 levels. It is conservatively estimated that carbon emissions must be cut globally by 20-25% by 2020.

If the fossil fuel industry is allowed to proceed with its current plans, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada will grow to 827 million tonnes in 2010, 44% beyond what Canada is permitted under the Kyoto Protocol and a far cry from the 80%-100% reduction that scientist say is essential to stabilize the climate. If the world burned all of Canada’s estimated fossil fuel deposits, global concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere would rise by about 20% beyond 1990 levels.
All of this is to say that we ought to be ashamed of what these jokers are doing in our name to protect the profits of big oil companies like Shell and BP, and the big banks that have invested in tar sands development. There hasn't been nearly enough mobilizing in this country (and I confess I'm guilty of passivity on this also). With glaciers melting and sea levels rising it really is time to get our act together. Over in Britain, for instance, 50,000 people protested on Saturday, December 5 to demand action on climate change. It's time that we stepped up to the plate - after all, we're one of the worst offenders on the planet. It's the least we can do.

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