Climate Impacts

“If approved, TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project would be the largest oil pipeline in North America. Filling it would result in more than 650,000 barrels per day of additional tar sands production, generating up to 32 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.” – Council of Canadians

Transition groups are focused on mitigating threats to climate. A destabilized climate is the single largest environmental threat facing our planet at present. In the spring of 2014, a new report on global climate change was released by the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This group of leading scholars from around the world sifts through thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles relating to climate, weather, and the impacts of climate change and distills these into reports that can be used by policy makers to help address what is becoming a highly concerning trajectory for the future of climate stability on Earth. This year’s IPCC report has been described by some as being alarmist, but many view the deepening concern of this objective scientific body as being the clarion call to action. We must act now, without delay, without hesitation, if we are to avoid the potential catastrophic scenarios described by one of the lead authors of the IPCC report as “horrible risks”.

Given that carbon pollution of our atmosphere is what drives climate destabilization, we should be striving to eliminate such pollutants from our lives, and we should be calling for better, more sustainable alternatives.  These alternatives do exist in the form of wind, solar, and hydroelectricity, and they already form a large part of Ontario’s energy mix.  Burning fossil fuels creates carbon emissions, and we need to effect a transition to safer alternatives immediately, bearing in mind that it is not just a simple matter of “turning off the taps”.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.18.08 PMCanada currently lacks a comprehensive national energy strategy that would provide communities and citizens with a framework for evaluating energy projects, and planning for the post-carbon transition. Instead, we have a patchwork of conflicting agendas among provinces. For example, British Columbia has imposed a carbon tax, a move that may present the surest, quickest path to fossil fuel divestment as it brings the cost of production of fossil fuels in line with that of alternatives, leveling the playing field among competing options. What’s more, BC’s carbon tax actually seems to be working!

Since 2009, Ontario’s Green Energy Act and its accompanying Long Term Energy Plan have committed the province to a divestment of fossil energy reliance. By the end of this year, the province will have closed all its coal-fired generating stations.   Incentives made available since 2005 for homeowners and industry to adopt alternative energy solutions and increase energy efficiency have resulted in a steady decline from 34 megatonnes (MT) of greenhouse gas production in Ontario in 2005 to 10 MT in 2012, to a projected low of just over 6 MT by 2030.

Meanwhile, the proposed expansion of Alberta’s oilsands from the current 1.8 million barrels per day to the projected 4.8 million barrels per day by 2030 (down from 2013’s CAPP projection of 5.2 million bpd, notably) would result in an estimated increase in Canada’s CO2 emissions of nearly 30 megatonnes between 2005 and 2020, more than negating Ontario’s and B.C.’s combined reductions.

Stopping Energy East means slowing the expansion of the oil sands, and reducing Canada’s projected carbon emissions.

Going ahead with Energy East commits our country to forty years or more of continued oil expansion and increased carbon emissions.  If we are serious about tackling “the moral struggle that will define this century,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu characterizes climate change, there is no question.  As responsible global citizens, as good stewards of the Earth, we must stop climate pollution in its tracks, and for Kenora, this means calling a halt to Energy East.

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