There was no Earth Day speech. No urgent call to action. No outlining of the threats we face or the way in which we were going to work together to meet them. There wasn't even an Earth Day tweet -- just silence. It was a very stark reminder of his priorities. U.S. President Barack Obama's speech noted that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. The fact that 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded, that droughts, storms, and wildfires are increasing all over the planet in both frequency and intensity, and how climate change is already adversely affecting the air our children breathe.
At the premiers' climate summit last week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall brought up a statistic that has received a fair amount of attention lately: Canada's emissions account for fewer than two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. He's not wrong, but Canada is also a heavy emitter per capita.
Environment Canada has been telling us for years that Canada is running off the climate track and -- because of growing emissions largely from the oil and gas sector -- we are getting farther and farther away from meeting our government's self-imposed climate targets. Because of that climate failure, Canada is holding all of us back from prosperity, jobs and better health. That's according to a new study of benefits from international emission pledges made in the lead up to December's UN climate summit. Developed countries around the world -- with the exception of Canada and Japan -- are unveiling their individual climate plans, which were due yesterday.
Canada's climate is about to change dramatically. You see, spring arrives next month. Sorry if that sounds anticlimactic, but in this country, changing seasons always mean changes in climate. Understanding why that happens can help us understand and dismiss one of the most commonly held fallacies about today's changing climate.
Science is a profession of discipline and process. Scientists live in a world of constant questioning: they observe, analyze, theorize and test, and then do it all over again. Guided by facts and data, they strive to drill through uncertainty and draw solid, evidence-based conclusions. That's why a blog I discovered recently is so interesting: it asks climate scientists to step outside of their professions, and speak as mothers, fathers, grandparents and children -- in short, to speak as humans.
Alberta has the best solar and wind potential in all of Canada more than enough to power the entire province yet utilizes less than 1per cent of it. Alberta also has a highly skilled, trained workforce. Alberta has the welders, it has the electricians, it has the engineers, the machinists, it has all the people power it needs to make the solar powered leap.
The filing of the Energy East project this week is a perfect example of this choice and is slated to become the "climate test" for Canadian politicians. Unfortunately, right now this is also a climate test that every political party in Canada is failing. Most Canadian politicians remained silent in the wake of Energy East's filing.
The Toronto Stock Exchange is plummeting in lock step with the fall in oil prices. The loonie is heading in the same direction, hopefully putting to bed any debate as to whether Canada has a petro-currency. Provinces that rely on oil royalties and revenues will likely have difficulty balancing their budgets.
The Alberta government is so fixated on extracting the destructive tar sands that it's missing out on Alberta's real potential. Rather that causing rising greenhouse gas emissions, countless treaty rights violations, incredible disturbances to land, air and water, the government could be a leader in clean energy solutions.
Fossil fuels, the writing is on the wall. Some countries are already powered by 100 per cent renewables, others are on their way. Our cars and transport are starting to be electrified and solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal are going up in communities around the world (Bangladesh is installing nearly two new rooftop PV systems every minute).
Facing criticism in the lead up to the U.N. Climate Summit, which prime minister Stephen Harper did not attend, the Harper Government released a new public outreach campaign through Environment Canada. Already critics are pointing to the apparent disparity between the Environment Canada campaign and Canada's waning reputation on the international stage.
Frankly I think it's at least partially our fault as an environmental movement that this framing has stuck. We haven't focused enough on specific solutions over the years. We have opposed bad ideas like pipelines with vague notions of carbon taxes or non-specific alternative energy projects. We have rarely proposed or even broadly supported specific alternative projects.
According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country's economy.
Harper and Abbott have to understand that we can no longer have economies that exist outside of the ecological limits of our planet. Our reliance and exploitation of fossil fuels is endangering our future as well as our present and it needs to end. We need to transition to green energy and we need to keep more fossil fuels, especially high-carbon fuels like the tar sands, in the ground.
By continuing to promote the extraction and export of coal, tar sands, and fracked gas instead of sustainable sectors in B.C., our government is making a political choice to prioritize short-term profits over renewable industries. Let's work together to develop a smart and creative strategy to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a low carbon economy