07/17/2015 01:18 EDT | Updated 07/17/2016 05:59 EDT

There's No Climate Leadership in a Tarsands Pipeline

Right now there are over 100 wildfires burning in Alberta, 24 are out of control.

Parkland County, Alberta has declared a state of agricultural disaster because moisture levels in some areas of the province are at their lowest levels in 50 years.

Recently, parts of southern Alberta were hit with power outages and major floods because of extreme thunderstorms.


None of these events can be directly linked to climate change but they are all signs of the climate crisis and extreme weather events are expected only to increase in intensity and frequency the longer the world fails to act.

You'd think with such clear signs all around her Premier Rachel Notley would get the message. Unfortunately she hasn't.

Instead of talking with the country's other provincial leaders about how to speed up the transition to renewable energy, Notley met with Quebec's premier to talk about how to dig us further into the problem by green lighting the $12-billion Energy East tar sands pipeline.

If constructed, Energy East would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude a day and producing the crude needed to fill it would generate up 32 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions each year -- an impact even greater than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

That's the equivalent of adding more than seven million cars to Canada's roads. I'm sorry Premier Notley, but that's not climate leadership.

What politicians need to understand is that decisions related to climate need to be based on science, not political posturing.

The scientific prescription is pretty clear - we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground and transition to renewables and sustainable transportation as quickly as possible. The International Energy Agency, the United Nations and the International Panel on Climate Change have all told us that. Most recently, over 100 scientists and economists called for an end to new tar sands development.

If we listen to the science, and we should, the answer isn't more pipelines and refineries - they would lock us into more bad decisions for decades to come. The answer is more solar panels and wind turbines. It is more high-speed rail and electric vehicles, more bicycles, and geothermal energy. It's more retrofitted buildings and localized food production.

It's about building an economy that rests within the ecological limits of the planet, not outside of them, and one that puts workers and communities most directly impacted by the coming changes first to benefit in the transition. That's the Canadian energy strategy we need.

Other countries are already showing the way. Last week Denmark produced 140% of its electricity from wind power. Germany currently employs over 350,000 people in its renewable energy sector, most of which is locally owned, and many countries around the world are on the road to 100% fossil freedom.

Unfortunately, in Canada, the political will to take these steps is still missing in action and any hopes of provincial leadership are drying up faster than California.

Luckily, while our political representatives aren't getting the message, the public is. While Notley may have brokered a backroom deal with the Quebec government, she hasn't made a deal with the Quebec people. Given that over 25,000+ people marched in the streets of Quebec City this past April calling for climate action, she won't get such a deal any time soon.

We need to say no to new pipelines and to keep fighting tarsands projects so that we can do what's needed for the planet as well as give time for a new economy to take root.

Maybe once Premier Notley sees solar panels on our rooftops and wind turbines in our fields she'll finally realize the solutions come when you stop looking down and start looking up.