When Britain’s The Guardian newspaper last month opted to re-examine the way it writes about climate-related issues, it decided a whole new vocabulary was needed to underscore the urgency of dealing with the environmental time bomb facing the planet.
“The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity,” editor-in-chief Katharine Viner explained in designating “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” as the preferred terms now.
For the same reason, the term “global warming” was replaced by “global heating” in the pages of the London-based publication. Warming sounds almost pleasant; heating sounds scary.
The Guardian is not the first to embrace a more emotionally charged climate-related vocabulary, but in doing so, it helped open a new front in this political war. For the left, politicians who continue to speak in the euphemisms of climate change are simply not to be trusted.
It was inevitable, then, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government would take the opportunity to pander by adopting a motion on Monday declaring that “Canada is in a national climate emergency” requiring even deeper cuts to its carbon emissions than the country has committed to making under the Paris accord. Of course, Monday’s motion is non-binding and amounts to a symbolic gesture that fools no one except the truly gullible.
Canada is not even on track to meet its existing emissions target of a 30-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) below 2005 levels by 2030, much less in a position to promise even deeper cuts. Besides, by reapproving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project on Tuesday, the Trudeau government has all but acknowledged Canada will fall short of its Paris commitment.
And therein lies the rub. The Prime Minister has so tried to play both sides of the Trans Mountain issue that neither proponents nor opponents of TMX believe him any more. Those who favour the project doubt this Prime Minister will ever let TMX be built; the project’s opponents don’t think he’s serious about meeting Canada’s Paris accord targets. What’s clear is that Canada cannot at once be in “a national climate emergency” and approve a project that, whether Mr. Trudeau admits it or not, is aimed at boosting oil production in Alberta.
In an accompanying press release on Tuesday, the Trudeau government insisted “the project and any growth in oil and gas production associated with the project are not likely to increase emissions above Alberta’s 100 million tonnes legislated cap on annual oil sands emissions.” But Alberta is still a long way from reaching that cap. And if it does, the rest of the country would need to make such drastic GHG cuts to compensate that their economies might crater.
This is the inconvenient truth that Mr. Trudeau cannot bring himself to admit. As a result, his credibility has been shot with supporters and adversaries of TMX alike. The truth is that the global economy still runs on fossil fuels and will for years after Mr. Trudeau leaves office. Nothing Canada does will change that. That is not a reason to do nothing – this country must do its part to reduce carbon emissions – but it is simply the reality Canada faces.
Instead of telling Canadians the truth, however, Mr. Trudeau and his government have insisted on peddling the illusion that we can have our cake and eat it, too. In other words, that we can continue to benefit from the quality of life that the development of our natural resources has paid for and sustains, all while accelerating our transition to a green economy.
The green economy is far from ever replacing the wealth generated by fossil fuels. If it was, do you think the Trudeau government would have approved TMX? It’s not because he hopes to score political points in Alberta that Mr. Trudeau has once again given the nod to a project that has become the bane of this government. It’s far too late for that.
Rather, Mr. Trudeau knows that any further decline in investment in Alberta’s oil industry will sooner or later lead to a financial reckoning across the country. According to the federal government’s own estimates, TMX is expected to “generate $73-billion in increased revenues for [oil] producers over 20 years. Government revenues, meanwhile, are expected to increase by $46-billion over the course of the project’s construction and the first 20 years of operation.”
How many solar farms can boast those numbers?
Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.