Have you seen the ‘’I can make a difference” ad? The one that reminds us that we each need to change our dirty, polluting ways and embrace a greener future. It goes like this:
In Newfoundland and Labrador.
And we're causing it.
Burning oil and gasoline.
Using non-renewable energy.
It creates these… greenhouse gases.
Now, the atmosphere is full of them.
Trapping too much heat.
Causin' rising tides.
It’s all part of the Turn Back the Tide campaign. According to which if we are to mitigate climate change then each and every one of us will need to change our energy consumption habits. From personal energy use to our choice of appliances and electronics, to how we design and construct our homes. All are part of the solution. Our actions can make a difference.
All of this is well and good however don’t get the crazy idea that climate change is a serious issue for the current government. On June 10 came the announcement that the Provincial government is partnering with Statoil Canada to the tune of $3.9 million to prepare for oil and gas development in places like the Arctic.
Isn’t there a huge disconnect here? At a time when scientists are screaming we can’t endlessly pump Greenhouse Gas emissions into the atmosphere instead of investing in green energy, a la Turn Back the Tide, we are ready to spend tax dollars to help Statoil better prepare itself for Arctic drilling. What logic other than greed is at work here?
How long can we continue to capture and use all the known oil and gas reserves without any social or environmental impact? Bill McKibben of 350.org has been doing a Do the Math tourhttp://math.350.org/ on this very topic.
In a word McKibben’s proposition is sobering. More investment into oil and gas = one extremely warm planet.
It’s simple math: we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount.
All of which begs the question, why is Statoil preparing for Arctic oil drilling and why is the government of Newfoundland and Labrador assisting them? Isn’t it time the province got serious about climate change? On July 5, as hurricane Arthur came flying up the USA east coast, The Telegram reminded us “Climate Change means more storms, more risk of coastal erosion.” Yea and climate change also means an increase in extreme weather, in flooding, warmer oceans and acidification all of which will impact our precious marine environment.
For McKibben the call to action is simple: we need to stop investing in oil and gas development. ‘’It’s wrong to profit from wrecking the climate. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.” It would appear from the Do the Math website that many universities and colleges across North America, the UK, Europe and Australia are joining the call to action and demanding their university exclude the fossil fuel industry from their investment portfolio.
Among the Canadian universities with active divestment campaigns are UBC, Trent, McGill, UNB, Concordia and the University of Toronto. At Dalhousie (http://divestdal.ca/) research into the university’s investment portfolio discovered $20.3 million were placed in investments in 35 companies with large carbon reserves. All appears to be quiet on the Memorial University front.
Now we know that we energy suckers are going to need help if we are change our ways. Here I recall an interview CBC’s Peter Mansbridge did with Canadian film director and producer James Cameron. Mansbridge challenged Cameron’s concern for global warming by reminding him he still filled up his hybrid SUV at the gas pumps. To which Cameron replied, like alcoholics anonymous we need a 10 step collective program to help reduce our addiction to fossil fuels. Other than changing our light bulbs or using recyclable shopping bags there is limited effort to lessen our addiction to the demon fuel.
I don’t want to be alarmist but isn’t it time for a major reset on the provincial climate change front? If government and corporate leaders are not ready to lead then it becomes all the more important that along with individual actions we organize and push for firmer collective action.
By the way Greenpeace has a Save the Arctic petition aimed at Statoil. To sign visithttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/arctic-impacts/StopStatOil/