by Ray Grigg
Periods of major transformations always create strange contradictions. This explains the BC government’s desperate efforts to develop a liquid natural gas (LNG) industry and Premier Christy Clark’s impassioned pleas for a national plan to fight fires.
The burning of Fort McMurray, of course, was the catalyst for this dramatic display of cognitive dissonance. “I make no secret,” she declared, “I tell people every day, one of the reasons we have so many terrible fires annually now — almost every year is worse than the last — is because our climate is drying, and our climate is drying because of climate change. It’s urgent that we fight climate change and do everything we can to beat it, because this isn’t going to get better. Fires are getting worse and it’s happening all over North America” (Globe and Mail, May 19/16).
Indeed. This is precisely what is happening, particularly in continental regions. Some of the hottest and driest changes for North America are projected to occur in southwestern Saskatchewan and central Alberta, with the greatest extremes enveloping northern Alberta, precisely where Fort Mac is located.
Meanwhile, 90 academics from Canada, Australia, the United States and United Kingdom signed an open letter of May 16, 2016, pleading for the Canadian government to cancel BC’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu Island at Prince Rupert, arguing that, if built, it would emit 11.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for decades, leak significant amounts of methane, and would undermine Canada’s commitments to the Paris Agreement. The letter reiterated the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) report that the emissions from the LNG project would be “high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent,” all without considering the final “downstream” effects from burning the LNG.
The letter also argued that the “fracking, transport, liquefaction and regasification” of the LNG would make it no cleaner a fuel than coal, even without guarantees that burning it would replace any other fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, in a separate letter, another 130 scientists from around the world sent a letter to the federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking her to reject the “scientifically flawed” CEAA approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project. It noted that, “A worse location is unlikely to be found for PNW LNG with regards to potential risks to fish and fisheries,” and the project would be Canada’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This fits with recent global economic information confirming that solar, wind and geothermal are now cheaper sources of new energy than fossil fuels. The energy equation has just made a dramatic and symbolic shift.
The conclusion to be reached from all these events is that BC’s Premier now finds herself straddling two mutually exclusive positions in a classic display of cognitive dissonance. She can’t be passionately declaring, “It’s urgent that we fight climate change and do everything we can to beat it,” while, at the same time, promoting a provincial LNG industry. If we are going to “fight climate change and do everything we can to beat it,” the best thing she could presently do is to let those “terrible fires” burn her LNG projects.