Time to stop denying and just get on with it

Alberta still has many climate change deniers and writing a column in support of the carbon tax is likely dangerous to my wellbeing. But the reality is even if we don’t believe in global warming the majority of Canadians and most of the world do believe global warming is the number one threat to our planet. We just can’t continue to think “they’re stupid and we’re right”.
Suncor, the largest operator in the oil sands, has supported a broad-based price on carbon for years. They see it as an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change. Alberta’s riches have declined for two reasons, over supply of oil internationally and our inability to address climate change.
While the Canadian and provincial governments were dithering and denying climate change, the world moved past. In Alberta it’s understandable after decades of being spoiled with quick profits and huge pay cheques from fossil fuels. Sure global warming will have less direct effect on Alberta and Saskatchewan because we’re far away from oceans lapping off significant portions of our land. And from an agricultural perspective, Alberta and Saskatchewan will actually benefit from global warming as the climate conditions should allow the number one cash crop in the world, corn, to be grown extensively on the prairies.  But, again we’re not alone in this world and it’s not all about us.
What a difference it would have made if we had been proactive on climate change 15 years ago, as was Germany. Instead we gained the reputation of world slackers when we opted out of the Kyoto accord and the federal government starting gutting environmental legislation to facilitate pipeline construction.
Our timing was impeccably bad. Fractioning in the United States made it energy-self-sufficient; China couldn’t keep up their torrid economic pace and the science of climate change was being accepted by the majority of the world’s population, because it was affecting their lives adversely.
Today, Germany powers virtually all its domestic needs with low or non-carbon emissions technology. Yet they continue selling coal to less wealthy, developing countries who cannot yet afford to move away from fossil fuels. The Germans acted on the seismic shift that was coming and they and other European countries are now leading the way into the new energy world.  It’s like we never learned any lessons from the arrival of the combustion engine and the resultant Industrial Revolution. No one has ever argued that fossil fuel won’t continue to be a major power source for decades to come, it’s just we’ve ran out of time to continue to do nothing for the future.
The carbon tax will generate a significant amount of money and contrary to what some Premiers say, all the money goes back to the provincial governments.  Alberta has chosen to use the funds for research and development of emissions-lowering technologies; looking to build jobs for the future. Saskatchewan can use their carbon taxes to lower taxes if that’s their choice.
Trudeau was right to force the hand of the provinces. At least three, perhaps four provinces would have continued to avoid real CO2 emission reductions.  A national carbon tax also levels the playing field between provinces.
Since all climate agreements are between national governments, it is most appropriate that our federal government set the guidelines, giving provinces flexibility but not abdication rights.
And please, let’s not believe that we the people haven’t paid industry before to do research and development. Both the federal and provincial governments have poured millions of dollars over the last 55 years into research and new technology development to enable our oil sands industry to be where it is today. Don’t think that we the taxpayers haven’t bailed out companies either. I was at Syncrude during the late 1970s and it was our two levels of government that were solely responsible for saving Syncrude. The consortium had lost one major partner and the rest weren’t prepared to carry on and bear the extra risk. Today no one could deny that our governments’ decisions to invest in Syncrude in the 1970s was a great one.
The same will happen with the carbon tax. It will be used to motivate the oil and gas industry to engage in research and development for new and better non-carbon emission options and/or continue to improve emission controls and processes for our carbon-based industry.
And lastly, the carbon tax will show the world that Canada is prepared to pony up and do our part to reduce greenhouse gases. And that surely will go much further in securing pipelines and moving our oil sands’ output to markets than our denial and ignore strategies of the last 15 years.

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