In a few weeks, Prime Minister Trudeau will make a choice; deny climate change or act on it. His choice comes in the form of an 890,000 barrel per day pipeline called Kinder Morgan. Larger than the Keystone XL pipeline, it will have the same climate impact as adding over 30 million new cars to Canada’s roads. Approving this pipeline would be an act of climate denial.
It’s not the kind of climate denial that most people are used to. It’s not the brand peddled by Exxon Mobil that landed them a fraud investigation. Nor is it the flavour espoused by Donald Trump when he claims that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Instead,Trudeau’s climate denial is a creeping, quiet kind.
His climate denial is the diet brand, a sort of Denial-Lite. This kind of climate denial is like a filtered cigarette, it doesn’t make the problem any better, but it does make it easier to tell yourself that it’s ok to keep smoking. It’s the kind of climate denial that stands on a global stage, signs the Paris Agreement with a pen flourish and press statement, but then does the very thing that climate science tells us we can’t do — build new fossil fuel projects.
Why not? Because, math.
According to a recent report from Oil Change International, the entire world can only emit around 800 more gigatons of CO2 if we are to have a half decent chance of meeting the two degree target laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. A target which, just last week, became international law.
The problem is that the oil, coal and gas developments currently online or in construction, without new projects like Kinder Morgan or Energy East, will emit 942 gigatons. In math terms, 942 is bigger than 800. If you want to take it even further, to the 1.5 degree target that countries like Canada agreed to strive for, again now enshrined in international law, the ceiling for emissions is 353 gigatons. That’s a lot less than 942.
This all adds up to one simple fact: Approving a tar sands pipeline designed to expand fossil fuel extraction is denying the reality of climate change. It is looking at the science, doing what is, quite possibly, the simplest math on earth and deciding that the science is wrong. But, the science isn’t wrong. It may be inconvenient or downright frustrating, but it is still science, immovable and immutable.
That might be why last week, Kinder Morgan’s CEO Ian Anderson stood on a stage in Vancouver and told a crowd that he wasn’t clear on the science of climate change. Of course, his public relations staff walked that back shortly after, but that momentary slip of the tongue should make the decision on this pipeline clear as day.
On one side is a fossil fuel CEO who literally denied climate change. On the other side are scientists, communities — like the dozens that are planning to gather for vigils against the pipeline on Monday — students and young people, Indigenous peoples and the clear majority of people in Canada who want to see real, bold climate action.
The choice for Trudeau? Which side is he on.