The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released on Sunday. The report, perhaps the most hopeful of IPCC reports to date, had one clear message – we can save the planet but only if we start acting now.
The report showed that solutions to the climate crisis are readily available and that they are financially within our means but that the price tag to address the climate crisis will grow larger the longer our governments delay action.
The other report that came out over the weekend was from Environment Canada. It showed that for the first time ever, driven largely by rapidly ballooning tar sands emissions, the oil and gas sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, now outstripping the entire transportation sector.
With emissions from the tar sands set to do nothing but climb (according to a recent report by Environmental Defence, going from 55 million tonnes in 2011 to 127 million tonnes by 2030 – a increase of over 200 per cent) the question is how will the Alberta and Canadian governments respond?
The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, already polluting more than 100 countries. There is no getting around the fact that the government needs to simply start leaving tar sands in the ground.
In fact, the prescription is pretty clear. UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres said, “three quartersof the world’s fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.” If we take that prescription to heart it means many tar sands projects that have already been approved by the government can simply never be built.
That’s a troubling concept for a lot of people, especially stalwarts of the oil industry and the Government of Alberta, but it’s a reality we need to start facing.
The flooding in Calgary last year was a climate warning sign. We are already seeing more extreme weather events across the planet and across Canada and the frequency and intensity are only going to increase the longer we wait.
The climate crisis isn’t a choice, it’s a reality. It’s a reality that we need to start addressing and quickly. Denial isn’t an option.
It’s unfortunate that we’ve built so much of Alberta’s economy on a polluting resource but that can’t stop us from acting.
A better Alberta is possible. It’s possible to address the climate crisis and build a better, more diverse economy in the process. Alberta has tremendous renewable resources it could be tapping into. Alberta gets more hours of sunlight than any other province. It has huge wind potential, especially in the south, great geothermal potential and we all could immediately benefit from energy reduction programs like building retrofits, high-speed rail and improved building standards. The transition may be a little bumpy as moving to renewables means transitioning from a system where a few massive corporations make a lot of money to one where the money is spread around to local communities and local producers - but the bumps will be worth it.
Not only will we have a more diverse economy that gets us off the boom and bust oilcoaster we’ve been on, but our communities will be healthier, our air cleaner, rights could be respected and we just might help save the planet in the process.
It’s time to act Premier Hancock and Prime Minister Harper - our world simply can’t wait.