Climate change is a top priority issue in this years federal election. While this is borne our in the polls, a study published by the Public Policy Forum and McGill University found that Canadians are prepared to pay up to 13 cents more per litre for gas if it benefits climate action. The same study found that there is strong support for renewable energy subsidies.
However, Canadians also want fossil fuels. We are obsessed with oil, as revealed by an Angus Reid poll roughly the same percentage of Canadians want climate action (60%) as want oil and gas development (58%). The attempt to pander to these competing interests explains Liberal dualism.
If we are serious about tackling climate change we will need to deal with the elephant in the room. The fossil fuel industry is responsible for the bulk of Canada’s anthropogenic GHGs. To make matters worse the industry’s emissions have almost doubled since the 1990s and they are responsible for an 80 percent of the increase in Canada’s overall emissions. Canada is also home to the tar sands, some of the most carbon intensive forms of energy on Earth they and a deadly threat to biodiversity. Our reliance on fossil fuels is contributing to a mass extinction that is destroying species 1000 times faster than the the natural background rate.
The fossil fuel industry has known they are the leading cause of climate change for decades and to hide this fact they have engaged in self serving subterfuge and sophisticated campaigns of disinformation. They have succeeded in keeping significant pieces of federal climate legislation from becoming law. As documented in an Environmental Defense report the oil and gas industry are the single biggest barrier to climate action in Canada. Tim Gray the Executive Director of Environmental Defense sent an open letter to political leaders telling them to put Canadians ahead of the oil lobby.
As Canada falls short of its climate targets the fossil fuel industry wants to massively increase its carbon output. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) released its wish list called “Vote Energy” it includes reduced environmental regulations, lower corporate taxes, more government subsidies and approval of more infrastructure (pipelines and gas terminals). This would increase Canada’s GHG emissions by 116 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030 which is 60 percent of Canada’s carbon budget.
Reducing our reliance on dirty energy really is the answer. To do this we will need to end fossil fuel subsidies, restrict the power of industry lobbyists, and curtail big oil’s control over both government and educational institutions.
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