Filling the new Trans Mountain expansion pipeline currently under construction will increase Canada’s total emissions by 13 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year just from getting the bitumen out of the ground and processing it, according to federal government studies. This doesn’t include emissions from refining or burning the petroleum products that will put at least 100 million tons of CO2 every year into our atmosphere. (A barrel of oil contains roughly 0.5 tons of CO2, so 590,000 barrels a day from the Trans Mountain expansion will put 107 million tons into the atmosphere every year.) Media also need to remind Canadians of the basic science that CO2 is forever: every ton we emit will continue adding heat to our atmosphere for thousands of years.
So what if Canada and Alberta had invested the $200 billion that went into developing the tar sands in wind energy instead? That $200 billion would have provided enough clean electricity to power more than 122 million EVs, I estimated for an 2018 article in The Guardian. That’s nearly double the number of vehicles the oil sands currently fuels. Plus the co-benefits of not having lakes of toxic waste, nor chopped-up forests in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and without a potential $260 billion clean up cost liability. And driving all those EVs would be CO2 and air pollution free.
That article wasn’t based on any report or study since it seems no one had ever asked that question.
Since journalism as usual is not an option, we must find new sources of information, knowledge and expertise. To paraphrase Albert Einstein: we’re not going to get out of this mess by talking to the same people who got us into it.
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Spread a wide net to find sources and experts of all ages and sectors to interview. When in uncharted waters, it’s wise to ask the locals, especially Indigenous peoples and youth, about possible ways to navigate them.
Canada’s inescapable carbon elephant in the room is the oil and gas industry — our biggest and fastest-growing source of emissions. It was extremely rare for business reporting on the energy industry to even mention the ‘c’ word. That’s changed. but too often “climate” gets little more than a superficial mention. It is still rare for reporting on a new energy project such as Teck Resources’ proposed $20 billion oil sands mining operation to be properly framed in our climate emergency context. The Teck project, located near Wood Buffalo National Park, could end up producing 260,000 barrels of bitumen every day, adding millions more tons of CO2 to the atmosphere.
It ought to be shocking that anyone would invest in such a project. No doubt some Canadian banks and investment funds are involved. Media ought to find out and tell Canadians how their savings are being cruelly mismanaged.
We’re now so deep into a climate emergency that just about everything, not just energy projects, needs to be seen through a climate lens. Canadian media have been complicit in failing to inform the public about the threat of climate change. Now we must take up a new role in helping Canadians understand the sweeping changes needed and speak truth to those who would keep us on a suicidal business-as-usual pathway.