Opinion: Climate change should be Alberta’s priority but it’s not
By Amber McLinden, Photo Editor
On April 26, 2016, 55 countries signed the Paris Agreement, an international agreement to strengthen the response to climate change. Since 2016, the number of signatories to the Paris Agreement has risen to 125.
The agreement outlines a number of efforts to reduce the ever-rising global temperature so it does not reach 2 degrees celsius. According to NASA, the global temperature has already risen 0.8 degrees celsius, with 67 per cent of this rise occurring after 1975.
The science is in on global warming: temperatures are rising and it’s our fault.
Climate in Canada
Let’s then, look at Canada. As part of the Paris Agreement, each country is required to regularly report their emissions. According to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), Canada is 51 out of 60 spots on the list, performing poorly in terms of per capita emissions. We’re only five spots away from the U.S., at the height of the Trump administration.
“As one of the largest producers of absolute greenhouse gases as well as per capita emissions, Canada is ranked 51st in this year’s CCPI edition. Additionally, having a very low-rated 2030 GHG reduction target, the country will need higher ambitions to be on track with a well-below-2°C compatible pathway,” the report says.
Canada has approximately 0.5 per cent of the world’s population, which means per capita we are omitting nearly four times the proportion of greenhouse gases that would be warranted based on our population.
Apparent effects of climate change sound pretty far away. But in Canada we are already experiencing effects that would be regular occurences if the temperatures rise 2 degrees celsius.
CBC, after research and with information from the CCPI’s 2014 report, gathered information about climate change and how it will effect different areas of the world. Wildfires, extreme heat and flooding in North America will be high or very high risk once the temperature rises 2 degrees.
Climate in Alberta
Now let’s bring it down to Alberta.
On Aug. 30, Rachel Notley addressed media after a Federal Court of Appeal decision overturned Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. In response, Notley said Alberta would be pulling out of the federal climate plan.
“Signing on to the federal climate plan can’t happen without the Trans Mountain pipeline,” says Notley at the press conference, according to Global News. “Today I’m announcing that with the work on the Trans Mountain halted, until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan and let’s be clear, without Alberta, that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
“Canada is ranked 51st in this year’s CCPI edition. Additionally, having a very low-rated 2030 GHG reduction target, the country will need higher ambitions to be on track with a well-below-2°C compatible pathway.” – 2018 Climate Change Performance Index
Yet what Notley fails to recognize is that even though fighting for the Trans Mountain pipeline during her term as premier might make her look good in the short run to Albertans, it will eventually lead to the ruin of our environment.
That’s not to say that the pipeline will directly be the end of our environment. And it isn’t to say that the province won’t struggle as a result of the pipeline being built. But as an Albertan, I’m aware that a non-renewable energy source like oil is finite. So is our planet’s tolerance for us. We need to come up with a solution.
The NDP claims to fight for an equal society and for the rights of people. Yet as a result of Notley’s fight for the pipeline, she is directly disrespecting the rights of Indigenous people to their land and their expansive knowledge of it. They too, are fighting against climate change. Yet, like the environment, they too are being disrespected and ignored.
Alberta is by far the worst of all the provinces when it comes to contributing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, according to Environment Canada, we omitted nearly 300 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. Ontario is in second at just over 200 megatonnes. Yet, Ontario has three times as many people living in the province than Alberta.
We have a problem, now
It’s time to wake up and smell the emissions. Canada is one of the world’s worst contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and is far off track to meet the Paris Agreement. We need to start doing our part to save the environment.
Alberta needs a reality check. Even though a pipeline expansion might help our economy in the short-term future, we are not a diverse economy and we cannot rely on energy, specifically oil, to fuel our economy forever.
Oil is a non-renewable energy source. Acquiring it directly contributes to climate change. Fracking produces wastewater which is difficult to treat and dispose of because of the chemicals in it. Fracking also releases methane into the air, which is the most potent greenhouse gas. Burning fossil fuels like oil release carbon dioxide into the air.
Climate change directly affects us as humans. We need to stop thinking about it as something that will happen in the future and only to animals and plants. We are seeing the direct results right in front of our eyes — increasingly frequent wildfires that are getting worse with time, flooding that is becoming more common, temperatures literally rising to levels of extreme heat.
I believe climate change is the most urgent and pressing issue of our time. It’s a problem that needs a solution, now. Rather than looking at problems through a political lens, let’s start looking at them from an environmental perspective. Consequently, people will suffer from the loss of economic opportunity. But if we continue contributing to climate change at the rate we are now, our economy will be the last thing we think about when our homes are being flooded and burned down.
If there is one call to action in this article, it is this: start caring about climate change.