Commentary by Jim Emberger,Telegraph Journal, 7 December 2018
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance initially gave Premier Blaine Higgs’s throne speech a decent review. We’re now having second thoughts. In the speech, the new government made a strong statement against “inter-generational theft,” which it defined as stealing the future from our children by creating debt today that they would have to pay back.
That being a moral principle, we assumed it would be applied universally. The most poignant example of “inter-generational theft” is the failure to address climate change and environmental degradation by continuing our profligate use of fossil fuels.
We’re stealing any possibility of a good life from our children and grandchildren, leaving them an alien climate, stripped of the clean air, water, soil and intact ecosystems they will need to survive.
Because the speech did recognize climate change as a man-made problem that we must face, we reacted positively. The speech offered promising solutions, such as transitioning to a green economy, pointing toward a sustainable province in common cause with enlightened societies around the world.
To get there, we would rely on science-based decision making, including, “a legislative officer responsible for science and climate change, and to restore the independence of the recently dismantled public health system.”
We would achieve these goals not by courting corporations, but by dint of our small businesses and local ingenuity. What was there not to like about such ideas? While lacking details, the generalities and tone seemed positive.
Then the next day the premier suggested lifting the moratorium on shale gas, and in one stroke squandered much goodwill.
The science he indicated we would rely on clearly states that responding to climate change means foregoing any new fossil fuels. We cannot even burn all those we already exploit. Current science also tells us that the methane leaking from the gas industry is a leading contributor to climate change, despite the premier quoting outdated industry phrases about gas being a transition fuel.
A reconstituted New Brunswick Ministry of Health is welcome, but many in-depth reviews of fracking by prestigious public health and medical institutions have already resulted in moratoria or bans.
And what about not catering to corporations? The premier says he will check Corridor Resources’ business case, yet he is already saying we need Corridor to make up for the loss of supply when Sable Island, Nova Scotia soon runs out of gas.
I attended the recent Maritime Energy Association conference on this very topic. Gas industry speakers stated clearly that Corridor was not considered an answer to this problem. There is more than enough pipeline capacity to bring in gas from elsewhere. The concern is simply that it will cost more. Regardless, the problem is immediate and Corridor is many years away from helping with either price or supply.
Besides, why would we lift the moratorium just for Corridor at a time when we should be encouraging all energy users to switch to renewable energy? That such questionable decisions are made without considering climate change is astounding.
A just-released paper reviewing 3,200 climate studies,“found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heat waves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry.”
These are current events, not predictions for our grandkids. Increasingly over time, we will experience multiple climate events occurring simultaneously. For example, in just one year New Brunswick had ice storms, drought, epic floods, heat waves, windstorms and new tick-borne diseases, to name just a few. The royalties from shale gas will not cover the costs of these climate calamities.
A new study in Nature Climate concluded that the current energy policies of just three nations – Russia, China and Canada – would produce 3 times more warming than the world’s targeted maximums – and seal our fate.
Visions of a New Brunswick prepared for the future by science-based decisions for the benefit and health of the population were apparently mere illusions, meant only to smooth the road to power. We’ve now returned to the reality of parties imposing ideology, mandate or no.
This paper’s Nov. 23 edition published the news that carbon dioxide and methane levels reached record highs last year, leading the World Meteorological Organization to state: “The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”
In the last month every global climate science institution has issued the same warning. Premier Higgs, let’s at least give our grandkids some reasons to not look back at our policy choices with dismay.