This isn’t extinction, it’s extermination: the people killing nature know what they’re doing

The climate strike must be a beginning and not an end. Warming won’t be stopped by symbolism


‘Schoolchildren have spurred a movement that’s growing in almost every nation. If they can do that, what else could be possible?’ Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

During the carnage of the first world war, the poet Wilfred Owen revisited the biblical story in which God tests Abraham by commanding the sacrifice of Isaac, his son. In Genesis, Abraham dutifully prepares the lad for slaughter before God relents and tells him to offer a ram instead.

Owen’s bitter poem rewrites the ending:

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

The parable illustrates global warming just as well as war – except, with CO2 levels higher than at any other time in human history, it’s a planet rather than a continent now under the knife.

That’s what makes the climate strike so fitting: an international rebellion led by the young against generations of betrayal. We know that, as far back as the late 50s, researchers for the oil industry understood the effects of carbon on the atmosphere but did nothing about it.

In 1988 George HW Bush promised on the campaign trail to fight climate change. “I am an environmentalist,” he declared. “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.”

There was, of course, no White House effect.

In 1997 the world’s leaders signed the Kyoto protocol, with Bill Clinton declaring “a commitment from our generation to act in the interests of future generations”. More emissions have been released since that agreement than in all of previous history.

How petty, how small, how childish do those politicians with the temerity to attack Greta Thunberg look! She speaks for science, idealism and hope; they embody an ignorance or cynicism so deep as to constitute depravity.

The ecological disaster that confronts us today extends way beyond climate. Some scientists speak of the “sixth extinction event” – but, as Justin McBrien argued, that phrase isn’t accurate.

We might less euphemistically discuss a “first extermination event”. Nature is not dying so much as being killed, by people who know perfectly well what they’re doing.

The need for protests could not be more urgent – and, at last, they’re happening. The global strike provides a perfect antidote to the despair so many of us have felt for so long.

There’s a nightmarishness to the isolated experience of climate change: a sense of paralysis and horror at a world sleepwalking into disaster. By coming together on the streets, we shake that off, and we grasp something of our collective strength. MORE

 

In Alberta, a shocking abuse of political power to protect the oil industry


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage speak to reporters after the Senate energy committee on May 2, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

The Government of Alberta has created the new “Energy War Room” (with an annual budget of $30 million) to combat environmental NGOs, specifically those who have been campaigning against the oil sector.

This may come as a surprise to taxpayers wondering why a billion-dollar industry needs such government-subsidized assistance in the first place. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage provided an answer of sorts, offering the following as the higher purpose of the Energy War Room:

“For more than a decade, anti-fossil fuel interest groups from around the world have been leading a deceitful campaign to landlock the oilsands. Not only has this campaign — founded entirely on lies — damaged the reputation of our world-class energy sector, it has caused significant damage to our province and hurt thousands of people who work hard and are proud of the work they do.”

This official statement shows that the government has the oil industry’s back. Declaring the campaigns by the environmental NGOs to be “founded entirely on lies,” as the rationale for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to do the bidding of a billion-dollar industry, seems like a stretch. Surely, these corporations can handle their own legal challenges. The Energy War Room seems to be just another frivolous waste of taxpayer money.

Perhaps no one should be surprised that the Energy War Room only targets the NGOs against the oil industry.

None of the friends of oil are under attack by the taxpayer-funded Energy War Room, such as the hypocritically-named Friends of Science, even though this Calgary-based organization has been accused of “false and misleading representations” about the science of climate change.

Clearly, lies aren’t driving the Government of Alberta to establish the Energy War Room. What is?

Soon after the announcement of the Energy War Room in early June, what had simply been persecution escalated to prosecution: a public inquiry was launched into an alleged “foreign-funded defamation campaign” on the part of environmental NGOs.

At the announcement, Premier Jason Kenney said, “most importantly, it will serve notice that Alberta will no longer allow hostile interest groups to dictate our economic destiny as one of the most ethical major producers of energy in the world.” Hmmm, does “ethical oil” combat climate change?

The premier seems to think so.

When Danielle Smith, a zealous advocate of the oil industry, claimed, in a Calgary Herald column, that “Alberta’s energy industry is on the cusp of saving the planet,” Kenney quickly tweeted the article.

This retweet is just part of his own personal campaign. For example, on the federal price on carbon, he tweeted that the carbon tax would “punish Albertans for heating their homes & driving to work.” So much for defending the truth.

And it is not only organizations being targeted by the premier. At the launch of the Energy War Room, he notably singled out the respected environmental activist Tzeporah Berman for a personal attack; afterwards, she received a barrage of death threats.

Ms. Berman had already been mentioned in over two dozen derogatory tweets of his: she was labelled an “anti-energy zealot,” an “eco-radical” and “anti-Alberta.” With the creation of the Energy War Room, Jason Kenney has essentially branded Tzeporah Berman an enemy of the state.

The war room amounts to censorship and intimidation of any environmental group or person daring to challenge Kenney’s biggest corporate supporters. This new McCarthyism is a shocking abuse of political power to undermine free speech, and the inquisition has been mocked and appropriately called the “Un-Albertan activities committee.”

Chillingly, Postmedia has lobbied to be a partner in the Energy War Room. How can journalistic integrity exist within an organization advocating for an industry? The Energy War Room is a propaganda weapon that rings of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Only so-called lies against the oil industry are “investigated” by the agency, while ones for the oil industry are encouraged by those in power. In other words, Big Brother is protecting big oil. MORE

 

Who were the winners and losers under Liberal climate policy?


Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Pro- and anti-pipeline activists, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photos by Cole Burston and Alex Tétreault

The Winners

  • Kinder Morgan

Texas-based energy company Kinder Morgan experienced what most infrastructure companies could only dream of: federal taxpayers taking a dog of an asset in its portfolio off its hands. With little hesitation, the Liberals ponied up $4.4 billion to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline along with the rights to expand its capacity. It might get built, it might not. It might prove profitable, it might not. But for the executive team at Kinder Morgan, this Kinder Surprise Egg wasn’t made of chocolate, it was made of gold.

  • Oilsands producers

The next time a bust of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is used as a pinata at a party in Fort McMurray, the brandishers of bats may want to ask themselves this question: what exactly did the Liberals do to the oilsands to deserve such ire? It sure wasn’t the carbon tax, from which many oilsands facilities are exempt from paying a dime. More, the Liberals couldn’t even muster up the courage to be as clean as the global competition through policies like requiring oilsands to match the carbon intensity of conventional oil. And then there are those subsidies to the fossil fuel industry of at least $1.6 billion annually. The Liberals promised to do away with these but ended up keeping the chequebook open. So put down the bat and spark up a joint instead — thanks to the Liberals, unfettered emission of that type of smoke is legal, too.

  • Carbon-tax economists

Ever wonder why 11 out of every 10 economists love the carbon tax? It might have something to with the fact that the Liberals have kept 11 out of every 10 economists busy for the past four years researching, analyzing and proselytizing the carbon tax. A cottage industry has blossomed of carbon-tax economists in academia, think tanks, private consulting and government. And it doesn’t stop at a single tax. Since the federal tax is a backstop for tax regimes of provinces and territories that don’t meet the federal standard, there are up to 14 different carbon-tax scenarios to play with in Microsoft Excel. The pocket-protector set has reached their nirvana.

  • The clean-tech industry

Why have boring when you can have bling? Like giddy venture capitalists, the Liberals have been enamoured with early stage clean technologies and Budget 2017 allocated over $1.3 billion for research, development and demonstration projects. The jury is still out on whether this was money well-spent or whether the quest for “game-changing technologies” is simply an excuse to delay action using technologies we already have. It’s notable that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s climate plan also touts the glories of yet-to-be-invented climate gadgets. So be on the lookout for a DeLorean powered by Mr. Fusion if either party wins the election.

The Losers

  • The atmosphere

If climate gods do exist, they’d no doubt be perplexed by the “climate-change leader” press lines flowing from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s Twitter account. After all, climate gods focus singularly on the one metric that matters: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When the Liberals were elected in 2015, Canada’s GHG emissions were 722 million tonnes (Mt). In 2017, the most recent year of official data, they were 716 Mt, a mere 0.8 per cent drop. With oilsands production up another 10 per cent in 2018, combined with a healthy economy nationally, history could very well show that GHGs were flat to increasing during Trudeau’s term. If climate gods do exist, then watch out for thunderstorms at Liberal campaign events.

  • The clean-energy industry

Investments in clean energy, like wind and solar power, continue apace globally but have nose-dived in Canada, plummeting 34 per cent in 2018 and set to fall further in 2019. Although this is largely due to the cancellation of provincial programs by recently elected conservative governments, the federal Liberals largely failed to step in to keep the industry thriving. The Liberals also failed to reform Canada’s antiquated monopolistic electricity market with regulatory changes that provide market access to third-party clean-energy suppliers. These failures are especially embarrassing given that clean-energy investment is on the rise in Donald Trump’s America due to federal tax credits and competitive electricity markets. The bigger the hands, the bigger the clean-energy industry. Ouch!

  • Ordinary technologies and ordinary people

Retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient windows, insulation and heat sources; capturing methane in agriculture and waste operations; and sequestering carbon through tree planting and agricultural soils: these are cost-effective measures using available technologies that can be undertaken by regular people like homeowners, farmers and foresters. Despite the ease of these measures and their appeal to a broad cross-section of Canadians, these approaches were largely ignored by the Liberals during their past four years in office.

The bad news for the Liberals is that if voters ask themselves whether they were a winner or a loser under Liberal climate policy, then the Liberals may just find themselves joining the ranks of the losers on election day. SOURCE

 

 

Oil and gas companies undermining climate goals, says report

Biggest fossil fuel extractors warned they risk wasting $2.2tn ‘in a low-carbon world’


Oil and gas companies continue to invest heavily in projects such as deepwater fields, despite the climate crisis. Photograph: Dazman/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Major oil and gas companies have invested $50bn (£40.6bn) in fossil fuel projects that undermine global efforts to avert a runaway climate crisis, according to a report.

Since the start of last year, fossil fuel companies have spent billions on high-cost plans to extract oil and gas from tar sands, deepwater fields and the Arctic despite the risks to the climate and shareholder returns.

Carbon Tracker, a financial thinktank, found that ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP each spent at least 30% of their investment in 2018 on projects that are inconsistent with climate targets, and would be “deep out of the money in a low-carbon world”.

Andrew Grant, the author of the report, said: “Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals.”

The study is the first to analyse individual projects to test whether they are compliant with a 1.5C world, and whether they would be financially sustainable in a low-carbon world.

It found that none of the largest listed oil and gas companies are making investment decisions that are in line with global climate goals, and risk wasting $2.2tn (£1.8tn) by 2030 if governments take a tougher stance on carbon emissions. MORE

 

Koch-Oil, Part 2: Canada’s love-in with US Big Oil

Athabasca tar sands. Photo from CounterPunch. Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

In Canada, the governing corporate media and parties have had such a media-transmitted love-in with Big Oil that even Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley militantly demanded over years that the US-dominated tar sands mega project receive ever more rights and public subsidies to run its toxic tar-sand crude over neighboring BC mountains and the inland whale-inhabited ocean channels as a moral obligation to Alberta.

The spell of ‘national unity’ to sell Alberta’s US-controlled oil sands is not broken even as the forest fires and floods in BC and Ontario rage beyond all records from the fossil-carbon-destabilized climate. Now six new pro-developer premiers of Canada and the leader of the federal opposition are shouting that any more delays to the Big-Oil pipelines are “breaking up the country.”

US Big Oil led by the Kochs’ political war chest and already covertly dominating the US Senate and Presidency, has long gotten its way by such polarizing propaganda. Yet in Canada the line is swallowed whole and spread by the national media as the “unity crisis” facing the country.

Big Oil’s crucial step in putting the tar sands into the driver’s seat of Canada politics has gone beneath the radar. First of all it assumes a premise which no one questions that all the toxic raw product must be piped through Canada unprocessed “to market” (i.e., US refineries), and that Canada must duly enforce this off-shore refinement “as a national priority.” Once this full false premise is established as a given, it follows that the toxic Alberta crude must be piped raw across the BC mountain forests and aquifers, and then into its paradisal inland ocean channels for oil-tanker transport – now demanding a rising and rarely mentioned seven-times more oil-tanker traffic with toxic product that cannot be cleaned up.

Any ‘delays’ to this (never named) US-Big-Oil agenda with Canada juniors are then attacked as against ‘national unity.’ They are called ‘illogical’ and ‘punishing Alberta’- even when the time is legally required for amending legislation that has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada and for negotiating with the first nations whose lands and waters will be overrun by the the dirty-oil project in a period of ‘national reconciliation.’

In fact, the governing premises here are lawless and driven by what the Kochs specialize in – a fanatic anti-government agenda claiming to be for tax-payers and citizens. The rule of law is implicitly dismissed. Carbon pricing legislated by elected government – which sane oil corporations now accept as economically required – is ferociously attacked.

Even Parliament’s long-passed Bill C-48 protecting the Northern BC Coast from heavy oil-tanker traffic (tankers carrying over 10,500 metric tons of tar-sand crude) – a bill supported and voted for by over two-thirds of MP’s – is attacked in the Senate of Canada backed by Big Oil and Alberta.

Thus the single most important legal protection of Canada’s greatest environmental treasure, one that has been the negotiated decision of Parliament and a condition for the oil-pipe through BC, is marked for elimination. The federal Conservative Party goes along, and its ever-smiling leader Andrew Scheer has promised if elected in the approaching federal election to abolish Bill C-48.

The worst part of the whole multiplying Big-Oil tar sands mega-project may be the mammoth toxin-filled tankers ploughing through and despoiling the world’s most awe-inspiring green inland coasts in BC. It is like the Vietnam coast in this sublime natural beauty, but even more than Vietnam, it is an ecological paradise carrying a world of whales, eagles, biodiverse life and breathtaking music of nature with thriving Indigenous peoples protecting the environment since ancient times in a breathtaking music of life from rising green peaks to the fish depths of the ocean.

That the current Big Oil forces, Alberta Conservatives, the federal Conservative Party, many in the Senate of Canada, and various corporate media and fronts are all seeking to reverse the already-legislated Bill C-48 protection of even the Northern BC coasts from this grossest abuse of majestic life and beauty at every level and scale of Creation demonstrates how cancerous the Big Oil tar sands mega-project has become.

Yet in the unseen, historic shell-game going on behind the scenes, there is a convenient perpetual side-show of attacks on PM Trudeau whose unforgivable sin is not to push the oil-pipes and tankers through BC fast enough.

Led by Jason Kenney as Premier and the so-far invisible Koch brothers, the Conservative Party across provinces and federally has formed into an implicit war against any public control over and regulation of Big Oil. Any legal impediment to the massively toxic extraction and export through Canada’s most pristine natural environments to US control, refineries and far more profitable foreign sale is reverse portrayed as an attack on Alberta and a strike at Canada’s unity as a country.

The assumed absolute necessity of this pipeline and tanker extension of the multiplying tar sands project is, in fact, the demand of US-led Big Oil to loot and pollute Canada’s natural resources for value added in the US (including for oil sale back to Canada at multiplied prices). Yet every politician is supine before the transnational Big Oil powers involved. Even Liberal leader Stephan Dionne who won the Liberal leadership in 2006 on an environmental platform dared not question the Koch-led tar sands mega-project. “There is too much money in it,’ he responded to environmentalist concerns.

With all these unseen premises against Canada’s common life interests now cast as unalterable necessity, the trap is well set. As a federal election must occur before October 21, all the wheels are being oiled for Conservative toppling of the Liberal government and override of any resistance to the biggest force-play of US-led Big Oil in Canada’s history.

Read: Koch-Oil, Part 1: Big lies and ecocide writ large in Canada

Koch-Oil, Part 1: Big lies and ecocide writ large in Canada


A stop sign turned to protest sign against fossil fuels from Canadian tar sands. Photo by Robert Ashworth from Wikimedia Commons.

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few joining the dots.

For example, no media are reporting that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral and illegal embargo against oil-competitor Iran. A cynical reply is that this is predictable. Canada attacks any designated US enemy in junior partnership with global corporate command.

But this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself without knowing it.

A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition are well advanced in a Canadian campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, First Nations negotiations, and to bring down the government of Canada. Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots.

Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world-famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and almost all its raw product is controlled for refining and sale in the US.

What is especially kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers have a dominant stake in the toxic crude of the Alberta tar-sands seeking a massive BC-pipeline out to their US refineries.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their near $100-billion fortune from the tar-sands and deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US.

The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly-subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no government regulations or interferences in the way.

A short history of the background facts

Prior to the wide-mouth pipelines of toxic Alberta crude planned through BC mountains, lands and waters to US processors, oil has to be extracted from the tar-sands first. This demands a continuous gargantuan depleting and polluting of the great Athabaska Lake, River and watershed to steam-boil the tar out of the vast open-pit mines. The immense open-pit mines are not formed or pumped out of desert as in the Middle East. They are torn in state-size chunks out of the earth’s mantle by monstrous wrecking machines ripping out the boreal forest lands by the roots to destroy the carbons sinks and water-hold stabilization they provide in the Northern region as well as pump out ever more climate-changing gases.

To boil the tar out of the endless open-pit mines already demands the equivalent of twice the amount of water the entire City of Calgary uses and recycles in a year. But water consumed by the tar-sand boiling is permanently polluted and wasted, and its fresh- water take from the great Athabaska watershed will only increase as the tar-sands ‘development’ is maximized, accessible oil fields are exhausted and prices rise. So too the annihilation of the boreal forests acting as a sink for carbon and holding the watershed together will be permanently lost.

Yet this is only the beginning of what ends up being the biggest single point-source of carbon pollution and climate destabilization in the world. It pollutes 2.5 times more carbon gases than natural oil. Extraction mechanisms cost almost eight times more fossil fuels than natural oil, and use overall almost as much energy as is produced!

For many years now, the Kochs have made most of their vast fortune from processing billions of barrels of tar-sand crude in the US, not Canada. This is why their octopi funding fronts have relentlessly pushed for ever more pipelines through others’ lands (including Dakota’s Indigenous Standing Rock) to control this bigger and safer business than tar-sand extraction itself.

This is also why the Kochs have led the huge financing of climate change denial against the known science, in which tar sand extractions and burning produce far more toxic carbon gases than high-grade oil. Most of all, the Kochs have acted out of sight to ensure control over elected governments that might regulate and control their above-the-law activities. They spent more than the Republican Party itself on the 2012 US elections.

They invented and funded the Congress-upending Tea-Party, and finance endless attack ads against all resisters to their will to dominate the US Congress and Senate (and behind the scenes the Trump presidency).

Read: Koch-Oil, Part 2: Canada’s love-in with US Big Oil

Alberta targets foreign ‘special interests’ — but omits Big Oil

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Photo: Government of Alberta/FlickrPhoto: Government of Alberta/Flickr

With the exception of Donald Trump’s claim that he’s draining the swamp, it’s hard to imagine a clearer example of gibberish than Jason Kenney’s claim that he’s defending Alberta against “foreign-funded special interests.”

The Alberta premier has launched a public inquiry to expose the foreign funding behind environmental groups opposing his efforts to increase production of Alberta’s carbon-heavy oil.

But Kenney’s claim to be shielding Albertans from foreign “special interests” is absurdly selective; he’s planning to shine the light on a small slice of foreign influence, while keeping the spotlight away from the massive foreign influence exerted by Big Oil.

If there’s ever been a foreign player wielding influence in Canada, it’s been Big Oil, which has exercised a virtual stranglehold over Alberta politics during the last few decades. But that story — and Kenney’s complicity in it — is one the premier is determined to keep under wraps.

“Big Oil was the original special interest meddling in Canadian affairs,” says Donald Gutstein, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Big Stall: How Big Oil and the Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change. “From the very beginning, Canada’s oil and the tarsands were an American affair, financed by American capital to provide petroleum for the American market. Canadians and the environment be damned. Now Canadians, environmentalists and First Nations are saying ‘enough.'”

Let’s be clear: enormous amounts of money are being spent in the global battle to lobby governments and sway public opinion on climate change in the roughly dozen years we have left — according to the UN’s panel of climate experts — before it’s too late to stop the world’s descent into climate hell.

But the vast majority of this money — by a margin of about 10 to 1 — is spent by the fossil fuel industry, according to research by Drexel University’s Robert Brulle. MORE

Big Oil is the real foreign meddler in Canadian affairs

“Kenney’s claim to be shielding Albertans from foreign “special interests” is absurdly selective; he’s planning to shine the light on a small slice of foreign influence, while keeping the spotlight away from the massive foreign influence exerted by Big Oil,” writes Linda McQuaig.

With the exception of Donald Trump’s claim that he’s draining the swamp, it’s hard to imagine a clearer example of gibberish than Jason Kenney’s claim that he’s defending Alberta against “foreign-funded special interests.”

The Alberta premier has launched a public inquiry to expose the foreign funding behind environmental groups opposing his efforts to increase production of Alberta’s carbon-heavy oil.

But Kenney’s claim to be shielding Albertans from foreign “special interests” is absurdly selective; he’s planning to shine the light on a small slice of foreign influence, while keeping the spotlight away from the massive foreign influence exerted by Big Oil.

If there’s ever been a foreign player wielding influence in Canada, it’s been Big Oil, which has exercised a virtual stranglehold over Alberta politics during the last few decades. But that story — and Kenney’s complicity in it — is one the premier is determined to keep under wraps.

“Big Oil was the original special interest meddling in Canadian affairs,” says Donald Gutstein, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Big Stall: How Big Oil and the Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change. “From the very beginning, Canada’s oil and the tarsands were an American affair, financed by American capital to provide petroleum for the American market. Canadians and the environment be damned. Now Canadians, environmentalists and First Nations are saying ‘enough.’”

Let’s be clear: enormous amounts of money are being spent in the global battle to lobby governments and sway public opinion on climate change in the roughly dozen years we have left — according to the UN’s panel of climate experts — before it’s too late to stop the world’s descent into climate hell.

But the vast majority of this money — by a margin of about 10 to 1 — is spent by the fossil fuel industry, according to research by Drexel University’s Robert Brulle.

What is truly absurd is the notion that the relatively small amounts of foreign money coming from the Rockefeller and Tides foundations are any match for the huge resources unleashed by corporations and wealthy individuals to defend their investments in fossil fuels.

Some of the most powerful U.S. oil interests — including Koch Industries— have major holdings in Alberta, as the Star’s Olivia Ward and the Washington Post have documented. MORE

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