Alberta adds fuel to the climate crisis fire

Science Matters | David Suzuki

Alberta is facing severe drought, water shortages and a wildfire season that now begins in February! Every credible scientist and reputable organization that studies climate has provided indisputable evidence that matters will get worse in Alberta and globally if we don’t quickly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

In a saner world, those we elect to lead us would do everything possible to forestall catastrophe. But we live in a world where short-term economic considerations — mostly tied to increasing wealth for a small minority — are given precedence over everything, including our survival as a species.

In Alberta, that means supporting oil, gas and coal and hampering renewable energy development. No matter which party is in power there, support for the fossil fuel industry and attacks against those calling for change persist.

The province is scarred by oilsands operations, coal mines and oil and gas drilling and infrastructure. It’s littered with orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. The government has chosen not to crack down on the polluting messes, but on the flourishing renewable energy industry. It also wants taxpayers to pay to clean up the old oil and gas wells that are industry’s legal responsibility.

In early August 2023, Alberta’s government imposed a moratorium on all new large renewable energy projects. It followed up recently by announcing new regulations for renewable energy, some designed to protect “pristine viewscapes” and agricultural land. That’s important, but when the rules only apply to renewable projects and not the far more damaging, polluting and unsightly coal, gas and oil operations, it’s hard to take them seriously. The rules will also make much of the province off limits to renewable energy projects.

It’s also imposing a $200 electric vehicle tax to “help account for wear and tear on roads, and make up for the fuel tax that electric vehicles owners don’t pay” (in a province where many people drive heavy, gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs). The government even sent a delegation to last year’s climate conference in Dubai to promote fossil fuels.

None of it even makes economic sense. The world is rapidly shifting to renewable energy, creating an economic and employment boom, and fossil fuel developments are in danger of becoming “stranded assets.”

On this and several other issues, Alberta’s government appears to be following the U.S. MAGA movement. Former president Donald Trump said the first thing he’ll do if elected again is “Drill, baby, drill.”

It would be one thing if oil companies heeded their own research and started to shift course. But they’ve done little to nothing to change while blaming others for the climate crisis and putting enormous resources into downplaying or denying the evidence, including research from their own scientists.

In a Fortune interview, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods — paid US$35.9 million in 2022 — dismissed calls to invest more in renewable energy because that wouldn’t fit with the oil giant’s “ability to generate above-average returns for investors.” He also tried shifting the blame for not addressing the climate crisis to the public, saying, “The people who are generating those emissions need to be aware of and pay the price for generating those emissions.”

It’s sad and horrifying that many people care so little about humanity that they would put us all at risk just to accumulate obscene wealth. Their money and power mean they’re also able to influence or control politicians and governments, education policies, courts and media. Those who protest the deadly destruction are persecuted and arrested while those responsible for the damage are portrayed as successful pillars of society.

Even governments that appear to understand the climate and other environmental crises and have some good policies to address them side with industry greed over human survival. It’s why Canadian tax dollars are paying for a pipeline that shouldn’t be built during a climate crisis and for which costs have ballooned from C$4.5 billion to around C$31 billion.

Governments like Alberta’s illustrate the systemic nature of the problem. We need to change the way we value everything, from labour and jobs to nature and the goods and services it provides us. Politicians and governments must prioritize scientific evidence over corporate greed and short-term election outcomes. They should work for us, not self-serving corporations and their owners and executives.

Written with Ian Hanington. Learn more at