Loading the Climate Change Dice, Stacking the Odds against Canada’s Long-term Interests
Canadian politicians are betting a large chunk of the country’s economic future and national security on marine operations that will be ten times riskier in the future due to climate change.
As of 2011 the export of mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation accounted for 5.7% of Canada’s $1.7 trillion GDP. Exports in total accounted for 23.2% of GDP and about 73.7% of that was with the United States.
The year 2012 however was a watershed, commencing with President Obama’s denial of a presidential permit for construction of the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline on the grounds that a proper environmental review could not be conducted before a 60-day deadline set by the U.S. Congress.
Canada’s Natural Resources Minister responded for the government saying “Our focus is, as you know, on diversifying our markets. We currently have one customer for our energy exports. That customer has said that it doesn’t want to expand at the moment. So it certainly intensifies the broad strategic objective of the government to diversify to Asia.”
There has been a concerted effort subsequently by Ottawa to push the Northern Gateway Pipeline through British Columbia to allow the flow of Alberta’s resource to a port in Kitimat for transhipment to Asian markets; principally China.
Northern Gateway has been met with stiff opposition in British Columbia, which has its own plan to pipe fracked natural gas from fields in the north east of the province to the coast to be compressed and shipped as LNG to Asia.
Indications are the Keystone XL Pipeline isn’t primarily for U.S. consumption either. “The Port Arthur, Texas, refiners at the end of its route are focused on expanding exports to Europe, and Latin America.”
All of these efforts, as are Canada’s wheat, coal, potash and lumber exports, are largely dependant on shipment across waters that increasingly will be impacted by climate change that is in turn intensified by the burning of Canadian oil, gas and coal.
The harvesting of Canada’s forests further impacts the climate by reducing natural carbon sinks as is the case with the decimation of much of British Columbia’s pine forest by beetles that under normal circumstances would be killed off by protracted cold weather.
Canadian taxpayers are also set to invest as much as $33 billion in 28 naval and patrol ships as a key element of the country’s defence posture.
The problem with increased reliance on marine endeavours, is the fact the Niels Bohr Institute estimates the world can expect 10 times the current closed cyclonic circulations should the climate become two degrees Celsius warmer, as it is almost certain to by the end of the century.
As the US Department of the Navy states, “Large and powerful storms, referred to as “closed cyclonic circulations,” are especially dangerous and have caused massive destruction throughout all of recorded history.”
Even in current conditions tanker accidents have been frequent enough and their impacts damaging enough to warrant concern and oil is increasingly been sought from beneath deeper and more treacherous waters.
Closed cyclonic circulations, or hurricanes as they are commonly referred to on this continent, are Nature’s response to an overheating ocean. They convert excess heat to mechanical energy and move it to the colder regions of the planet in accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The preponderance of, and the strongest hurricanes occur in the northern hemisphere and accordingly Canada’s naval and merchant shipping are at above average risk.
The same heat that stokes closed cyclonic circulations could just as well be producing all of the carbon free energy the planet needs.
Even if it hasn’t in the meantime, the prospect of a Katrina every two years and blocking events caused by a melted Artic that turn storms like Sandy that normally would dissipate in the North Atlantic instead on land to impact the most populated area of the United States will assuredly bring about action to reduce carbon emissions. Even if such actions would be too little and too late.
It is a perfect setup for crapping out on both ends of the energy market: today’s and tomorrow’s.