A Note on Climate Change to Suits and Boots from Peter Ladner

The following letter was recently sent by Peter Ladner to Rick Peterson. Peter Ladner is a retired entrepreneur, journalist, politician, author and grandfather.

Rick:

Thanks for hosting and organizing the Suits and Boots “Face-to-Face Resource Sector Tour” event in Vancouver last week. It is so good to get those with opposing views in the same room, instead of fanning the flames in our protected echo chambers.

I wish I had added two things when you gave me the opportunity to talk.

The first is can we just shut up about the foreign-funded radical conspiracy and shut down the war room that ennobles it? It has been thoroughly debunked by Sandy Garossino and Markham Hislop—not because Vivian Krause’s facts are wrong, but because they are carefully selected to weave a fraudulent narrative that elevates her by demonizing organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation, where I sit on the board. Imagine your own organization, made up of decent people doing their best to make the world a better place as they see it, being publicly attacked by a taxpayer-funded government initiative aimed at shutting it down based on false information.

The foreign-funded radicals narrative deviously leads people to satisfying but unwarranted hatred and anger that diverts them from the hard work of managing the inevitable energy transition. As I’m sure you know by now, the Tar Sands campaign has wound down, it was never the cause of Alberta’s economic woes, it was always overwhelmingly funded and led by Canadians, and its American funders spent far more money opposing US and international fossil fuel expansion than they did in Canada.

The second point is that from the viewpoint of the David Suzuki Foundation (where we got 5% of our funding from US sources last year BTW), ENGOs/Greens are not driven in any way by bad feelings towards Albertans, especially those whose lives have been upended by the current economic downturn in that province. Providing a compassionate transition for workers upended by fossil fuel reductions is job #1.

We are driven by a passion similar to that of your members, only we are more focused on climate change as the looming destroyer of the economy and quality of life of everyone on the planet. As your young member said at the lunch, young people are so distressed by this reality they are committing suicide and suffering unprecedented levels of mass depression. Unfortunately, science tells us that fossil fuel expansion has to stop if we are going to even pretend to meet Paris targets.

I think the elephant in the room is that from the point of view of someone desperate to keep the oil flowing, climate change is denied or pushed aside. I can’t count the number of articles and interviews and posts I have read that purport to get to the bottom of Alberta’s problems without ever mentioning the phrase “climate change”. As though it doesn’t exist.

I think I know why. I won’t deal with the deniers. But in my sincere efforts to understand Alberta’s point of view (I still haven’t blocked Brett Wilson from my Twitter feed!) the strongest argument I’ve heard for ignoring climate change is that Canada only produces 2% of world GHG emissions so why should we suffer when China, India, the US and other countries aren’t doing their bit? This is a strong argument, even without accounting for the massive GHG-reduction initiatives underway in those countries.

And yet it makes me think of our response to the glut of plastic and microplastics piling up in the world, killing fish, birds, and entering all our bloodstreams and food. We all want it to stop. But why should I reduce my plastic use when it won’t make any difference in the bigger picture? In my mind, I have no choice. I just can’t throw plastic into the ocean and think it’s OK. For the same reason, I don’t litter. For the same reason, I’m dug in on reducing GHG emissions.

If climate change is bringing catastrophic harm to billions of people in the world, I have no choice but to do everything I can to reduce that harm. We cannot ask or expect China, India, the US or any other country to act if Canada doesn’t do its part. We’re high per capita emission producers, we’ve off-loaded many of our emissions to countries like China that produce all our stuff, and we’re more able to adapt compared to less developed countries. We cannot reach our Paris targets without curtailing future oil production.

So, yeah, it’s easy for me to say this because I’m well-off, retired, happily hypocritical about flying on holidays and driving my car, and not going to suffer personally from limits to fossil fuel expansion in Canada. I realize that colours my views, but it doesn’t make me unsympathetic to
Alberta’s plight, and it doesn’t mean Alberta can tune out climate change.

Alberta needs help. The world has to turn away from fossil fuel expansion, not from Albertans.  Many of us are eager to help speed the energy transition in Alberta and across the country in the most prosperous and least harmful way possible. I used to be chair of The Natural Step Canada, which organizes the Energy Futures Lab in Alberta, funded in part by Suncor, to do just that.

Having a more honest and understanding discussion of these new realities is an essential requirement for this transition.

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