Posted on November 30, 2016 | Adam Caldwell | Written on November 30, 2016
Letter type:

Dear Hon. David McGuinty,

I was quite dismayed at the government’s announcement yesterday to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline. I am one of those “radicals” that believe there should be no new pipelines – ever. While I care about water, bears and orca whales, my reason is climate. I am an environmental scholar; while I do not study climate directly, I have a good understanding of the systems, and the math. And math is the reason I say we CANNOT afford new pipelines. As stated in this article written by the former director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Institute, here is the math:

                                                       942 > 800

The proven oil reserves currently in operation globally represent 942 gigatons of CO2. If we want to keep warming below 2°C, WE CAN ONLY BURN 800 GIGATONS.

There are currently 22 Gigatons of accessible CO2 in the tar sands, with another estimated 218 gigatons present. The tar sands alone represent the potential to blow almost ¼ of the PLANET’s CO2 “bank account”. Now is NOT the time to build new infrastructure, it is the time to plan a transition.

Currently there are a couple of false narratives that are being perpetuated by Rachel Notley, as well as PM Justin Trudeau.

The first false narrative is that the pipelines in question constitutes an existential choice between environment and economy. There are other paths available. The renewable sector has created over 2.5 million jobs in the USA, and employment in that sector has surpassed oil, gas & coal combined. While China and the USA build their industry, Canada lags far behind. There is NO reason we could not have been a leader in this area if Harper had decided in 2008 to invest in the renewable industry over subsidies to oil & gas, and pouring concrete. With the Trump presidency aiming to kill the US renewable industry, NOW is the time to open Canada’s doors to the US renewables brain trust, and invest in renewables as an industry of the future. Moreover, Canadian oil patch workers are ASKING to be retrained in renewables!

The second false narrative is that with offsets and regulation, there will be NO ADDED CO2 output from the tar sands as a result of building new pipelines. This is utterly, laughably false.

  1. This is a matter of emission scoping. In the carbon footprint industry, we calculate a carbon footprint by making determinations regarding now far downstream it logically makes sense to capture data. This may make sense empirically, but the climate does not care who, in the end burns that fuel. WE pulled it out of the ground, and it WILL be burned. And that is not even considering all the ancillary emissions. What the federal government views as “in scope” only accounts for 9.5% of emissions.
  2. Carbon OFFSETS (such as tree planting and other schemes) and CREDIT schemes have been widely found to be at best unreliable. Moreover, human nature demonstrates virtually every time that when you save a dollar in one place, you simply spend it elsewhere. Same goes for GHG’ Also, Notley said today that building a pipeline does not mean they will increase capacity. Seriously!? There is currently NO economic need for it, and who in their right minds would invest billions in infrastructure you are planning to mothball!?

As stated, I am an environmental studies major at Carleton, and I have studied climate change in depth. There is NO DOUBT about the science. As an environmental scholar, what I see happening now in the arcticis extremely alarming. It is blowing away most of the climatology modeling that has been done, and climatologists don’t even know what the consequences may be – but the will NOT be good.

The Insurance industry has indicated that from 2009 to 2014, insured losses in Canada caused by large natural catastrophes hovered around or surpassed the $1 billion mark. The signature of climate change features prominently on this. In fact, by the government’s own reckoning, over the past six fiscal years, the federal government spent more on recovering from large-scale natural disasters than in the previous 39 fiscal years combined. The same report states that the future cost of climate change for Canada could grow from approximately $5 billion per year in 2020 to between $21 billion and $43 billion per year by the 2050s.

Canada has COMMITTED to reducing GHG’s per our COP21 commitments, and by approving these pipelines, there is NO WAY we can meet these commitments. Just as we must commit to take care of our own homeless and needy, manage our own environment and economy responsibly, we MUST take our climate responsibilities seriously. When you knocked on my door you told me you are a family man, and that you care about our environment. I don’t see how you can reconcile these, and support the government’s position on pipelines. I kindly request you bring my concerns forward, and you DO NOT support expansion of hydrocarbon infrastructure.


Adam Caldwell

Ottawa, Ontario

About The Author

Adam Caldwell's picture

Working professionally in Environmental Sustainability, I am a community activist interested in climate resiliance, biodiversity and social justice issues. Recently left corporate life for Environmental Studies at... More