MLA Aheer’s recent report in your May 30th issue was deeply misguided on the critical issue of climate change and the future of Alberta’s economy.
Aheer quotes media personality Danielle Smith, whose failure to lead the Wildrose Party to victory in the 2012 Alberta election is widely attributed to her party’s refusal to accept climate science (along with basic LGBTQ rights). It is disappointing to see both of these opinion leaders in Alberta so stuck in the past; after all, it was back in 1977 that oil giant Exxon confirmed the science of climate change.
Meanwhile, just a few weeks ago the Bank of Canada named climate change as a top threat to “both the economy and the financial system” in the country. It identified two aspects of the threat: the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events and the global shift to a lower-carbon economy.
The facts are clear: Canada is warming at twice the global rate, and Alberta’s per capita emissions are more than three times the national average. Our province is already seeing the devastating effects of an early and severe wildfire season. This is happening now. Young people are rightly very concerned and, seeing many adults with theirs heads stuck in the sand, are leading conversations about our future.
The key problem now is this: Not only is Alberta failing to make progress in addressing climate change, the government of which Aheer is a part is actually moving us backwards by dismantling even the modest climate plan we have in place.
Meanwhile, transitions to lower-carbon economies are happening all over the world, and that is a threat to Alberta’s existing economy. However, the answer is not to slow progress on climate change; it is to be a leader in the transition, creating a stronger economy for the future.
Of course, fossil fuels have played a large part in our province’s current prosperity, but the world is changing and we need to prepare wisely for a different future.
Alberta workers deserve good, stable jobs, and at the same time that we do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can put much more of our effort into creating more of those jobs in low-carbon industries.
We can drill wells for geothermal power. We need construction workers and insulators retrofitting our older homes and commercial buildings to be more energy efficient. And the liabilities from oil and gas extraction, recently estimated by the Alberta Energy Regulator to be $260 billion, will require a massive boost in employment to clean up. There will be no shortage of jobs in a cleaner future.
How do we ensure we are moving forward together? A good place to start would be bringing together people from all walks of life across the province to talk about how we manage this transition, ensuring both our environment and our economy are healthy for generations to come. That is exactly what this youth-led movement for a Green New Deal is doing, and they deserve our support.
Joel French, Executive Director
Public Interest Alberta