President Trump isn’t the only one ignoring climate science

A little over a year ago, in December 2015, we helped six prominent Canadians call on the Commissioner of Competition to investigate climate change denier groups.  We argued that these groups violate the Competition Act by making false or misleading representations about climate science that distort markets in favour of fossil fuel interests.

Canada’s Competition Act prohibits the making of materially false or misleading representations for the purpose of promoting any business interest, such as fossil fuel development.

The Competition Bureau opened an inquiry last summer and we learned recently that the process is still underway.  This is good news. Knowing that the Commissioner of Competition is taking this inquiry seriously gives us hope that the days might be numbered for denier groups in Canada.

Climate change deniers undermine meaningful and necessary conversations about climate solutions by instilling doubt about the validity of climate science.  There should be no doubt about the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity.  An extensive review of climate studies, published in April 2016, found that among publishing climate experts, 90-100 per cent share the opinion that humans are causing climate change.

The update about the Bureau’s investigation into denier groups comes at an interesting time.  Last week Donald Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States of America. And thanks to his statements while on the campaign trail, it’s no secret where he stands when it comes to climate change. In the lead up to Inauguration Day, President Trump stacked his transition team with several known climate deniers and former fossil fuel executives.  Among that group is the man selected to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who has openly spoken about his skepticism on climate change.  Meanwhile, Trump’s secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, used to be the CEO of ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company and a notorious funder of climate denier groups.  Intriguingly, Tillerson was recently deposed in a landmark youth-led constitutional challenge in the United States, which alleges that industry and government have known about climate change since the 1960s and done nothing to avoid it — two weeks ago, the U.S. government made several admissions about their longstanding knowledge of the danger posed by climate change and the severity of impacts being felt, even now.

It might be too soon to tell exactly what the future will look like regarding U.S. climate action, but it is obvious that our neighbours south of the border are suddenly facing a pro-fossil fuel administration in the White House.

But let’s not be smug.  While President Trump (and his cabinet) seem to embody an extreme form of climate change denialism, we have our own form of ignoring the reality of climate change here in Canada.

In recent months, we’ve seen Canadian politicians turn a blind eye to climate science by approving major fossil fuel projects across the country.  Within a span of about two months, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project.  Meanwhile the spectre of Keystone XL looms —Trump has taken steps to revive it and Trudeau’s government wholeheartedly supports it.  The approval of these projects makes meeting Canada’s (inadequate) commitment to reduce its carbon emissions levels to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 nearly impossible, assuming these pipelines lead to the expansions in oil sands production our government is hoping for.

The Prime Minister and his government understand the state of science on climate change.  They agree that urgent action is needed.  And yet, they continue to approve fossil fuel projects that will allow greenhouse gas emissions to grow by leaps and bounds in our oil and gas sector, cancelling out emission reductions made elsewhere across the economy.  Again and again, we have watched the government’s rhetoric fail to match its actions. This includes last night’s town hall in Calgary where the Prime Minister reiterated his support for Keystone XL and backpedaled on the need to phase out oil sands production in the coming decades.

As the Bureau’s investigation into climate change denier groups continues, we’re committed to doing everything in our power to fight climate ignorance — in all its forms.

That’s why we’re challenging Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion in court and helping communities stand up for their right to a fair, unbiased process in the Energy East pipeline review.

Climate change is real, it is happening now, and it is our creation, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels. A just transition to clean energy sources will not happen overnight, but we can help ourselves get there by accepting the science and not building fossil fuel infrastructure that locks us into a high-carbon energy system for generations to come.