There's a pretty good case to be made that denial extends right through our consumer society, which dumps greenhouse gases into an atmosphere that is already obviously overloaded.
By Don McLean
Published March 23, 2015
Where does denial stop? One can sort of sympathize with Hamilton Spectator editor Paul Berton's reluctance to stop publishing climate change denialists.
Where would he stop? There's no shortage of those in denial, not just among individuals but also corporations and governments.
Take TransCanada Inc, the company that has been unsuccessfully trying for many years to get US approval for its Keystone XL pipeline so it can ship tar sands bitumen from Alberta through the Gulf of Mexico to foreign markets.
That line has been blocked by US President Barack Obama because emissions resulting from the 860,000 barrel-a-day facility will have a huge impact on global climate.
Far from taking a hint from this finding by the US Environmental Protection Agency, TransCanada is now proposing an even bigger alternative - an all-Canadian route dubbed Energy East running 4,600 kilometres from Alberta to New Brunswick's Atlantic coast at an estimated cost of $12 billion.
This company's denial extends beyond climate change to simple economics. The price of oil is currently less than half of what is required to extract and process Alberta bitumen, and expansion plans are being abandoned wholesale. Investing billions in a pipe to ship increased tar sands production denies both logic and reality.
It also ignores a comprehensive economic analysis published in January in Nature, one of the world's most prestigious journals, which says Alberta bitumen is far too expensive to ever be competitive. That's because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that only one-fifth of global fossil fuel reserves can be burned without pushing global warming beyond human control.
The advocates for the Energy East pipeline are just as much in denial as the most hardened Tea Party fanatics, even without taking into account their plan to convert a 40-year-old natural gas line for nearly all the route across Ontario's lakes and rivers.
Denial also characterizes the National Energy Board, the federal regulator charged with reviewing the Energy East proposal. Despite a petition of over 100,000 Canadians, the NEB is refusing even to consider the climatic implications of the 1.1 million barrel-a-day pipeline.
The Board claims its mandate to protect the public interest doesn't include climate change. Its receipt of over 2,200 applications to intervene in the Energy East review probably won't change that - although the vast majority are from individuals and organizations specifically concerned about climate change.
This is the same Board that approved the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal across wilderness British Columbia - a project that everyone acknowledges will never be built because of First Nation and other public opposition.
It's also the Board recently described [PDF] by Marc Eliesen, a former deputy energy minister in seven provincial and federal governments, as an "industry captured regulator" engaged in "a public deception".
Eliesen publicly said the NEB decisions:
reflect a lack of respect for hearing participants, a deep erosion of the standards and practices of natural justice that previous Boards have respected and an undemocratic restriction of participation by citizens, communities, professionals and First Nations either by rejecting them outright or failing to provide adequate funding to facilitate meaningful participation.
The NEB is clearly in deep denial, not just about climate change but also in thinking that its decisions retain any credibility.
That's even truer of our current federal Conservative government, which has built Canada's whole economic strategy around tar sands exports and the pipe dream that the country can be served by once again tying us to extracting and exporting raw resources (and the jobs that go with them).
As commodity prices crash, that strategy is clearly in tatters - leaving Prime Minister Stephen Harper deep in denial about both climate change and economic reality.
And beyond those more obvious ones, there's a pretty good case to be made that denial extends much further through our consumer society, which dumps greenhouse gases into an atmosphere that is already obviously overloaded.
Denial is clearly at work if we assume there won't be any nasty consequences from dumping our wastes into the water and air we depend on, spreading poisons on the land that feeds us, and erasing more and more of the web of life that sustains us.
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