Hey Canada, Which Is More Ethical: Abandoning the Kyoto Protocol or Shilling Tar Sands?

Peter Blanchard/CC BY 2.0

The big climate news of the day is obviously the predictable move by Canada of officially withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, something which everyone saw coming. Plenty of people have good analysis of the decision, but as Grist puts it two words are behind it all, and if frankly only simplifies things slightly. Those two words: Tar Sands.

What I want to know is what the folks at Canada's Ethical Oil campaign—that one which tries (with little success, to my sense) to make the case that getting oil from tar sands is better ethically that getting it from Middle East regimes—make of all this.

What is more ethical: Giving the middle finger to the only international climate change agreement the world's managed to cobble together or attempting to preserve a world in which future generations of people, in both developed and developing nations albeit with greater emphasis on the latter, are pretty much screwed by climate change—all which considering that our collective addition to fossil fuels, regardless of source, is to blame for the problem?

While that's a blunt, simplified way of putting it for sure—though no more simplified than the moronically simplified Ethical Oil campaign itself—that's pretty much where we're at, bouncing in the wake of the Durban climate talks and the continued delay in acting until it'll be too late (as in 2020) brought about by it.

The agreement that came out of Durban is, from a scientific perspective if not political, a wholesale disaster, de facto condemning the world to more than 4°C average warming and all the catastrophic changes to precipitation patters, ocean acidification, sea level rise, crop yields, species extinction, etc.

Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol sends a clear message that as a government it doesn't care a jot about all that. Surely it will be spinned otherwise, but I simply don't buy it. The logic involved in continued obstruction of a global climate deal is just as spurious as it is in the Ethical Oil campaign itself.

It's simply a distraction from the underlying truth of the matter: Canada would rather extract every last drop of oil which can be processed out of the tar sands, and profit from it, than acknowledge that doing so will ensure that climate catastrophe occurs.

No matter how much technology has and can reduce the comparative emissions of fuels made from tar sands versus conventional petroleum, the size of the tar sands reserves is such that unless they are left in the ground we will continue to spew volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

If you assume that prime ethical directive is to do no harm, or at least the minimum amount of harm, in any given situation, there is simply no way that Canada's lack of concern for climate change at the governmental level or the Ethical Oil campaign can live up to that ethical standard.

Tags: Canada | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions | Tar Sands

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