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Beer: Emissions Are Set to Rise Through 2050. And Fossils Think Climate Protesters Are the Naïve Ones?

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With the latest trend report for fossil fuel consumption projecting higher carbon dioxide emissions through 2050, Canadian fossils are expressing the odd view that the million or more people who took to the streets for #ClimateStrike Friday are naïve to expect a rapid phasedown of fossil production.

At least they recognize climate strikers’ right to protest, The Canadian Press reports [1], in a post republished by CBC.

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But, really—who’s being naïve in this conversation?

The CO2 projection for 2050 comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s by no means the only mid-century scenario out there, and others point [3] to pathways to rapid decarbonization. 

But the EIA presents a business-as-usual world with energy consumption rising by nearly 50%, and leading to higher demand for all energy sources—oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables. It’s the kind of high-carbon scenario the Canadian fossil industry depends on when it projects future growth in demand for tar sands/oil sands bitumen.

“The projected increase in energy consumption is so large it dominates the projected shift from fossil to non-fossil sources in the EIA’s baseline case,” Reuters reports [4]. Under those “plausible assumptions, the increase in global energy consumption over the next three decades will be so large it will lift consumption from both fossil and non-fossil sources.”

Which means that, under the EIA scenario, “global CO2 emissions will increase substantially by 2050 unless energy consumption growth is curbed sharply (which seems unlikely given historical trends) or there is an even faster switch to non-CO2-emitting energy sources (which also seems unlikely given the lack of policy action),” Reuters writes. “With current policies and technologies, atmospheric CO2 will continue rising through mid-century, taking it far above the target set by policy-makers as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, with associated implications for the climate.”

Which may explain why fossils felt they could be so condescendingly patient with last week’s climate strike.

“Generally, emotionally, they want to make a change and I think that’s a positive thing,” said Earl Hickok, chairman and founder of Advantage Energy Services Ltd., who apparently presented no evidence for his belief that youth protesters are being manipulated by supposed radical environmentalists. “Now, do I believe they are right and we should strike and stop the world and stop our economy and stop our way of life? No, I don’t. But I think their intentions are good.”

“The strikes in some ways raise the emotional urgency of the whole process,” said ARC Resources Ltd. Chair Hal Kvisle, a one-time CEO of TC Energy, the pipeliner formerly known as TransCanada Corporation. “The strikes themselves are not offering any answers. The strikes are not addressing the question of how we reduce carbon demand.”

But whether it’s naivete or a desperate attempt to spin away reality, Maclean’s writer Stephen Maher notes [5] that the future the fossils hope to build is not nearly as certain as they claim. Foreign investors have been exiting the tar sands/oil sands, apparently taking seriously the risk that such a high-emission energy source will lose value as the world decarbonizes. 

Whatever the business-as-usual projections might say, “the problem for the oil industry, and for the oil sands in particular, is that if governments follow through on their commitments to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Accord—which is necessary to prevent ecological disaster—the world will be burning less oil before long,” Maher writes.

“Those rosy forecasts rely on meeting carbon reduction targets by removing massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere in the future, in some as-yet-to-determined manner,” he adds. But “there is a massive X factor in these projections, using technologies not yet discovered to suck pollution out of the air.”

Maher’s conclusion makes the #ClimateStrike protesters look utterly realistic, the fossils and their political allies rather less so.

“If we don’t cut emissions in [both China and Canada], soon and steeply, the world is in big trouble, worse trouble than most people realize,” he writes. “The ice caps will melt. The coral reefs will all die. Coastal cities will be washed away. Some of the world’s biggest cities will become uninhabitable. There will be pressure to cool the Earth by forcing particulate matter into the stratosphere, a terrifying prospect, turning the Earth into a science experiment.”

In that light, “it seems much more sensible to switch to low-carbon alternatives as soon as possible.” But “the problem is that we do not want to hear her message, not just because of the PR campaign telling us that we’re foolish to be alarmed—which is a lie—but because it’s easier to do nothing and let [#FridaysForFuture Founder Greta] Thunberg’s generation deal with it. It’s no wonder she is angry.”