Environmentalist Bill McKibben is sick of people glossing over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate record just because he’s nice to look at.
To be sure, McKibben writes in a Guardian op-ed published Monday, Trudeau has “mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government.”
Combine those optics with his handsome appearance and reassuring rhetoric, and “in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump,” McKibben says, making it “no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.”
“But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in D.C.,” the 350.org co-founder argues, referring to U.S. president and climate-destroyer-in-chief Donald Trump, whose administration is pushing dirty energy, waging a war on science, and threatening to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Meanwhile, Trudeau and his people say all the right things on climate—”[b]ut those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing,” McKibben writes.
For example, he continues:
Last month, speaking at a Houston petroleum industry gathering, [Trudeau] got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying “No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”
Yes, 173bn barrels is indeed the estimate for recoverable oil in the tar sands. So let’s do some math. If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30 percent of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5 degree target that Canada helped set in Paris.
That is to say, Canada, which represents one-half of 1 percent of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget. That is to say, Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite.
McKibben is not the first to highlight Trudeau’s mixed environmental messages.
“The federal government insists that it is committed to acting on climate change, but approving Kinder Morgan’s project contradicts its promises and undermines the government’s climate strategy and its international commitments,” said Ecojustice lawyer Karen Campbell in November, when Trudeau announced the government’s approval of the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project.
And in December, Trudeau touted Trump’s support for the Keystone XL, which would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas. When Trump gave the controversial project a green light in December, he garnered praise from Trudeau’s cabinet.
“The question for Canadians is: will the prime minister continue to align himself with a climate denying Trump administration, or will he stand with the people and with science and start living up to his own commitments to the climate and Indigenous rights?” asked (pdf) Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema at the time. “The prime minister can’t keep saying he will lead on climate while building three new tar sands pipelines. Alternative facts may work in the U.S. administration but they shouldn’t be tolerated here.”
For her part, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein thanked McKibben for “telling the truth about the spin masters in the Trudeau government.”
Of the Trudeau-as-savior narrative, she tweeted, “It’s enough already.”
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) April 17, 2017
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