This year, the country refused to take part in a program that would help struggling countries cope with climate change. Prime Minster Stephen Harper censored artists whose work didn’t align with the country’s pro-fossil fuel agenda. And the country’s Alberta tar sands project is literally turning a landscape of boreal forest into oily muck, causing greenhouse gas emissions to grow by 21 percent and nearly 7,500-square-miles of mercury pollution.
But when the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced in September that it was 95 percent certain that humans were causing a dramatic change in the planet’s climate, Canada was ready to do something about it.
“The government of Canada takes climate change seriously, and recognizes the scientific findings that conclude that human activities are mostly responsible for this change,” Canada’s environment minister Leona Aglukkaq almost said at the time.
According to an investigation from Postmedia News released Thursday, Aglukkaq rejected suggestions from her communications staff to highlight the urgency of immediate action in light of the alarming report. Instead, she responded by saying the Canadian government was already reducing greenhouse gases.
“Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 percent, or the [New Democratic Party], who want a $21 billion carbon tax, our Government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs,” Aglukkaq said in her final September 27 statement.
In fact, internal government analysis by CBS news in October showed that Canada would fail to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Copenhagen Accord, an international treaty. And in November, The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers found that per barrel greenhouse gas emissions for tar sands and other unconventional oil sources — like oil shale — have grown by 21 percent. Total emissions, the group said, have grown from 90 million metric tons in 2008 to 109 million metric tons in 2012.
Postmedia’s discovery of the Harper Administration’s refusal to recognize the realities of man-made climate change is just the latest in the Canadian government’s ongoing campaign to thwart attempts to regulate the fossil fuel industry. Just last week, it was discovered that the Alberta government would hand over regulatory responsibility for the province’s tar sands industry to a corporation that’s funded entirely by Canada’s oil, coal and gas industry. In May of this year, leaks of the oil started popping up in Alberta, and haven’t yet stopped. As of September, the leaks had already spilled more than 403,900 gallons — or about 9,617 barrels — of oily bitumen into the surrounding boreal forest and muskeg, the acidic, marshy soil found in the forest.
Also last week, Postmedia News uncovered internal federal briefing notes that more than $100 million would be cut from Canada’s efforts to protect the country’s water and oceans. Those cuts include $1.7 million and 27 job losses for the elimination of an in-house research program examining the biological impacts of contaminants, pesticides and the oil and gas industry. The cuts also include millions of dollars in reductions to climate change adaptation programs, according to the report.