Climate Change? US and Canada talk a good game, obstruct

In East Texas, members of the Tar Sands Blockade started their eleventh week of opposition to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline with a new act of civil disobedience against the onrush of global warming, sealing themselves inside a mile-long segment of the pipeline itself.

In Doha, Qatar, other protestors at the U.N. World Climate Conference found themselves in just as dark and unyielding a metaphorical tunnel: the mindset of the globally powerful who appear unwilling to act to mitigate the human suffering they’re already perpetrating on millions of the less powerful people around the world.

In Texas and Qatar alike, the role of the United States government is to stand aside as if helpless, while covertly, and not so covertly, encouraging the forces driving the plant’s temperature to lethal levels.   At the climate conference, the U.S. was sharply criticized for failing to take the lead on planet protection, especially in light of its standing as the world’s worst polluter.

Among the top 20 developed countries, only one – Japan – spends more on fighting climate change than on subsidizing fossil fuels.  The country most out of balance is the United States.  The U.S. has pledged about $300,000 million – half of Japan’s amount – for mitigating climate change.  The U.S. spends about four times as much — $1.2 billion – subsidizing oil, coal, gas, and other fossil fuels.

Canada Was Once a Leader, Now It Has Shale Oil

Canada, home of the tar sands oil shale that scientists say may spell “game over” for the climate, also came in for condemnation in Doha.  Celine Charveriat, director of advocacy and campaigns for Oxfam International, called Canada a major villain for  blocking progress at the conference:

“Once again, rich industrialised nations are putting nothing on the table in terms of increased emissions cuts and financial support for poor nations. 

Governments found trillions of dollars to bail out the financial sector. This is a far greater crisis”¦. 

Canada has become rich and prosperous from its huge fossil fuel industry. And here they are offering absolutely nothing to pay for their pollution of the atmosphere”¦. 

What has gone wrong in Canada? They used to be a leader.

Now they are one of the worst laggards, down at the bottom with the U.S.”Â 

In June 2012, President Obama expedited permits for TransCanada to begin construction of the southern leg of Keystone XL pipeline through Texas, where Tar Sands Blockaders have been resisting since August.  In January, the President had put the whole pipeline on hold to allow for timely review, after Congress tried to rush the decision, which is now expected in early 2013.

Canada recently announced that it would break its commitment to controlling global warming and would not try to meet its commitment to lower greenhouse gasses, as it promised when it was one of 191 countries signing the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

Canada ratified the protocol in 2002 and pulled out of it in 2011.  The United States signed the protocol in 1998, but stated it had no intention of ratifying it or being bound by it.

A Canadian company, TransCanada, is building the Keystone pipeline, which, when completed, will run from the Alberta tar sands to Texas ports on the gulf, where most of the unusually toxic oil will be shipped abroad, largely to China.  In November, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister predicted that President Obama would approve the Keystone XL pipeline “because it is clearly in the US national interest in terms of national security, jobs (and) economic growth.”

TransCanada Treats Blockaders with Dispatch

TransCanada’s approach to the Tar Sands Blockade has been uncompromising, relentless, and sometimes violent, although the company says it was not responsible for sheriff’s deputies using pepper gas, choke-holds, and other torture tactics on non-resisting activists.

In Tyler, Texas, on December 3, according to

“The police threatened a variety of dangerous and violent responses including tear gas, canine units, cutting into the pipe or lifting it up to dump out the blockaders. Eventually, they were able to forcibly remove the blockaders and the barrels they were locked into.

Both blockaders, Glen Collins and Matt Almonte, were extracted and arrested. Isabel Indigo Brooks, who had been inside the pipe to provide support for Matt and Glen, was also arrested.  All three have been charged with three misdemeanors: criminal trespassing, resisting arrest and illegal dumping of more than 500-1000 pounds.

We haven’t yet learned whether the police used mace or other means of pain  compliance or if any of the blockaders were injured by the police. 

Although the Smith County District Attorney has piled on the charges and bail on the three pipe-sitters was set at $65,000 each, the Smith County Sheriff’s Department felt called upon to announce that they had not used pepper spray.

Responding to the removal of the protestors sealed in their pipe, TransCanada responded with this  statement by David Dodson: “It is unfortunate these protestors are trying to keep thousands of Americans from the jobs they depend on to provide for their families. This project is important, not only to thousands of workers, but also to Americans in general.”

TransCanada Continues to Lie About Jobs

The TransCanada jobs claim has long since been shown to be false in many ways.

The jobs will go mostly to non-Americans.  The jobs will be mostly temporary.  The jobs may number in the hundreds rather than thousands.  And even a TransCanada vice president has admitted that the number of permanent jobs will number in the hundreds.

While most of the American media have given little or no coverage to the Doha climate conference, Amy Goodman and DemocracyNOW! Has been covering it from Doha all week. Â Â  U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing refused to answer a question from Amy Goodman as to whether the position he was taking was consistent with what President Obama had said in his first speech after he was elected (that “he didn’t want his—he didn’t want our children to live in an America that isn’t (sic) threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet”). On December 4,  Pershing described his country’s passive role this way:

“I think the United States’s role is very much one of engaging actively and constructively in the discussion. We are one of the significant contributors to the intellectual thinking in the process. We have been. We will continue to try to do that. It doesn’t mean that we will agree with everyone on everything. This is, after all, a negotiation. We’re looking to participate in an outcome that will lead to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. We’re looking at an outcome that will be acceptable to all parties. We’re looking at an outcome that will be effective in the time frame that we’ve set for ourselves to move forward.” [emphasis added]

World Bank Reports: Situation Is Desperate

Weeks before Pershing made those comments, the World Bank released a report that warned that global warming was more advanced than anyone had thought and that the world was facing a “carbon tsunami” with devastating potential effects.  As Amy Goodman reported:

“A shocking new report commissioned by the World Bank is warning temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, causing devastating food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought — even if countries meet their current pledges to reduce emissions. If these promises are not met, the increase could happen even sooner. Meanwhile, scientists say it is still not too late to minimize the devastating impact of climate change. A separate report by the Climate Action Tracker says global warming could be kept below 2 degrees. “

The decision to approve construction of the Keystone pipeline coming from Canada into the United States technically belongs to the State Department, although there is little doubt that the President will make the final decision.  By the time he decides, he may well have a new Secretary if State, and that Secretary of State could be the current ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.  As Secretary of State, Rice would be expected to advise the president on Keystone, unless she recuses herself for a conflict if interest, since she owns at least $1.2 million worth of stock in more than a dozen Canadian banks and oil companies, including TransCanada (over $300,000), Enbridge, and at least seven others.