Former Liberal Party of Canada leader and history professor Michael Ignatieff told a radical climate change conference on Tuesday that Greta Thunberg was a moral bully and that Canadian oil and gas is the key to balancing democracy with environmental concerns.
Ignatieff took the positions during his keynote presentation at a University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) online symposium titled “A Wicked Problem: Individual Freedoms and Climate Change.” On the heels of the latest COVID lockdowns and destructive weather in B.C., the event weighed whether personal freedoms should be restricted for the good of the earth’s climate.
Saying that radical environmentalists including Thunberg see democratic deliberation as an obstacle to their goals, Ignatieff argued that Canadian oil and gas could serve to prevent authoritarianism and economic depression while still providing a responsible path to cleaner energy.
“The only way through in my opinion until the green transition is complete, is to import more oil and gas from democratic providers,” Ignatieff said. “Now, let me bring this home. There are substantial unrealized deposits of natural gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, for example. The Quebec government has so far refused to allow these to be developed…some experts have told me that Quebec could supply as much as 20% of Germany’s natural gas requirements within five years”.
“So, what’s Quebec to do? These are political choices, and environmentalists for understandable reasons are opposed. They prefer to see the environmental challenge as trumping any other issue, including support for democracy and Ukraine.”
According to the Kelowna event’s organizer, UBCO economics professor John Janmaat, the talk comes amidst concerns that countries haven’t done enough to stop climate change.
“On April 4, 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third component of its latest assessment, pointing out that the nations of the world have done far less than promised to reduce climate change,” he stated. “Why? Are the people of the world simply not willing to sacrifice their own freedoms now to reduce the chance of a less livable future?”
Two major weather events in B.C. last year – including both a heat wave (“heat dome”) in June and flooding (“atmospheric rivers”) in November – together led to hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage.
For many climate activists, the responsibility of climate change for these events is indisputable, with alternate reasons – including lack of proactive infrastructure planning – evidence of “climate denialism.” Despite the fact that catastrophic wildfires and flooding of the Fraser Valley have occurred throughout B.C.’s history, coverage of the events has overwhelmingly leveraged government carbon initiatives.
In December, Global News published a story on the flooding with the headline “1.3 million farm animals dead due to climate change: What can B.C. do to stop the next catastrophe?’” Last week, Liberal environment minister Steven Guilbeault used the heat wave as a reason to oppose Ontario and Alberta cutting taxes on fuel, saying, “climate change is killing people in Canada.”
One of the UBCO event’s first speakers, author Ed Dolan, had set the stage with a quote by American economist Murray Rothbard, that “air pollution that injures others is aggression pure and simple.” With such an issue, Dolan continued, a cost-benefit analysis has no ethical place, saying it was like considering whether abolishing slavery would affect the price of cotton.
Another speaker, retired UBC professor William Rees, stated there must be “(f)ormal recognition of the end of material growth,” including the “end of consumer lifestyles” and acceptance of population planning. Other necessities included getting rid of private vehicles – “including electronic vehicles” – and downsizing housing.
In the end, Ross argued, we must redefine what it means to have personal freedoms and to accept that “some problems may not be solvable in politically acceptable ways.”
Former B.C. Green Party leader and University of Victoria science professor Andrew Weaver also presented.
“So why should we care about global warming, while assuming we care about intergenerational equity?” he said. “The two big issues that we must be grappling with is – one – widespread species extinction on a scale that’s unparalleled in Earth history…and the second big reason is geopolitical instability.”
Speaking earlier in the day, Ignatieff had offered warnings against those who would use the expedience of emergency to delegitimize democratic opposition, saying “I’m not sure anyone in Canada is certain that emergency powers were necessary to dislodge the truckers up on Parliament Hill.”
“These radical environmentalists all insist that the climate emergency creates a situation analogous to wartime or a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, requiring the use of emergency powers and the suspension of democratic accountability,” he said.
“I think the ‘wicked problem’ is this – the utter impasse that has arisen between those who continue to believe in democratic deliberation with all its infuriating slowness (and in liberal gradualism with all its cautious incrementalism) and those who believe the end is nigh and that those who fail to see it are willfully blind.”
Despite B.C. having the highest carbon taxes in Canada, emissions in the province have climbed 10% since 2015, and have gone up in five of the last seven years.