Climate change: those two words put together become highly charged and evoke a variety of emotions across the political spectrum and country.
For many, it’s mere mention is the equivalent of stubbing your toe at your mother-in-law’s birthday party after a root canal. Digging through endless amounts of data and opinions will most certainly give you a headache, and maybe no further on taking a position. You may even consider another root canal instead of continuing your research. I will leave the pursuit for the right answer to experts with more letters behind their names and time on their hands.
Nevertheless, climate change is now a significant part of the energy conversation and will be for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t matter if you are a denier, believer, or an undecided — the world has laid climate change at the doorstep of the fossil fuel industry and rang the doorbell.
It’s a choice we need to make in the midst of reshaping our industry. Either we go kicking and screaming or we be proactive and be part of the conversation. At this point, it seems to be wise, and displayed by major companies energy companies, to recognize the changing perception.
Companies such as Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL), Shell and BP have changed course with their positions on climate change in recent years. CNRL going so far as setting a goal of net zero emissions on their oil sands operations. Let that sink in for a minute — one of Canada’s largest producers is talking about net zero emissions.
Now, let’s be clear: No one is advocating we shut in the wells, put the pipelines to bed, and throw in the towel. This would be both irresponsible and a major blow to our economy.
What is reasonable to ask is for each of us to change the conversation from the negative to our commitment as a country to environmental responsibility.
Globally, we stand among the few that have outstanding environmental standards when developing our resources. This won’t change the mind of the gentleman strapped to a well head with a sign saying “leave it in the ground”; but, he is not the mind we need to change. The challenge has been, and will continue to be, showcasing our industry to average Joe and Jane.
Carbon capture, upstream electrification, and other technological innovations not yet imagined have the capability to put us at very low GHG emissions — who knows, maybe even net zero. To the fair-minded individual, a goal to lowering our emissions and not dismantling an industry is both acceptable and achievable.
Although a good rant on social media —“Let the hippies freeze”; or, “Where will they get their plastic?” — is therapeutic to some, it’s not helpful. In many cases, it’s just an exercise is preaching to the converted or having opposing views further entrenched.
I’m proud of what we have as an industry and I’m confident we will rise to the challenge. Let’s limit the rants and root canals, and steer the conversation to what we all know to be true: Canada does it safer, cleaner, and more responsible than anyone else.
Chuck Fowler lives and works in Fort St. John.