There is panic on the prairies. The greatest fear of farmers and ranchers alike is stalking the land—drought. Drought has always been a part of prairie life, of course, but droughts today are different from those of history. Today they are increasingly fuelled by global warming and will get nothing but worse—drier, hotter and longer.
With multiple counties declaring agricultural disasters, Paul McLauchlin. president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), has described the situation as “pretty scary.” The present situation follows closely on the heels of devastating drought conditions only two years ago.
The Special Areas Board, which provides government services and public land management for over five million acres in east-central Alberta, says crops and pasture have been devastated throughout the region. Board Chairman Jordon Christianson described the conditions, ”Producers are struggling to find enough grass, water and feed for their cattle. Farmers are facing widespread crop failures. Significant grasshopper infestations are making a very difficult situation worse in many parts of the Special Areas.”
RMA President McLauchlin recognizes the worsening nature of the situation. “Coming into a hotter and drier future,” he said, “we’ve got to start having bigger discussions on how we can mitigate this for the long run.”
And we all know what’s primarily responsible for that “hotter and drier” future. The burning of fossil fuels. And few contribute more to that than Albertans.
Canadians produce more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the people of any other G20 nation except Saudi Arabia. Each Canadian is responsible for twice as many emissions as each Chinese, seven times as many as each Indian. And Alberta is the pollution province, producing more greenhouse gasses than any other province including Ontario which has over three times the population.
It is, therefore, inescapable that Albertans have an exceptionally high responsibility for global warming and therefore an exceptionally high responsibility for causing their province’s drought. Or, putting it another way, they are sacrificing their agricultural industry for the sake of their oil industry.
One might think they would want to back off on oil for the sake of what is clearly their most important industry in the long term. But, to the contrary, they are all in for oil. And no one is more all in than the premier of the province, former oil industry lobbyist Danielle Smith. Her government is as focussed on the benefits of oil as it is blind to its harms.
Albertans might argue that their industry’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions overall is so small it makes little difference. But that’s a cop-out. If we all made that argument, nothing would be done and we’d be doomed. Everyone is responsible for playing their part and Albertans’ part is far greater than most. Not only do they contribute more greenhouse gasses than almost anyone else, but they benefit more than almost anyone else from producing them.
The province is, in effect, sacrificing the long term for the short term. As the world continues to heat up, the foolishness of that will become increasingly apparent.