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Jason Kenney will likely use the 'climate damn emergency' to push more conspiratorial narratives

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Jason Kenney unveils Alberta's economic recovery plan on September 15, 2020. Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

VICTORIA -- The world is waking up to the fact the climate emergency is, well, an emergency.

This certainly isn't good news for Alberta, although, perversely, it may be good news in the short term of the United Conservative Party of Premier Jason Kenney and governments like his in other petroleum-dependent jurisdictions.

As climate change makes things worse for millions, governments in heavily impacted places will become more aggressive with jurisdictions and businesses they view as contributing to the problem.

"This is a climate damn emergency," an exasperated California Governor Gavin Newsom said the other day as he promised to fast-track the state's planned transition to 100-per-cent renewable energy. This does not bode well for Alberta's oil, no matter how ethical we pretend it is.

And the climate damn emergency is hard to deny. The west coast of the United States is aflame. What may be the hottest ambient air temperature ever noted in history, 54 and a half degrees Celsius, was recorded in Death Valley this summer. Serious people are suggesting it may not be long before millions of people in the United States face becoming climate refugees.

You don't have to go to California to see that it's real, either. You just have to sniff the air here in British Columbia's capital these past few days.

It's said here this will win help Joe Biden win the U.S. presidential election in a few weeks -- and it will mean Kenney's $7.5-billion campaign to get Biden to change his mind about the Keystone XL pipeline won't gain much traction when the pragmatic Democratic party candidate moves into the White House in January.

Never mind COVID-19, as bad as it may be. When America's suburbs start to burn, baby, burn, America's party of climate change denial will be done like dinner. After all, a police station in flames in Minneapolis doesn't hold a candle, if you'll pardon a combustion metaphor, to 60-foot walls of flame roaring across a state with a population of 40 million.

Still, deny it some will -- especially in petroleum-dependent places like Alberta. Which is presumably what Kenney's "anti-Alberta" inquiry commissioner Steve Allan is trying to figure out how to do without actually analyzing any facts, because the facts are certainly not co-operating with the Alberta government's narrative these days.

As the hostility to places like Alberta inevitably grows as a result, it will be easier in the short term for a cynical politician like Kenney to persuade a lot of Albertans that we need to stick together because there's a foreign and domestic conspiracy against us.

Indeed, with Rachel Notley's NDP apparently breathing down his neck for the first time since the election of April 2019, this may turn out to be the premier's ace in the hole.

And in a sense -- if we Albertans keep doing what we're doing now -- this will be true. At least if you think pulling a fire alarm when you smell smoke is conspiratorial behaviour.

This will likely make it easier for Kenney to persuade a lot of our fellow Albertans that any opposition politician who recognizes the increasingly obvious facts -- that the planet is going to look like Venus if we keep burning fossil fuels the way we do now -- is playing footsie with the enemy.

The reality, of course, is that our refusal to face facts is absolutely the best recipe for the ruination of our economy. If you think things are bad now, just wait till climate change forces several million Americans to conclude they might have to pull up stakes and move to escape rising sea water, infernal heat or rampaging wildfires.

And that is not some dystopian prediction. It's happening right now.

I'd like to think we Albertans are smarter than that. Given what I've seen the past few years, I'm not optimistic.

As Pogo famously warned: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

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