Concocting climate conspiracies
I hope you’ve had a nice couple of weeks. It’s good to be back!
I’ve been catching up on the news as I return from vacation, and two late-breaking stories crossed my desk yesterday:
Trans Mountain’s price tag is now $30.9 billion. That’s $9.5 billion more than its previous price tag, which was $8.8 billion higher than the price tag before that, which was $7.2 billion more than the pipeline project’s original cost estimate.
Meanwhile, MPs are not mincing words about Imperial Oil’s toxic tailings spill and the nine months it took before either the company or the Alberta Energy Regulator told local First Nations about it. If you ask our managing editor, heads should roll.
This week, I’m taking a look at my colleague Marc Fawcett-Atkinson’s reporting on the super spreaders of climate denialism and what governments should do to tackle climate change not just as an energy issue but a cultural, social and economic one, too. Read on to find out more.
As always, you can let me know what you think of this newsletter at [email protected].
Have a great weekend and stay safe!
— Dana Filek-Gibson
Looking for more CNO reads? You can find them at the bottom of this email.
Climate denial meets conspiracy theories
Quitting fossil fuels is a no-brainer. Burning oil, gas and coal is the main driver of climate change, and giving up that habit is an important part of minimizing the damage.
For a lot of folks, that’s simple enough to accept. We might blanch at the idea of buying less stuff or cutting back on overseas vacations, but all things being equal, we’re happy to power our homes with solar panels and wind turbines.
Not everyone finds this an easy pill to swallow, though. For people who, say, make their living in the fossil fuel industry, all this talk of a swift change to clean energy can be scary. And for some — mostly white, conservative, North American men — oil and gas are symbols of a society that has historically favoured them, which means giving up fossil fuels can feel like giving up their whole identity.
As Marc reported this week, there is a “tight relationship between harmful forms of masculinity, right-wing extremism and the refusal to deal with the climate crisis” — and it’s both stalling climate action and fuelling authoritarianism. Folks like alleged sex trafficker Andrew Tate, podcast host Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson, who’s known for stirring up controversy on everything from gender to the COVID-19 pandemic, are now wading into the world of climate denial — and bringing their followers along for the ride.
Even comedian-turned-podcast-host Russell Brand, once known for his progressive views, has taken aim at climate policies, linking efforts to tackle climate change to a popular far-right conspiracy theory known as the “great reset.” He mentioned this in a recent video, where he claimed the Dutch government’s regulations on greenhouse gas pollution from fertilizer are “connected to the land grab of Bill Gates.”
This all might sound like the ramblings of a few talking heads on the internet, but it’s showing up in our politics, too. That same “great reset” conspiracy theory popular among climate deniers has been pushed by People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier and Pierre Poilievre, leader of the country’s official Opposition. It’s also been used to argue against 15-minute cities, another climate solution that’s been politicized, and showed up among convoy protesters in Ottawa last winter, where one form of protest was “rollin’ coal” — modifying a gas-powered vehicle to spew clouds of thick black smoke on purpose. The pollution was the point.
And the fertilizer regulations Brand mentioned? They’ve become part of a far-right disinformation campaign also linked to the convoy movement — one adopted by premiers in the Prairies — that seeks to convince Canadian farmers the government was planning to do the same.
For the people who draw a line between fossil fuels and their identity, “losing oil is seen as a threat to that way of life — and it is,” Cara Daggett, a Virginia Tech professor and climate sociologist, told Marc. As governments tackle climate change, they must also address the cultural and economic shifts that come with it, she added — or risk fuelling a kind of climate denialism mixed up with right-wing extremism and harmful forms of masculinity.
“These things have to be addressed,” she said. “Otherwise, we're facing a serious political crisis.”
More CNO reads
B.C. has a big decision to make. Energy giant Enbridge is asking the province to extend its approval of a proposed gas pipeline that would cross several sovereign territories. Dogwood communications director Kai Nagata says B.C. should follow its own rules and let the project certificate expire.
David Suzuki is angry. “We can't futz around anymore. We've got a real emergency,” says the 87-year-old host of The Nature of Things. Listen to Hot Politics Episode 8 for the full interview.
Canadians didn’t get the full picture from grocery CEOs. So says DT Cochrane, an economist with Canadians for Tax Fairness. Natasha Bulowski reports on this week’s testimony from the Loblaws, Metro and Empire execs.
What will happen to culture and heritage if climate change ruins the land? Matteo Cimellaro reports on a new film by Arlyn Charlie that reflects on the transformation of the Peel River watershed.
“I worry about my safety, my son’s safety all the time.” After Grace Johnson was attacked in 2018, she sought to have her assault recorded as a hate crime. Her attempts were rebuffed. Learn more about how Canadian law enforcement is — and isn’t — tracking hate as part of the multi-year Surviving Hate investigation.
ExxonMobil gives up exploration rights off the West Coast. The fossil fuel giant gave up all nine of its offshore permits, including some that threaten sensitive marine ecosystems, after environmental groups launched a lawsuit against the federal government last year, Rochelle Baker reports.
Lawyers and professors rally against lobbying rule changes. An open letter calls on Canada’s lobbying commissioner to rethink proposed changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, Cloe Logan reports.
A young gamer is developing vegan Dungeons and Dragons storylines. “I don't think that an in-your-face approach is the way to approach activism,” university student Ethan Kowalchuk told reporter Isaac Phan Nay. “I think there's more effective ways, and I think games are a very effective way.”