Giant Gold Mine operated a mine in Yellowknife for a little over 60 years. After they had extracted all of the gold, they walked away leaving an arsenic contaminated site, clean up will cost almost 1 billion dollars. Sydney Steel and various other companies operated coke ovens in Sydney Nova Scotia for almost 100 years, eventually the ovens were closed down. Clean up costs are 400 million dollar, tax payers pick up the tab for both of these cleanups. A negative externality is when someone else covers the debt a company builds up, Climate Change is the most obvious example of this. Some companies who are primarily focused on profits pollute, there by running up a massive tab in environmental and climate damage. Society both environmentally and financially is often left with the tab when the gold, or steel, or bitumen is no longer profitable to produce. Some estimates put the cost we are paying for climate change caused droughts, storms, flooding, rising sea levels, and melting permafrost, globally today at 1.2 trillion dollars a year. Climate Change is, and will increasingly affect the bottom line for economies and food supplies worldwide.
Much of the world is beginning to take steps to mitigate climate change, in the U.S. domestic demand for oil is declining because of new vehicle fuel efficiency standards. China is considering moving towards the electric car, even India has recently agreed to take steps to mitigate Climate Change, as have Europe and Australia and many other countries. At the same time Canada under the current Conservative government is moving towards a fossil fuel based “Energy Super Power Economy.”
A number of leading think tanks worldwide agree that the demand for oil is likely to decrease within the next 20 to 30 years. These are not environmental groups, these are financial groups looking for what is in the best interest of their clients. The list includes Deutsche Bank; the Panel of Economic Advisors of Alberta; the International Energy Agency, and the Premiers Council for Economic Strategy which includes a former CEO of Shell Oil, this last group advised “We must plan for the eventuality that oil sands production will almost certainly be displaced at some point in the future by lower cost and/or lower-emission alternatives.”
We need to start investing the 1.3 billion we have been giving away to mostly foreign owned oil companies, into creating jobs in the green energy sector, and reinvesting in Canadian manufacturing which has been damaged by the high Canadian dollar, caused by oil exports. If we move in the wrong direction today, our children’s children’s children will be picking up the tab for our mistake. “It is time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage, (caused by Climate Change), and to make the investments that will repay themselves many times over”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.