The Root Word: ForestEthics Blog

What does the China-Canada trade deal have to do with Hurricane Sandy?

Nov 1, 2012

Brooklyn, NY, the morning after Hurricane Sandy swept through the city. Photo © Flickr/Barry Yanowitz

What do a trade deal between Canada and China and powerful, destructive storms like Hurricane Sandy have in common? Besides both being in the news this week, it would appear little else. But the two seemingly disparate stories are actually intrinsically intertwined, and if we want less extreme weather we need to be doing more to protect the environment like opposing destructive trade deals.

There are many reasons to oppose Canada’s opaque investment treaty with China that now looks to be heading for ratification next week. As an environmental organization, we are opposed to Canada becoming a resource colony for foreign interests. Under the treaty, if pesky environmental laws got in the way of profits, foreign investors could sue the Canadian government. It would open up the dirtiest oil industry, Canada’s tar sands, to expansion.

The expansion of fossil fuel consumption is adding to global climate change. Climate change is not only responsible for extreme temperatures; scientists say it is also the cause of increasingly destructive weather, floods, drought, storms, more powerful hurricanes.

Rising temperatures and melting ice have raised sea levels eight inches in the last 100 years, which makes storms more destructive. While the jury is still out on whether Superstorm Sandy was exacerbated by climate change or if it was an unlucky collision of three storm systems, there is no question that storms are becoming more powerful as temperatures increase.

While climate change is in the sphere of scientists, the issue became thorny once politicians, who know very little about the issue, began chiming in. Liberals have been more out in front on combating climate change while human-caused climate change skeptics tend to be conservative.

Canada’s conservative government has ignored climate science as it looks to expand tar sands production and export to China. In the US, some democrats are upset with the Obama administration’s inaction on climate change in his first term, despite big promises.

The issue has come up very little in the US presidential campaign, and some democrats are upset with the Obama administration’s inaction on climate change in his first term, despite big promises. But with a week left before ballots are counted, Hurricane Sandy may thrust climate change to the fore of the national debate.

Michael Bloomberg, the politically independent mayor of storm-ravaged New York City, endorsed President Obama partially due to his views on climate change. In response, Obama said that, “climate change is a threat to our children’s future and we owe it to them to do something about it.”

And while there is still time to voice opposition to Canada’s trade deal with China, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper can ratify the treaty without debate and without listening to opposition voices. Harper’s government is bent on expanding tar sands development at the expense of the environment, just as we are bent on stopping it.

By Matt Brown, Director of Communications

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