Open Letter to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson on Climate Change and National Security

Originally published 2/20/2015 - Georgia Straight

Dear RCMP Commissioner Paulson,


It may sound strange that I am writing to you requesting that you read a story in the Rolling Stone magazine, but this piece entitled “The Pentagon and Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk” outlines issues that are very important to the safety and security of the people of Canada. This seems particularly relevant at the moment given the news this week of a controversial RCMP intelligence assessment report focused on the growing so-called “anti-petroleum” movement in Canada. I thought it may be useful to explore the reasons why so many of your fellow Canadians are taking these issues so seriously and explore how other national security agencies are tackling these issues.

The Rolling Stone piece highlights a quote that provides some useful context from former U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel who called climate change “a threat multiplier” that “has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism.”  These comments were taken from Hagel’s forward to a 2014 report released by the Pentagon entitled Climate Change Adaptation Road Map which demonstrates how a changing climate will have “real impacts” on the U.S. military and “the way it executes its missions”.  

This is a stark contrast with the focus of the RCMP threat assessment document that characterizes concerns related to climate change as “claims” of environmental groups.

Commissioner Paulson, you once said “…I’m in the business of policing and others are in the business of policy and law”. What actually might be the most disturbing about this report is it seems in fact to be a highly political document.

In your agency’s threat assessment, you rely heavily on oil industry lobbyists and commentators for background information and source material. Of particular concern, you quote the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers asserting as fact that we have no choice but to continue to depend on fossil fuels stating that “all forms of energy production must continue to expand to meet global demand”. This reads like an explicit endorsement of proposed new infrastructure such as the pipeline and tanker projects that are the focus of the social movement addressed in the RCMP report. This is, of course, a position at odds with vastly reduced dependence on fossil fuels that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has clearly stated is required to avoid the worst possible outcomes of climate change. Furthermore this represents a vastly different view from that of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others who illustrate that a transition off of fossil fuels is not only technologically viable but also economically responsible.

A recent IEA report showed that solar power would likely be the #1 source of energy globally in the near future simply due to reduced costs. In fact, today, as I write to you, solar power is at cost parity with fossil fuel derived energy in much of the United States. Solar is anticipated to be on par or cheaper than fossil fuels in 47 states by 2016 according to Deutsche Bank.   

Change takes time but the idea that we have no alternative but to double down on our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels is simply not based in fact and it does a disservice to the people of Canada and our security for the RCMP to state otherwise.

Mr Paulson, I do not believe this risk assessment document accurately represents your views as an RCMP commissioner who wishes to keep the RCMP out of politics. I would ask that you take steps to repair the damage done to the relationship with those in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada whose legitimate concerns were dismissed by this report and who may also fear that this document signals that their civil liberties may be in danger. With all due respect, sir, this is an important opportunity for you to show leadership and clearly demonstrate that you will not allow Canadian politics to interfere with the appropriate role of the RCMP.  

Furthermore, I think it would be appropriate for the RCMP to undertake work to understand and communicate the security threats posed by climate change in our country and demonstrate efforts to prepare for foreseeable related threats as the Pentagon has done along with numerous security and intelligence professionals around the world.

Thank you,

Ben West

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