Canadian PM Trudeau confronts DiCaprio over ‘inflammatory’ oil sands remarks

“[T]here are families suffering, out of work, who need to be supported, and inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t necessarily help those families or help Canada” – Trudeau to DiCaprio

Well, that must have been awkward. After years of taking public pot shots at the Canadian oil sands, Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio was hauled on the carpet Friday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the World Economic Forum.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, right,at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

DiCaprio made headlines this week for calling out the global fossil fuel industries for the “devastation” they have wrought on the environment.

“We simply cannot allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity,” DiCaprio said to polite applause, as reported by Reuters.

“Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate. Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”

Trudeau wasn’t impressed. The Liberal leader, elected with a resounding majority three months ago, is trying at home to negotiate a middle path that addresses climate change but still allows the development of the country’s natural resources, including Alberta’s huge oil sands deposits, which are the third largest oil reserves in the world at 179 billion barrels.

Trudeau has been very supportive of the Alberta NDP government of Rachel Notley, which recently introduced a sweeping set of climate strategies and regulations, including a province-wide carbon tax, a generous emissions cap for oil sands development, and a commitment to end using coal for power generation by 2030.

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I’ve written extensively about how Notley’s strategy is to trade climate change mitigation for pipeline development, the lack of which has bedeviled oil sands producers. The 830,000 b/d Keystone XL to US markets was rejected by President Barack Obama in Nov., two 525,000 b/d pipeline projects to the West Coast are in serious trouble, and only the 1.1 million b/d Energy East project to Eastern Canada shows even a glimmer of being built.

Against that backdrop, Trudeau wasn’t in the mood for DiCaprio’s grandstanding.

Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, delivering speech at World Economic Forum.

“I pointed out that both Alberta and Canada have new governments over the past year that are committed to action on climate change…and that there are families suffering, out of work, who need to be supported, and inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t necessarily help those families or help Canada,” Trudeau said as he recounted his remarks to reporters on Friday.

“He actually said if we took concrete action on climate change he would be the first to come up and celebrate with us.”

Frankly, DiCaprio’s comments appear disingenuous to this observer. The actor and environmentalist has a history of misrepresenting the oil sands.

Last month I ripped him in this space for fibbing during a Los Angeles appearance about his experience in Alberta while filming The Revenant, his film out in theaters now that has some Oscar buzz. DiCaprio claimed climate change was behind the rapid melting of snow he and the crew witnessed one day while shooting, saying locals told him they had never seen anything like it before. Poppycock. The phenomenon is called a “chinook,” a warm wind that can raise temperatures dramatically in the dead of winter. Californians call them Santa Ana winds.

So not climate change.

DiCaprio has also toured the oil sands and made other “inflammatory” remarks about the industry that are untrue or distorted.

But pundits calling out DiCaprio for his dishonesty is not the same as being publicly confronted by the head of a G8 country at one of the most prestigious events in the world. Especially given that Trudeau is a supporter of President Obama and has committed the Canadian government to significant mitigation policies and investments.

Canadians were cheering their pragmatic prime minister for chastising the Hollywood eco-activist and ideologue.

Americans might want to pay attention to the outspoken Trudeau, who seems to be carving out a more practical position on climate change and energy than his American counterpart – and doesn’t mind putting celebrity ideologues in their place when necessary.

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1 Comment

  1. Where did DiCaprio refer to ‘Chinooks’, that’s the oil propagandists spin on his concern/observations of climate change impacts he witnessed firsthand. What remarks exactly did he make that were “untrue or distorted” as you frame it for fossil fuel interests?

    Which Canadians “were cheering their pragmatic Prime Minister for “chastising” the Hollywood eco-activist and ideologue – lobbyists or wealthy attendees at Davos? Firstly, the majority of Canadians, like me, voted to support Trudeau on the basis of his strong stance to address climate change and make decisions based on sound science and fix the deficient NEB permitting process that failed to consider climate change and long term human/species health impacts. That science and the majority of Canadians (and other nations) support the divestment/immediate transition away from fossil fuel energy sources that are no longer required for either Canadian domestic or developing nation’s energy sufficiency.

    Fortunately, Canadians know better than to accept fossil fuel interests’ narratives that are veiled in “energy” news articles.

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