Canadian Policy Vacuum a National Embarrassment

It was deeply disappointing in the last week to see the contrast between the state of climate science in the world and the state of climate policy in Canada.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was telling the world that global warming is undeniable and that the implications for humankind may be severe, indeed, new Canadian Environment Minister John Baird, inset, was telling Canadians that any effort to meet Canada's international Kyoto commitments would devastate the Canadian economy.

It is dangerously late in the game to start defending or criticizing the Kyoto agreement - flawed though it may be. It is also disingenuous to try to blame Canada's current economic challenge in that regard on clever Europeans who outsmarted us at the negotiating table. The truth of the European position is that they have taken climate change seriously, while we have not. Per a report recently prepared by researchers at the University of Toronto, they have been implementing social and tax policies for more than a decade while Canada still has no plan whatsoever. In fact, the Harper government has only just begun to admit that climate change is a reality.

Now the government has moved to a more realistic position on the science, Minister Baird is counselling hopelessness and despair. There is a better path. Another group of academics - sustainability experts brought together by the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario - released another report Friday pointing out the potential benefits of innovative tax policy, and the considerable risks of continuing to do nothing. If Canada - with its abundant natural and intellectual resources - finds a way to apply itself to solving the challenges of climate change, it can easily take a leading role in the world. Given our privileged position on the planet, that is nothing less than what we should be doing. But there is also money to be made by moving forward ambitiously as a technology leader.

If, on the other hand, we continue to drag our feet, to pander to Alberta oil interests and to wring our hands in despair, we will wind up an international pariah that has to buy new technology from the other countries that are actually moving on this file.

In removing the former environment minister, Rona Ambrose, and appointing Baird, Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed to be suggesting that he had got the message from Canadians: climate change is real and we don't want to continue embarrass ourselves on the international stage by denying it. But now, instead of embracing innovation - instead of turning corporate Canada's incredibly resourceful attention to this issue by crafting an ambitious climate change plan, Minister Baird looks like he is getting ready to defend the bad old habits of an industry that refuses to join the 21st century.

We can do so much better if only the government chooses to show a little leadership.


And here's a report from this summer written by the government of Canada's very own national roundtable on the environment and the economy – this organization even has big oil represented on it and the President of GE Canada!

This group of business people very clearly laid out to the government that Canada could be a leader in green technology – make a lot of money, shift our economy AND reduce emissions.

You sum it up so well. The Tories are trying to score partisan points on this file now, claiming the Liberals did too little. It’s a bit shocking to hear this kind of talk from a party that spent the last decade in opposition courting the “Kyoto is a fraud and will destroy us” vote. Harper’s 2004 fundraising letter is just one sample. It’s not like the Conservative party or its predecessors spent the last decade in opposition calling for action on climate change. (I’m not saying the Liberals acted quickly enough or went as far as we needed.)

Rather than wasting our time with partisan sniping, what we need from the current government is SOME real action now. It’s also a moot point whether it’s “too late” to meet the existing commitment - let’s just get started cutting emissions (growth) and see how we do. It’s not like missing a Kyoto target gets you sent to

It’s also embarrassing to watch this government continue to cancel existing programs as somehow “tainted” by their origin under the previous Liberal government; even after last month’s IPCC report and their belated concession to accept the science, they followed up a week later with another cancellation, this time of a building retrofit program. Each time they chant that the existing program “wasn’t working” (with no reference to actual facts.) Then they announce a very similar program, packaged somewhat differently, for which they will want all the credit. (At least they didn’t abandon the effort completely this time, as in several prior program cuts.) This all just seems so … childish?


Jim Prall
Toronto, Canada

Who exactly claims, or did claim, that the climate is constant? But you are right, Kyoto is flawed, and Canada should as quickly as possible get out of it. Instead, Canada, and the world as a whole, should focus on developing democracy, individual property rights, free trade and capitalism, as well as real enviromental protection, in order to create opportunities for everyone, also in the devloping world, to achieve good health, prosperity and security.

Give me a break. The free market system has done a terrible job at dealing with this issue. I suppose you would have faith in voluntary regulation for industry to solve this problem. Another total failure.

We don’t have a free market system. Take a closer look. The system is rigged – all those tax breaks, all those subsidies, selective deregulation, closed tendering, preferential political access, pork for private profits (P3). These aren’t designed to provide a level playing field. They are rewards by made men to the power brokers.

JIK, what is your problem? Nobody on this thread suggested climate should be constant. Why bring up such a statement? You want to talk about something else instead? You want to spout ideology? I thought (from your earlier postings) that your position was that we shouldn’t be so closed-minded regarding climate change. Well, can you apply that same thinking to how to deal with climate change?

Garrett Hardin wrote about the Tragedy of the Commons years ago (, and there are many situations similar to his example in which a very strong case can be made for ownership of a resource leading to its protection. However, some things are commons. Pretending they aren’t won’t counter the tragedies associated with them. The question is, what are we doing to protect the atmosphere and the things it affects? Your answer seems to be, “We shouldn’t, because doing so doesn’t fit into my worldview.”

PS> Democracy and laissez-faire free market capitalism are at odds.

Jim writes: “the Harper government has only just begun to admit that climate change is a reality”, implying that they previously thought the climate was constant, which is nonsense. Further, Jim and his friends keep refering to anti-AGW-alarmists as “climate change deniers” (see other articles on this web site), which implies that he thinks this group of people believe the climate is constant, which is also nonsense. So, unless Jim et al can come up with some substance, one must conclude that they are liars. And since the “climate change denial” stamp is central to the (so called) argumentation of Jim et al, it is of course important to determine whether this statement is a lie or not.

It seems only fair that you cut Jim some slack there, since others constantly call people like him ‘alarmists’, as though they are alarmist in every regard.

By my taxonomy, there are four kinds of climate change denial: 1: “the climate ain’t a-changing”, 2: “climate change is not affected by anthropogenic greenhouse emissions”, 3: “AGW is real but insignificant”, 4: “AGW is real and significant, but the best way to deal with it is to get rich and buy insurance.” There are many sub-groups, too, but sometimes a catch-all phrase is needed. I think climate change denier is alright (especially given your loose use of words such as ‘liar’). What are your suggestions for useful terms for these?

probably for two reasons: 1) To associate their opponents with Holocaust deniers (a group of fascistoid people most of us have a problem with), and 2) To imply that their opponents are stupid flat earth kinda guys who don’t even realize the climate is changing. Jim et al do this very deliberately since they understand that it is part of their political PR mission to try to discredit their opponents. And Steve, you fell for it too, as you also call people “climate change deniers” even when you know very well that they recognize that the climate is changing (see your post above). My term for your side, “science deniers”, is more accurate, albeit equally polemic, since these guys have stopped being curious about actual observations and are no longer interested in testing their hypothesis (i.e. the deny the value and the process of the scientific method).

Try applying the scientific method to your attribution of motive regarding the motives of others. “Climate change deniers” – that’s the first and most basic level. You pretend they don’t exist, but all you have to do is look at any blog that’s been around for a while and you’ll see plenty of evidence (you value that, right?) of folks who say the evidence for changing climate is weak (e.g., “glaciers aren’t shrinking”, “no such thing as global temperature”, “it was cold in my back yard in Topeka yesterday”, etc).

e.g. Lindzen and Svensmark “climate change deniers”. Proof enough for me. Btw, what do you call the “it was a warm December, therefore AGW is true” crowd? Climate change morons?

Both Lindzen and Svensmark published alternative hypotheses to account for the recent high rate of global warming. In Lindzen’s case it was his Iris “theory” and Svensmark has his cosmic ray “theory”.

Now neither of these “theories” has stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny and there are numerous papers in the peer-reviewed literature showing the faulty science.

Now, J I K, if you have some science which will support these claims and is shown to be based on solid science, then by all means, let us hear about it. If the only reason that you support these two scientists is because they support your biased view of reality then please do us all a favour and keep your thoughts to your self. AGW is based on good science not the so-called biased statements of “eco-terrorists” as you would like to believe.

Here is your opportunity to indulge in the “rational debate” that you so long for.

Johan, one prominent NGO in the international development community put out a report, the findings of which said something like “Forget ‘Make Poverty History’. Climate change will make poverty permanent” (as said by DeSmogBlog earlier). I tend to agree completely.

Rightwingers are eager to enshrine individual property rights in Canada’s Constitution; this would be the death of any effort to set up effective environmental regulations. We have enough problems with NAFTA blocking some environmental measures, and with the Harper government (and the Martin government before them) working to integrate Canada with the US and subserviently catering to the US’s endless thirst for our oil.

The Harper government will pretend to be concerned about global warming, but they will work hard to stall any fossil fuels emissions reductions that have any impact on the energy and oil sector. That is Harpers base, he will not offend or put pressure on them. As for the comments here, of course we have one person being a contrarian, and look how it has changed the discussion. We really do need a forum where ‘green people’ can discuss positive solutions to global warming, without this unhelpfull distraction. In fact, there is some evidence that these are ‘tactical posters’, hired to do this tactic of distraction at certain websites… Who else would be so willing to look like a corporate hump? Just seeing that resistance to the threat of global warming could make us feel like throwing in the towel, but if we continue to push for changes we can still avoid the very worst that climate change has to throw at us. That is our duty to the future generations.

Because, unfortunately, Big Oil hasn’t recognized the value of my services yet…

Canadian government is in a catastrophic state unsure of what to do to effectively handle the problems it is facing with the economic climate and reading a beneficiary article like this is such an important things to know. The members of Parliament were settled on not cooperating with the Conservative Prime Minister and may have been heading for a vote of No Confidence, an effective removal of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has asked the Governor General, head of Parliament, to suspend Parliament in order to devise a new effective plan without fear of partisan quarrels. As the recession draws on, fewer people are willing to lay down $20,000 or more on a vehicle that isn’t a daily driver. The company has also been hurting because of the credit crisis, but after losing large sums on previous loans, the financial wing is still offering loans with much stricter requirements. Tom Bergman, Harley CFO defends the lending, citing that the company is trying to survive. They may need a payday loan in the meantime. However, as the economy shows signs of rebound, it isn’t likely we will see an end to Harley Davidson.