Bush, Harper, Howard: Lies, damn lies and statistics

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The three “world leaders” who are working hardest these days to kill the Kyoto Accord are also asking their public to believe numbers that are, at best, misleading.

U.S. President George Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister John Howard lead three of the richest countries in the world and the three leading per capita greenhouse gas emitters among major nations. All three have rejected the Kyoto Accord - or any other fixed and measurable limit on greenhouse gas emissions - preferring “aspirational” targets that are voluntary and keyed off “carbon intensity.” All three are also straining credulity in making their case.

President Bush, for example, dismissed Kyoto this week as “bad policy,” and then boasted: “We're different from other countries in the world,” Bush said. “Whatever we're doing is working because last year we grew our economy and the gross amount of greenhouse gases we put in the environment actually went down.”

This can only be credible if you accept “carbon intensity” as a measurement tool. According to the State Department, “The President's Global Climate Change policy focuses on reducing emissions through technology improvements and dissemination, demand-side efficiency gains, voluntary programs with industry, and shifts to cleaner fuels.” The current target is to reduce GHG intensity 18 per cent by 2012, and State believes that target is easily achievable.

But, here's a hickup: “Over the same period from 2002 to 2012, while GHG intensity is declining, total gross GHG emissions are expected to rise by 11 percent.” So, U.S. emissions went up between 1990 and 2004 by 15.8 per cent. And even granting total success in President Bush's GHG intensity push, emissions will continue to increase through 2012.

Is the State Department calling the President a liar or is the President calling his bureaucrats at State unreliable?

In Australia, it was Prime Minister Howard who hatched the notion of the “aspirational target.” He's even campaigning now for Australia to be an “aspirational” nation. And the people who believe this silliness are said to most often live in the “aspriational belts” around major cities.

Howard, in a specially produced YouTube video, says that his government's actions since 1990 “will prevent about 87 million tonnes of climate changing carbon a year from entering the atmosphere by 2010. That's a massive reduction.” But the Australian Department of the Environment says that countries emissions have risen by 2.2 per cent since 1990 and that the rate of increase has been “steadied.” That calls for a continued increase. The “massive reduction” apparently applies to GHGs that weren't there - and weren't supposed to be.

Still, against the performance of either of those countries, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be the first to apologize. Canada's GHG output since 1990 has risen 33 per cent, and in its latest climate change policy proposal, the government gave carte blanche to the country's biggest emitters - the oil refiners working in the Alberta tar sands - to continue unrestrained growth through 2012.

Now, Prime Minister Harper is proposing voluntary intensity targets that will reduce Canada's GHG contribution 20 per cent by 2020. Even if that was credible - and past performance among tar sands producers calls that into question - it would still put Canada well ahead of the seven-per-cent-below-1990 gross output target that we negotiated in Kyoto in 1997.

These men, who a year ago were all still pondering the possibility that climate change might not be happening, are now making a passionate case for global leadership by advocating the status quo. If that's leadership, I have to repeat a rhetorical question floating of late around the internet: “Where are we going; and why are we in this hand cart?”


in your post

i) The fact that US 2005 emissions went down is absolute, and has nothing to do with intensity targets. This has nothing to do with Bush’s spin on it, and is genrally seen as a one year blip. But there is no contradiction between Bush’s statement and State, though it is somewhat misleading.

ii) Regardless of Howard’s statements on the international scene, Australia is putting a hard cap system in place for industry, using absolute targets.

iii) Canada’s domestic reduction targets, adequate or otherwise, are not voluntary, they are binding regulation.

1. I can’t find a reference supporting an absolute reduction in the U.S. in 2005, but would be happy to see one, and quick to climb down if it’s true.

 2. Howard is mid-campaign and saying many things that sound positive. Again, I am unaware of specific legislation that defines enforceable hard caps, and I will, again, apologize if one can be found.

3. Harper’s last shot at this included a scattergun of “binding regulation” - none of which seem actually to be in effect yet and none of which apply to the tar sands, Canada’s biggest point source.

I truly have no “aspirations” to overstate the case - I don’t think it’s necessary - but I’d like to see something a bit more substantial before acknowledging “errors.”

1. I can’t find the graph that I recently saw, but here is one that makes the same point - it has happened before, and in fact more dramatically. The 2005 numbers are dependent on how you count for agriculture and forestry, 2000 was not.


2. Howard has been desparely trying to bail out the boat since before he called the election, at least since the spring. The only legislation to date is GHG reporting, but there is a full system in the regulatory process, probably beginning in 2010 for power plants. The only difference the election will make is that Labor might ratify Kyoto.


3. None of the regulations are in effect, but the implementation of the April 23 announcement is underway. Compliance begins in 2010.

1. Ah, yeah. The U.S. GHG’s went down in 2001. That reflects a little stumble in the U.S. economy that has been immortalized in the numerals 9/11. Which proves again that only in the most extreme and unpleasant circumstances could Americans mistake George W. Bush for a good president.

2. On the Australian connection, I wasn’t taking seriously the deathbed conversion of John Howard - who could have been a hero on this issue if he had urged his country to make even the tiniest efforts to meet its ridiculously lax Kyoto targets. Now, when he’s bailing out personally and his party is looking to be shellacked by Kevin Rudd’s Labor Opposition, he has set in place a partial regulatory framework for a single sector - to take effect long after he’s out of power. Not convincing.

3. And Harper - who is currently in the process of trying to engineer his government’s defeat - has proposed a very narrow GHG management system that still exempts Canada’s worst offenders and, in any case, doesn’t begin to take shape for two-and-a-half years. His record suggests that if he came back with a majority, he would immediately reset the calendar - again - and call for an even smaller GHG reduction over an even longer period of time.

That said, I think you’re being extraordinarily reasonable about all this, and if I was inclined to be reasonable, too, I would note that all three of these guys are making much more sense than they used to. That’s not hard, but it’s still a welcome change.

The problem is that their conversion, so far, seems to be a purely political response that, as yet, reflects no serious change in their policy direction. Before, they were denying and delaying. Now they are acknowledging and delaying.

This is no time for baby steps. Canada’s isolation cannot come too soon. 

1. The 2005 dip is in significant measure explained by Hurricane Katrina’s effect on refineries, etc.

2. I think you are underestimating the scope of what Australia is actually doing - Howard is trying to copy the Schrwarznegger play to take the issue away from Labor. Isn’t working so far, but a Labor government is likely to essentially continue exactly the same program, just add on a Kyoto element. It will be multisector, power plants first because of data quality issues.

3. I would not call the Canadian program that narrow, nor does the implementation timetable seem that unreasonable, given the scope of what it has to do. Most observers think the timetable is slipping now anyway. In terms of the scope of reductions, no comment, that ends up being a personal/political view of what the society can afford and is willing to expend. I would venture to say that looking around at our ‘peers’, their relative economic health versus resources committed to the problem, we don’t rank very high.

In the end, we get the government we deserve. Canadians voted for Liberal lip-service for a few years, and now seem to be expressing a preference for Conservative action on a very modest scale that puts off absolute reductions until at least 2 governments away.

It’s a minority Conservative government: Canadians are not “expressing a preference for Conservative action on a very modest scale that puts off absolute reductions until at least 2 governments away.” We have not had a chance to vote on this, and most Canadians want more change faster.

That’s what it all boils down to: getting into power by any means necessary and putting off the long term stuff until somebody else has to deal with it. That’s what happens with maintenance. Governments save money by cutting back on things that don’t show up as issues right away (such as infrastructure and maintenance). By the time the buildings start falling down someone else will be there to take the blame.

I don’t think Harper will end up having the luxury of time to deal with this. I think he is in for a rude awakening.

being that the Howard-Harper-Bush troika has already lost one member, as Howard is pulling a Schwarznegger to try to secure his own survival. With Congress building towards a cap and trade bill for the next Presidency, another member is headed to a ‘best before’ date.

Canada is going to be very isolated on this issue very soon.

Meanwhile, the Harper government is politicizing Canadian government websites such as the weather website, which now has a big ugly blue button with what looks like a political ad on it, linking to the throne speech:


http://pacificgazette.blogspot.com/2007/10/game-everything.html http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/canada_e.html

and that’s a good thing.

Instead of focusing on CO2, which is an essential plant nutrient, we should focus on addressing real environmental challenges (such as air and water quality, deforestation, etc), including in the developing world.

And we should focus on promoting economic growth, democracy, freedom, and private property rights, which are fundamental to good long term environmental stewardship.

Your slip is showing, Johan. When people start harping on about “freedom, and private property rights” we might as well just shut down this thread. It will now turn into a diatribe about the left-wing trying to control everyone’s lives.

Trying to discuss the implications of AGW with someone whose depth of understanding is still at the “CO2 is an essential nutrient” level is pointless. Please PLEASE lose the attitude for a few minutes and do some reading! You don’t have to dig far before you will find the deniers’ arguments start to fall apart under the weight of real peer-reviewed, scientifically debated facts.

and, if you wish, we can talk about science, AGW, and/or the benefits of a liberal democracy. Any time, buddy.

The people who are espousing private property rights are the same ones who are working to destroy our democracy. And for you to claim private property rights are conducive to environmental protection is just plain stupid.

JIK said: “and, if you wish, we can talk about science, AGW

Come back in a couple of months after you have you have done some remedial studying and we can discuss science and AGW. Otherwise you are just showing your ignorance by all the ranting you have done this morning.

Ian Forrester


But I wonder what your science credentials are? You keep implying you know so much, yet you behave in the most unscientific manner, such as with baseless statements and unfounded assumptions.

Johan Harsta, sorry I mean Johan I Kanada, it is you who are being pathetic with your constant stream of lies and distortions. You are one of the anti-science fanatics who are slowly destroying this planet with your support of people and companies who have no regard for common decency. I believe that the company you work for, ABB, is a technology company, how do they put up with having an anti-science supporter (and liar) on their payroll?

Ian Forrester

Good reply, Johan. Look around the wold and you see that wealthy, free societies are generally the healthiest societies. The radical solutions proposed by Desmoggers, Suzuki, Gore, and others in the global warming industry will make us all poorer by driving up energy costs and reducing economic output.

Call it that if you like, Femack. If the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Canada is among the wealthiest societies in human history. We are also among the healthiest and cleanest. These qualiies are interrelated and I don’t want Green crazies messing it up with their goofy plans to make us poorer by driving up energy costs.

Finding an alternative to fossil fuels doesn’t have to drive up energy costs. It could lead to far more efficient, cleaner technologies. There’s always room for improvement. CO2 isn’t the only thing that burning oil produces. The air quality on hot summer days leaves a LOT to be desired!

And no matter whether you think it’s AGW or a natural cycle, the glacial sources of fresh water that feed the Hudson Bay watershed are diminishing. It makes no sense to keep pouring the limited water supply into the oil sands to extract fossil fuels that are ultimately contributing to the problem.

“Ain’t broke”? Depends on your point of view, I guess. From where I stand, there’s a lot we need to work on.

“…We are also among the healthiest and cleanest…” Liar. Go look at the filthy oil sands operations. Go look at the people dying of cancer from those same operations. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2007/08/14/chip-rally.html

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