Monday, October 16, 2006

If CO2 was Purple ...

Blame God. CO2 is invisible. The problem is that Conservatives can believe in an invisible god, but can't accept the reality of pollution you can't see. With global warming a looming global economic, environmental and human catastrophy, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week announced their intention to table a new Clean Air Act, the primary focus of which is smog and air quality rather than meaningful reductions in green house gasses. In fact on October 5th, Minister Ambrose stated that air quality rather than global warming was the government's top environmental priority. You can see smog, you can't see CO2.

I don't meant to under estimate the health hazards from smog, which is a serious problem for the very young, very old and people with weakened respiratory systems. It is certainly not attractive to look from a distance at the purple brown haze that cloaks most of Canada's urban centres. But while air quality is an environmental concern, it is not the most pressing concern. The effects of smog are localized or at least regionalized, not particularly accute to the majority of the population and readily mitigated for others, and in the long term, completely reversible. Global warming is global, irreversible (at least for several centuries), highly accute, and could effect everything from agriculture to desertification, sea levels, the spread of certain diseases such as malaria and the frequency of severe weather incidents. Whole cultures such as those of Fiji and Tonga and Mirconesia could disapear under the rising seas. Perhaps it is God's revenge on Forida for electing an idiot to the White House.

On global warming, the conservatives continue their mealy mouthed double speak. While criticizing the Liberal's timid and half hearted efforts to meet Canada's Kyoto targets, Ms. Ambrose boldly announced that the Conservatives will do even less. Actually, they will change the targets and then fail to meet them as well. While the Liberal's programs were timid and ineffectual, at least they didn't change the targets to make it look like they were accomplishing something. The intensity based emissions targets proposed by Harper and Ambrose will ensure that Canada's green house gas emissions will continue to increase.

What will it take to put meaningful reductions in green house gasses on the federal agenda? The liberals paid lip service to global warming, recognizing the problem, but were too affraid of damaging the economy to do anything about it. The Conservatives, for the most part, have moved past denying global warming, but still don't think it's an environmental priority, at least not on the same level as smog. The New Democrates and Bloc are on record as supporting rigorous limits on CO2 emissions, but neither party will ever form a federal government. The retreat of glaciers, thinning of polar ice sheets, increase in severe weather, early harvests and other first signs of significant climate change are apparently not enough. Perhaps if you could easily see CO2. To their credit, the three opposition parties did manage to pass Bill C-288, An Act to Ensure Canada Meets its Global Climate Change Obligations Under the Kyoto Protocol. Unfortunately, this bill, rather than prescribing a plan, only calls on the government to present a plan. Once again, the opposition - even when united, comes up short. A private members bill, if supported by the three opposition parties could force a Kyoto plan upon the government. But then they would have to share credit. I guess it is considered preferable to just make political points.

In 1991, the Conservatives under Mulroney were finally (after 10 years) successful in getting the US to sign the Acid Rain Treaty. But it is easy to see dead fish, measure the ph level of lakes and trace the cause to high sulfer coal fired thermal energy plants in the north eastern United States and Ontario. Conservatives take their sport fishing seriously. While atmostpheric CO2 has been directly measured since the 1950's, global warming and its effects are far more difficult to measure and attribute to human activity. Thankfully, 3 decades of scientific research has finally and conclusively made the case for action. The Conservative no longer (officially) doubt the science (although many of their supporters still do). They just refuse to do any thing about it. The opposition refuses to force their hand.

I'm not sure at this point what is worse. The Liberals strong words and weak action, or the Conservatives weak words and weak action.


Altavistagoogle said...

Think global, act local.

The main solution can be found locally: public transportation. Federal government not required.

James Bowie said...

Nice blog,

You're a prog blog affiliate I see, and you have our list, but the button is missing. Could you fix that please?


CoteGauche said...


The button is there, right above the list.