The Environment / Turning Points
These are interesting
times. When we look back on what many of us hope will be an epic and
ultimately successful struggle to adapt to the world’s climate.
turning point, as in “it’s all downhill from here”,
but an important decade none-the-less.
What seems to be
happening now is a change in strategy on the part of the corporate
–sponsored, oil-company financed forces that oppose real action
on climate change. The days of the Climate Change deniers appears to be
over, to be replaced by the next stage of heel-dragging resistance. The
first position of the Do-Nothings was that the science was wrong or at
best inconclusive and attaching climate change was above all
unnecessary. The second stage is much nor complex (and at times even
It goes like this:
It would cost too much
to address it. Addressing it would damage our economy too much for a
net benefit. Even if Canada addressed it we couldn’t make much
And the further
fall-back position, already waiting on the bench warming up like a
second string quarterback:
Well if we must address
it, let’s use a combination of incentives and voluntary
guidelines. That appears to be Stephen Harper’s rationale for his
refusal to go along with any meaningful internationally sanctioned
efforts despite the urgings of other world leaders.
I was tired of hearing
from a minority of "experts" who insisted that climate change may not
be related to CO2 emissions, the implication being that action on
climate change is a waste of time and money. Such reports are not as
prevalent today unless for some strange reason you read the National
Post. The argument always baffled me. Even if the climate change we are
already witnessing has nothing to do with emissions does that mean
that: 1. It’s a good thing to keep spewing garbage into the
atmosphere. 2. It’s a good thing to keep relying on fossil fuels.
Or, 3. That we should stop worrying about the implications of climate
The arguments regarding
the details of climate change science were red herrings, the intent was
to divert us from action. The problem was that, back in the
1990’s, the anti-Kyoto forces had
some truth on their side. We weren’t sure of the details of
climate change. But all along our argument should have focused on what
we do know. Poison is bad for you. Innovation (for example innovation
in terms of alternatives) is good for the economy. Enough said.
But the consensus that
we were the culprits and that we could have an influence by taking
action now has become overwhelming.
Today even many
Conservatives seem to acknowledge human influenced climate change.
But we mustn’t
interpret the Do-Nothings change in strategy as a victory.
They still would prefer to do...well… nothing.
Their change in strategy means we must also redirect our efforts.
Back in the days of
Kyoto, on CBC news a “Reality Check” segment looked into
costs of Kyoto. One factor was the cost of tougher emission standards.
We were told that upping the standards would cost $3000 per vehicle.
Wait a minute I said! My Toyota Echo gets great gas mileage and is
cheaper than most cars! What are they saying? Well what they are saying
is that if people still want to drive monster SUV’s the cost will
go up. And that increased cost is a part of the cost of Kyoto?
This is the kind of
thinking that American car makers want to encourage. And the kind of
thinking that the Do-Nothings count on.
The reality is that we
could all buy smaller cars, save gas, and save on the cost of the
vehicle. And there lies the central truth about combating climate
change. In many ways cutting emissions would save us money, as opposed
to costing us money! And it would be good
for the planet regardless of how the whole Global Warming thing turns
The Do-Nothings want to
frame the debate in terms of what it would cost to reach Kyoto targets
without changing our behavior or habits. This is like trying to lose
weight without cutting back on eating.
If this kind of
non-thinking gets coverage on our national broadcaster, imagine what
Fox news will try.
The Do-Nothings are
quick to count up the supposed costs of every action to slow climate
change while ignoring the cost of increased facilities like power
plants that are being contemplated to serve increasing demand.
What we need to do is
start finding and broadcasting the thousands of ways in which we can
have an influence on the health of the planet without the dreaded
For example here are
just a few random things that could be done by various levels of
government right away and would have only beneficial effects on the
1. Insist upon
eco-friendly buildings. I just moved into a new apartment building
where the utilities are included. That is insane – I should be
individually responsible for every unit of heat, light, hot water, etc.
that I consume as most home owners do.
2. Install traffic cameras on highways – cities have found they generate a profit and reduce speeding. Reducing speeding on major highways would thus reduce emissions while saving lives and generating a profit. Talk about win-win!
3. Institute fair garbage disposal fees. Waste is environmentally expensive in so many ways. The point should be - You Waste - You Pay. We need rewards for people who behave in environmentally responsible ways.
There are hundreds of things we can do that don't harm the economy, and even things that might cause short-term harm will often result in long-term gains.
When oil companies speak of economic loss - they are of course referring to THEIR economic loss, which would be more than balanced by gains in the clean energy sectors.
Let's get at it.