November 17, 2007

Conservatives Poised to Lose Denial Allies

Harper set to lose major ally against Kyoto

It's no secret that Canada, under the Conservatives, have dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to climate change and environment legislation. Whether it's been proposing legislation for time table to create a time table or having the chair position for the Kyoto Agreement board while making arrangements to pull out of Kyoto or assigning two different ministers to run the environment portfolio and both turned out be useless. These are only the obvious items on the list of failures the Conservatives have created since taking the reigns.

Over the course of the next year things will only get more interesting for the Conservatives and their relationship with the environment. As the Globe and Mail article points out, both Australia and the U.S. are looking at regime changes and that means Canada and the Asia-Pacific Partnership are losing it's two most prominent allies with at least one going to over to Kyoto. This will leave Canada standing up for the environment, under the APPCDC banner, with the great bastion of green thinking, China.

If Australia does switch teams, which it is likely to do and the U.S. makes changes to their own policies, Canada will essentially be the lone developed country still trying to make anti-Kyoto noise and proposing legislation based around denials of climate change. It's bad enough that Harper was trying to brag about Canada's policies and signed on to the APPCDC because it was more in tune with the his position while at the same time a federal review rebuked the plan he was touting.

In just over a years time, Harper may be pushing this plan all by himself while the rest of the developed nations are trying to make a difference. The Conservatives will then be in real bind. How serious can these policies seem when all your credible allies jump ship? It's not like Canadians have been all that impressed with his attempts at looking green up until this point anyways. People seem to recognize the Conservatives have faired poorly on the environment and the changes in Australia and the U.S. will only go to confirm that even more. It's time real action is taken but somehow I doubt that will be likely and farce attempts at dealing with climate change will continue.

But hey, at least China will be on our side...

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7 comments:

ALW said...

Two things:

1) I don’t think it’s fair to say that Conservatives (or conservatives) “deny” climate change. They just disagree about the degree of impact human activity has had on the environment. Even within the environmental movement there are huge disagreements about just how imminent the threat is. That doesn’t mean we can ignore it. But it also doesn’t mean we just accept the doomsday scenario either.

2) I don’t see what the use is of having any global plan for emissions where the largest polluters in the world aren’t participating. Wouldn’t that just make it worthless?

Kyle said...

1) It may be a generalization of the Conservative party but the comment was based on comments or (lack of) action from some of the more prominent members. Whether they are denying or disagreeing about climate change itself or the human effect on it or even the imapct, it's still denial. There may be disagreement about when and how climate change may take serious effect, but twiddling thumbs over the issue isn't going to help us down the road. To use a sports analogy: 'You may not be able to win a playoff spot in the first month of the season. However, you can lose one.'

Managerial politics hasn't and won't always work (not that it really does). And in the case of climate change, trying to manage the situation is nearly impossible.

2) So essentially, it's better to do nothing than something... I would rather see everyone else try to make a serious effort and then begin adjusting foreign policy, ideology, etc. to reflect this. Countries like China will follow suit if they have to.

ALW said...

1) I don't see how disputing the impact of something is denial of its existence. It's just a measure of its urgency. Obviously, if you feel that the issue is serious, you will not appreciate those who don't take it as seriously. Conversely, if you don't believe it's a serious issue, you're going to think those who want to spend much greater resources on the problem are not allocating the appropriate weight to the matter given the scarce resources we have.

2) No, it's better to keep trying to find something where the big polluters are locked in, rather than to sign up without them and have it come to nothing. If the endgame is to save the planet, I don't see how patting ourselves on the back because we got 40% of the world's polluting capacity signed onto an accord is going to be of much use. It's better to wait longer to get something more effective, than it is to grab onto the first easy thing we can just so we can bask in the symbolism of it.

When it comes to a global climate change plan, the problem isn't Canada. It's China, Russia, and the United States.

Kyle said...

1) Denial is just denial. Whether their is denail over how large an impact it's going to have or if it exists, denial is still present. The impact of past climate change had been nothing short of dramatic or devastating. We can debate all we want about how much this next stage of climate change will impact us but as history has shown, the impact is likely to be greater than not. It's probably going to come down to how fast we can adapt, which will be effected by how fast it occurs. If we can slow it down even a little, we probably should. The more time we have to adjust the better off we will be. That is why I believe we should be taking it much more serious than we do and we should use the actual and potential resources and technologies that are available to us to improve the situation in our favour as much as we can.

2) Still, you're essentially arguing for a position of 'do nothing now'. I agree, let's find something that locks in the major polluters. But in the meantime, we can't sit on our hands and mope about the lack of cooperation from China, India and the U.S. The States are likely to come around sooner than later, especially with the changes in government that seems likely to happen and with the loss of Australia as an ally as well. After that, India and China may not have a choice but to follow suit, whether it's through Kyoto or something new. The power of India and China lies with the developing world and our willingness to support their export economies. Just look at the impact on China recently with all the recalls of toys and other consumer products. China has been forced to adapt and that can pushed into the environmental impacts as well.

ALW said...

1) "Denial is denial"?? Are you saying that no person can disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy on climate change without being called a "denier"? How would you feel if (presuming you are pro-choice), you were called a "child denier" because you didn’t feel a fetus was a human being? I don’t think you’d appreciate it. So why do the same thing to people who dispute the severity of scope of climate change? It’s just a rhetorical trick, nothing more.
Your justification for calling people who disagree with you about how to tackle climate change “deniers” is just a re-statement of your opinion. That’s not a very compelling argument.

2) If we “do something now” and the major polluters do nothing now, what incentive will that provide for the major polluters to also lock themselves in? There’s none. I don’t know how India and China are going to be “forced” into joining a binding treaty either - unless you believe China in particular is going to behave the opposite of how its has approached almost every diplomatic entreaty over the last 20 years.

Kyoto is dead; in fact, it was pretty much DOA because it didn’t come with any penalties, didn’t include the big players, and no one had any plan on how to implement it. It was just something everyone signed to feel good about themselves. The problem with effective environmental solutions is that a lot of people are going to have to make radical lifestyle changes in order for them to work properly. And most people, unfortunately, fall into the category of wanting Something Done about the environment, but Someone Else paying for it. This is why people get so antsy about the price of gas going up, for example.

Kyle said...

1) You're right, I made the Chretian error and tried to prove something by stating itself. But there is point in there somewhere and I think it was supposed to be this: That we don't know the scope, we don't know the timelines but we do know it's happening. History has shown that it doesn't happen without having some type of impact, usually falls on the side of severe. That's not about fear mongering, it's just the case. Whether the changes are weather patterns/severity, extinctions (not that we'll all die off), changes in ecology, etc. These aren't small things. We need to make changes now to minimize the impact on our lives later. The sooner the better because the changes will only need to be smaller now than compared to later.

2) As for forcing change. It would take a program that has real targets and real penalties. Sure it may need some type of radical change but it's likely we'll have to make them at some point anyway. Do it now while we can still dictate those changes to some degree. Turn this into a major policy and force it upon all those we trade with. China, especially, is addicted to its money at this point. Cut off the funding and they will bend. Attach to all trade agreements clauses about production methods and impacts on the environment and back it up with penalties. In this regard, force it onto corporations as well. I realize this is an affront to free trade ideology, laissez faire, etc. but it's not like much of these truly exists anyways. As for making changes, much of the technology is there or almost there to replace a lot of the 'bad' technology we are currently using and with a little promoting and rewarding of entrepreneurship and progressive R&D, I'm sure we'll get to where we need to be. It's about setting an agenda and working towards it.

ALW said...

I made the Chretian error and tried to prove something by stating itself.

Touche!

I agree with you about the fact that we do know something is happening, we just don’t know exactly what, or how drastic it is. But more importantly, I think that the risk of being wrong about the severity is so great that we can’t afford to not do anything. (I applied the exact same analysis in the lead up to the Iraq war, btw). So the argument to sceptics is: we don’t need to be 100% sure. We just need to have considerable evidence and for the threat to humanity to be so great that we have to act. The only question then is, like insurance companies do, to determine what the premium we need to pay is.

2) I disagree that real penalties are an affront to free trade or laissez faire at all. They’re entirely consistent with them – which is why I’m shocked more capitalists aren’t also environmentalists. The principles of capitalism and conservation are the same: don’t waste, do things efficiently etc. I don’t support subsidizing businesses with money, and I also don’t support subsidizing the damage they do – if a company can’t go out and throw toxic waste onto someone else’s property (public or privately owned) then why should they be allowed to do the same with things that pollute the air? We don’t need to pass laws that restrict what businesses put in the air. We just need to make businesses bear the economic cost of what they put in the air. If they had to pay the real price of what they are doing, they will be forced to reduce the damage they do.

The same applies to gasoline consumption: if people had to pay, say $2 per litre of gas, consumption would drop simply because of supply and demand restraints. Or if people had to pay for the environmental damage they do every time they drive, by paying road tolls, people would drive less – and take public transit more! So instead of subsidizing people to do bad things less, and also subsidizing them to do good things more, we should just take out the subsidy on both sides.

Market forces are the best way to protect the environment, because you can’t avoid them they way you can avoid laws. The trick is just to build in environmental costs so that they mimic “normal” costs that everyone is used to dealing with.

The real challenge here is going to be the public, not businesses – because it is the masses will oppose bearing any significant costs. Its like trying to promote a giant tax hike!

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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