Climate Change

National Climate Change Plans Come Nowhere Near What We Need to Do

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 01, 2007

There's no polite way to say this: Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his offensive blocker John Baird, and the party strategists and corporate backers whom they serve are helping to condemn millions of people around the world to despair, abject misery and death.

Even worse, they're by no means alone among governments in doing this.

The Guardian's George Monbiot, one of the few voices in the mainstream media advocating urgently for a public climate change policy that will actually make a difference, has issued another devastating j'accuse in his latest column, titled, "The rich world's policy on greenhouse gas now seems clear: millions will die".

A recent paper in the journal Climatic Change emphasises that the sensitivity of global temperatures to greenhouse gas concentrations remains uncertain. But if we use the average figure, to obtain a 50% chance of preventing more than 2C of warming requires a global cut of 80% by 2050.

This is a cut in total emissions, not in emissions per head. If the population were to rise from 6 billion to 9 billion between now and then, we would need an 87% cut in global emissions per person. If carbon emissions are to be distributed equally, the greater cut must be made by the biggest polluters: rich nations like us. The UK's emissions per capita would need to fall by 91%.

However, no government has even committed to anything near that target, let alone actually taken the steps to meet that commitment.

In Canada, the feckless federal government has given up even the pretense of taking climate change seriously with their abandonment of our already-gaseous Kyoto commitment and support for feckless voluntary frameworks.

Instead of taking the lead - some lead, any lead - on what is shaping up to be the single biggest struggle of the twenty-first century, the Harper government continues to blow smoke up our collective asses with its latest round of FUD.

This is the party that spent the past decade and a half opposing Kyoto, denying climate change and resisting any attempt to be proactive. The Liberals did precious little about climate change during their twelve years in power, but on winning last year's election, the Conservatives canceled even those mediocre efforts.

Now they've repackaged those canceled programs, bundled them with some loose regulations and long timelines, and claimed it's the best we can do.

Meanwhile, Canada falls farther behind in its rail infrastructure, continues to build sprawling, car-dependent, single-family houses on local farmland, and continues to invest in the appallingly destructive Alberta Tar Sands, Harper's home turf and financial base.

Canada cannot do its part to save the lives of those millions of people who will be victims of climate change until it decarbonizes its economy. That means no more Tar Sands and no more automobile suburbs.

Anything less is just, to borrow a cliché that has grown painfully tired over the past decade, re-shuffling the deck chairs on the Titatinc.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2007 at 17:06:41

The Conservatives may not have met our Kyoto requirements but if this same plan had been implemented in 1997 when Kyoto was signed we'd be on track.

Because of the way Green House gases were measured there is NO time to meet Kyoto with literally just closing anything that pollutes.

How long does it take to build a subway? Replace Coal fired plants? Retrofit every home?

Exactly it can't be done in time.

The difference between the different parties is this:

Liberals: We love the environment but we do jack all

Conservatives: We want votes so we'll make a modest effort but we ain't going to start a depression

NDP: Kyoto isn't even far enough. Its all the fault of the Oil Sands. Lets shut down Alberta and throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work across the country.

Green: We have some good ideas, but our leader endorsed Dion so lets all vote red.

I'd rather take the Dollar Store (Conservative) plan, rather than the Do Nothing (Liberal) or 5th Avenue Shopping Spree (NDP) plans.

If i was leader of the Conservatives, however, I would have a "Kyoto Remediation Plan" to get us to our 2020 Kyoto targets in no later than 2025 and preach about fixing the Kyoto Deficit left by the Liberals.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2007 at 22:22:04

Blame the last guy. Great plan there Al, that always gets the job done.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted May 04, 2007 at 14:18:19

Yes, the efforts of the previous Liberal government were modest and a failure. However, the efforts of the Conservative government are not even modest. They're simply fraudulent. But we can't just blame this or the previous government.

Politicians want votes and the central problem is that voters, while concerned about the environment, are not yet convinced of the sacrifices needed to help the planet. (Never mind that the sacrifices we'll have to make later because we ignored this problem too long will be far harder to swallow.)

The message was, "The rich world's policy on greenhouse gas now seems clear: millions will die." Governments may be to blame here for failing to provide leadership, but we, the inhabitants of the rich west are the one's risking millions of other lives through our daily actions.

Personally, our household took advantage of the previous governments 'Energuide for Homes' program to update and retrofit our home. It has made some difference, saved some energy and reduced our ongoing costs. However, I can tell you we're no where close to reducing our carbon footprint by the 80% to 90%. Not by half. Clearly, we'll need to do a lot more.

Individually, we need to understand our ethical obligation to people on the other side of the planet. Each of us needs to take individual responsibility to reduce our environmental impact. Individual efforts will show our governments they can win our votes with stronger policies. We need to lead our governments on this issue.

Ignoring the problem when we understand the consequences is to accept that millions will die so we can keep our lifestyle a little longer. Future generations will not take kindly to us.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2007 at 02:44:18

The difference is the Conservatives do not enough but at least don't pretend to be good.

The Liberals did nothing and said they were saving the planet. Again we can not meet 2012 targets but we should catch up to our 2020 targets by 2020 or a few years later.

I agree blaming the last government is not an excuse when dealing with the next 10 years or more.

However from 1997 we had 15 years to do something. 10 of those years (2/3rds) were wasted ( Mainly by Liberals but also by the Conservatives). If Stephane Dion was elected today he could not meet the Kyoto requirements without the largest depression since the 30's.

Eco-Capitalism is the way to go but it takes more than 5 years to get the type of reductions we need.

And just because I argue the Conservative Plan is a step forward doesn't mean that I don't think it goes far enough.

If Elizabeth May introduced this plan I highly doubt it would be dismissed as "misleading".

Oh and if you need more proof Conservatives are not all a bunch of "climate criminals" and that the Liberals are a bunch of saints, which party does Larry "Sprawl" DiIanni come from and which party does Fred Eisenburger (The anti-sprawl mayor) come from?

Exactly.

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