It seems that most of the commentariat (the chattering classes) is aghast at President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords on climate change … most, but not all. The nonagenarian Nigel Lawson (Lord Lawson, now) who was the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy (1979 to 83) Chancellor of the Exchequer (1983 to 89) in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s cabinets and who is now President of Conservatives for Britain, a campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, and is also chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank has penned an opinion piece in The Telegraph that warns that “Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement has dealt a hammer blow to an elite consensus which has built up around the issue of climate change. That consensus has placed cutting carbon dioxide emissions above people’s jobs and protecting the environment … [and] … With US industry already enjoying a substantial competitive advantage over European firms, this decision will make European climate policies all the more unsustainable. If Britain is to keep up with the rest of the world, it is essential that the next government rethinks energy policy to prioritise competitiveness and affordability.“
It goes on like that: Lord Lawson applauds the Conservative Party’s pledge to have the lowest energy prices in Europe but he warns that cannot happen unless Britain, like America, changes its official, national, political, climate change policies.
I’m not a climate change denier, but I do worry about the children’s crusade aspect of it all. We should be aiming to use carbon based energy more efficiently and effectively and cleanly in ways that make sense: petroleum for mobile applications because its “power to weight ratio” is unrivalled, for example, while other energy sources should be used to heat our homes and power our streetlights. We should be making renewable energy work for us ~ where it makes sense. (Solar energy in the British Columbia coastal rain forest doesn’t make a lot of sense.) It makes sense to follow the old “green” slogan: think globally and act locally. Cities and towns and local industries should be leading, provinces and the national governments should be following with supportive polices and some cheerleading. Some US mayors and governors have the right idea, even if their target (President Trump) is wrong. They should be taking actions that make sense in their own, local jurisdictions.
John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “In Canada’s case, federalism worked to provide in advance what Ottawa now seeks: a national (if piecemeal) strategy to reduce carbon emissions through provincial cap-and-trade or carbon tax schemes, with only Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall seriously offside … [and] … In America’s case, federalism and the entrepreneurial energy of the private sector have combined to limit the damage inflicted by Washington. About 30 states have green-energy strategies in place.“
Echoing what Lord Lawson says, Mr Ibbitson adds that “Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper was right to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in 2011. The Chrétien government had made promises at Kyoto that no Canadian government could keep without wrecking the economy. The expanding oil sands in Alberta had become a major driver of growth. The U.S. Congress was blocking president Barack Obama’s efforts to fight global warming … [and] … Any Canadian tax on carbon without an equivalent American action would simply kill Canadian jobs, without lowering the planet’s temperature even a smidgeon, Mr. Harper argued, and that argument made sense.” One does not have to be a climate change denier to understand that many Liberal policies are nothing but political pandering to children who are under the influence of a, generally, uncritical media.
Notwithstanding a few people who want to return the world to some sort of 18th century, pre-industrial state, it is possible to have clean air and water and abundant energy, available at reasonable costs to all, too.
It is possible, as Conservative Michael Chong (partially) suggested, to have a carbon tax, for example, that works to change people’s approach to using energy: to coerce them into making better choices by taxing carbon use by efficiency: i.e. only very modest taxes on petroleum used for fuel, very high taxes when petroleum is used to heat homes; high taxes on most coal fired energy production but only modest taxes when clean coal technology works well; low taxes on nuclear energy coupled with action on nuclear waste storage; and so on. But That’s not what the Trudeau Liberals and the NDP and Greens want … they all want to appease a vocal climate change, anti-petroleum industry faction that seems, to me, to be funded by the shadowy (and, apparently, anti-Canadian energy sector) Tides Foundation and in pandering to them to destroy Canadian jobs and price energy out of the reach of many Canadians.
Canada can have and, in the wake of President Trump’s decision, should have a sensible suite of energy and climate change and economic and fiscal policies … but that will, I fear, have to await the election of a Conservative government in Ottawa that will get out of the way and let local companies and local politicians and local people make the decisions that are best for them.