There is a very useful article by Professor Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph (who is also a senior fellow of the (quite conservative) Fraser Institute) in the Financial Post that talks about the impact that Doug Ford, assuming his PCs win this year’s Ontario election, might have on Prime Minister Trudeau’s green agenda.
But, for me, the key “take away” was this pragraph: “The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, [which is, pretty much, the “gold standard” on climate change facts] after surveying the projected costs and benefits of climate change, concluded: “For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers … Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.”“
Lets break that down:
- For most economic sectors;
- The impact of climate change will be small … relative to the impacts of other drivers;
- Those other drivers include ~
- Changes in population,
- Changes in people’s age and income,
- Changes in technology,
- Relative prices of goods and services in the market,
- Regulation and governance, and
- Many other aspects of socioeconomic development.
Based on that, it seems to me that, the Trudeau green agenda is fiddling at the margins of our real problems while it ignores the things that will seriously drive Canadian and global societies.
“In other words,” Professor McKindrick says, “when it comes to the things that truly affect peoples’ day-to-day lives, climate change might belong on the list, but far down. Polls show that people have largely figured this out for themselves, with climate change consistently ranking far behind most other priorities.“
He goes on to say, and I agree, fully, that, “Policy should reflect this. It is not rational to say that, because climate change might (in theory) create some problems for people a few decades from now, we should impose energy policies that will create much larger problems for them now. Unfortunately, that is what plans like the Paris treaty oblige us to do … [but] … It is even less rational once you realize that the policies are futile. The same models that say global warming is a problem also say that Paris-type measures will not fix it. If Canada and all the other signatories do what they say they plan to do, the effect on the climate by the end of the century will be minuscule at best, despite the heavy economic costs … [thus, he adds] … as with Kyoto before it, we can safely predict that the other signatories to Paris will not keep their promises. We especially need to take account of the fact that President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of Paris has changed the situation for Canada. The U.S. is ramping up its economic competitiveness through energy-sector deregulation and an abandonment of former president Barack Obama’s climate goals. We ignore this at our peril … [and, further] … Ontario energy and climate policy needs to be rooted in current reality, not wishful thinking about what a subsequent U.S. president might someday do. We should pursue environmental policies that yield actual benefits at reasonable costs while supporting economic growth and job creation. That is how we used to approach the issue, and it resulted in decades of improvements in air and water quality, alongside continued economic growth … [but] … The last few years, by contrast, have been marked by costly and futile gestures (like the Ontario Green Energy Act) that are more about moralistic symbolism than improving peoples’ lives.“
That’s a stunning indictment of 25 years of Canadian moralizing.
I have been saying, ever since “Silent Spring,” over 50 years ago, that there is a large element of a “Children’s Crusade” about some (much, maybe even most) of the environmental movement. Of course there is plenty of good, hard science warning us about pollution, gases in our environment, plastics in our oceans and so on … evidence we must heed. But there is also a childlike, revolutionary component that is both silly and dangerous. My sense, especially since Team Trudeau adopted Prime Minister Harper’s climate change goals and timetable, is that the entire green agenda is nothing more than the Children’s Crusade updated by 800 years with evil carbon replacing the evil Saracen. The events of 1212 have been described as mass hysteria and that’s how I see some (much) of the climate change programme … especially in the actions of young, progressive Canadians.
Professor McKitrick concludes that “the Liberal federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced the Paris treaty without a plan to achieve its targets, much less a national consensus that doing so is worth the cost.” Environment Minister McKenna could not answer a question about the “value” of a carbon tax because no one can possibly know … the role of the tax, if it is properly designed, is to change our behaviours as energy consumers. But it is unlikely that the Trudeau carbon tax has any purpose at all other then to pacify the crying children. That’s not a sound foundation for policy.
I assert that the climate is changing … just as it has been for two or three billion years, ever since there was one. I agree that part of that change is caused by humans. I do not know the consequences of climate change. I’m sure that some consequences will be bad and others not so bad and some might even be quite good for some people. But that’s not going to satisfy the crying children, they want action, now, and damn the consequences.
- First and foremost ~ climate change matters to a lot of people and those people vote and they expect parties to have programmes and policies to help address the problems of climate change;
- Second ~ ameliorating or coping with the deleterious impacts of climate change is, or should be, part of a broader policy to clean up and better care for our natural environment;
- Third ~ notwithstanding some of the crying children, the right answer to climate change is not to push Canadians back to some sort of idealized sort of 18th century subsistence farming. The right answer lies in science and technology … maybe in proven, conventional nuclear power ~ a field wherein Canada was a world leader for more than one generation, maybe in harnessing the various sources of natural, renewable energy, maybe in making “clean coal” less of an oxymoron, maybe even in ideas that, only a quarter century ago, were declared to be frauds or dead ends. I am not, in any way, shilling for any particular project or programme, especially not for things like low energy nuclear reactions that I really don’t understand, but I do believe that governments should massively increase the funding for real science and research in our universities while giving corporations tax incentives to pursue development work in Canada … without repeating the mistakes of the past.
The politics of climate change are, right now, messy and driven more by emotion than science … even so, Conservatives need to wade right in with some sound, practical and innovative proposals to help Canadians and, indeed, the world to cope with climate change … and that need not involve taxing Canadians into the poor house.