Whole election campaigns have been sacrificed on the altar of global warming. Entire political careers have been cremated under the magnifying glass of climate change. Remember poor Stephane Dion?
Is it any wonder, then, why this year’s contenders for the democratic throne of Canada are treading gingerly around the subject?
Well, for the most part.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair had a moment earlier this month when he told a Hamilton radio talk-show host that the federal government’s inaction on climate change is tantamount to wartime isolationism.
“Whenever we’ve taken on these big fights internationally, we were always one of the smaller players,” he said.
“But it didn’t mean that we didn’t go in. In the Second World War, the same argument could have been made. ‘Oh, we only represent a couple of per cent of the forces.’ But we knew that we had a job to do. This is a battle that the world has to take on. Climate change is real. Reducing greenhouse gases has to be made a priority. It can be done. Mr. Harper doesn’t believe in the science of climate change, so he’s not doing anything.”
In reality, what the current prime minister has never done much of is talk about global warming. That’s been both deliberate and shrewd. For the cunning and the calculating, there is almost nothing to be gained by weighing into the debate (let alone becoming a thought-leader, as did Stephane Dion) in a country where attitudes are so mightily polarized. Indeed, there’s every indication that they’re about to grow even further apart, thanks to research released last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to an article by Katherine Bagley, writing for InsideClimate News, “The long-debated hiatus or pause in global warming, championed by climate denialists who tried to claim it proved scientists’ projections on climate change are inaccurate or overblown, probably did not happen at all.
A new study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds that the world’s warming never really stalled during the last 15 years – it was just masked by incomplete data records that have been improved and expanded in recent years.
Remarked Tom Karl, the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and principal author of the study: “The rate of temperature increase during the last half of the 20th century is virtually identical to that of the 21st century.”
That’s the sort of comment that gets “denialists” howling mad. Just ask New York based financial and business writer John Steele Gordon. In a recent Wall Street Journal commentary, he insists, “climate science today is a veritable cornucopia of unanswered questions. Why did the warming trend between 1978 and 1998 cease, although computer climate models predict steady warming? How sensitive is the climate to increased carbon-dioxide levels? What feedback mechanisms are there that would increase or decrease that sensitivity? Why did episodes of high carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere earlier in Earth’s history have temperature levels both above and below the average?”
Indeed, he ponders pointedly, “If anthropogenic climate change is a reality, then that would be a huge problem only government could deal with. It would be a heaven-sent opportunity for the left to vastly increase government control over the economy and the personal lives of citizens.”
In a country – namely ours – that depends so heavily on greenhouse-gas emitting fuels, politicians (with a few notable exceptions) have clearly decided that when it comes to climate change, discretion is the better part of, if not valour, political survival.