Tag Archives: GHG emissions

Canada’s contribution to climate change: More hot air

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In the endlessly inelegant waltz Canada performs with the international community on the dance floor that is global warming, our federal government is again taking one baby-step forward and another giant leap backward.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq travelled to the UN climate-change confab in New York over the weekend to deliver the following message to delegates already bemused by her masters’ bewildering stance on environmental stewardship: The oils sands of Alberta are, in effect, off the table, but Canada will introduce strict, new standards on the chemicals that air conditioners produce.

That’s rich, coming from a cold country; but richer, still, coming from this nation’s environment minister, who must surely know that emissions from such manufactured products produced in China – and exported for sale in the Great White North – account for less than one per cent of our annual GHG load.

It’s a bit like saying that a Ford 150 is better for Planet Earth because it fits more people than does a Toyota Prius. But that is, in fact, the essence of the argument about climate change emanating — has always emanated — from Ottawa since before Stephan Harper grabbed the reins of a gigantic, gas-guzzling sleigh ride to 1950s-style complacence.

As the rest of the developed world has been doing its level best to heed the warnings of climate research, Canada has all but ignored them. Officialdom, in this country, has taken its position on what it deems to be science fiction: Let the nerds worry about the future; for now, which is the here and now, the economy begins and ends with fossil fuel.

Or, as Minister Aglukkaq opined for the Globe and Mail just prior to her cotillion in New York, “What I can say is that it is too early or give a date and target timelines (regarding Canada’s previously stated commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions). It is important to remember that Canada’s commitments are national which means that the provinces and the territories will have to play a role in that.”

Meanwhile, she added, “Our government will continue to work constructively with our international partners to establish a fair and effective international agreement that includes all major emitters, and we remain committed to that”

The problem with this line of argument is two-fold: first, it’s spun from threads of propaganda and, therefore, utterly specious; second, the world’s two largest emitters have already come to such an agreement without Canada’s involvement, let alone concurrence.

And yet, as the Globe reported prior to last weekend’s Aglukkag appearance, “The environment minister is expected to highlight Canada’s action on hydrofluorocarbons, which have been used by the cooling and heating industry since they were forced to phase out ozone-depleting chloroflurocarbons several years ago.”

As Dale Marshall, a spokesman of the group, Environmental Defence, declared for the hungry press, “I would say they (the feds) are showing up with another meaningless announcement. What they need to be regulating is the oil and gas sector, which is the fastest-growing source of emissions in the country.”

Still, the good fellow is only half-right. Certainly, the minister of the environment has delivered another absurd proclamation. That is her purview, after all. But the fact remains that the developed world is hopelessly addicted to fossil fuels, and the only way out of this downward spiral is to cleave to another, less deleterious, dependency.

No state, provincial or local government in North America – which enjoys the fruits of technological innovation as no other in the world does – has properly reckoned that the petrochemical industry is a means to, not the end of, civilization’s next great advance.

What stops an enlightened politician from stipulating the patently sensible? Cheap, accessible, abundantly available oil and gas must be deployed to build even cheaper, even more accessible, even more available sources of environmentally neutral energy.

If, as geophysicists claim, the world contains 500 years worth of exploitable oil and gas reserves, then let it fuel the brainpower required to produce 1,000 years worth of commercially viable clean-energy and clean-manufacturing technology.

And let us begin now, not later – before the waltz we dance with the fate of the Earth becomes the walk we take around the pyre we lit to burn it down.

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Opposing lessons in crisis management

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If single-minded attention to a gathering emergency is the measure of leadership in government, then Stephen Harper’s Torytown manages to both pass and fail in spectacularly simultaneous fashion.

This week, a deeply ambivalent House of Commons issued its imprimatur for Canadian combat operations to commence in the treacherous reaches of northern Iraq, where the Islamic State (IS) currently wreaks havoc. The mission is modest (it includes nine airplanes and about 600 military personnel), but the purpose is definitive.

“We are undertaking a range of actions, and we are very fortunate to have men and women who are prepared to put their lives on the line to undertake those actions on our behalf,” the Prime Minister said on Tuesday. “What the world understands very clearly is that in the absence of any response, (the Islamic State) was growing like a cancer over the summer, over an entire region. This constitutes a threat and not just to the region, to the global community entirely and also to Canada.”

It’s the brand of tough talk and focussed reaction for which Mr. Harper has become justly famous. Posit a gun-toting enemy with sharp teeth and dastardly intentions, and you can count on Captain Canada to swoop into the fray, his six-shooters a-blazing.

Indeed, whether the evil-doers in our midst (or just over the horizon) are stalkers, cyber-bullies, pedophiles, or murderous jihadis, this prime minister has never let down his rhetorical guard whilst demonstrating his country’s determination to wipe out vicious hellions wherever he may find them.

Unfortunately, without an obvious, two-legged enemy at which he can shake his big stick, Mr. Harper – and, in fact, every one of his political lieutenants – appear, all too often, hopelessly distracted or, worse, mindfully disengaged from even greater threats than those IS now poses to the world’s well being.

“At the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Government of Canada committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020,” writes Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in her Fall 2014 report, her first since accepting the job last March.

Realistically, though, “Environment Canada’s latest projections show that Canada will not likely meet its commitment.” That’s because “the federal government has chosen to reduce GHG emissions by establishing regulations on a sector-by-sector basis.” In this fashion, “it has introduced several such regulations to date, notably in the transportation and the electricity generation sectors.” At the same time, “in 2006, the government first announced its intent to regulate GHG emissions from the oil and gas industry but has not yet done so even though emissions are growing fastest in this sector.”

The bottom line is straightforward and chilling:

“If Canada does not honour its climate-change commitments, it cannot expect other countries to honour theirs. If countries fail to reduce their emissions, the large environmental and economic liabilities we will leave our children and our grandchildren – such as more frequent extreme weather, reduced air quality, rising oceans, and the spread of insect-borne diseases – will likely outweigh any potentially positive effects, such as a longer growing season.”

None of which should come as any great surprise to those who have kept a watchful eye trained on this federal government’s policies concerning the environment. Agents provocateurs of the blue zone on Parliament Hill routinely pillory critics of big oil and gas, drubbing them for their allegedly anti-business, anti-prosperity, anti-technology agitations. Meanwhile, the bigger picture goes deliberately unappreciated, with nauseatingly predictable results.

“While the Government of Canada has recognized the need to urgently combat climate change, its planning has been ineffective and the action it has taken has been slow and not well coordinated,” Ms. Gelfand concludes.

“The sector-by-sector regulatory approach led by Environment Canada has made some gains, but the measures currently in place are expected to close the gap in greenhouse gas emissions by only 7 per cent by 2020, and the actual effects of these measures have not yet been assessed.”

And likely never will. Unless we somehow manage to transform global warming into a sword-brandishing terrorist on which Mr. Harper can draw a bead, this is one crisis that will continue to loom.

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