"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau



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The Report of the International Panel on Climate Change


by Eric Rempel

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released another report. This panel came into being in 1988 when the need for an impartial, scientific panel to comment on climate change, became obvious. This is now the sixth report this panel has released, and not much has changed from the first report. All of this panel’s reports have said that when we humans burn fossil carbon deposits, we are, in essence transferring carbon from under the ground into the atmosphere. If we continue doing this our global temperature will rise and this will affect climate. They are not united on how this climate change will manifest itself. The current report reiterates this message, but says it more urgently because we have advanced that many years. The authors are scientists, and write as scientists. They have done their job.

So now its over to the rest of us – economists, politicians, and consumers. Let's look at each of these in turn.

The economists that address the question of Green House Gas (GHG) production are agreed those who are producing the GHG are the ones who should be paying the cost. This is simply one way of working out the Polluter Pay Principal – that is, if an economy is to allocate its resources where they ought to be allocated, the polluter, not society as a whole, needs to pay the cost. How can this be done? Economists present us with two options: cap and trade, and carbon tax. We have written about a tax on carbon before in this column, so I will not address that now; suffice it to say that economists agree the most effective tool we have to reduce GHG production is a tax on carbon. They are not agreed on two sub-points: 1) What to do with this collected tax, and 2) what effect such a tax will have on the economy. So the economists have done their job.

So now it's up to the rest of us. But what are we, consumers and politicians, doing? Since we are the ones who elect the politicians, we can't really divorce ourselves from the politicians. So what have we done? Pitifully little. The Liberals talk the talk, but do very little. The Conservatives correctly point to the gap between what the Liberals say and do, and then do even less.

When the Trudeau and his Liberals won the last election, he said Canada is now back, ready to give leadership in tackling Climate Change. The Canadian government had already committed to reducing GHG emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 — a goal set by the previous Conservative government. The current Liberal government has accepted this target. So what have they done in pursuit of this goal? Proposed a very modest Carbon tax, a tax that will raise the price of gasoline $0.18, an amount that we all acknowledge will not affect the amount of gasoline we buy. On the other hand our current government has continued to champion and applaud developments and expansion in the oil and gas sector. The argument for the support of the oil and gas sector, is that we need this economic activity because the revenue generated will allow the development of the renewable sector. This logic escapes me. We are to believe that there is merit in championing and subsidizing the oil and gas sector, because this will create more jobs [in that sector] and put more money into the pockets of those who have invested [in that sector]. We are to believe that somehow this will allow for the emergence of a more viable renewable sector and a lowering of GHC emissions. We are to believe that by increasing our capacity to produce green house gases we will move towards our target of reducing our GHG emissions by 30%. (I hope you are shaking your head with me.)

This talk with no action by the Liberals has created an ideal opportunity for the Conservatives to call them to account for this lack of vision. But what do the Conservatives do? Lambaste the Liberal carbon tax as strongly as possible, and promise to cancel the timid Liberal Carbon Tax when they get a chance. BUT THEY PROPOSE NO ALTERNATIVE. This is reminiscent of the Harper Conservatives who rightly criticized the Paul Martin Liberals for giving lip service to the reducing of green house gas, while, in fact, doing very little. The problem is that when the Harper conservatives won the next election, they did even less. Wake up conservatives! The Polluter Pay Principle, is a conservative principle!

And we? We don't hold our politicians to account on this issue that will affect the welfare of our children and grandchildren more than any other issue. We assume the current trajectory with respect to our use of the earth's resources can go on forever.





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