Climate Change and Canadian Federalism - Macleans.ca
 

Climate Change and Canadian Federalism


 

1. Confederation of Dunces

2. We are all Albertans

3. Le Québec doit cultiver son jardin

4. It’s China’s fault, not ours

5. The best plan for the planet is also the best for the country


 
Filed under:

Climate Change and Canadian Federalism

  1. "nothing is stopping Quebec from taking whatever anti-climate change measures it wants, within its provincial powers"

    I can think of one thing that is stopping them, money. Quebec needs more money from oilsands to implement anti-climate change measures.

    Lynas article was fascinating. I am no fan of ChiComs but I do like the fact they are treating Obama like a schoolboy. I guess being the world's atm has its benefits.

    And I loved Confederacy of Dunces, someone gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago and it was absolutely brilliant.

    • Quebec already has a largely carbon-free power system, so the only major costs to the Quebec's government would be R&D-based (which tend to be surprisingly cheap) and with regards to public transit.

      The major mechanism for emission reductions are a price on carbon. Ideally this is a carbon tax – and Quebec hardly needs money from Alberta to establish a tax. The other option, a cap-and-trade, could cost the government money if it takes the ineffectual route and just gives all the credits away, but even then, only a horribly run program would be prohibitively expensive.

      Unless they're really worried that any sort of pricing system will significantly damage their economy, Quebec doesn't need spit from Alberta to implement anti-climate change measures.

      • Quebec doesn't need spit from Alberta to implement anti-climate change measures

        Let's throw out some numbers:
        Quebec's equalization benefits: 8.3 billion
        per capita: 1100
        Quebec's share of equalization benefits: 58%
        Quebec budget deficit: 4 billion
        Quebec budget spending: 66 billion

        Number of have-nots: 6 (includes Ontario)
        Money Alberta spends financing other provinces: $21 billion
        per capita: $2500

        Quebec already has a 4 billion deficit, and it receives 8 billion in payments, the lion's share generated in Alberta. So, if Quebec doesn't need spit from Alberta, then where else would the 8 billion be coming from? In order to replace this 8 billion, it would need to impose a tax of $2000 per person in the Quebec labour force, and it would another $1000 per person to balance the budget. And you claim it needs spit from Alberta?

        http://ca.entertainment.yahoo.com/s/capress/09121

        • Use the full sentence you quoted in your arguments s_c_f – I said Quebec doesn't need spit from Alberta to implement anti-climate change benefits, I never said they don't rely on Alberta (well, the rest of Canada really – they get plenty from the rest of the west and until recently, Ontario as well) for money for other things. They get that money whether or not they implement climate change policies – my point is that they really don't need anything extra from the other provinces through the federal government to put such policies in place. A carbon tax and equilization payments are not mutually exclusive or even related in anything but political rhetoric.

          • True. But there is an irony there. You can be sure that if Quebec had the oil and Alberta had the hydro electric dams that they wouldn't be so enamored with a carbon tax. Yet, in a way, equalization means that Quebec does have the oil.

  2. Between China and the American Conrgress I think it's safe to say that there won't be any serious action on this non-sensical "war on the weather" anytime soon. Thank goodness those loony Europeans no longer have any real influence on world matters anymore.

    The Chinese treated Obama like some waiter at a restaurant.

    The absolute nonsense of the Copenhagen meetings boggles the mind. By all means let's look at alternative energy sources since oil and natural gas reserves are finite. But let's stop pretending the so-called science is settled on runaway global warming.

    The world was hotter centuries ago during the medeival warming period. We never had runaway global warming then. That was centuries before the advent of the modern industrial economy.

    Why would we have it now? Science? Nope, more like unsupported assertions.

  3. "Alberta is never going to voluntarily do anything about its emissions, and a Liberal government — with no effective representation in the province — would have a really hard time doing anything without rousing the spectre of Albera secessionism. That's why it is imperative that the Harper government get its act together. Just as only Nixon could go to China, only a prime minister from the oil patch can have the moral authority to bring the province into a national strategy"

    This is not necessarily true…it could be argued that this is a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. I've seen polls showing a majority of AB's do want action taken…it's important to distingish between vested interests and govt players[ often the same] on one hand and the general population, who by and large want action taken.
    It could also be argued the Tories are too close to the issue in AB, their hands are tied, they're already compromised. A liberal govt would have more room to act…if it could keep its nerve…AB succession is as much a red herring as Quebecs, more so.

    • I might add that i'm a westerner with 15years in AB under my belt. That many if not most AB's want action taken – even if there is an economic cost, is a fact. The popular conception of ABs as a bunch of nuckle dragging neanderthals is not even remotely accurate…if there is leadership of a reasonable, rational kind the people there will accept sensible, reasonable limits on growth of the oil/tar sands. There is more concern re., the environment in Alberta than many outside of the province perhaps realize. Canada shouldn't be spooked by talk of succession…only a relatively small core of people support the idea…it's ludicrous, more then half the pop are from somewhere else in Canada. Besides most ABs are also proud Canadians too!

      • thanks KCM for the local perspective. I also found that piece to be a tad silly and even insulting to Albertans.

        "But if it means that Ontario and Quebec residents should not be responsible for bearing some of the costs of abatement, that's ridiculous. All Canadians benefit from our oil industry, which is why it needs a national solution… Alberta is never going to voluntarily do anything about its emissions"

        Like you said it paints all Abertans with the same broad stroke, it also admonishes Ontario and Quebec for not being team players while at the same time prcludes that Alberta won't ever be on this issue.

      • Thanks, kcm. Sometimes we need to hear from you people, too, because when all you hear from are the anti-environmentalists or separatists, it begins to feel like everyone is one.

  4. IPCC AR4, the UN document that our world leaders were basing their determinations on last week in Copenhagen states that:

    "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).”(IPCC AR4 WG2 Ch10, p. 493).”"

    Turns out that this statement is based on a non-peered review report from the World Wildlife Foundation. The IPCC is only supposed to rely on peer reviewed data but I guess that little tidbit from an obviously self-interested NGO was just the type of over-the-top "scientific" prediction that the IPCC bureaucrats salivate over.

    Guess what folks? It turns out that it's wrong. You'll still find snow in the Himalayas after 2035. (H/T Watt's up with that blog)

    • Terrible the Glacier that formed Yosemite disappeared 10000 year ago, now the glaciers of Himalayas how will this end. Wait Al Gore has a snake oil for you and it will stop weather changing in its track. Just send $1000 to his bank account he will send you a receipt for Carbon credit. By the way he accepts American Express credit card but not Visa. Once you received the Carbon credit it you can breathe for 2 full years and emit CO2. But don't over do it only one breath per minute and not too deep one. If you eat beans and blow gas that is as well greenhouse gas. One fart equals 3 deep breaths. Breathing and farting without A. Gore Carbon credits will cause a polar bear to fall from the sky and squash you

  5. I thought the post about how we are all Albertans to be very interesting. True, of course, but couldn't those arguments have been made about Ontario's industrial engine up until, say, two years ago? Where was the love for the money we have been happy to put into equalization payments since Confederation?

    And yes, I know Toronto sometimes comes across as the Centre of the Universe, but do you know how many Ontarians *don't* live there?

  6. You know, outside of a few journalists and few policy junkie and the usual crowd of alarmists about whatever is currently alarming, no one cares. Not even a tiny bit. We did then Afghan prisoner thing, then the Copenhagen thing and it's just background no more or less important than that Stephen Tyler is in rehab and some actress nobody ever heard but everybody loved of is dead and so on.

    And, strangely enough, mixing national unity into the mix does not make this stuff more compelling. I know, you're all shocked but really, outside of maritime union is there any subject in the world as mind-numbingly boring than %^&*ing national unity one more time. Maybe after Christmas we can bring ourselves to care.

    • That's pretty funny when you consider the biggest whingers and sh*t disturbers on the issue of NU over the years have been the premiers…happily playing it for all its worth.

  7. I am not the best Canadian historian but I am almost certain that Confedration predates equalization by close to a century.

    • Yes, sorry, Dave. I was going for the equivalent of the saying "for forever" and thought I'd update it. Badly, as it turned out.

    • Dave:

      Our equalisation program was standardised in the period between the late '50s and the late 60's; by that time, though, the federal (or Dominion) government had been using its taxation powers to re-distribute wealth among the provinces for decades–virtually since the early days of Macdonald's National Policy. So Jenn was correct the first time.

  8. Probably no issue since the NEP represents as profound a threat to national unity as climate change and carbon emissions abatement.

    Potter, is this your writing? The first sentence? Geez.

    Were you sitting in the corner with the pointy hat at the last meeting of the Confederation?

    I've already commented enough on this topic elsewhere.

  9. One thing I'd like to know is where Cosh, Coyne, Potter, Wells and Wherry stand on AGW.

    Do they beleive it's a) an unproven scientific theory, or b) do they agree that AGW is scientifically proven but are unsure of the extent of the problem, or c) do they think that it's a critical pressing issue in which the world's existence hangs in the balance unless we do what David Suziki says?

    Because if they choose option c), we the readers can thereafter judge their political commentary on this issue in the proper context. Too many are uncritically defaulting to option c) when option b) and even a) are arguably more credible.

    Potter and Coyne in particular are critical thinkers who like to thoroughly examine an issue before coming down one way or another. I don't know where they stand on this. People have so far defaulted to position a) because, inter alia, the UN propaganda machine.

    • They probably stand where any reasonable layperson would stand: unsure but inclined to believe the large majority of climate scientists who say it is happening. That's just the prudent thing to do. If AGW turns out to have been exaggerated then it will still have been beneficial to switch to more renewable forms of energy. If on the other hand it IS true, and the more dire consequences start to happen, then we're all up s**t creek without a proverbial paddle aren't we?

      • I'm with you about finding alternative forms of energy since oil, coal and natural gas are finite resources. You'll recall however that we were doing that before the AGW debate became such an all-consuming matter. We used to talk about sustainable development, preserving the environment etc. One can fiercely beleive in those things, as I do, but remain sceptical on AGW. I'm very much pro-environment. I canoe the Canadian shield every summer in the backwoods. I head out to the rockies to hike in the high country most years. I love those pristine areas.

      • I'd like to count myself as a reasonable layperson. Thanks, Anon, you said it well.

      • This is pretty well where i stand…the incident in England with the emails was certainly disappointing but perhaps beneficial in that non of us should merely put our faith in scientists who, despite best intentions are after all only human. What bothers me more is where this cult of the amateur is leading. Sure it's empowering and liberating at best – no more gatekeepers. But as Craig hints we have to trust someones judgement…and more and more i'm coming to see the rise of the amateur not as solely as a form of egalitarianism, but as another form of despotism, perhaps even nihilism, by way of discrediting "expert opinion" Heaven knows where it'll all lead…hopefully like all fads, it''l fade.

    • Why did you make option c so absurd?

      • I didn't think I did. Option c) if you prefer, is those who beleive that if we don't change our ways, and take immediate corrective action, the world will become unlivable due to the catastrophic effects of runaway global warming.

  10. (cont'd) I expect members of the media, particularly the 4th estate, to think critically about this issue instead of defaulting to the herd mentality. It's too important a political and economic issue on which to just go with the flow.

    Indeed all citizens in our democracy must inform themselves if they are to intelligently participate in what will become a huge political debate. In this, I agree with Chantal Hébert that this issue will be very important politically in 2010.

    • "Potter and Coyne in particular are critical thinkers who like to thoroughly examine an issue before coming down one way or another"

      Something you might like to try…instead of pretending to be so preciously objective, when any fool can see you've made up your mind regardless of the facts.

      • You're being a little harsh there kcm. True, I am sceptical of AGW, particularly regarding the supposed "settled science" regarding long-term catastrophic future effects. How can long-term catastrophic future effects be settled science? Sea levels have risen a foot in the last 100 years, we've coped, with AGW they're supposed to rise between 6 inches to a foot and half in the next 100 years. We'll cope no doubt. Are there even more catastrophic and dire consequences that await us if we don't change our ways? We don't know.

        Assuming the existence of AGW, for argument's sake, then the question becomes, how big a problem is it and what should be done about it. If that were crystal clear we'd either be taking concerted action or we'd agree it's no big deal and we should be talking about other things.

        I'm not convinced about the supposed catastrophic effects of AGW nor the remedies to deal with them. I am however, keeping an open mind and trying to learn as much as I can about the topic.

    • You assume that thinking critically doesn't lead to the commonly held conclusion. Yes, just because a position is popular doesn't mean it's right, but it also doesn't mean it's wrong.

      Many very intelligent people have examined this issue thouroughly and come to, with some differences on the details, the same conclusion that Suzuki or others have come to. When the concept of a scientific consensus is thrown out (at least a loose consensus – again, beliefs on details vary wildly person-to-person due to uncertainties in available information), it's valid not because science is done by democracy, but because those climate scientists are the ones who have spent the most time investigating the issue and, being scientists, are trained to think critically.

      Not everyone can investigate this issue fully – there are many important issues to look at and no one has time to look at them all, let alone one like this which requires a certain expertise to properly understand and interpret (there are plenty of aspects of climate change that I am totally unable to interpret correctly, simply because I don't have the experience in the field). So most people have to trust someone else's judgement – at least on some of the technical details or their interpretation. And I'd love to hear why that "someone else" should be anyone but the scientists who have spent a decade in school learning about earth's climate and then potentially decades afterwards research it actively.

      • I agree with your first paragraph. I have a personal aversion to the herd mentality and find that there is much truth in Nietzsche's line that "[m]adness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule." But you're quite right that the consensus opinion can, and often is, the correct one.

        I agree with some of the comments in your second paragraph but take issue with you that the discrepancy is only on the details. I think there is wide differences of opinion, not only on the details of AGW but important differences on the extent of AGW and what should reasonably be done about it.

    • Correction – In my original comment last paragraph, I meant to say people have defaulted to position "c)" not "a)'.

  11. "We are all Albertans"

    Fair enough point. But is this yet another disingenuous arguement for: "we can't afford to change"? The environmental damage alone is reason enough to find alternatives to the oil-sands…there are a number of credible critics out there who are frankly appalled at the cost to the environment – Dr Schindler at UofA for one. AB's plan to deal with this is laughable…yes the oil sands are very important to us collectively…and no that doesn't mean that we can't afford to move to more sustainable alternatives.

    • I'm seeing this entire oilsands argument as a bit of a farce. Oooh, the oilsands are bad, bad, bad. Therefore, I shall not walk to the corner store or consider taking a bus. Nor will I put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. I say this even though I will not walk to the corner store or consider taking a bus . . .but that is because I am basically a very selfish person and will do what is convenient unless it is made less convenient. It is a personal failing I'm admitting to here, but I bet I'm not alone.

      • I see you're being honest but i'm not entirely with you. I assume you aren't making the arguement that, since we're all beneficiaries in one way or another from the oil industry, and therefore hypocrites for objecting to their use while accepting the good things. That we should therefore not attempt to change our ways, or even put up with a little less…like throwing away the air -miles card that encourages us to think that second holiday is free of cost.

        • No, not at all. I'm saying that because one thing is environmentally bad although financially good, that is no reason not to reduce our energy consumption in other areas. To be significant, I'm adding, we need to be forced. Yes I know the MYLs will scream at this, but it is human nature to idle the car (it's cold and we don't want to get into a cold car), use the drive-thru (now that the car is nice and warm we don't want to get out of it), etc. Personally, I think raising the prices in the form of taxes is a better way of forcing us–as opposed to passing laws, I mean. Why not have a drive-thru tax, for example? And we either make it better for the children behind us by each doing our bit to conserve energy/reduce pollution, or we make it better by lowering the national debt. Waiting around and doing nothing because we have an oilsands just seems silly.

          • I'm glad to see [ but not at all surprised] to see that you aren't a fan of zero sum agruements either. We don't have to change our behaviour radically at all. Perhaps drive the car less, ride the bike to school or work a couple of days a week, install a better furnace [we're in the process right now] I despise this govt that demonized much of what Dion had to say purely for political reasons, while all the time knowing that they would eventually have to bring in many of the same programmes…a grave sin in my opinion.
            Much of my opposition to the oil sands is based on the appalling environmental cost to AB itself, and to the north generally, of its too rapid expansion. I have a friend who works there [ more than 20years now] who tells me the degradation, the price paid by the environment and the people who work there, is awfull…it's AB's dirty little secret.

  12. (con't) Where I'm less with you is when you say that the prudent thing to do is to beleive the "climate scientists". We have to distinguish between the claims the climate scientists are making, and the political spin about those scientific claims. No serious scientist is claiming that if we don't act now we're doomed with runaway AGW. Only the Al Gore crowd is making that claim.

    The other thing that has me wondering is this new claim by Michael Mann that the Medieval Warming Period didn't exist, that is to say, that things are warmer now than during the MWP. That's not what I learned in school growing up. Why has that well known settled view now changed? Because Michael Mann said so. I say not so fast.

  13. (con't) Finally, I agree with much of what you say in your third paragraph. We do end of having to trust the judgment of the experts in the field, or in this case, the experts in the various fields that can contribute to our understanding of AGW. But the problem with AGW issue is that' it's largely a future based prediciton, the variables are almost beyond our scientific capability, the computer models can only go so far,.. and our understanding of climate and what affects it is still poorly understood. This isn't as easy as say, determining whether the earth circles the sun. There's total scientific certainty there. A lot less so with AGW or so it seems to me. I may change my mind as I read more, or conversely become even more sceptical.

    • The basic conclusions of AGW theory – that increased CO2 concentrations will cause a general warming of the planet through an exacerbated greenhouse effect, and that it will cause an increasingly acidic ocean, are pretty well established. Yes, there's some room for doubt as to the exact extent of those two basic problems, or the secondary effects of those problems, but that's what I mean by the details.

      But, does the uncertainty about the details change what we should be doing about it? I don't think so. You touched on a number of reasons to reduce consumption of carbon-based forms of energy – those haven't changed (I would argue they're all the more relevant). Furthermore, while you're right that we cannot say conclusively that there will be catastrophic effects from AGW, there are several minor effects that we are relatively certain of (coral death and spread of invasive specie, for example – which alone have major impacts on the forestry, seafood and tourism industries).

      There are some potential consequences that are less certain, sure, and the potential for a catastrophic event is low, but given all the reasons to make cuts to carbon emissions before considering uncertainties with AGW, why wait and take the chance that the proverbial dice roll turns out badly? We have never, in our history, disposed of our waste haphazardly without significant consequence to the environment or our health – I see no reason to operate under the assumption that things will be different with CO2 emissions.

  14. AGW "pretty well established"

    By the "establishment' yes (though fading quickly), by real scientists, not so much.

    Once one appreaciates that this is not, like other forms of physical science or chemistry, where a theory exists, it is tested by experimentation, and then proven or disproven,

    but a theory for which a myriad of variables each with their own untested theories, are then plugged into highly unreliable computer models and churn out predictions. Highly unreliable, because no computer model has ever been able to predict complex interactions…ever (indeed the very cimate models created were attempted to be used by India on a much smaller scale on monsoons for PAST ie known, patterns and could not be replicated).

  15. But of course the real "proof" has come in the negative.

    That is, the theory says if CO2 goes up, so will temps.

    But it has been "tested" over the last ten years. CO2 has skyrocketed but the planet has cooled.

    In any other paradigm (real scientific paradigms) that would mean the theory/model is disproven, and back to the drawing board.

    But in the highly politicized world of "climate science" (as clearly evidenced by the emails, not to mention the overt displays at Copenhagen/Kyoto and by partisan followers), the theory is still proven even when the test shows the opposite.

    That, boys and girls, is junk science.

    The biggest inconvenient truth out there, and one that had them ranting about it on the emails, is that warming hasn't happened since this theory strongly took hold.

    The other data manipulation and corrupted peer reviews is merely gravy on the mash potatoes of discreditation.

    • Watch out for the faked cream of liberal conspiracy on your christmas pud, it'll give you indigestion:)
      Have a good xmas K.

  16. Merry Christmas and have a safe and happy holidays.

  17. I find it interesting that Peter Lougheed – the big gun that stopped Pierre Trudeau's NEP (which by the way – Canada desperately needs right now – because pretty well all of Albert'a's oil and gas goes south and Canada has to import from places like Venezuela) – Lougheed is severely critical of Ralph Klein giving away the store including the kitchen sink – and Klein and now Stelmach selling more licences.
    The Saudis in particular – and OPEC altogether – are very careful about managing supply. When I lived there – they looked upon the oil bonanza as "Allah looking favourably at them" and felt thaqt he could turn his face away at any moment.
    Alberta – under Klein and Stelmach is letting oil companies run through their finite reserves as if it is grains of sand in the desert…
    Canada (and Alberta) could deliver on their climate change obligations by managing the flow at current levels – rather than doubling and tripling output.