So, what did that all mean for a Canada-U.S. climate change strategy?

The Obama visit left us with a lot of new questions on the file


This afternoon’s Harper-Obama press conference left us with more questions than answers. In four years, will we share a carbon market? Will Canada retain its intensity targets while the U.S. commits to absolute reductions in greenhouse gases? Will we have cap and trade? It’s all still anybody’s guess. What we do know is, we’re likely going to get a new electric grid. Who saw that coming?

The presser, in which Harper pleaded ignorance on the differences between absolute and intensity targets—”these are just two different ways of measuring the same thing,” he said—left an awful lot of room for criticism. “I think it was a pretty embarrassing day for Canada with respect to climate change policy,” says Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute environmental group, who saw Obama’s reference to Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s interest in the issue as a rebuke to Canada. “Mexico,” says Raynolds, “a country with one-fifth of the GDP per capita than Canada.”

Yet there were some hints in the press conference, little clues to breaking the code. When a Quebec journalist posed a question to Obama about “tar sands,” he replied using the language of “oil sands,” which is not without political significance. In terms of priorities, Harper and Obama placed climate change high, second only to the problem of the economy. The climate-change talk centred on technology and scientific research rather than on regulations, although Obama did mention that, when it comes to carbon capture and storage, “right now the technologies are at least not cost-effective.”

As for the Alberta oil sands, Obama reiterated the position he took earlier this week while speaking with the CBC—the U.S. has its own problems. “Here in Canada, you have the issue of the oil sands,” he said. “In the United States we have issues around coal.”

As for the substance of the joint announcement, Harper started first, laying out the way forward in broad strokes; Obama filled in little details. “We are establishing a U.S.-Canada clean energy dialogue which commits senior officials from both countries to collaborate on the development of clean energy science and technology that will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change,” Harper said. Clunky, maybe, but more than we knew this morning. “It was interesting,” notes Canada West Foundation President and CEO Roger Gibbins, “that they talked about a clean energy ‘dialogue.’ Usually people talk about a framework, an understanding, an agreement, something that has some structure around it. Which I think indicates just how early on in the process this discussion is.”

Silly question: What exactly is a “dialogue,” anyway. “That means that they’ve basically charged the senior officials, cabinet-level and sub-cabinet-level, to work together to bring forward some plans, some ideas,” says Carleton University’s Michael Hart, an advisor to the Canadian federal government during the negotiations for Canada-U.S. free trade and NAFTA.

Meaning this is about delaying the inevitable? Not necessarily, says Hart. Getting more specific now, he says, would be “premature. They don’t have a
climate plan right now, the Obama administration. What they have is a climate attitude.”

Later, Obama chimed in, saying in particular that the dialogue would “support the development of an electric grid that can help deliver the clean and renewable energy of the future to homes and business both in Canada and the United States.” The idea forwarded here appears to be a “smart power grid,” an electrical grid capable of handling the intermittent flow of electricity typical of renewable energy sources like wind power. But that may not be much of an announcement, as it turns out. “There’s no magic to that, you simply have to build more grid,” says University of Calgary environmental economist David Keith.

Obama noted during the presser that he favours a cap-and-trade system, while other countries have debated a carbon tax (could he have meant Canada??). Keith, who bristles at the media’s fascination with the environmental threats posed by the oil sands, to the exclusion of much dirtier coal-fired power plants, thinks Obama’s cap and trade system will win. “The reason is that the Obama administration wants to move relatively quickly,” says Keith, who notes its a regulatory framework the U.S. pioneered and is most comfortable with (Keith himself, like many experts in environmental policy, favours a carbon tax).

But it’s not very likely any of this will happen soon, says Hart, whatever the priorities as they were laid out today. “You cannot do some of the
things that some people think should be done on climate change without a more robust economy,” he says. “No matter how many ways they tried to spin it, imposing either a cap and trade or a carbon tax is not going to do the economy any good.”


So, what did that all mean for a Canada-U.S. climate change strategy?

  1. “So, what did that all mean for a Canada-U.S. climate change strategy?”

    It means that Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama have agreed to very carefully squeeze as much money as possible out of taxpayers and buy as many votes as possible with cynical “green” redistribution programs. But with the tacit understanding that this little bit of goose will be their third favorite racket. Their most compelling priorities are (1) throw future generations’ earnings and savings into the central-bank-induced collapse of the world banking and finance system, and (2) prolong and deepen the problems in the middle east so they will have the justification to funnel $$$ to military contractors and continue to expand domestic police and security apparatuses.

  2. It means that Harper and Obama just took a page from the the old master’s(Cretian’s) playbook. Cretian dazzled the eco-loons for over a decade, signing agreements he had no intention of honouring(because we couldn’t without shutting down 1/3 of our economy), forming committees, holding earnest discussions and the sum total of it after 13 years…he let the nutty professor(Dion) name his dog Kyoto. And the eco-nuts never had a bad word to say about Cretian. Obama’s a quick study. He has boned up on his Canadian studies and i’m sure he now know’s the tar sands supplies 20% of US needs. I’m just sure he’s gonna cut that off tomorrow and get it replaced from a more dependable source…Iraq…Venesuala…ya, right. It would be disingenious of him to ask us to shut down the tar sands without shutting down the whole US coal supply..whoops, there goes another 20%. Both men have no intention of turning a recession into a depression with goofy carbon taxes and crazy eco-schemes the Chinese/Indian economies haven’t the slightest intention of buying into. Many EU countries have announced they are putting eco-suicide on hold while they deal with real problems also. So the sum total to come out today…Obama and Harper have announced they are going to “open a dialogue” to study the problem, so there can be a united front, on energy security, money for the grid,blaa, blaa, blaa. I noticed the eco fraudsters have ramped up the doomsday retoric demanding we shut everything down immediately. Good luck with that. Millions of unemployed people in North America don’t give a rat’s ass about that. Somewhere in a cosy Ottawa office the whily master of the political game is looking at the cheering crowds as the motorcade goes by and says, Dat Obama guy catch on pretty quick, just tell dem wat day wanna hear, work for me. Cheers all. Ooops gotta go shovel out the driveway again, more global warming!

  3. The cat is gradually coming out of the bag on Globaloney, er, sorry, Global Warming ™, the latest scam to rip us all off. Seems like you would want some warming up there anyway. But alas, it is a fraud, like so many other things, and the ice age is almost upon us.

    Note that Global Warming is being morphed into Climate Change, since we are not warming, glaciers in total are increasing, the Arctic Sea ice is making a miraculous comeback, and independent scientists everywhere are finding a voice to overcome the shills that allowed this farce to get as far as it has. The new label will allow the PTB to still claim it is our fault, and more draconian measures are need to save us from ourselves. Follow the money.

    • Tom, Globaloney is a good term for it. A lot of other people are finally, finally waking up to this scam. As I mentioned the eco fraudsters(especially Big Al) have upped the anti since Obama got into power. One last chance to bilk the public. The loons are now claiming that if we don’t take insanely radical action right now, which for all intents and purposes means shutting down what’s left of western economies the entire Antarctic ice pack is going to melt, slide off the continent, cause the Earth’s polarity to reverse(I shit you not, this is what some of them are claiming), and assorted other Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse to appear. The good Dr. (Suzuki) has stated that he will go to his grave(soon, one might wish), and there is nothing that anyone can show him to make him change his mind. He has now left the field of science and has entered the realm of dogmatic religion. So many scientists were muzzled for so long for fear of losing jobs, income and government grants. Chist, Suzuki likely wanted then burnt at the stake. God, that reminds me, have you seen those creepy ads he has out. One of them looks like he has some kind of cult behind him on the rocks. Next they will be drinking the koolade. If you want a good laugh, U-Tube George Carlin’s “Saving the Planet”. Carlin was onto these hypocrites and fraudsters way before anyone else. Wish he was still around. Cheers and spread the word.

      • The Global Warming movement has indeed gone a bit overboard and has made (many) claims about the issues that are not supported by science. However, for me, the issue comes down to two facts –

        1) We’re dumping tons of stuff into the environment. When was the last time we dumped tons of anything into anywhere and it had a positive effect? CFCs started to destroy the Ozone layer, industrial and farm waste contaminate our water supplies. I’d love to hear one example of a truly environmentally neutral waste product. GW enthusiasts make unsupported claims, but so to GW deniers. The truth is we don’t really know exactly what this amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will do, but based on our history with waste and the environment, it’s doubtful to beneficial – and the few (but often ignored) good science on the matter indicates that the effect is indeed likely to be negative (look up ocean acidification – fairly well established result of an increase in atmospherical CO2 and the researchers tend not to make wild claims, having not been scooped up in GW histeria).

        2) Greenhouses gasses, by and large, come from non-renewables. Kind of a secondary reason, but a good one – we waste a ton of money on products which are getting harder (and more expensive) to obtain, ones which will not be around forever. Getting off these products and onto ones which are more reliable and, best of all, can be produced at home, would be a huge benefit for our economy, providing jobs and security for our country. Yes, I know, we have lots of oil, but there will always be a demand for that oil – from America, or from developing countries. Even if we stop using all oil and coal (we’re a fair way from getting off the cleaner Natural Gas), the Albertan economy will hardly suffer in the face of rising demand from China, India and Brazil. Reducing our carbon footprint, if done correctly, can provide significant long-term benefits to our economy and to our energy infrastructure.

        Just because one side went (way) overboard doesn’t mean the other side is 100% right. The sky isn’t falling, as some would claim, but there still are some serious concerns related to the emission of tons upon tons of greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere.

        • The fact also is almost all CO2 in the atmosphere is naturally occouring. Regardless of what we do or even if we vacated the planet something like 98% of CO2 would still be there. It would be interesting to ask the plublic if they has any idea of what the atmosphere is made of. The fraudsters portray a thick blanket of some dirty gas blanketing the planet. In fact it is essentially a trace element in the atmosphere less than 1/2 of 1%. Interesting to note also is where Canada sits in all of this. Of that tiny amount of CO2 that is man made Canada is responsible for 2% of that. If we cowtow to the fanatics like Suzuki and meet our Kyoto targets our percentage will drop to 1.7% of that total. For that we are supposed to demolish what’s left of our economy? I haven’t the foggiest, nor does anyone else as to how we do this without taking 1/3 of the cars and trucks of the road, 1/3 of the trains of the track. Close a 1/3 of our factories and turn our themostats down to about 10C. The hysteria from the loons is that we must meet these targets right now or were all gonna fry. This is insanity. The more amazing stat that never gets talked about by the fraudsters is the timelines for global warming. According to their doomsday models, if every country met their Kyoto targets we would slow down global warming by, wait for it, 12 to 24 months(that’s their figues not mine). For that we are going to shut down the western world? Are you kidding me. I’ll take my chances thank you very much and keep my hard earned money in my wallet. I will not be sending it to Big Al’s Carbon TradingCo. I hear he is now worth 100 million selling phoney hot air credits to suckers while his personal mansion sucks up more power than some subdivions, but no one is supposed to question him on that. Ironically Enron was about to get into the hot air trading racket before their other ponzi schemes caught up to them.

          Speaking of Big Al and his doomsday movie, there are more holes in that plot than a Hollywood pot boiler. The movie shows Big Al scratching on a board in front of an wrap audience. He tells them that the mathematical model is “very complicated” but to just trust him…and send money know doubt. There are many factual errors during the dog and pony show and some outright lies. He claims that people who live on some south sea atoll that is only a couple of feet above sea level have already been evacuated to New Zealand. This is news to the people in New Zealand. No one from New Zealand that I have been able to contact on line here have heard a thing about this. Origionally this was claimed to be something that might happen in 50 or 100 years IF the climate models were true. I guess that wasn’t enough for Big Al, he had to up the doomsday anti by saying it has already happened. IT HAS NOT!

          Another claim Big Al makes is that temp. increases in lock step with increases in CO2. He shoots up a pile of graphs and once again tells everyone to trust him as it is too complicated for the rubes in the audience to understand. However looking at actual graphs for the 20th century tell a different tale. From 1900 to 2000 the temp rose .6C. Oddly however, half of that increase happened before 1940 when industrilization took off. In complete defiance to what Al said from 1940 to the 1970’s the temp. actually declined. Damn, that mother nature just wouldn’t cooperate with Big Al’s theories! The temp did start to increase again during the 80’s and 90’s. However once again mother nature just won’t cooperate with Al. The 2000’s have seen temp actually decline by .16C. Funny because for the last 10 years China hyperramped up it’s industry to the point where they were opening one coal fired electrical generation plant a WEEK. Tempatures should have soared. That’s what Big Al said should happen but it didn’t. Now Big Al and the eco spin doctores are doing damage controal and have pronounced that we should not expect any warming for the next ten years(no expanation given for this by the way). But then look out, were all gonna fry. Just keep sending the money no doubt.

          Big Al may have finally shot his mouth off once too often. He actually said at a European conference the Polar Ice Pack will be totally gone in five years. It’s on line and I invite everyone to look it up. You may be tempted to buy some of that new beachfront property soon to be availble but I think I’ll wait a bit if Al doesn’t mind. He finally predicted something that is supposed to happen in the near future. Not suprisingly mainstream media didn’t call him out on this. Again, if he were outed as a fraud the press wouldn’t have an easy interview and a doomsday story to sell the public along with a lot of newpapers.

          One last thought, NASA has said the temp. on Mars also has increased half a degree. I guess the Martians too are producing too much CO2. Unlike Big Al I am not asking anyone to take my word for anything. All I ask is that you keep an open mind(unlike St. Suzuki who has closed his), do your own research and don’t believe every snake oil salesman coming down the pike. Cheers

          • First and last statements of that tirade contradict each other quite nicely, as a simple Wikipedia check will tell you ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_the_Earth%27s_atmosphere ). Current concentrations of CO2 are at ~380 ppm, significantly higher than pre-industrial levels, which cap out at around 300 ppm. This implies a human factor that is far higher than what you imply, wayne moores.

            Besides, we don’t have to bankrupt our economy to reduce our carbon emissions – that just plain ignorance. Efficiency reduces costs as well as carbon emissions, a bonus to any company. With sources of oil becoming more expensive to find and extract, finding alternatives now, especially ones that are more secure and less prone to wild speculation, would provide long-term economic stability. Plus, with the global energy market the way it is, with demand expected to massively outstrip supply, new sources of energy can only provide more jobs and wealth for the country. Again, even if we stop using Alberta’s oil, someone else will certainly want it.

            Oh, but I will agree, Al Gore’s an idiot and “carbon credits” are a sham. However, as with anything, look past the crazies – there are lot of extremists, but the overriding point, that we’re pumping too much CO2 and other air pollution into our atmosphere, is still a valid and significant concern.

          • Lots of climate change deniers out there for sure. The federal cabinet is full of them. Just ignore the weight of evidence from the scientific community, includinbg their overwhelming call to action on this issue. Continue with your sophomoric comments instead of supporting required change. Your grandchildren will ask you why you didn’t do something to stop this.

            I am glad to see Obama in the White House because he will embarass our government into making changes to combat climate change.

  4. Just thr same old put off bafflegab and PROMISES PROMISES

  5. A smart grid is not simply a bigger grid. A smart grid uses electronics and networks to monitor and manage the electrical supply.

  6. Well-at least they got along–perfectly. The only problem is all this “harping” on global warming– like the rest of u–it’s not where we are at–it’s the ice age coming–& wish our Government would stop trying 2 put money in the wrong-places. It’s the economy-needs resurection!–not the enviroment– it will look after it’s self–the changes 2 the earth happen from time 2 time– go to space .com– read all about it– the sun is cooling–not near as many solar flares this year-as ever before etc. etc. Taking money from Peter 2 pay Paul– will ony backfire– we- the tax payer have 2 pay it all back-we have free enterprize system- so why arent’ all business treated the same– u go broke- declare bankruptcy– & start from scratch–again.In a depression– jobs are always lost- what do they expect. U can not create a job– if there isn’t any!! the crunch has come– & this generation will have to learn–which they should have a long time ago-that u have 2 live within your income–& now they will have 2 spend their savings– & start over again!!! Think the 2 men– will have 2 let go of all this “printing money” do we really want 2 have this debt over our heads??? Unions will have 2 learn- a steady job is what is needed to make payments & survive– not strikes & asking 4 pay raises all the time– wake up– & smell the coffee. Harper & Obama seem 2 get along– the only difference is– Obama thinks socialistic–those theorys will backfire on him.

    • “It’s the economy-needs resurection!–not the enviroment– it will look after it’s self”

      “go to space .com– read all about it”

      “Obama thinks socialistic–those theorys will backfire on him.”

      wow… we obviously have an expert on the subject here…

  7. Just how green is Obama? Did anyone notice that in the CBC/Mansbridge interview last week, Mr. “O” emphasized that the USA wants to move towards energy self-sufficiency and that the USA has vast amounts of COAL in the ground. He also mentioned that coal “scrubbers” provided a new technology to produce “cleaner”energy from coal. Significant? ya think?? NOTE TO SELF: Buy up all the American coal company stocks you can afford! Old King Coal may again become a merry old soul again!

    • (chuckle)

  8. Most people posting on this discussion claim that climate change due to human-induced rises in greenhouse gases isn’t happening. If they want to disagree with the growing scientific consensus, fine. Let’s suppose the jury is still out on this. But the accused, fossil fuels, have already been convicted of smog and acid rain, and have we ever incorporated their long-term costs into the price of fuel? NO.

    I’ve read ranting about the price of renewables. I ask what my fellows above think about Ontario giving the nuclear industry a blank cheque to build two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station, despite the fact that every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone over budget? Why should nuclear power companies pass their cost overruns on to Ontario’s long-suffering electricity consumers and taxpayers? What is it, $60 on every ratepayer’s annual bill, to pay off the nuclear debt in Ontario?

    And of course, this says nothing about the hundreds of millions in annual federal subsidies for the Canadian nuclear industry. From http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/03/10/warmed-over-nukes-solomon.aspx, one can find Lawrence Solomon writing “No other technology has failed so big, so often, and so spectacularly. No other technology has needed so much help from so many governments over so long a period of a time.”

    Renewables, on the other hand, can give us a decentralized and more stable power grid. Without the pollution. The slight increase in price, rather than being hidden away in health care costs or nuclear bailouts, can be in our face enough that, hopefully, we’ll start to question our wasteful habits. What is so desirable about my workplace seeing a dozen people leaving their computers, monitors, speakers, and printers lit up all night and on weekends? And long weekends? Why should we not question and cease this senseless waste, of which I’ve only described the tip of the iceberg?

  9. climate change is inevitable; but i’m more concerned with the environment i live in being polluted; ‘course i know C02 isn’t a pollutant for those who breathe CO2.

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