Let’s take Stephen Harper seriously on climate change

Thirty or so questions for the Prime Minister


Canada's PM Harper outlines his government's plan to participate in a military campaign against Islamic State militants

Yesterday, the federal government released its annual report on this country’s contribution to global climate change, demonstrating anew that we are nowhere near meeting the targets this government committed to for 2020. And so, perhaps predictably, the New Democrats sent up Megan Leslie this afternoon to castigate the government once more for its inaction.

But where one might have expected Colin Carrie, the parliamentary secretary for the environment minister, to stand and read again from a blue piece of paper bearing the official assurances and taunts, here, instead, stood the Prime Minister. The House would, rest assured, get to hear Carrie’s recitation, but first it would hear from Stephen Harper—the PM making a rare foray into the secondary rounds of question period.

Perhaps Harper had been up late the night before and heard the President of the United States invoking climate change to question the utility of the Keystone XL pipeline, that private sector project that has somehow come to be a national cause for our country. Perhaps Harper felt it necessary to respond.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said first, “obviously, on this side, we do not favour a carbon tax, as advocated by the NDP.”

It should never not be funny to hear a member of the Conservative government proclaim his or her opposition to a carbon tax: years spent advocating for a price on carbon, a campaign promise to implement cap-and-trade and a loud opposition to a carbon tax, only to suddenly decide sometime later that cap-and-trade and a carbon tax were synonymous, no matter what that renders all that was said before.

All of which would at least be secondary by now, if the government could formulate any kind of an alternative proposal.

The Prime Minister boasted then that greenhouse-gas emissions had lately gone down even while the economy grew, though he neglected here to thank the provinces and the recession for much assistance in this regard.

“Specifically to the issue of oil and gas regulations, this government’s position has been clear that it wants to see oil and gas regulations on a continental basis, given the integrated nature of this industry,” Harper continued. “With the current conditions in the oil and gas sector, this government will not consider unilateral regulation of that sector.”

So there.

The New Democrats were sufficiently intrigued to follow up, Leslie rising awhile later to remind the Prime Minister that he once promised a “national system of regulations for the control of greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution” and to suggest that Harper and his government were, in failing to do so, “letting Canadians down.”

“I have been very clear in terms of regulating the oil and gas sector. It is something we would like to do,” he pleaded, “but that we must do on an integrated basis in a continental economy. Frankly, under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector. We are clearly not going to do it.”

Then later, “In fact, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector. I would be delighted if they did. Canada would be there with them. However, we will not impose unilateral penalties.”

He thrust his left hand in his pocket and jabbed and wagged his right index finger and he swore never to impose a carbon tax and the Conservatives leapt up to cheer their man.

So now, the fussing and gnashing about another sharp exchange on the topic of climate change.

But, if even just for kicks, let us take this seriously.

If the government believes it cannot enact regulations on the oil and gas sector unless the United States does something similar, why did Harper’s former environment minister twice predict that national regulations would be ready in years past? As of February 2013, the government was said to be “very close to finalizing” regulations for the oil and gas sector. Did the Harper government believe then that the Obama administration was prepared to act in some way? If so, what happened?

For that matter, how does the Harper government imagine a continental regulatory regime working for oil and gas? (Here is a look at where the United States might go next.) When does the Harper government imagine the American government might be ready to establish such a thing? How often have Canadian and American officials met to discuss such an arrangement? What is the state of those discussions? The Prime Minister says regulating the oil and gas sector “is something we would like to do,” so what, precisely, is the holdup?

What estimates and calculations support the Prime Minister’s contention that to proceed to regulate our oil and gas sector, regardless of the American situation, would be significantly harmful to Canadian industry? If the Prime Minister and his government are serious about this contention, let us see some math.

Is the Prime Minister at all concerned that the lack of regulations could be encumbering Canadian industry and hurting the cause of the oil sands?

Does the Prime Minister mean to suggest the Canadian oil and gas industry is so fragile that it would be profoundly wounded by new regulations?

When the Prime Minister says no one in the world is acting to regulate their oil and gas industry, is he dismissing Norway, for some particular reason?

What about Alberta? Does the Prime Minister believe the province’s unilateral carbon levy is a bad policy?

What about British Columbia’s carbon tax? Does the Prime Minister believe that is a bad policy? Is he concerned that B.C.’s premier is extolling the virtues of a carbon tax to other provinces?

For that matter, to what degree might the federal government hope that the provinces will figure it out for us?

Setting aside the Harper government’s previous positions on these sorts of things, if a cap-and-trade system, as the NDP has proposed, and a carbon tax, as the Liberals once proposed, are both unacceptable, how does the Prime Minister imagine the oil and gas industry’s emissions being regulated? By how much would the Prime Minister see the industry’s emissions reduced? At what cost? Does he imagine his regulations costing less and being more effective than a comparable cap-and-trade or carbon tax system?

Whatever happened to a more nuanced discussion of carbon pricing?

What about Peter Kent’s 30/30 experience?

Even if the Prime Minister is waiting for the President, what’s stopping the Prime Minister from publicly releasing his government’s proposal for regulations now? Why not table its plan tomorrow so that the public can better judge the NDP’s apparently ruinous proposal against an alternative?

In the meantime, does the Prime Minister see any conceivable way this country can meet its Copenhagen targets?

For that matter, to what degree does he worry about the prospects of climate change? How does he feel about the fact that he has been in office for eight years and has yet to implement a comprehensive approach to greenhouse-gas emissions? How would he explain that? Would he say it demonstrates a failure of federal policy or a lack of political will? Would he blame himself? The Americans? The Canadian public?

That last one is a doozy. But if the government has looked out across the expanse of opinion polling and decided it’s simply not worth the political effort, it would be nice to hear someone from the government say that.

If we had a serious Parliament, we might have a debate along these lines: We could imagine the environment committee having taken up a comprehensive study of this country’s federal regulations for greenhouse-gas emissions at some point in the last five years, or we could think that all of the above questions could be pursued by the committee, first thing next year.

But if the Prime Minister wants to be frank, he and his government might go ahead and answer the questions above. And the New Democrats and Liberals might offer their own answers. Or, at least, we might incessantly ask them.

That might finally show us a way past the paralysis of inaction that this Prime Minister once vowed to avoid: “Now we have to do something.”

That might uphold two principles: that climate change is “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today,” and that, “We owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to address this world problem.”

That might at least give the parliamentary secretary some new talking points to recite.


Let’s take Stephen Harper seriously on climate change

  1. To initiate a carbon tax or cap and trade at a time when the Canadian oil and gas industry is threatened by the might of OPEC would be an exercise in national insanity.

    In any event, notwithstanding our economic growth the the last few years, based almost entirely on the petroleum industry, Canada’s CO2 emissions have been falling, although not as quickly as they have in the US thanks to the “war on coal”. In any event, the chimera of “climate catastrophe” has been effectively debunked by 18 years of stable global temperature, and Harper is right on the money when he says that unilateral imposition of a job-killing tax at this juncture would be “crazy”.

    • That’s funny, Lee, then explain why he never moved to initiate regulations when oil was over 100$ a barrel? Probably because he’s never had any intention of doing it in the first place, and all of this stuff that he was is and was just stalling on the issue, hoping the US gets a Republican President in 2016 who will do less then nothing, or presuuming Obama’s hands were tied (the latter proved false, and the former is wishful thinking).

      A for 18 years of “stable climate temperatures”, that’s a hoot. Try looking at some actual science. http://www.skepticalscience.com/no-warming-in-16-years-advanced.htm

      • “More trouble looms for the IPCC. The body may need to revise statements made in its Fourth Assessment Report on hurricanes and global warming. A statistical analysis of the raw data shows that the claims that global hurricane activity has increased cannot be supported…tests six IPCC statements against raw data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Administration…”When you average the number of storms and their strength, it almost exactly balances.” This isn’t indicative of an increase in atmospheric energy manifesting itself in storms…The IPCC continues: “It is more likely than not (> 50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.” But, as Hatton points out, that conclusion comes from computer climate models, not from the observational data, which show no increase…”The IPCC goes on to make statements that would never pass peer review,”…”

        And btw, Kevin Trenberth, the major IPCC climate scientist, and also co-author with the notorious Peter Gleick, is the principal player behind the global warming alarmism “science” of hurricanes.

        “The IPCC’s AR4 chapter lead was Kevin Trenberth, who features prominently in the Climategate emails. In 2005, the National Hurricane Center’s chief scientist Chris Landsea resigned his post in protest at the treatment of the subject by Trenberth…”I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound. As the IPCC leadership has seen no wrong in Dr. Trenberth’s actions and have retained him as a Lead Author for the AR4, I have decided to no longer participate in the IPCC AR4.”

        Hmmm…maybe Trenberth’s personna of climate science incompetence is instead an actual embracement of the ‘Peter Gleick’ methodology, no?

      • Real science? Real Jabberwocky for careful readers who, like me, actually are “real” scientists. I prefer to use the raw (although “gently massaged”) graphics of NOAA and hadCRUT. What your link shows is a desperate attempt by warmists to justify their beliefs with a bunch of irrelevancies. That’s not science. Hell, even the revered IPCC doesn’t deny that the last 18 years without warming doesn’t conform to the models.

        • A “real” scientist? Bullocks.

          If you have a 6 x 6 x 4ft block of ice in your living room, versus a 6 x 6 x 1/12 ft sheet of ice, which one is going to offset an increase in temperature? which one is going to handle it longer? Which one is going to look like it is “recovering” when the temperature cools down again?

          Our weather is regulated by a multitude of heat sinks (ice shelves, ocean, ecosystem, etc.) that have developed over millennia and offset wide fluctuations in temperature. When those heat sinks dissipate (not by area, but by VOLUME), our climate will be like Mars.

          This stuff is common sense.

          • You’re an idiot

          • And this is why I always dismiss Billy Bob: he tends to confrontationally pontificate and when you disagree with him he calls you an “idiot”
            Why he thinks this is persuasive is beyond me

  2. Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in human history.
    CO2 is not a pollutant.
    Without CO2 there would be no photosynthesis, no plants, no oxygen, no life.
    Water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas.
    The climate is always in a state of change.
    The suns solar radiation has more effect on earths climate than any other factor.
    One large volcanic eruption puts more gases and particulates into the atmosphere than human kind has since walking upright.
    For those who are convinced that CO2 is bad, just stop exhaling.

    • Too much of anything can be bad for you, nitwit. Water is good for you – in fact essential for life – but if your lungs fill with it…

      • Too many facts cause leftwingnuts brains to explode.

        You dispute photosynthesis and respiration?

        You have Leftist Mental Disorder.

        • You seem to suffer from a social disorder that undermines any argument you are trying to make. If you were having this same discussion with a neighbour, would you yell, scream, stamp your feet and get right in their face too?
          The vitriol that spews from you is toxic to your argument

    • Only people with their head up their nether regions bring up the argument “CO2 is not a pollutant” as a means to debunk global warming.

      The measurement is and always has been CO2 equivalents.

      Yes the climate is always in a state of change, and yes there are natural events that occur SPORADICALLY over millennia that can cause shorter term changes in climate. But these are not chronic effects that can lead to a complete resetting of the climate “norm”.

      • CO2 equivalents?

        You truly are an idiot.

        • Don’t debate with BB. His main rebuttal is: “you’re an idiot”

        • http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Glossary:Carbon_dioxide_equivalent

          Carbon dioxide equivalents are commonly expressed as million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, abbreviated as MMTCDE.
          The carbon dioxide equivalent for a gas is derived by multiplying the tonnes of the gas by the associated GWP:
          MMTCDE = (million metric tonnes of a gas) * (GWP of the gas).
          For example, the GWP for methane is 21 and for nitrous oxide 310. This means that emissions of 1 million metric tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide respectively is equivalent to emissions of 21 and 310 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

          You know that light you see at the end of the tunnel, BillyBob? You’ve got your head so far up your ass that it’s actually the light coming from your mouth…

  3. Baiting the Left

    Scramble their Brains (more likely Fire and Forget)

    1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

    2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

    3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

    5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation

  4. Hansen’s motivation stems from wanting for his grandkids to be able to enjoy a stable climate. Climate change deniers on the other hand tend to find motivation through the lens of material wealth, stemming from their love and worship of material wealth, and the ability of this materiality to generate something called “advancement” (the which we have never been able to truly determine what, other than a few new billionaires, has truly been advanced).

    I presume this “advancement” to be based almost entirely on the results of non-interventionist economic systems and concepts featuring an unregulated market-based distribution of material wealth – keeping the wealthy wealthy. Anything else is apparently “anti-democratic” and we are to believe that anything anti-democratic, no matter how truthful that something may be, is spawn of the devil. What of “democracy” for that matter is other than a media-trumpeted concept? And a concept it is, one we are expected to accept “just because”. Can we prove the benefit of democracy out in truth as observable fact? Can we prove we actually live in a democracy for that matter? Whose definition do we use? No we can’t prove it, but we are to believe it to be foundational to what an “advanced” civilization is built on. Maybe this sacred “democracy” is a concept only, used by the wealthy to drive the rest of us into frenzied consumerism (for their products). After all, people never work for what they think they already have, especially “freedom”. Convince us we live in something called a “free democracy” and we will never question our own freedom, or lack thereof, and we will become slaves to the idea of purchasing our freedom with the fanatical consumerism of pirates on a robbing binge.

    What about those who are less convinced they enjoy this truly rare and exceptional thing called freedom and who, as a result, have found something out about what freedom is and more specifically, what it is not? What about those who, as a result of their investigations into freedom, are imagining new ways and new means to a new economy, based upon:

    – values established through experience and observation, and not established by third party quotes, editorials, or by being told what is needed through the subversive suggestions voiced by corporate sponsored media everywhere.

    – a new concept of wealth (for all) the result of having broken away from oil and gas dependency and the ideology this dependency evokes and demands for its own tyrannical survival.

    – human as opposed to material values featuring commonalities wherever the new economy appears, an economy which could be described even as system-less but self-regulating.

    – the gradual return to locally-based production and sourcing, buying and trading and the weaning off from centralized power structures.

    The prospect of a new generation of anti-consumers filling in for the greedy and deceased boomer generation is enough to get large corporations into the business of blog trolling and employ of fiction writers sometimes called “the reporters and journalists of beautifully rational short-term based pseudo-truth” and whose throw-the-dice approach lives entirely in the hopes that climate scientists turn out to be wrong and that oil dependency and the power structures it creates can be sustained as long as possible – through rampant indiscriminate consumerism, carried out in a fervour, and enough to make all other competing belief systems envious.

    Shame on you trollers and science-fiction writers creating the perception that there is no need for an immediate global response to a climate crisis threatening to spin out of human control.

    • You need to get help at your local psych ward, go check yourself in.

      • He presents a reasoned and thoughtful argument and you wheel out one of your standard abrasive put downs. I would think that any psychologist reading this would find you a greater candidate for for therapy.
        Are you unable to step back and objectively read your posts?

  5. Great price. Whatvdegeee does he worry about #climate? He doesn’t care does he.

    Oh n BTW you forgot ur selves,
    main Stream media in this list..

    ‘Would he blame himself? The Americans? The Canadian public?’

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