Meanwhile, under the Arctic ice… (Part II)


If no coherent debate about climate change is generated during this campaign, we will look back years from now and feel deeply ashamed. It’s too alarming to ignore. (Or is it so alarming that ignoring it is the easiest out?) At the very least, if we’re not going to seriously consider policies to fight global warming, can we join the adult conversation about how to best cope with it?


Meanwhile, under the Arctic ice… (Part II)

  1. it might make an interesting rhetorical appraoch to the debate, on both sides of the border. A statement like “if we are not going to fight global warming, it is imperative we develop a plan to permanently disassemble and relocate New Orleans before the end of the next presidential administration”, it might get people thinking.

  2. Sadly, Mike, I don’t think that point is rhetorical any longer.

  3. “Or is it so alarming that ignoring it is the easiest out?”

    I think there’s a lot of truth in in that suspicion.

    I worry that humans – or at least our generation and society of humans – is unable to consider the future and act in an altruistic manner on that basis.

    I’m trying to think of a historical comparison where a society made monumental shifts and sacrifices – solely to benefit future generations. I can;’t off the top of my head…

  4. Oh, I’m already plenty ashamed of what we’ve done as a society. I don’t see much to be done about it. Demonstrations are ignored and laughed off these days; earnest conversation about these things are rare (though certainly appreciated by me!) in the media; the campaign is about whose puffins are poopiest.

    To be honest I have a huge amount of hope in Elizabeth May. She’s great at sounding straightforward, intelligent, and contrasts very strongly with the old men in suits spouting talking point. I think she might be able to use her position in the debates to leverage the environment and the state of things into the media consciousness.

    Incidentally, speaking of shoving things into the news cycle, I hope you’re able to write about this more in the magazine, or wherever else.

  5. John,

    Didn’t you get the memo ? The whole AGW theory, where a small change in a microscopic component of our atmosphere, has now been picked apart and shown to be ludicrous. With the very loud exception of the IPCC scientists who years ago sold their souls for fame, travel, media attention and research money and the Chattering Monied class like Al gore, who has made half a billion dollars of The Big Scare, the rest of the world is moving on.

    There will always be politicians, late to the party but always willing to jump in front of an already organized parade and yell “Follow me !”, but it won’t change the fact that the climate is by definition in a constant state of change and is now entering a cooling phase. That the previous 30-40 years of warming were falsely represented to be Man’s fault, that Inconvenient Lie is being proven wrong every year we get cooler.

    The debate should be about the hidden agenda’s of all the do-gooders who want to turn our civilization back a hundred years to a time before inexpensive, convenient energy availability.

  6. At least 2 parties are talking about this issue – one being the official opposition. When do we, and the media, begin to ask of the other parties why they are insisting on framing the election around other agendas without responding to the debate on the issues?
    Why is Harper being allowed to attack and yet not illuminate us on his intentions? Who is getting paid off here?

  7. The Canadian media certainly aren’t without blame with regards to producing good reporting on the environmental policies of the various political parties. I have lost count of all the media portrayals of the Green Shift as “complicated” and “difficult to understand”, when the concept behind the policy is pretty simple (“Cut income taxes, shift to pollution”). Nor much mention of how most economists think it is a good plan.

    And I have yet to see any detailed explanation from the Conservatives on what exactly their environmental policy is. Do they have one, or are they happy to continue to watch the icecaps melt and have climate change continue unabated?

  8. “At the very least, if we’re not going to seriously consider policies to fight global warming, can we join the adult conversation about how to best cope with it?”

    We need to begin making it palatable to eat insects. We need recipes on cooking shows and cuisine in restaurants. Colleges training insect farming/gathering. Be a suitable Cabinet post for any Conservative politician.

  9. “The Canadian media certainly aren’t without blame with regards to producing good reporting on the environmental policies of the various political parties. ”

    It’s not the Canadian media, it’s the Canadian people. I think Geddes is right, this is the election we’ll look back at and realize Canadians really are no better than the Americans after all.

    Dion was too optimistic about the goodwill of the Canadian people. Coyne had it right a while back, “Canadians want SOMETHING DONE about global warming, as long as SOMEONE ELSE pays for it.”. Dion challenged people to pay for it themselves, and it isn’t selling, because deep down you stupid Canadians are less selfish than the Americans.

    You want your big suburban houses. You want your mid-sized SUVs. You want your cottage you have to drive 5 hours to, and have it air-conditioned too. And God forbid anyone asks you to cut down on it.

    The women’s vote says it all, which is why it’s where the Libs are failing. It is women who want the SUVs, the imposing suburban home, the marble flooring shipped from halfway around the world. And they know that Dion’s policies will make it difficult for them to have it all.

  10. Pete:
    a memorable post! I feel better already…but the question is: are Canadian women more or less stupid than American men? Is having a Hummer worse than imported Italian marble bathroom floors?

  11. Seriously, though, the debate seems to be stuck in a big rut. People are being asked to sign up to major shifts in the economy that must be managed by government and are understandably leery. Facing that, the proponents of these schemes have rapidly resorted to name calling, accusations of stupidity, short-sightedness, venality etc.

    Given that, it is hardly surprising that the debate has gone nowhere.

    What would be more interesting is some discussion on the relative costs and benefits on differing courses of action. There area alternatives to carbon taxes, cap and trade etc. A good start might be to stop subsidizing oil companies!

  12. “discussion on the relative costs and benefits on differing courses of action”

    Bill S

    To me, the lack of talk about how to achieve significant carbon reductions is a sign that people who think global warming is happening are not that serious about it.

    Major measures need to be taken if we are too achieve significant carbon reductions but to listen to advocates they make it seem like all we have to do is be a little more earnest in our recycling.

    I often feel like I’m playing three card monte when I discuss how to achieve Kyoto targets or somesuch with agw believers because they don’t actually want to talk about what’s involved.

  13. “Cap and trade” seems like a system that will delay any meaninful change in behaviour. It’s a bit like me paying money to a few of my friends NOT to kill anyone for the next few years, to offset the murder spree I have planned. A carbon tax may be inelegant in many ways, but I think it comes closer to making both individuals and corporations shoulder the social and environmental costs of their decisions.

    But I also think that we need to think about the behaviours we subsidize (like Bill S.). Our road and highway system comes to mind as a massive subsidy to carbon emitting behaviour – maybe all roads should be tolled, and the licensing fees for vehicles be raised significantly. That would make public transit more viable, encourage folks to live close to where they work, pressure school boards to rely on bussing less, etc…

  14. Sean S

    How much economic disruption are you willing to put up with to reduce carbon emissions? If agw is really happening, which I think you believe, how far are you willing to go stop it? Toll roads would be a start but not nearly enough.

    And congrats on being named caption contest winner in this week’s mag.

  15. jwl,

    Thanks! Mini-Obama and I are drowning in hope.

    As for the level of disruption I would tolerate: the answer is `quite a bit`.

    It`s not just a matter of global warming (though I do find the evidence credible to the point where I`m not willing to risk that the scientists are wrong). I think shifts in our social and economic behaviour will be driven by the decline of fossil fuels, anyway. As such, I`d like to see us be in control of those shifts, as much as possible, rather than having to react to crises in oil, gas and coal shortages. My best assessment is that making the consumption of fossil fuels artificially expensive now will have enormous econommic payoffs down the road.

    But to return to global warming, I see sacrifice in that respect as an extension of the values I try to teach my own kids. It`s funny how we venerate our soldiers for the sacrifices they make, and remind ourselves and our kids that those young men and women put their lives on the line for future generations. I think the time has come for us to stop honouring the great generations of the past through solemn remembrance, and to ask ourselves if we are prepared to likewise make sacrifices for the benefit of our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

    And when I think about it that way, the thought of living a poorer existence – materially – seems like a rather paltry sacrifice, compared to dying in a war. I`m going to bet that a lot of the soldiers in WWII, for example, had some doubts about the ultimate benefits of fighting the Nazis. But they did so anyway, because they weren`t willing to risk the alternative.

    For my children, I`m not willing to risk that global warming predictions are a mistake. I genuinely want my life to have meaning beyond my small chunk of years on this earth, and I believe that material sacrifices in the name of environmental stewardship are one small way I can acheive that.

  16. The analogy with WWII is instructive. The effort was a total societal one with a defined goal and the pain was severe but had a foreseeable end.

    Here we have unbalanced sacrifice in prospect, no end in sight and the requirement not to act decisively, but to forgo activities and benefits.

    Tough sell or what!

  17. “Tough sell or what!”

    Yup. But lets not forget that the outcome of WWII was far from certain as it was being fought. And VE Day was hardly the end of it, when you consider the ensuing Cold War, and the dynamics of modern Russia to this day (if you want to stretch things!). But certainly, the ostensible outcome of a war is easier to measure (force your opponent to surrender) than environmental goals are (with regard to climate change, anyway).

  18. Sean S

    That’s interesting about how you relate it to your kids. I don’t have any kids myself but I have lots of young nephews/nieces/cousins and I view it in same way as you but reach a different conclusion.

    Since I am conservative, I need a lot of convincing something is occurring before I am willing to act. To me, mother nature has heated/ cooled the earth over the millennia and now some clever clog scientists want to muck around with this cycle and I am freaked out because nothing good ever happens when humans start tinkering with nature’s ways.

    And I also wonder how many billions of $$$ are we going to spend on a problem that may, or may not being occurring, when there are more immediate problems we could solve with that money right now.

  19. jwl… how do you suppose that some “clever clog scientists” want to muck around with the cycle? Up until the last 50 years or so, the amount of CO2 produced by man was fairly small. Now we’ve pumped tonnes and tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    How would going back to the amount of CO2 we produced in 1980 or earlier be “tinkering with nature’s ways”?

  20. jwl,

    I think it’s healthy that we not make global warming a religious, a priori fact, and that we question it like crazy. The stakes are high, I agree.

    That said, we’re not really talking about mucking with mother nature, so much as mucking with human behaviour. If scientists were arguing that we ought to start pumping some sort of anti-carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere to neutralize the threat, I’d be suspicious. But alterning our behaviour is all about removing our potential influence on the planet – in a climate sense.

    I do think that the case for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a firmer one – and something I expect a sceptical conservative could get behind more easily. I firmly believe that some foresight and anticipation of this shift makes good economic sense. Now, we could debate if a carbon tax is the best way to acheive that (I’m betting you’d argue in favour of letting market forces drive the shift). Perhaps investing like crazy in alternative energies is the way to go, instead. Maybe putting the billions into helping third-world nations burn less fuel would produce better outcomes.

    I do think there’s a lot more room for intelligence and common ground in this debate than we’ve seen in this election – regardless of where we stand politically.

  21. I remember back in the sixties when the panic was about over-population and mass starvation. What is interesting is how that worked out. Yes, population did grow very rapidly, but none of the predicted bad effects resulted and this was largely because of the green revolution, a boring program to increase food production run by boring agronomists.

    I am not fearful of climate change, since I am confident we can deal with the effects if we think it through. I am also confident that my children (who are much smarter than me) will be able to deal with this in their turn.

    The end of the world is not at hand!

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