Well, that's inconvenient - Macleans.ca

Well, that’s inconvenient


Globe and Mail, yesterdayEnvironment Minister Jim Prentice is playing down the climate-change pledges made Tuesday by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the United Nations, saying Beijing has yet to commit to clear targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Globe and Mail, todayA major prong of Canada’s climate change plan is so flawed that to pursue it now – with neither the proper science nor proper laws in place – would be “sheer folly,” concludes a new report. The risks of building a system to capture and store carbon dioxide underground include arsenic leaching into groundwater, unforeseen leaks, cross-border disputes and spiralling costs, according to a paper that will be released by the Munk Centre for International Studies Wednesday.


Well, that’s inconvenient

  1. I'm not going to say arsenic is a bad thing until the US comments on the matter.

    • Rest assured our government is working closely with the United States to come to a continental consensus as to whether or not arsenic is a bad thing.

      • That is, after all, the very definition of a "made in Canada solution".

  2. So carbon sequestration has the potential to be a huge technological and financial boondoggle … although it could work … eventually …

    For Cap and Trade to work properly it takes a lot of time to set up the proper mechanism and not set artificially low start-up prices for carbon. And if it goes wrong the only people happy are the market traders.

    Hmmm … seems like a simple carbon tax is looking a lot better all the time.

  3. I think anything that puts drinking water at risk is something that Canadians need to do a double-take on. This carbon sequestration could be Harper's version of Reagan's Star Wars… And all this to avoid paying a real upfront price, instead choosing the 'behind the door and hidden' cost…

  4. A tax on carbon is the best way to go; as any economist knows, the more something costs, the less people buy it. People are economic actors, and do things that suit their bottom line the best. Introduce income tax reductions to offset the carbon tax, and you're on your way.
    What reasonable politician would oppose that?
    Oh, Stephen Harper, you say?

    • It's not clear this income tax / carbon tax trade off will really work. I'm not opposed to the tax per se but events in europe have thrown up a snag that really should have been foreseen. If govts become addicted to CT revenue what happens when those revenues start to decline, as decline they must if your policy is effective. When you factor in the drop in income tax revenue you have a nasty big whole in your tax revenues. I'm no expert and very likely i'm missing something here, but it seems to me the tax can't be revenue neutral. It would be more honest to simply sell it as a green fund with some tax relief attached but the lion's share directed at funding new technologies. We have to give up this notion that there's a painless way to make the necessary changes. Obfuscating the issue merely provides openings for demagogic politicians like Harper to scream:" It's insane! It's a tax on everything"!

      • Dumping money into green technologies is usually a waste of money, because government is terrible at picking winners. Over time, revenues will likely fall from such a carbon tax, and any fiscal shortfalls will likely need to be covered by other forms of taxation. On the bright side, the net effect will be less carbon, and tax rates more or less where they are today. And governments can stop wasting money subsidizing green initiatives. It’s like pushing string…

        • I take your point re: govt and winners – perhaps CC may prove to be just such an example – but picking winners isn't the only option. Just generally funding R&D more generously would help.There must be other market orientated solutions out there? As to finding other revenue sources, i think it's been more of a problem than some european countries had anticipated.
          As a general principle reducing income taxes while pushing consumption taxes makes sense to me. What should be avoided is exactly what Dion attempted: to use CT revenue as a form of poverty alleviation – this played right into the hands of Harper. Dion through his incompetence dug a hole that CTas a workable policy tool may never get out of in this country.

        • No, you don't cover it by other forms of taxation, you cover it by raising the carbon tax.

          The idea is that you do it in stages. At the first stage, innovators and companies go for the low hanging fruit — they go for those technologies and processes where they can balance what they spend on implementing the tech and process with what they'd save on the tax. As revenue drop, you increase the carbon tax rate, thus providing further incentive for companies to seek out ways to reduce their carbon emissions even further, even those these might be more difficult (aka expensive).

          • Maximizing tax revenue from a carbon tax and reducing emissions over time are not necessarily consistent goals. There is a degree of moral hazard if governments try to maximize carbon tax revenue, so to resolve this you set the rate to achieve emissions reductions, not to raise a particular amount of revenue. Similarly with cigarette taxes.

          • I'm not talking about maximizing carbon tax revenue, however. I'm speaking of ensuring that carbon tax revenue does not decline as carbon efficiency increases. It essentially means that the ratio of taxation/economic output remains the same.

            Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, however, what is the moral hazard you see, because I'm missing it.

  5. Inconvenient for whom, Wherry? Certainly not Stephen Harper, who has perfected the disdainful curling of lip and sneering comments aimed against someone who is doing the exact same thing he is. How often have you heard the Conservatives complain that the Liberals have no policy, for example, in spite of their unveiling a photo montage after the advance polls in the last election and calling that their policy platform?

    For some reason, he keeps getting away with this misdirection ploy.

    • The old "I know you are, but what am I?" trick.
      They promised us "transparency" and they're delivering in spades.

  6. Pretty soon, China will be demanding that Canada curb its emissions, because we still don't get it.

    For three decades we have experimented with voluntary emissions reduction and passive encouragement but emissions have only increased. A spike in gas prices (and the corresponding automatic tax increases) did nothing but further enrich the oil companies and the treasury.

    Yes we need tax measures and incentives and economic instruments to spread the burden around, but we also need hard caps on emissions by sector or NOTHING will change.

    The Kyoto targets weren't unrealistic, they weren't revolutionary enough, because incremental change is always easy for opponets to undermine. What was unrealistic was to think that individuals would change their consumption behaviour, when that behaviour is heavily supported with marketing, OR that big emitters would do anything about their part of the problem without being compelled.

    • Sectoral caps means picking winners and makes the economy less efficient. Levy a carbon tax on emissions, and set a desired path for emissions reductions. I would announce any rate changes at least 2 years in advance, and make adjustments so that emissions reductions follow the desired reduction path. Heck, give it to an independent board (Bank of Canada?) with the mandate to set rates so that emissions follow the path they are given.

      • My point is that the experience with both voluntary targets and higher prices (the goal of strategic taxation) is continuing increases in emissions. Tinkering with economic instruments won't get it done.

        The losers have picked themselves with a business (or personal consumption) strategy based on externalizing the costs of their emissions. Regulation is what is needed to make those costs real for the producers and consumers, rather than spreading the inefficiency onto everyone.

  7. It is not only on the environment. Ignatieff is criticised by various members of the press for not having any economic policies but Harper and the cons get a pass even though they have no discernable policy beyond clinging to power.

    • It is kinda crazy how people seem more concerned that the Official Opposition does not have a well articulated plan for the future of the country than they are about the fact that the actual government doesn't either, isn't it?

      • Yea. Go figure. What is of even greater concern is that the government does not even pretend to have a vision. By the nature of things specific long term plans can be derailed and one thing we should look for in a government is an ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Harper has shown that he and his gang are abismal at that. They also appear never to have had any long term plans or at least their actions have never been consistent with any discernable long range plans. What conceivable long term objective did reducing the GST by 2% serve other than the electoral interest of the Conservatives.

  8. Macleans, yesterday, Wherry poses a half-serious question about sweaters, who owns them, and their colour.

    Macleans, today, Wherry makes a comparison between the statement of a Minister, and a report the criticizes his department.

  9. Macleans, yesterday, Wherry poses a half-serious question about sweaters, who owns them, and their colour.

    Macleans, today, Wherry makes a comparison between the statement of a Minister, and a report the criticizes his department.

    • Exactly what sin has Aaron commited here? It’s a perfectly reasonable point to make – that maybe, just maybe our plan isn’t flawless.

      • Can you explain how you know Wherry is making that point? The only contribution Wherry makes is providing the two links that are wholly unrelated other than that they relate to climate change. Obama wants to pursue the technology, should Canada not want to?

      • Can you explain how you know Wherry is making that point? The only contribution Wherry makes is providing the two links that are wholly unrelated other than that they both relate to climate change, a rather large subject area. Obama wants to pursue the technology, should Canada not want to?

        • I assume Aaron left it up to the individual to draw their own conclusions, obviously we don't draw the same conclusion – no problem there. In fact i'm not sure he's saying anything more than the munk report coming out is inconvenient in light of our lecturing China. As to Obama wanting to persue this technology, why not? It seemed promising and maybe they'll work the bugs out of it – there's absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out that it may not work. Obama can be wrong too!

          • So now, you can draw even more conclusions about what Wherry meant. He meant that it might not work. How can you tell he meant that? Osmosis? Here's a novel idea – how about getting someone to actually write words around what it is that he really meant? Maybe even pay that person, like it was a job? You know, like to write something that had meaning and we could reflect upon? Does that limit too harshly, our ability to imagine other concepts, relations and activities? Contrarily, maybe we should just continue down your minimalist road and just have empty blog postings, that we could all interpret freely? It may be tricky determining where one blog ends and the next begins, but we'll get the hang of it.

    • I think this is the fourth comment I've seen from you today, Ed_Sweeney, b*tching about Wherry.

      Hey – if that's the sum of your contribution here, shut up. Honestly, if you don't like Wherry's posts, don't read them. The rest of us are busy discussing the issues Wherry has raised. You've added exactly zero to the discussion and – sorry to point this out – Wherry is a human being who seems to be shooting for interesting, thought-provoking posts in good faith.

      If only you were operating in the same good faith.

  10. As a bit of a luddite myself i'm glad to see someone at last throw some cold water on this idea. It always seemed to me to be an idea that only an engineer could love. I know let's bury it in the ground – there should fix it…we'll worry about inconvenient details later. Wonder how long it'll take the boo birds to arrive with their links proving that he munk centre is just a left leaning fully funded arm of the NDP.

    • I agree, it's up there with the previously touted idea to send rockets full of ground level ozone up into the atmosphere. Or maybe in flying cars driven with robots, I can't remember the details.

      Same with emissions trading, though: a strategy than only economists could love.

      Both are exercises in avoiding responsibility for actual reductions, which has been Canada's unwritten Kyoto plan from the beginning. Our emissions increased because every sector pointed at every other sector and the government was afraid to amke anyone accountable. It turned into a three decade Grade 8 "group" project with no one stepping up to cut out the magazine pictures and glue them on the bristol board.

    • But – Stephen Harper tells me that CC will eliminate the filth spewing from the Tar Sands.

      That has to be true! Stephen Harper said it. Stephen. Harper.

  11. Canada's back baby!

    Leading the world by patiently waiting for the U.S. and China to tell us what we should think, and what we should do about it.

    • I honestly don't have a problem with that. It's not like we're going to "lead the World" on this particular issue; we can do nothing whatsoever, expect promote our own clean energy and energy efficient policies domestically. What I wish is that the Conservatives would stop pretending they're doing something else, which just communicates the message that they think *all* Canadians are stupid.

    • Yeah, Harper's playing a great big game of you first. Passing the buck…it's what passes for leadership these days. Of course it does reflect what people want…someone else to pay the price.

  12. I simply cannot take the environmentalists and the media seriously on the topic of climate change. This has become one of those topics where it seems all reporting must follow the established narratives, and any stories which contradict the narrative are buried.

    The environmentalists don't care about actual results. They care only about ideology, politics, and lip service. Despite no actual tangible change in climate change policy, the environmentalists are starting to give credit to the US for it's change in direction. For no other reason than the fact that they like the uber-liberal Obama and his rhetoric.

    Similarly, you will never find a positive reference to conservatives of any stripe and climate change, regardless of actual results. Harper or Prentice could single handedly solve the climate change problem for the entire world, and they would still be pilloried for it, because environmentalists aren't actually against climate change. They're against conservatives.

    • JG you’re pissing in the wind here.”They’re against consevative” Really! In BCmany environmentalists have decided to support the Liberal govt despite the fact that there isn’t a drop of liberal blood in the party – it’s pretty much a right wing/centrist party.Why, because they tried to implement a green agenda. You’re assertions are simply the flip side of those who argue that all cons are only in it for themselves. You need to stop reading from the Republican party hyme book – in case you haven’t noticed they’re the ones looking a little kooky these days.

    • Take a look at who enviromentalists largely side with in the BC elections when a Consevative govt ran on a green programme. Your assertion that enviros have no principles is patently absurd.

    • Maybe it's because conservatives all over the world are busy denying the existence of global warming and running interference to ensure nothing interferes with the fossil fuel industries that are responsible.

      Doesn't exactly enhance their credibility on the issue. What I see in the US is less 'Obama worship' and more relief that an illiterate wanna-be oil magnate is out of power and replaced with a realist.

  13. Munk? Munk? That sounds like a Liberal name to me.

  14. So Graham Thompson of the Edmonton Journal takes a sabbatical to go do some work at the Munk Centre. He does a literature search, talks to a few people and writes a report.

    How is this any different than a reporter doing a feature story for Maclean's or the Globe and Mail?

    • It's not. More annoyingly, Wherry and the Globe are acting as though this 'extended feature article' is some sort of expert report whose sage policy advice we should all immediately heed .

  15. I think what we're seeing now is the accumulated impact of a government, utterly devoid of a policy centre and completely obsessed with spin and tactics, no longer able to manage as the events themselves spin out of control.

    In many ways, Stephen Harper has morphed into George Bush, especially his last months in office, but without the aw-shucks charm and a personal 24/7 television network.