Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Liberals face tricky climate-change test

Now things get interesting on climate change. Not just politically, though that’s going to be fascinating.
No, it’s also about us. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was decisive. Global warming is under way, we’re the cause and the results could be very nasty within 100 years.
Now we find out much we care about our great-grandkids, or even strangers who will be walking these streets as the next century starts.
It’s hard to predict what we’ll do. We’re not much focused on thinking long term. Governments look to the next election; businesses to the next quarter; a lot of us just want to get through the week.
We can decide it’s not worth the cost or inconvenience of changing what we do now, or perhaps rationalize that technology will advance fast enough to solve the problems we create. And there’s always the argument that unless China’s emissions are curbed, what’s the point? (Though China’s per-capita greenhouse gas emissions are about one-quarter of Canada’s.)
But we can’t ignore the facts. The panel report comes from a huge pool of international scientists. They believe it is a 90-per-cent certainty that humans are causing global warming. Temperatures will rise 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, they predict, and sea levels from 18 to 60 centimetres. Life on Earth will be more difficult for billions.
This is not one of those “someone should do something issues.” Everyone can make a difference — or not.
A family with two cars - one large and one medium-sized - driven a total 2,500 kms a month produces about 8,700 kilograms of CO2 a year.
Trade the big car in for a small one and walk and bike more so travel is cut by one-third, and the family only produces 5,000 kgs. Use a clothesline, not a dryer; turn off the computer when you’re not browsing; buy less new stuff. They all make a difference.
Between 25 and 30 per cent of Canadian greenhouse-gas emissions are the result of individuals’ direct actions. Individual efforts make a difference.
But no matter how much - or little - people are prepared to do personally, all the polls suggest they expect governments to take real action.
So, in a relative flash, Stephen Harper goes from a guy who doubts climate change and thinks the Kyoto accord is a socialist plot to a sort-of convert. Stéphane Dion forgets his record of inaction and practically glows, he’s become so green.
Provincially, the New Democrats were the first off the mark after the scientific panel’s report.
Leader Carole James sees a wedge issue, as they call them, a chance to show a clear divide between the positions of the two parties. (The New Democrats had no position, so they had lots of flexibility.)
The result is some relatively tough proposals. The NDP wants a freeze on greenhouse gas emissions in B.C., with reduction targets set after a legislative committee looks at the issue.
The party wants more tax breaks for fuel-efficient vehicles, more money for public transit and a mix of incentives and regulations to reduce emissions from the oil and gas industry.
The New Democrats also want a portion of energy revenues to go into a heritage fund, to be used in part to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
And the NDP wants a ban on coal-fired power plants in B.C.
The Liberals can likely agree on many of those measures. We’ll find out in the Throne Speech Tuesday.
But two will give them pause.
The Campbell government has so far set no target for greenhouse emissions and is likely to consider a cap on emission growth too tough to achieve.
And the government has supported plans for two new coal-power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases.
The New Democrats have dumped the climate-change issue into the Liberals’ laps.
Within the next week the government is going to have to come up with a credible plan of its own.
Footnote: B.C. does have a two-year-old climate-change plan, which you can check out at www.env.gov.bc.ca/air/climate/. But there are almost no measurable targets and an awful lot of talk about consulting and encouraging and enhancing, rather than doing. It’s the kind of plan that in the business world would be bounced back as too vague to be useful.

1 comment:

MrNemo said...

I am gonna need some major convincing about this so-called "glodal warming" after experiencing a hurricane-free season and colder weather than normal.

Maybe I don't have a clue what I am talking about, but if CA is having freezing temps right now that are record breaking then how is that warmer?

If you look back in history. We had warming all-around temps in the 1930's

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