Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Climate Won't Wait Until 2050

On Friday, on CBC's new show Power and Politics, Jim Prentice was interviewed about many things, especially the conflict between economic growth and environmental sustainability. Prentice made it clear that even a .3% decrease in economic growth until 2020 is unacceptable. This is the figure that the TD sponsored study of the economic and environmental future.

TD estimates that if the government is to reduce greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, the decrease in expected economic growth will be only that of .3%, bringing the figure down from an expected 2.4% to 2.1%.

It is wonderful news that doing the right thing for our planet will cost so little, compared to what could have been expected. However, to Mr. Prentice's eyes this sacrifice is unnecessary. His reasoning is that the economy needs to be strong to encourage investment in new technologies that will save our environment.

One immediate response is that putting faith in technological advancements providing the means to combat the environmental crisis is in fact putting faith in the unknown. It is assuming, illogically, that technology will be the complete solution to our problems.

In addition, without instituting a reduction in carbon emissions, the market for sustainable technologies is much less inviting. These new technologies will probably, at first, be more expensive than conventional methods. With no incentives such as carbon taxes or cap and trade systems, they will definitely be so. So why would anyone, despite the .3% stronger economy Prentice seeks to protect, invest in this area? They would have to be sure that their new technologies would be cheaper than conventional methods. However, if a system such as a carbon tax or cap and trade were introduced, this would add a cost to the conventional technologies related to their carbon emitting ways.

One of the reasons Prentice advocates saving the .3% of growth is that he believes the year we will solve this problem is in 2050. The environment, however, will not wait that long. The crisis has now reached various tipping points, such as the thawing of the frozen peat bog that is subartic Siberia. This thawing, the first since the Ice Age, is releasing billions of tonnes of methane gas. The global temperature is changing at rapid rates. Waiting until 2050 is not an option.

If we are serious about combating climate change, we need to act now. We need to sign the document resulting from Copenhagen and push for it to be a document of real action. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are recalcitrant, focusing instead on saving the .3% of economic growth that is so important to their supporters.
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  1. So if the major polluters don't agree to binding international regulations you demand Canada hurt our economy as a "responsible" global citizen?

    Is that the logic again from Liberals sign, don't honour what you sign?

    How do we "force" China, US to sign and curb their Co2?

    They have both NEVER signed a deal limiting their freedom. Did they sign Kyoto, or reduce Co2?

  2. "So if the major polluters don't agree to binding international regulations you demand Canada hurt our economy as a "responsible" global citizen"?

    In short, yes. The developing nations are at present living with the consequences of our past emissions, and it is time we paid the price.

    Obama is poised to lead the US in the right direction. Canada is dragging its' feet, unwilling to take even a small cut in economic growth. Disgusting. LMA

  3. "Obama is poised to lead the US in the right direction."

    The US and Liberals talk alot but have ZERO credibility on this FILE.

    China and the US will NEVER transfer Billions and authority to another level of Econuts.

    Kyoto is Proof and in 22 days more evidence.

    But blame the current government. (Great Idea)

    We are responsible for 3% China and US?

    Barack Obama acknowledged today that time had run out to secure a legally binding climate deal at the Copenhagen summit in December and threw his support behind plans to delay a formal pact until next year at the earliest.

  4. I will agree with you that the Liberals lost a lot of credibility when they voted with the Cons to delay the passage of Bill C-311. Obama's climate change legislation is stalled in the Senate, but he has not abandoned the fight against climate change, far from it. If the best to come out of Copenhagen is a continuation of negotiations, that is still movement in the right direction. No, we are not responsible for the US and China, we are responsible for reducing our own emissions, and are failing in every way to meet this responsibility. As long as the Cons are in power, I can't see that changing. LMA

  5. In addition, Canadian Sense, a statistic for you. Although China and the US are the greatest gross polutters, per capita, we are at the top of the world.

    Re: Canadian Sense's first argument

    Yes we do take that hit if they aren't willing to BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Regardless of whether others join in.

    For instance, let's apply your argument to a historical issue of momentous importance. If Wilberforce, instead of ending the slave trade in the British Empire, had accepted your argument, where would we be today? Leadership is not doing the right thing once everyone else does it. Thank God people like Wilberforce and other reformers were immune to your arguemnt.

    I hope this shows to you what a ridiculous argument you are making.


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