11 November 2011

Canada's climate change policy—drinking the Kool-Aid

The warnings continue. And they are ominous. In its annual World Energy Outlook released November 9th, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the world will lose the chance to limit global warming if it doesn't act now. This isn't news of course. Climate scientists have been trying to tell us for some time that the problem isn't so much a greenhouse effect as a runaway greenhouse effect. While many scientists predict catastrophic results if warming of the Earth isn't limited to two degrees centigrade, the IEA predicts that the current promises by the world's nations to reduce emissions will result in an increase of over 3.5 degrees, and of course there's no guarantee these commitments will be met.

Although Canada contributes only a small portion of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, that does not prevent us from setting an example, of being a leader in dealing with the greatest threat facing global civilization. We have, after all, exercised leadership in the world in the past despite our size. But that time has apparently passed. Now we seem content to be a follower, and this is sadly the case in dealing with climate change. We can expect no leadership here, not as long as we have a government whose movement on the climate change issue is bound by the ball and chain of the tar sands.

Our behaviour reflects that followership. We muzzle our climate change scientists. We drag our feet at international conferences. We tie our commitments to those of the U.S. which has no federal climate change plan. Nor will we sign international agreements unless they are signed and ratified by all major emitters. The fact that these emitters are not doing nearly enough does not bother our government. Apparently, if they choose to drink the Kool-Aid, we too will fill our cup.

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