Canada's federal government is fiddling while the world burns. The Tories' "Action Plan" to deal with climate change, announced by Environment Minister John Baird on April 26, is actually a recipe for inaction and delay.
Immediate Action Needed
This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued three major reports that summarize the current state of scientific knowledge about climate change. From those reports, we know that:
* The world is getting warmer at an unprecedented rate. It is now 1[degrees] Celsius above the pre-industrial level. If it increases to more than 2[degrees] above pre-industrial level, dangerous changes will become very likely.
* The primary cause of global warming is greenhouse-gas emissions, mostly produced by burning oil and coal.
* The principal sources of greenhouse gases are industries in the imperialist "global north," but the principal victims of global warming will be the countries and peoples of the "global south," where floods, famine and chaotic weather changes will hit hardest.
* To some degree global warming is irreversible, because greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for centuries. So, the goal must be to reduce current emission levels substantially, to prevent the accumulation from reaching catastrophic levels.
* To keep the global temperature increase under 2[degrees], the worldwide growth of greenhouse-gas emissions must be stopped and reversed by 2015. The technologies to do so exist today.
* Contrary to claims made by conservative critics, IPCC reports are far from "alarmist"; the Panel's conclusions are a conservative, lowest-common-denominator summary of peer-reviewed scientific research.
That makes the IPCC's forecasts all the more frightening; the horrors they describe are far from the worst that could happen. Every delay in reducing emissions will increase the cost of later action, and increase the possibility of catastrophic climate change: this is a crisis that demands rapid and decisive action.
Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2002, promising to reduce greenhouse gases to six per cent below the 1990 level by 2012. Despite that, by 2005 Canadian GHG emissions were 27 per cent above the 1990 level, one of the worst records of pollution growth in the industrialized world.
That growth occurred despite repeated announcements of federal plans to reduce emissions: the Green Plan in 1990; the National Action Program in 1995; the Action Plan in 2000; the Climate Change Plan for Canada in 2002; and Project Green in 2005. In fact, a recent C.D. Howe Institute report points out that "emissions actually rose faster during the period of policy initiatives, from 1990 to 2006, than during the previous decade, from 1980 to 1990, even though this earlier period had no GHG reduction policies."
Successive Liberal governments responded to global warming in typical Liberal fashion: they promised action, but did nothing that might upset their Bay Street masters. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper, elected in January, 2006, was different only in that they didn't even pretend to care.
Before Harper he became Tory leader, he condemned the Kyoto Protocol as a "socialist scheme." And the Conservative Party, which receives strong support from corporations in the oil, gas and coal industries, did not want to alienate those supporters by legislating limits to greenhouse gases.
So, it's scarcely surprising that when it took office the government quickly announced that the Kyoto target of reducing emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012 was hopelessly unrealistic--and that one of its first actions was to cancel fifteen existing environmental programs.
What a Difference a Year Makes!
Accumulating scientific evidence and concrete experience with shifting …