GLOBAL WARMING, GLOBAL WORDING: Most Government "Action" on Climate Change Just Rhetoric

By Harrington, Robert F. | CCPA Monitor, December/January 2006 | Go to article overview
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GLOBAL WARMING, GLOBAL WORDING: Most Government "Action" on Climate Change Just Rhetoric


Harrington, Robert F., CCPA Monitor


There is historical precedent for re-naming the purported Clean Air Act devised by the federal Conservative government. It should be called the Clean Air Procrastination Act.

We start by going back to Confucius, who spoke of the need for the "rectification of names."

Obscurity of thought and insincere inaccuracy" seemed to him national calamities. As he explained, a prince who did not act in all respects as a prince should not be called a prince. Likewise, a father who was not fatherly should not be called "father," and a son who was unfilial should not be called a "son." People might then be stirred to reform abuses too often covered with words.

There is no question that the Harper government's proposed Clean Air Act is a cynical misnomer, an empty act of procrastination. Its purpose is to further delay the urgent action that is required.

A second insight was provided by Charles Dickens in Little Dorrit, in 1857: "The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest jam tart... Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was before-hand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving HOW NOT TO DO IT... It is true that, from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on the hustings because it hadn't been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable gentlemen in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn't been done, and who was pledging himself that it should be done/began to devise how it was not to be done."

It is obvious that nothing has changed, even though inaction is now threatening the survival of our species. We have reached the limit of our state of denial. It is a tragedy that governments are firmly in the grasp of corporate powers who think of themselves as "elitist." If that word was rectified, as Confucius recommended, it would rise no higher categorically than the terms "autocratic," "irresponsible," or even "demented."

A Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, won one of the first Nobel prizes in chemistry by putting together these facts: 1) every year people were burning large quantities of coal, firewood, and oil; 2) each year that the burning increased, these fuels injected millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and 3) carbon dioxide is a principal greenhouse gas. In April, 1896, Arrhenius explained the problem in the pages of the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine: "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air," spewing out so much carbon dioxide that it must be causing "a change in the transparency of the atmosphere.

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