Saturday, January 26, 2013

Good Neighbours, Bad Neighbours

Let's say your kids were doing a bit of batting practice in the backyard and put a ball through your neighbour's window.   Would you say that's the neighbour's tough luck or would you apologize and cover the cost of fixing the shattered window?

Most of us, I'm sure, wouldn't hesitate to pay to have the window fixed but what would we make of the other guy, the one who shrugged his shoulders and said, "that's your tough luck"?  We'd probably think that guy was a real shit, not the sort of neighbour you would want to have, certainly not the sort of neighbour you would want to help or invite to your next barbeque.   You want to be surrounded by good neighbours, not bad neighbours.

So why would you want to support a candidate for party leadership who is tantamount to that bad neighbour.   I'm talking about J. Trudeau, M. Hall-Findlay or M. Garneau for starters.   I'm talking about every bitumen booster pol in the country and the other fossil-fuelers too.

Here's the deal.   They don't want to pay for the broken window.  They just want to keep on breaking other people's windows.  How's that?

In a nutshell, we want to push high-carbon fossil fuels, particularly bitumen and coal, onto the world markets - the more, the faster, the better.   And we're disproportionately contributing the the growing and critical problem of global warming and climate change.   And all around the world, the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable people are taking it in the neck from what we're doing.

Maybe we should do the good neighbourly thing and make good our share of the damage that greenhouse-gas driven climate change is causing these people.  Or if, as is far more likely, we go "bad neighbour" then maybe those we've injured should be able to hold us accountable.  That very idea was floated at the last climate summit in Qatar.

For the first time, nations agreed that “developing nations that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” might have a right to redress from major polluting nations for any resulting “loss and damage.” The conference then directed its staff to begin research on how to ensure that redress.

The U.S. delegation in particular worked hard to make certain there was no mention of compensation or litigation. Nonetheless, the action taken in Qatar suggests nations now concede that damaging impacts of climate change are inescapable. Given that those nations are already under an obligation in international law to prevent dangerous climate change, it brings closer the day when nations may seek redress in the courts for damages caused by climate change. And it may make more likely the prospect of citizens successfully bringing major polluters to court and making them responsible for their contributions to climate change.

...After 17 years — with the pitifully weak Kyoto Protocol of 1997 the only sign of progress — negotiators at the much-anticipated climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 admitted that mitigation was failing. So the Copenhagen Accord added another element. Besides mitigation, governments pledged to set aside money for an “adaptation fund” to help poorer nations adjust to what now looked like inevitable climate change.

Today, three years later, the prospect of a new global treaty to mitigate emissions seems as far away as ever, and the adaptation fund is largely empty. So, in Qatar, they added a third leg by launching studies into how to respond to the growing threat of “loss and damage.” What they are, in effect, telling the world is that neither mitigation nor adaptation will work.

The lawsuits have already begun and, so far, we're doing a yeoman's job of keeping them at bay but some thing it's only a matter of time until the legal precedent is set and big emitters, corporate and state, are held liable to those they have harmed.

What then?  Look at Alberta, a province that gets a third of its revenue from oil and gas but mainly bitumen.   Their premier, Joan Cusak, just went on TV to tell her fellow Wild Rosebuds that they're broke - again.  It couldn't be clearer.   If Alberta was obliged to be a good neighbour and compensate those injured by the excessive greenhouse gas emissions from its bitumen trade, it'd be out of business.   In other words, a good chunk of the revenue Alberta does take in is only available so long as someone else in a remote corner of the planet pays the price.

And when you hear someone like Justin Trudeau champion the Tar Sands, you're hearing a guy who is telling you he doesn't think Canada should be responsible for the damage we're causing in our global neighbourhood.   He's really no better than a damned asbestos peddler.


Anonymous said...

Norwegian government financed researchers just released a study that says their climate models show that things are nearly as bad as other researchers suggest. So, everyone carry on burning that fossil fuel.

The fact that the Norwegian economy is heavily reliant on fossil fuel production did not influence the study findings in any way.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the link, Anon. I read the release and I really hope they're right and the rest of the science community is flat out wrong. It left me, a lay person, with a good many questions that weren't addressed. It will be interesting to see what other science bodies have to say about it once they've examined the Norse data and modeling.