Wednesday, July 29, 2015

If Your Guy Gets to Run Canada, Do You Really Think It'll Be Much Better?

As the world witnesses the steady progress of "early onset" climate change impacts we're coming to realize what it means, that there is no going back. It's a one-way road to nowhere good.  Maybe, through some miracle far beyond anything ever experienced by man, someday we'll get really creative and find a way to slow it down, perhaps even stop it from getting any worse but rolling it back, to say the 60s, isn't going to happen.

There are a lot of potholes awaiting us just up ahead.  If we want to we can avoid some of them but that's going to take a whole lot more "want" than we're showing so far.  We're going to have to want it enough to change course, give up some things, switch to better things.  It begins when we stop chasing ourselves ever closer to the edge of that cliff.

The first step could be the hardest.  We have to decarbonize our economy and we have to decarbonize our society.  That means achieving independence from fossil fuels or almost all fossil fuels and certainly the highest-carbon fuels.  It means transitioning to alternative, clean energy options that are both renewable and astonishingly abundant, there pretty much for the taking. It doesn't have to be done overnight. That's impossible. But it has to be started by reducing fossil fuel consumption and replacing it with renewables and, on that score, we're already far behind where we should be. We have much catching up to do. We need action on a Marshall Plan scale.

The reason our governments (and opposition parties) are dragging their heels on this is because it's economically dislocative, at least initially.  When the Three Stooges of Parliament Hill look to the tar-fields of Alberta and Saskatchewan they don't see a ticking time bomb for the environment. They see enormous wealth of the worst, low-hanging fruit variety. It's all sitting there, waiting to be dug or boiled out of the ground, and there are companies that will do all that heavy lifting and hand them a cheque on their way out.  Free Money, Free Money, Free Money. That's too much to refuse for those Petro-Pimps; Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau.

They're all willing to promise a sop to the eco-minded.  It usually comes in some vague notion of carbon tax that will assuredly be low enough not to impede the extractive giants of Athabasca. They don't want to ruffle the feathers of the goose that laid their golden egg. They would rather steer us straight toward that giant, goddamned pothole that's directly ahead, the very worst of the lot.

Chances are you want one of those three at the wheel as we head down this one-way road straight toward that ginormous pothole. I'm sorry but I don't understand that. I think you've got to be out of your mind. Oh sure this one will give you a few extra bucks for daycare and that one will promise you a hike in minimum wages (most of which they can't deliver in any case). And, sure enough, they're not going to be Stephen Harper either. But what does that really mean, why does that matter if they're just going to keep us on the same course toward that godawful pothole?

Would you think of it differently if, instead of bitumen, it was something else equally lethal but less publicly acceptable?  What if we were sitting on a mountain of street-grade heroin? No, let's make it highly radioactive opium - laced with asbestos. And, in our name, they want to flog it overseas. They would never do that, would they? Of course they would. Governments do it all the time. We venerate Queen Victoria in this country, especially in my home province, and she presided over the biggest international drug trafficking racket in history.

As I write this I realize the futility of my words. You're still going to vote for Mulcair or for Trudeau and one of those Petro-Pimps is going to be behind the wheel when the last vote is counted.  And that will stand as your declaration that, as a people, we don't want that last best chance bad enough. We'll worry about that pothole - wait, it's turned into a sinkhole - when we plummet into it. As for our grandkids, well screw'em.


This from today's HuffPo  (many thanks, Lorne)

Obscured by complicated international negotiations, convoluted domestic policy and years of fossil fuel-funded contrarians confusing the conversation, climate change can be confusing. Recently, thanks in large part to some pretty basic math, there is finally some much needed clarity coming to the conversation. It goes like this; there is only so much space in the atmosphere for more emissions, so if we want to have a shot at keeping this planet liveable we need to not release a lot of potential emissions. This means leaving most fossil fuels underground.

Here in Canada that means leaving most of tar sands reserves underground. It's a simple truth that scientists, First Nations, academics and thousand of people understand, but one that politicians in this country refuse to acknowledge. Instead, it seems like politicians either think Canada isn't paying attention or that we're all really dumb.

...Energy East is the culprit again in exposing the confusing, spineless climate policies Stephen Harper's primary challengers, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. Both leaders have bumbled the pipeline file by offering support in one province then rescinding it in another. While they have both critiqued the National Energy Board review process for refusing to consider the climate impacts of projects it reviews, neither have offered a clear plan to change that process. They both have convoluted platforms that include carbon pricing mechanisms that will be inevitably ineffective and seem to be hoping that we don't realize that neither of them have a plan to deal with the fact that the climate math means the tar sands can't get any bigger.

Whether it's deck chairs on the Titanic, Nero fiddling while Rome burns or the boiling of frogs, there is no shortage of played out tropes to describe political inaction on climate change, but in Canada things are getting ridiculous. At this point it feels like the whole of Canada's political class has picked up instruments and is conducting an orchestral performance on a sinking ocean liner while the most egregious among them block women and children from boarding life boats and explaining that there is no proven link between iceberg strikes and sinking ships. Something needs to change.

We can't shut off the fossil fuel economy overnight, but the science clearly says that we need a real plan to leave fossil fuels like tar sands underground. Politicians need to stop treating this country like idiots and recognize that most people want an economy that's not dependent on the boom and bust of the oil cycle. Once we accept that, a new universe of solutions is available to us, but it all starts with ending this political fiasco.


Toby said...

Simple answer, yes. Neither of the opponents are as pig headed and mean as Harper. Do I expect miraculous change? No. That's partly because Harper has destroyed so much that it will take a generation or more to rebuild.

One problem that you have often talked about is that most of our politicians and much of our society has bought into the corporatist agenda and fixing that will take more than either Mulcair or Trudeau could accomplish even if they want to which they probably don't.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby, one of the most dispiriting remarks I receive from opposition supporters, especially Mulcair apologists, is that "we can't do (fill in the blank) or else we'd seem radical and would never get elected." In the context of this post that could be "we can't change course and avoid that pothole/sinkhole because we could never get elected." Let that sink in for a minute.

We're talking about a massive, multi-faceted problem that could wreck our nation, our society, and we don't have a generation to fix it. Maybe back in 1980 we had a generation of grace time. We don't any longer. That ended years ago and the clock is running on not starting to change but achieving significant change. You can only fall so far behind before you're overtaken by events that you cannot control, injuries that you cannot mitigate.

When people say that we can't set the bar any higher (and it's already disgracefully low) because, with leaders like we have on offer, we'd never get elected, that's an admission of capitulation and nothing less.

Anonymous said...

All I need is PR, to start with...

Grant G said...

We need to vote for Adolph Hitler, then we can massacre 6 billion people, thus problem solved, we won`t need to burn all that fuel...Yea, (that was a stupid comment above), as is this post, like babies, first they roll around, then crawl, soon they walk...That is where mankind is, and if we destroy ourselves, so be it..

But to suggest there is no difference between political ideologies is wrong..There is a difference, Harper is evil..

Why don`t you say what you are really thinking Mound?

David Suzuki on a Nature of Things episode many many years ago, he theorized that the world on a forever basis could only support 100 million people living the lifestyle of an average North American...And that perhaps if we lived the most meager existence, the world could support maybe 5 billion people on a forever basis..(We are at 7 billion people)


Who do we exterminate first?..Who do we ban from procreation?

We must stop everything, ban air travel, all needless travel, everyone needs to stay put, even the internet require vast resources, all the connected devices, all consuming, let`s ban the internet too...

All we can do is vote in the best people, slow down growth, which seems to be happening all by itself, hope for financial chaos to wreck what we have and see what rises from the ashes...

All empires fall and this blue planet earth has seen species come and go...

Earth will still be here when mankind disappears..

Welcome to reality

And lastly...God couldn`t get elected in our spindoctered society, so why spoil our hopes for a first in Canadian History, a Federal NDP Government?

Ron Waller said...

This blog illustrates the fallacy of political green: raise a stink about an arbitrary part of the problem and believe that's accomplishing something. Political greens in Canada and the US pretend that shutting down the tar-sands will solve all our environmental problems. Yet they look the other way on fracking, which is just as dirty a form of unconventional oil.

What's worse is how uppity these people get about their half-baked non-solutions. Either you are for shutting down the tar-sands or you are for destroying the planet!

Your attempt to lump the 3 main opposition parties together is absurd. The NDP has stood for national carbon pricing all along. Trudeau has said he is opposed to federal carbon pricing. When the Liberals were in power they signed the Kyoto protocol and did absolutely nothing to implement it. Harper is, of course, a climate science denier.

Implementing a federal carbon pricing regime is a major step forward. It would be foolish to dismiss this as nothing.

The Green party offers Canadians fiscal green neoclassical ideology: for every problem the solution a tax cut.

What we really need is big-government Keynesian green. Like how Republican Keynesian president Dwight Eisenhower raised the top tax bracket to 91% to pay for an interstate highway system. This is exactly how we need to act today, but plow money into green-energy infrastructure.

The real solution is founded on progressive income taxation, not income tax cuts. The real solution is making green energy cheaper than dirty-energy with subsidies that ensure proper income and wealth distribution. That will shut down the tar sands and most oil wells around the globe.

(I guess sensible solutions based on tried-and-true economics are not sexy enough for political greens.)

The Mound of Sound said...

No, they don't look "the other way" on fracking, Ron. That's just a goddamned lie. Why don't you piss off?

Anonymous said...

Anyong said.....
"What we really need is big-government Keynesian green. Like how Republican Keynesian president Dwight Eisenhower raised the top tax bracket to 91% to pay for an interstate highway system. This is exactly how we need to act today, but plow money into green-energy infrastructure."

Ron, did you mean "and plow"? You see "but" negates what went before. However, I understand what your mean. I think you could be correct about your last statement. It is one of the best suggestions so far. Also, the Greens could make real inroads if they were to offer all Canadians with an income under 40,000 dollars a year a 200,000 payout in order to clear themselves of debt and possibly be able to pay for education upgrading and a small business start-up, along with being able to perhaps put aside some money for retirement. It would put a lot of money into the economy...this event to take place every now and then upgrading Canadian Society....of course...taken from the public purse mostly by a tax levied upon the very rich. Since over 350 million will be spent on this coming election, The above is a much better idea instead of all the waste for example the present Senate and it's expenditure. After all Canada is only not quite 35 million people. If people don't have the brains to take good advantage of such an event, they would have no one else to blame but themselves. On the other hand...well, I am sure you can imagine. Cheers

Anonymous said...

Anyong said....and besides fracking is such a waste if good drinking water, or ground water.

The Mound of Sound said...

Ron, go back to your Dungeons & Dragons in mom's basement. You have no grasp of the environmental predicament we are already deeply in nor can you come up with any plausible solutions except to keep parroting Keynesian economics. I get it. That's the course you passed in community college. You've made the point - endlessly - and no one seems to be embracing your personal epiphany.

If you want to comment on Green Party policies see if mom will let you borrow her tablet and read them. As for Mulcair, he's a Petro-Pimp just like the other two. We know, with real scientific clarity, that we cannot have a viable future for our kids unless we promptly agree to leave all high-carbon fossil fuels in the ground, untouched. We also know that bitumen is one of those high-carbon fossil fuels. It has to be left in the ground, Ron.

If you think we should duck that issue because it shines an unflattering light on Tommy Angry Beard's disingenuous carbon pricing sham, that's too bad. But it's not just his energy policy that sucks, Ron.

Grant G said...

Hey Mound...Have a read..

There is a positive energy direction for planet earth contained within that post.

The new multi-$trillion dollar industry(renewables)

Ron Waller said...

Anonymous: with Keynesian economics, the people are in control, so there are many ways they can deal with economic problems. This allows a society to become as social or green as it wants, while still retaining the democratic system.

The Keynesian system is really a democratic economy. Democracy was at its height during the post-war Keynesian era (1945-1980.) (Today plutocrats have captured democracy by subverting politicians, the courts and the news media and limiting democratic authority through free-trade deals and treaties.)

Ron Waller said...

"Ron, go back to your Dungeons & Dragons in mom's basement."

You sound like Anne Coulter.

"You have no grasp of the environmental predicament we are already deeply in nor can you come up with any plausible solutions except to keep parroting Keynesian economics. "

I have a very solid grasp of our environmental predicament. The problem is caused by bad economic policies, especially ones that allow externalities (people profiting by passing costs onto others.) Therefore, the solution is good economic policy.

I would suggest you have no grasp of economics and have nothing to offer but reactionary solutions: shut down the tarsands by government decree, despite the fact the vast majority of Canadians believe this policy is extremist; implement an alternative to the market economy, despite the fact the only alternatives are some version of fascism or communism.

"If you want to comment on Green Party policies see if mom will let you borrow her tablet and read them."

Have you read the Green platform? If you had — and understood what neoliberal/neoclassical economics are — you would have little reason to support the Green party in its current form. The Green party platform actually quotes Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute who wrote a book called "Tax Me I'm Canadian"!

"As for Mulcair, he's a Petro-Pimp just like the other two. "

Nonsense. Mulcair is the only leader of a major party to reject bitumen pipelines.

He originally supported a West-East pipeline on the basis that it would create refinery jobs and bring Albertan oil to Eastern Canada (instead of importing it.) (Exporting non-upgraded bitumen is an externality: gambling with people's future; it's extremely dangerous in oil spills.) It seems he is backtracking now that it turns out the oil corporations just want to use the east-coast port to ship bitumen to China. (Trudeau, like Harper, believes the "future of the Canadian economy" is exporting bitumen to China.)

"We know, with real scientific clarity, that we cannot have a viable future for our kids unless we promptly agree to leave all high-carbon fossil fuels in the ground, untouched. We also know that bitumen is one of those high-carbon fossil fuels. It has to be left in the ground, Ron."

We have to leave all forms of fossil fuels in the ground: coal, oil (conventional and unconventional), and natural gas. It would take a lot of government decrees to accomplish that directly. The indirect, but smarter, approach is to make green energy cheaper than dirty energy with progressive taxation subsidies that distribute income and reduce inequality, plus use tariffs and sanctions to force environmental-freeloading nations into compliance ("fair trade".)

In short, the solution to both our environmental and social problems is well-designed well-tested economic policy (i.e., using the Keynesian mixed-market system.)