Saturday, January 27, 2007

Talk Is Cheap

Stephen Harper and his government claim to have gotten the message on global warming. They're even willing to do something about it - so long as it doesn't impact on the economy.

Anyone who has studied the problem knows that you can't make any inroads against global warming without impacting the economy, especially at the outset. Change costs money, it's as simple as that.

The Stern Report released a few months back calculates the cost of tackling global warming to run at 1% of GDP, if we act now. The longer we delay, the more it'll cost down the road. 1% of GDP is hardly crushing. It's a lot less than the West spent year after year for decades to wage the Cold War.

So, yes, doing anything effective about global warming will impact the economy. Putting carbon caps on the major GHG emitters will compel them to spend to put in place new, cleaner technologies. Who knows, it might even have an economic impact on the Tar Sands and that could throw a wet towel on Harper's grandiose dream of transforming Canada into an "energy superpower."

Speaking of the Tar Sands, Cameron Smith writing in today's Toronto Star, says that supremely dirty venture is on the verge of ramping up:

"There is much talk of improving efficiencies, reducing emissions and being able to store CO{-2} underground. But plans are afoot to double production from 1.5 million barrels a day to 3 million barrels by 2015. In addition, U.S. President George W. Bush would like Canada to increase production by five times, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not demurring. So, during the period when we should be capping emissions, how can Canadians expect them to go anywhere but up?"

Harper has again taken his lead from George Bush - say what people want to hear and then go back to business as usual. By failing to take any decisive action - the type necessary to begin to deal with global warming, measures that must of necessity have an economic impact - he is handing Stephane Dion a handy cudgel.

It may even be in the Liberals' interests to give Harper more time before triggering an election to force his hand on the environmental issue. If, as he has indicated, Harper is going to focus on transportation and individual sacrifice while giving the big, industrial emitters a pass, that should work against him at the polls. It could even be Harper's tipping point.

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