Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Matter of Trust - Betrayed

Stephen Harper intends to do whatever he can to scuttle any meaningful agreement to fight global warming.

Harper made that clear in his dissembling pronouncements on the need for a climate change pact at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-Operation summit underway in Singapore. Here is Harper's thinly coded message from Canadian Press:

While acknowledging there are "significant differences" among the APEC members over how to tackle climate change, Harper said all leaders recognize it's an issue that must be addressed.

Emerging economies, including China and Indonesia at the APEC summit, already contribute close to half of all global emissions, Harper said at a media availability, and that proportion will rise to two thirds in the future.

"If we don't control those, whatever we do in the developed world will have no impact on climate change."

Harper's other argument for full global participation is purely economic.

"If everyone is not included, you set up the possible risk that certain countries will gain economic advantage from being included or not included," he said.

"If some contribute, or some contribute disproportionately, then the economic risks for others become enormous."

So, what's wrong with Harper's message? Lots. He's setting up a position that's inherently inequitable and sufficiently unacceptable to the Second and Third World to ensure there'll be no meaningful, mandatory and enforceable pact.

Harper wants a "one size fits all" deal. Everybody should cut their emissions by this percentage or that by this date or that. What's wrong with that? From our economic perspective, nothing, especially as our continued support for the expansion of the Tar Sands shows we're not genuine about even that anyway. But, from the rest of the world's perspective, everything is wrong with Harper's pitch - and Steve knows it.

Steve's con game totally ignores population and income disparities. He sure as hell won't accept equality on a per capita basis. No way Jose. In fact, he wants to preserve the West's priority to the remaining carbon carrying capacity of our atmosphere. He wants that frozen right now - entirely in our favour.

What this is all about is which nations are going to have the right to use up the remaining carbon emission carrying capacity of the atmosphere. It's finite, we know that and we now have reasonably accurate data on how much remains. Bonus points if you guessed "not enough." If you need help grasping the nuances of this core problem, I dealt with it at length the other day in the post "Whose Atmosphere Is It Anyway?". That's just two posts down. Check it out.

Most of the world wants what Steve dreads most. They want the atmosphere to be recognized as a common resource. You, me and every other human being has an equal entitlement to it - sort of the way Steve's God meant it to be. Now, in a world of 6.7-billion (or six thousand, seven hundred million) human beings, Canada's share, based on our roughly 36-million people is miniscule. That means we would have to almost entirely decarbonize our economy in less than a generation. Despite how Steve's God might smile favourably on that idea, Steve won't be having any of that. No, this is the guy who wants to set "intensity based" emission reduction targets on the Tar Sands. He's looking for emissions to go up, way up, not down.

The prime minister of Canada is a lying, duplicitous, manipulative scoundrel and the only people who don't know that are right here in Canada - right where, for Steve anyway, it matters.

The people of Canada through their government made the commitment, and it needs to honoured somehow or other, or it needs to be dealt with," the Australian climate-change expert told The Canadian Press.

The UN negotiations in Copenhagen put Canada in "a really difficult position," he said.
"Canada is by far the biggest defaulter on its Kyoto obligations on a tonnage basis. And as a result of that there is a lack of trust."

Flannery had just participated in an APEC media forum on climate change and the economy, where he joined several experts in warning that investment and co-operation, rather than "punitive" trade and tax measures, are the most efficient way to reduce emissions.

Canada's oilsands are in particular danger of becoming a target for tariff censure, Flannery said in an interview, and the government needs to be acting aggressively now to reduce the carbon intensity of their development.

"As we go into Copenhagen and beyond I think there is a real danger that unless we achieve enough as countries we could potentially face border tariffs on carbon, for example."

He said such policies would be a "catastrophe."

What's really disappointing is that Canada's failure on this most important problem can't be laid at the Tory's feet entirely. The Liberals have nothing to boast about on this issue. When he speaks of it at all, Iggy makes hollow, contradictory pronouncements on what to do about Canada's carbon emissions revealing that he, like his predecessor, doesn't have what it takes to take a stand on this issue.l


Anonymous said...

Jingles says......Canadians can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening to the environment. When a person can say to me, they moved from Nelson, B.C. to a small community in Alberta to get away from pollution whom is he fooling? That's the attitude of most Canadians. It makes my stomach crawl when I think about what my grand-children will face. So, what are we going to do about it MOS? Who can we approach to lead a staunch protest to the Harper Government that we want change and we want it now...Tar Sands or no Tar Sands. Science has the know how on how to control the problems with the Tar Sands but it will mean companies and their share holders will lose. But loes what? Clean air or money. Harper must please them mustn't he?

The Mound of Sound said...

Actually, a great many Canadians can and, given the option, will turn a blind eye to this. Three millenia of history have demonstrated mankind's lemming-like trait leading to entire societies' abrupt demise. Think Easter Islanders, think Zuni, think ancient Mesopotamians, think Mayan. The truly curious thing is how readily man can at times knowingly accept observer status to his own end.

What can we do to change this? I'm not optimistic but we can do as much as we can - talk, write, get others thinking, cajole, encourage even if that means soft-pedalling when necessary.

It may be too late. The damage already sustained and that yet to come that cannot be prevented may be cumulatively too great. "May"? No, is, at least for some who have the misfortune to live in the most vulnerable regions, typically those who have done nothing or very little to contribute to the problems that beset them, their children, and their communities.

Isn't it a truly grand irony that we, the fat and sassy, whose self-indulgence has inflicted and will continue to inflict such suffering on the "have nots" can still debase our own morality by framing this issue in terms of sustainable growth and the nonsense Harper is spewing.

On this issue, Harper is squarely at odds with all the teachings of the Christ he purports to so fervently follow. As recorded in Matthew 25:40, "Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Of course these fundamentalist quacks never let an inconvenient bit of scripture sully their insane literalism, do they?

I have no answers to your questions and they bedevil me as they do you. There are times, many times, when I simply want to give up. Truth is I don't know I could if I really wanted to. Maybe the best we can do is to embrace our worry and frustration and allow that to fuel an ongoing drive for change, reason, compassion and decency. After all (as I must continually ask myself), what is the alternative but resignation and despair?

LMA said...

Obama is quoted at the APEC meeting as saying "even as we pursue a strategy for balanced growth, we must also pursue growth that is sustainable - for our planet and future generations". True, he has acknowledged that the US Senate will not pass climate change legislation in time for Copenhagen, but he may use new EPA regulations to set targets for GHG emissions. His commitment to fighting climate change is unwavering and a cause for optimism.

Canada, however, continues to refuse to meet it's responsibilities to the rest of the world to reduce GHG emissions. The NDP and Greens are the only parties willing to take action, and the fact that Canadians are not outraged at the Cons irresponsibility is enough to make anyone pessimistic.

The Mound of Sound said...

I wouldn't be too quick to praise the NDP on global warming. They furiously attacked Dion's eminently sensible "Green Shift" initiative, arguing it might raise the cost of gas for the pick-up truck guzzlers dippers apparently like so much.

There's a reason the Greens prefer the Libs to the NDP.

LMA said...

In Bill C-311 they simply called for firm targets and government accountability, and the Libs couldn't even manage to support that. Anyway, until we get rid of the Cons, I don't think we have a hope in hell of reducing our emissions.

Real_PHV_Mentarch said...

This simply says it all, MoS: "The prime minister of Canada is a lying, duplicitous, manipulative scoundrel and the only people who don't know that are right here in Canada - right where, for Steve anyway, it matters."

'Nuff said, indeed.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi CG. I read your post. Thanks for the link. We are indeed going deeply into resource deficit.

You refer to the blowback effects of the "Green Revolution" citing soil exhaustion and desertification which are rapidly becoming enormous problems globally. What some nations, such as India, are only now acknowledging is that Green Revolution technology was based on unsustainable exploitation of groundwater.

Aquifers have the "out of sight/out of mind" vulnerability, a reality that is coming crashing home even in parts of our own North American bread basket. We have become dependent on food production itself dependent on the supply of water beyond the renewable rates of that essential resource. When surface water became insufficient we went headlong for the groundwater, ignoring the fact that we were pumping the aquifers at many times their recharge rate.

In many coastal regions, over-reliance on aquifers is causing an influx of seawater into normally freshwater stocks. Brackish water is truly insidious. The more you pump the higher the absorbed salt levels in your farmland until it reaches a tipping point of sterilization. That's widely believed to be what happened to the early Mesopotamian civilization.

This lethal addiction to excessive amounts of groundwater is also compounded by the prospect of rising sea levels from melting ice caps. Some of the most important farm regions (the Nile delta for example) are in danger of saltwater inundation and there's really no way to prevent that.

Mind-boggling, isn't it? And yet we cling to the notion that there's a technological fix for the dire threats resulting from the previous round of technological fixes.

Chris M said...

Mound of Sound, good points. What's even more depressing is that much of the groundwater in places like India is being pumped out by western factories to make bottled water or pop. I think these countries need to desperately ban this and/or kick the companies out.

The Mound of Sound said...

The sad reality CG is that India, like so many other places, is becoming dependent on multi-nationals such as Vivendi and Suez to control their water supplies and distribution.

It's a truly neat trick. Your company gets 'hired' to manage the essential water resource which, in practice, transforms into the right to sell as a commodity a resource they don't actually own. You go from manager to de facto owner in one quiet but powerful move.

Think of the power when you control the supply, delivery and access to the one product that no one can live without. What's that they used to say about "power corrupts"?

Chris M said...

Yes, I suspect what will eventually happen is a bunch of the locals will end up storming some of these factories to shut them down, rather than the government taking any action, similar to what happened in Bolivia a few years back. The government officials are likely well taken care of.

The Mound of Sound said...

There have been revolts and I think more since Bolivia. Privatization of water gives rise to a host of ills. Ultimately the provision of adequate supplies of potable water is a governmental function even if so many of them do it badly or not at all.

Climate change-driven in precipitation patterns only complicates the problem. Does it matter much to an African villager whether his cow dies of drought or drowns?

My hope is that, at some point while there's still time, we wake up and realize that the answer to all of these environmental problems is the same - a recognition that these are truly global problems which require truly global responses and an acknowledgement that those answers have to be found by treating this problem holistically, as simply different facets of failed approaches with faulty attitudes and perceptions.

As Lovelock argues, if we're to survive we have to learn to live smaller and smarter. When you're already overgrown there's little point in pursuing growth. The rules laid down in 19th century capitalism no longer serve us well.