The most frustrating and scary aspect of climate change is the way our political leadership does backflips to avoid having to engage the issue. They act as though, if they don't mention it, the problem will go away - for them anyway.
We don't talk about global warming in Canada except perhaps to argue whether it's real or a hoax perpetrated by an international coven of dodgy scientists out for ...well for something. Our politicians, particularly the wily Harpo, realize that, so long as they can keep the debate at the stage of doubt, they can avoid having to do anything. To hedge their bets they can claim to want to synchronize Canada's efforts with America's, confident in the knowledge that special interests (Big Coal, Big Oil) have America's bought and paid for Congress well and truly stitched up. Washington is the best rearguard Ottawa's elected Tar Sanders could hope for.
The one thing that might undo Ottawa's efforts to bury the climate change issue is leadership. Michael Ignatieff, like Stephen Harper, is a committed Tar Sander so don't expect him to do the job he was annointed to perform - lead. Somebody else is going to have to be found and fairly quickly.
Leadership on global warming begins by getting the facts out before the public. The Brits did just that for their people. They told the British people that, "based on the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere today - even without any additional emissions - powerful change is coming. Here is the 'best possible' scenario and you need to begin planning and preparing for at least that."
We know that emissions are going to continue, that they're poised to increase substantially. So what does the British policy really achieve? It actually achieves its purpose. It gets the public engaged in the issue. It shows them a real bottom line, even if it is vastly understated. The public understands that. Once you get information out to the public, once you get the public engaged, then - and only then - can you open the discussion on the touchy subjects - emissions cuts, adaptation and remediation.
Dion's folly is that he didn't come close to fulfilling the information and engagement process before unveiling his "Green Shift" proposal. You can't sell that sort of thing unless the public, properly informed, is ready for change. Dion failed and he really ought to have known better.
During the Frost interviews, Richard Nixon opined that the true measure of political leadership was the ability to get the public to support an otherwise unpopular but necessary initiative. Dion wasn't up to that task and Iggy and Harper don't even want to try.
What issue is more important than this one that threatens the continuation of our very civilization? Day care or corporate taxation? Budgets and deficits? Afghanistan or senate reform? Somehow nothing else comes close. That'd take something like global nuclear war but that doesn't seem likely, at least not right now. So why do Liberals tolerate a guy like Ignatieff and his supporters in caucus who so brazenly shirk their responsibility on global warming?
Don't blame me. I've written to them and I've tried to get the IgLibs to follow the British government's lead and actually use it against Harper. Convene parliamentary hearings. Get people like Hansen and Lovelock and their Canadian counterparts before a commons committee to speak plainly. Force Harper to take the gags off EnviroCan and get meaningful, reliable information out before the public. I guess the genius responsible for keeping the LPC at least four or five points behind the Cons in the polls knows better. They know that if they don't rock the boat they can stay safely behind where neither vision nor courage are mandated.
Which brings me to this helpful bit of prose:
"And we find that this struggle is more complex, more awkward, and more wide-ranging than we had thought possible... What involves us today is a struggle of far greater proportions yet with fewer handles for men and women to grasp. It is not the absence from the scene of a Pitt or a Churchill that causes men and women to wonder in what direction humanity is pointed, it is the nature of the adversary. More than eloquence and more than leadership is required to come to grips with monetary imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental pollution... Yet these struggles are the essence of life on this planet today. They are not struggles that can be confined to a law court or a battlefield or a House of Commons; they require institutions and regimes of immense dimensions and novel attributes; they call - in the final analysis - for worldwide cooperation, for they demand that we struggle not against other human beings but with other human beings. They demand a common cause of humanity."
- Pierre Trudeau, from a speech delivered at Mansion House on his being honoured with the freedom of the City of London. Taken from "Just Watch Me, the Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau 1968-2000" by John English. There was a leader who wouldn't have balked in the face of global warming.