Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Don't Trust Your Government

The Trudeau government has chosen, yes chosen, to do harm rather than good. It says it recognizes that climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and then it switches faces and says that no nation would just leave 173 billion barrels of the world's filthiest, highest carbon and toxic ersatz petroleum sludge in the ground. There is an internal contradiction there especially when scientific opinion holds that, if almost all of that bitumen isn't left in the ground, we don't stand a chance on preventing runaway global warming.

So Trudeau is the scorpion atop the frog's back in mid-pond. He can't help stinging the frog to death even though it means he's going to drown too. Unfortunately, we're the frog.

Mastering cognitive dissonance should not be an admired quality of political leadership.

But we're also going to take action on climate change at the same time, right? In a purely token sense, perhaps. In a meaningful way, no.

Here's the problem. Climate change in all its dynamics is a scientific issue. It's physics, atmospherics, hydrology, geology, chemistry, virtually every "earth science" is involved. It's a scientific problem that requires scientific responses to be effective.

Climate change, however, has been hijacked. It's been taken out of the realm of science and into the forum of politics. It's now treated as a political matter with political targets and political solutions.

There's a disconnect between the political theory and scientific reality. Here's an example. Science has convincingly shown that the progress of climate change is not linear. It doesn't follow a steady, predictable pace. It's unpredictable. It proceeds in spurts and it is accelerating. It's now been named the Great Acceleration.

The political response is to set political targets such as 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.0 degrees Celsius as the limits of warming. And we set political timelines of 2025 or 2030 or 2050.  They're linear projections. How do these political targets and political timelines comport with scientific reality, what's really underway? They don't. The political numbers don't jibe with the scientific numbers.

And even though climate change is a global threat, we don't respond to it globally, as a civilization, as a species under threat. We all sing kumbaya and then go back home where each nation comes up with its own plan. And the commitments, even if they were kept (and we have no track record of achieving that) still  leave us in the 3.0 - 3.5 degree Celsius range.

Why don't we all just sit down, every country and every region, and hammer out something that might bear some resemblance to the scientific reality? There's a problem. That would give rise to all manner of issues of equity, equitable treatment, and the wealthy nations aren't in the mood for sharing with the Third World. We've committed to giving the have-nots money to spend on adaptation and we're not even keeping that promise. Maybe we realize it wouldn't make any goddamned difference at this point anyway.

The irresistible advantage of framing this as a political issue is that our leaders get to define the scope of the problem. They can pretend that this is a matter of trimming our carbon emissions a bit here and there: so much by this year, so much more by that year. Think of it as a Potemkin response. Why? Because climate change is just one part of a much greater problem. It's one symptom of a terrible disease. Our political approach leaves out all the rest. It leaves out ocean acidification. It leaves out the broken hydrological cycle. It gives scant to no regard to the natural feedback loops, a.k.a. runaway global warming, we are already triggering. It omits two other biggies - overpopulation and over-consumption of rapidly dwindling resources.

Our political approach, flagging as that is, turns its back on the reality that our species has grown vastly beyond the sustainable limits of our finite environment. No provision will be considered to bring humanity back within the ecological carrying capacity of our one and only biosphere, our planet, Spaceship Earth. We shall not be restrained. We intend to pursue perpetual, exponential growth.

Only by bringing humanity safely within the finite limits of our environment can we hope to solve all of the existential challenges that confront humanity and, even then, there are no ironclad guarantees.

Our prime minister with his bitumen fetish will not be restrained. He is content to add insult to the global injury, assuring the gullible that we can have it both ways, that we can have our cake and eat it too.


Lorne said...

Of course, by keeping it in the realm of politics instead of reality, all manner of crazies can claim their own denialist 'opinions' about global warming as fact.

I wonder, Mound, if the fact of our science illiteracy is being used against us, eh?

The Mound of Sound said...

I expect you're right, Lorne. We are paying a price for our science illiteracy. When you delve into this problem, read more of the reports and summaries, the two streams - political and reality - emerge. That's when it becomes obvious that we're not getting the truth from our elected officials.

At times I wonder if they haven't already thrown in the towel and are offering us a cosmetic programme to mask their inactivity. After all what is carbon pricing? You levy a few cents a litre at the pump and then remit the money to the province in which it's raised.

Without a plan to allocate those funds to some climate-related purpose it's really just moving your food around on the plate to make believe you're eating. It's a response taken without regard to the measure and pace of the problem it's supposed to address. There'll be some good from it but it won't be nearly enough.

It's another way in which governments are failing us and, as it continues, nationalism and populism can flourish in the resulting discontent.

the salamander said...

.. the Potemkin response.. lots of hand waving.. cheerfulness
Folks are happy n satisfied.. why stir them up

That's 'Politics 1.01
Calm them mislead them redirect them
or enflame them as required
excuse me .. but its horseshit salad
minus the lettuce

We get our daily mainstream injection of course
'all is well.. somebody or some party looking after this'
Hell, maybe even Government !
Its laughing gas.. like from the dentist

Anonymous said...

Global Warming is a problem, to be sure. But carbon pricing is no solution.

Take a look at global GHG emissions from 2003 to 2008. A big spike. What also happened around this time? Global oil prices tripled! If an effective 200% carbon tax does nothing to curb emissions, what level of taxation will actually work? This is voodoo economics.

Trudeau also shows the whole thing is a scam. Bitumen exports to China mean that Canada's share of the GHG emissions they produce when accounted for is only a tiny fraction. China gets the rest of the emissions on the books. And they won't start cutting emissions to 2030. (An absurd commitment heralded in the Fake News.)

Trudeau also shows the grand plan: unload all the factories to Mexico, TPP nations and China via free trade deals; unload the associated GHG emissions; unload the associated jobs. Then say all the jobs were lost to automation!

The West will pat itself on the back for reducing carbon emissions so drastically in their own countries. All the while global GHG emissions will continue to soar.

It will also put the fate of the world in the hands of fascist oligarchs. Because they can regulate industrial emissions however they please. If you keep the lion share of manufacturing at home, you have democratic power to enforce regulations.

The only solution is Fair Trade social and green tariffs to force oligarchs to distribute wealth and get their environmental houses in order. They are not going to carbon-tax themselves. Neither are oligarch-wannabes in the homeland. They make the little people pay for the carbon taxes – and everything else.

(The little people pay and pay and pay – and all their sacrifices come to naught.)

Toby said...

 Anonymous said, Global Warming is a problem, to be sure. But carbon pricing is no solution."

Raising the price doesn't accomplish anything if the number of vehicles on the road increases.

Carbon pricing has to hurt enough that people make better choices. Several years ago (before Erdogan) I was in Turkey. At the time, gasoline was retailing for close to $3.00 per litre Cdn. At the same time the average Turkish wage was considerately less than Canadians were earning. In a situation like that people don't by vehicles with V8 engines. McKenna's carbon tax is a silly token.

Carbon pricing is only part of the solution. Oslo is making the city easier for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit to get around while eliminating on-street parking for cars. London charges a heavy fee for bringing a car into the city.

I won't repeat all the changes necessary to combat Global Warming; Mound has catalogued most of them.

Deacon Jester said...

I just love it when I hear or read someone telling me that the only solution is something that'll never happen. Just love it. Perfect representation of the vain futility of humanity.

Toby said...

I don't know what exactly you are referring to, Deacon, but Global Warming will affect you too.

Deacon Jester said...

No, Toby, seriously?

Good lord, there's no need to demonstrate your capacity to re-state the obvious.

Perhaps you read from an earlier in this thread on this post this beauty: "The only solution is Fair Trade social and green tariffs to force oligarchs to distribute wealth and get their environmental houses in order. They are not going to carbon-tax themselves. Neither are oligarch-wannabes in the homeland. They make the little people pay for the carbon taxes – and everything else."

Thus my mini-spew about vanity and futility. Which I repeat now.

Anonymous said...

Neoliberals are always complaining about neoliberalism -- and then they always say we must accept neoliberalism because anything else is a pipe dream. Are these people cowards or are they corrupt?

Here are the facts. Free trade globalization began about 25 years ago with the 1988 US-Canada FTA. It has been an unmitigated disaster. All bad things come to an end.

Before free-trade we had managed trade. Deals like the Auto-Pact that ensured cars would be built in Canada for market access -- to ensure there was a market for cars. I.e, to protect the market; to protect good-paying jobs.

Clearly there is no market for new cars in Mexico where workers are paid $3/hr at auto plants. So this process is like burning the furniture to heat the house. Except the economy collapses when they run out of furniture.

Fair Trade has been the labor position all along. And do you know who is championing this position right now as we speak? As hysterical ignoramuses run around screaming at the sky? Donald J Trump.

This from the Toronto Star:


The publication Inside U.S. Trade reported Tuesday that the U.S. now says it is willing to drop the U.S. content proposal if Canada and Mexico agree to count autoworkers’ wages toward the North American content requirement.

In other words, auto companies could help themselves avoid tariffs by paying their Mexican workers more. The qualifying wage level in the new U.S. proposal is believed to be somewhere around $15 (U.S.) per hour, more than three times higher than the current Mexican average.

Horacio A. Lopez-Portillo, a trade lawyer at Vazquez Tercero & Zepeda in Mexico, said “$15 is not workable.”

“There is no way it’s going to happen,” Lopez-Portillo said in an interview. “Can the Mexican government be pressured to increase wages in the auto industry higher than they currently are? Maybe. But it won’t be much higher than where they actually stand.”



So it's already happening. Only neoliberals and neocons (and their pet neoprogressives unwittingly) standing in the way.

Why are neoliberals against a living wage in Mexico? Why are they against workers across North America? Why are they for free trade with TPP nations and China as well as open borders across the Americas?

Because they are "progressive"? I think not.

Bill Hicks said...

A pretty boy, articulate, supposed "liberal" who is really a snake oil salesman and sheep in wolf's clothing? Sounds like Canada has found its Barack Obama--fully complete with empty PC virtue signalling. Now let's see how many Canadian liberals get totally taken in as so many Americans did.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds like Canada has found its Barack Obama"

Same thing happened 50 years ago. Only it was JFK and the Canadian knock-off: PET.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for upper-crust moochers like us."

Junior IS his father's son -- albeit an uncultured empty-headed version. (They don't make 'em like they used to!)