THE ONGOING CARBON AGE
BY DANIEL CASEY
APRIL 20, 2007
The federal Conservatives seem hell-bent on heightening fears about the consequences of taking prompt action on climate change. And nobody can accuse them of soft-pedalling their message as they pose Environment Minister John Baird for photographs in front of a monitor warning that “Canada would go into recession.” CTV News, the Post and La Presse lead while the Globe and the Citizen go inside with a government-commissioned study that warns of dire economic ramifications should we make a belated attempt to meet Canada’s Kyoto targets. While the Conservatives solemnly invoke Canada’s NATO commitments to deflect any demands that our escalating Afghan mission be reexamined, they take a much more skeptical approach to fulfilling the mandate of a more politically inconvenient international treaty. As reported in the Citizen, Baird claimed before the Senate yesterday that compliance with Kyoto by the 2012 deadline would result in a 6.5% economic contraction, skyrocketing energy bills, and unemployment. “This party has no intention of doing anything that would destroy Canadian jobs or harm the health of the economy,” he declared.
The Conservatives seem to see Canadians as eternal hewers of wood and drawers of water. Forget about diversifying the economy or shifting jobs away from resource extraction, for to rip things out of the ground and sell them cheaply is our preordained and inflexible destiny. As the Post’s Don Martin points out, the Tories show a surprising lack of faith in human ingenuity or the ability of societies to make practical changes—whether they be economic or technological—to fulfill ethical commitments and adapt to reality. Of course, thanks to NAFTA, if we take action against climate change, and the US doesn’t, we end up shivering in the dark, warmed only by our own righteousness. So long as US firms and the political class they own merrily ignore the global consequences of inaction, they will reap very real economic benefits which more prudent nations are denying themselves. Too bad that Canada spent the Chrétien years trading golf balls with Bill Clinton, instead of exerting the strongest possible international pressure on the US to accept the facts of climate change. Refusing to go along with its carbon-driven military misadventures would have made a good start. Now, it seems that past foot-dragging permits Baird and his ilk to claim it’s just too late to exercise our responsibilities for the future.