Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 2,000-page Fifth Assessment Report, a document updated every six years which is a collaborative effort by the world's leading scientists. The executive summary alone is 36 pages and is filled with dense data analysis to substantiate their conclusions. It is in some respects the best of what science can offer to policy makers concerned about climate change and provides insight regarding the consequences that can be reasonably anticipated using updated models and policy options.
Every society has its collection of cranks and skeptics and Canada is no exception. There are those who still believe that the earth is flat, cigarettes will do you no harm, and climate change is an elaborate hoax by grant-dependent academics. Unfortunately, Canada has a government that comes dangerously close to those members of our society who cannot or will not believe the best evidence available.
In response to the IPCC's massive and comprehensive report which cites incontrovertible evidence that climate change is real, man-made, and it will have a significant impact on Canada, the Government puts out a press release blaming the Liberal Party for its alleged past environmental failures. Apparently it must be Sir Wilfrid Laurier's fault because, after all, he was the Liberal Prime Minister when the Industrial Age began. The response was so startlingly stupid as to make one wonder about a sanity deficit in the PMO.
Upon reflection however, there is some tortured logic behind such a prima facie absurdity. The Prime Minister has no oil and gas industry regulation deal and is in real danger of losing the Keystone XL pipeline to a combination of anti-Keystone activists, environmentalists, and U.S. politics. So, to admit that climate change is real, that the oil sands is a high profile contributor, and that he has done nothing on his watch to curb emissions, plays into what the anti-Keystone coalition has been saying all along. Not good timing, so better to say nothing and have Minister Aglukkaq attack the Liberals, the Great Satan of Conservative paranoia.
This could be all just shenanigans inside Parliament Hill politics except that the implications for our nation are very serious. Put aside the real and present danger of losing Keystone and its significant impact on Alberta and Canada's economy for the moment. Ignore, if you will, the implacable opposition of some European nations to our so called "dirty oil" and how that plays into the difficulties of securing a free trade agreement with the EU. These will be significant economic impacts in and of themselves.
What is far more disturbing, however, is the virtual absence of the Harper government in preparing Canada for the post-carbon economy. It is not likely that carbon emissions will be significantly reduced in the near term and the IPCC report offers a disturbing calculation of the amount of CO2 the earth can absorb in the short term. We have reached a tipping point however; for a government to not even offer the nation a plan to cope and potentially prosper in a declining carbon environment is tantamount to gross negligence. A press release blaming the Liberals is not a plan in the short term, the long term, the medium term or any term at all.
Other nations have had their wakeup calls. Germany has embraced alternative energy sources to the extent that they are shutting down polluting sources and adding transmission capacity. And they still make the best cars in the world. John Kerry the U.S. Secretary of State read the report and said that it was, indeed a real "wakeup call." The only conclusion one can reach is that PM Harper must be a sound sleeper.
Whether it is sleeping or sleep walking, picking a fight with the President of the United States is never smart. What bright light told the PM to tell the President that a "no" to Keystone XL is unacceptable. How is that good politics? Lining up with the President's avowed political enemies in the Tea Party is a strategy so bereft of forethought as to make one think that sanity deficit in the PMO is much worse than previously thought. Yet another press release blaming the Liberals for all of mankind's ills will be sure to follow.
What are the world's scientists to make of the hermit kingdom PM? At least they will be able to speak unlike Canadian scientists who have a standing gag order imposed upon them by a PM determined to control the message. And what would that message be?
If it wasn't for international scientists offering their best evidence, Canadians would be wrapped in a cocoon of blissful ignorance courtesy of our PM. Ignorance, blissful or otherwise, is no way to run a country. Sir Wilfrid's sunny ways embraced opportunity and made the 20th century Canada's. It is a pity that this Prime Minister has neither the vision nor the sunny ways of Sir Wilfrid.