The IPCC published an intensely detailed report on climate change last week. Even the 36 page executive summary is packed with detail, graphs and data all of which drives any reasonable person to the conclusion that climate change is real and largely driven by human activity. Consider its first conclusion: "Global mean surface air temperatures over land and oceans have increased over the last 100 years."
There is no denying it, "we" have a problem. Admitting that you have a problem is probably the most difficult first step for a Prime Minister addicted to "bull horn diplomacy," intolerance of dissent, and dumbed down public policy. Yet, even for PM Harper it is difficult to deny a 95 per cent certainty.
You have to have some sympathy for the Minister of the Environment who is obliged to maintain the Harper fiction regardless of the evidence and how foolish that it may make her look. To do so would be to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change and the fact that her government has done little to deal with that reality. That would be counterproductive to the PM's efforts to secure approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. So, poor Minister Aglukkaq is left to dangle in the winds of non-sequiturs and contradictions.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book about the five stages of grief. Denial of inconvenient facts is the first stage. It is followed by anger. Clearly the Conservatives have a deep well from which to draw. Shortly after the IPCC Report was issued the Minister lashed out at the Liberals blaming them for our miserable state of affairs. The Liberals may be to blame for a lot of things but blaming a Party that has been out of power for seven years seems particularly lame.
Lashing out at Liberals is neither unique nor unfamiliar. Canadian scientists also got it in the neck with a standing gag order; no Government of Canada scientist was allowed to comment on the report so Canadians are obliged to rely upon international scientists to interpret the data and its relevance for Canada, even though we the taxpayers pay their salaries. When Minister Aglukkaq was asked about ice melting in the Arctic she said, "there is always a debate around science and what is changing." The Minister may be a very fine person, but we are unaware of her qualifications to arbitrate among scientists. A modest suggestion might be to let the scientists speak for themselves and to lighten up on the Liberals. We are the third party, after all.
Bargaining is the third stage after denial and anger. The problem however is that Mother Nature is indifferent to Prime Ministers, Presidents and other potentates. Mother Nature doesn't do Bargaining. Therefore, faux bargaining occurs among the impotent. "Just give me this one more pipeline and I will be serious about climate change."
The PM has bet the farm on the carbon economy. Telling the President of the United States that he would not take "no for an answer" no doubt caused the President many sleepless nights. A strategy of desperation is a lousy bargaining position. Had the PM secured an enforceable GHG framework which tied emissions to production, he wouldn't be in the mess he is in today.
While Mother Nature may be indifferent to the PM's lamentations, you can be sure that the President has taken note of the PM's enthusiasm for the Tea Party's position on Keystone XL. American billionaire Tom Steyer wrote a note to the PM suggesting that the PMO "is working hand-in-hand with TransCanada to try to exploit the current situation in Washington, D.C., at the expense of the American people."
Bargaining is not in the PM's DNA. Compromise, respect, progress are just Liberal weasel words to him. Our guy is a purist, unsullied by the realities of evidence, however even he is starting to show the first signs of depression. It must be depressing to have the "chattering classes" virtually of one voice. Finding a climate change denier is becoming more and more difficult. At least he can shut down those "nattering nabobs of negativism" in Parliament. Prorogation is such a useful tool when faced with a depressing reality.
The fifth stage of grief is acceptance. One wonders what will be the tipping point of climate change that turns on the lights for the PM and the Minister of the Environment. Calving of glacier ice in the high Arctic may be a bit remote for most Canadians but one would think that a Minister of the Environment who represents an Arctic riding should "get it." "Once in a 100 year" floods in downtown Calgary should get the attention of a PM that represents a Calgary riding, one would think. How many more devastating climate events have to happen to citizens and the economy before acceptance settles in?
The final stage of acceptance is that it is too late and nothing can be done about it anyway. The climate change skeptics who have gone through the 5 stages are already there. That may be acceptable for crank skeptics, but it is not for a PM of a nation that used to pride itself on its Leadership.
John McKay is the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guildwood and his Party's Environment Critic
Researchers in Britain have found that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22076055" target="_blank">climate change could cause increased turbulence</a> for transatlantic flights by between 10 and 40 percent by 2050. (ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/GettyImages)
A 2012 study from the U.S. Forest Service found that without "major adaptation efforts," parts of the U.S. are likely to see "<a href="http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/42363" target="_blank">substantial future water shortages</a>." Climate change, especially for the Southwest U.S., can both <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/02/25/1638541/study-climate-change-dry-up-us-reservoirs-lake-powell-lake-mead" target="_blank">increase water demand and decrease water supply</a>.
Research by British government found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/somalia-famine-climate-change_n_2883088.html" target="_blank">climate change may have contributed to a famine in East Africa</a> that killed between 50,000 and 100,000 people in 2010 and 2011. At least 24 percent of the cause of a lack of major rains in 2011 can be attributed to man-made greenhouse gases, Met Office modeling showed. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
The <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/25/frozen-spring-arctic-sea-ice-loss" target="_blank">dramatic and rapid loss of sea ice in recent years</a> has consequences beyond the Arctic. Scientists have found the melting shifts the position of the Jet Stream, bringing cold Arctic air further south and increasing the odds of intense snow storms and extreme spring weather.
Research indicates that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide <a href="http://www.onearth.org/blog/poison-ivy-climate-change" target="_blank">result in larger poison ivy plants</a>. Even worse, climate change will mean that the plant's irritating oil will also get more potent.
The <a href="http://www.livescience.com/28320-climate-change-allergies.html" target="_blank">spring 2013 allergy season could be one of the worst ever</a>, thanks to climate change. Experts say that increased precipitation, along with an early spring, late-ending fall and higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide may bring more pollen from plants and increased mold and fungal growth.
North American alligators require a certain temperature range for survival and reproduction, traditionally limiting them to the southern U.S. <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/animal_forecast/2013/02/alligators_in_virginia_climate_change_could_be_pushing_cold_blooded_species.single.html" target="_blank">But warming temperatures could open new turf</a> to gators with more sightings farther north.
High in the Peruvian Andes, parts of the world's largest tropical ice sheet have melted at an unbelievable pace. Scientists found that significant <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/world/americas/1600-years-of-ice-in-perus-andes-melted-in-25-years-scientists-say.html" target="_blank">portions of the Quelccaya Ice Cap that took over 1,600 years to form have melted in only 25 years</a>. (Perito Moreno Glacier pictured)
Along with other agricultural impacts, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/climate-change-wine_n_3039673.html" target="_blank">climate change may have a dramatic effect on the world's most famous winemaking regions</a> in coming decades. Areas suitable for grape cultivation may shrink, and temperature changes may impact the signature taste of wines from certain regions.
Thanks to climate change, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/polar-arctic-greenland-ice-climate-change" target="_blank">low-lying island nations may have to evacuate</a>, and sooner than previously expected. Melting of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets has been underestimated, scientists say, and populations in countries like the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu and others may need to move within a decade.
Warmer winters in northern latitudes could mean <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/18/hamilton-climate-change-rinks.html" target="_blank">fewer days for outdoor hockey</a>. An online project called RinkWatch aims to collect data on the condition of outdoor winter ice rinks in Canada and the northern U.S. and educate people on the impacts of climate change.
Experts speculate that <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/08/100806-oyster-herpes-global-warming-climate-change-science/" target="_blank">warming oceans may have played a part in a strain of herpes</a> that has killed Pacific oysters in Europe in recent years.
As Arctic ice melts and polar bears see more of their habitat disappear, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/14/polar-bears-turn-brown-climate-change_n_2878684.html" target="_blank">animals could lose their famous white coats</a>. Researchers have already witnessed polar bears hybridizing with their brown cousins, but note that it would take thousands of years from them to adapt themselves out of existence.
Climate change means warmer winters in northern latitudes and a shorter ski season. By 2039, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/us/climate-change-threatens-ski-industrys-livelihood.html" target="_blank">more than half of the Northeast's ski resorts</a> will not be able to maintain a 100-day season, according to the New York Times. Ski areas will be less likely to receive regular snowfall, and warmer daily low temperatures mean fewer opportunities for snowmaking.
Apples produced in one Himalayan state of India are already losing their taste and even turning sour, experts say. <a href="http://zeenews.india.com/news/eco-news/arunachal-apples-losing-taste-due-to-climate-chang_831169.html" target="_blank">Increased rainfall and erratic weather in the region mean less than ideal conditions</a> for famously-sweet Kashmiri apples.
With climate change already impacting northern latitudes, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/sports/warm-weather-forces-changes-ahead-of-iditarod-race.html" target="_blank">warmer winters in Alaska could mean less than ideal conditions</a> for the famous Iditarod sled dog race. “It definitely has us concerned,” a musher and Iditarod spokeswoman who's already breeding dogs with thinner coats told The New York Times.
<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121108-climate-change-coffee-coffea-arabica-botanical-garden-science/" target="_blank">Climate change may dramatically shrink the area suitable for coffee cultivation</a> by the end of the century and cause the extinction of Arabica coffee plants in the wild. Starbucks has already declared that "<a href="http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/environment/climate-change" target="_blank">Addressing climate change is a priority</a>."
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