Friday, 21 June 2013

Manitoba's Climate Change Chickens.

An Editorial - by Larry Powell

I call them Manitoba's "climate chickens."

Premier Selinger and Finance Minister Struthers had a golden opportunity to tackle this province's climate change woes bravely and effectively. And, they blew it. 

 Backyard chickens.  
Climate chickens.
During the last election campaign, they (and the other major parties) seemed to conspire to keep climate change off the table, altogether. Their lips were sealed, even tho the evidence was staring them in their faces. Now, apparently, they've been dragged kicking and screaming to the next level - recognizing that it is happening, after all. At long last, In his budget speech, for example, Mr. Struthers concedes, "Our climate is changing, bringing an increased frequency of major flooding." (Apparently, flood-fighting costs in this province have jumped, four-fold over the past 15 years compared to the previous 15.) And so, they claim, they need more money to pay the billions of dollars damage which that flooding has caused. 

So, what do they do? 

Instead of biting the bullet and bringing in a carbon tax, like BC did successfully several years ago, they strangely decide to hike the provincial sales tax (PST) by one percent! What on earth has the PST got to do with climate change? Not only is it surely proving just as unpopular as a carbon tax would have been, it is probably a regressive one - shifting an unfair portion of the cost onto the poor - at the same time.

Sure, BC's carbon tax isn't popular, either. But, while it discourages people from burning fossil fuels of any kind, it also rebates them in other ways, through reductions in income tax, for example. 

And, it's working. 

An economist who studied its effects found that, within three years of its introduction, the  carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption had dropped more in B.C. than anywhere else in Canada by a significant margin! His conclusion; these emissions reductions are attributable to the carbon tax.

Don't forget, it is these emissions which are to blame for catastrophic global warming and an increase in the frequency and severity of such extreme weather events as we are seeing right now in Alberta.

Sadly, as long as our leaders think they can uses climate change as some kind of excuse for bringing in unpopular tax increases that do nothing to lessen the ravages of a changing climate, we can all brace for more floods, wildfires, droughts and crop losses in our future. 

And our climate chickens will truly have come home to roost!

Climate Change Clearly the Culprit in the Alberta Flooding - CBC Radio Podcast.

PLT: The CBC Radio program, "The Current," interviewed a UN climate expert on the flooding in Alberta this morning. (Ironically, he is from Canmore, one of the hardest-hit communities in the province, himself.) He laid out the climate change connection to the disaster in no uncertain terms. But, like so many others, he did not mention humanity's role in the very creation of this horrible "new normal." Below is a copy of an email I subsequently sent to "The Current" after hearing the interview.

Dear Erika,

I listened with interest to your excellent interview this morning with the UN scientist, Bob Sanford, commenting on the serious flooding in Alberta. His assessment that climate change was behind the profound changes we are seeing  in hydrologic cycles, worldwide was, I thought, "bang-on." At least as far as it went. He emphasized the need to "adapt" to "the new normal" by building better infrastructure, etc. That's nice. But, climate change is man-made. It is caused by us. So, if we don't start paying more attention to the "mitigation" part of the equation, we and future generations are in even bigger trouble. Mitigation, in this context, simply means, we must all find ways of shedding our addiction to fossil fuels. These are what produce greenhouse gasses, which trap heat close to the globe and push our global temperatures upward. This may sound, fundamental. But it is surprising how often this part of the equation remains unspoken in the media or, apparently, in our classrooms. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, especially in energy-indulgent Alberta. But, with the stakes being so high, it is surely a necessary one!

Larry Powell

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