So you've arrived in Copenhagen, and the "Be-In" of the 21st century has started. It would be great to be there, though the trip would probably double my carbon footprint for the year.
But I wouldn't be much help anyway. Who needs a naysayer? Who wants to hear doubts about the whole exercise? Who would listen to the suggestion that, without a transformative outcome, the best result would be a complete failure?
They'd all ask, "Does this guy work for Exxon?"
Before you left, you wanted to discuss my justification for what seems to be a contradictory position. Like you, I am terrified and saddened at what climate change is doing to the Earth, and recognize that dramatic action is needed. But this is precisely why I take this position. We need to do it right, and Copenhagen is not on that track. We cannot afford to play still more games. It has been almost 20 years already since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty — with only worsening conditions on the ground (and in the air). Why will this time be different? Sure, there's a lot more pressure, but it's still the same formula. And the same players.
We are in a tough spot. Environmentalists have done a phenomenal job at educating the public about climate change. We have cranked up a huge amount of political energy — probably the greatest, most focused energy in the history of the movement. But we risk losing it on an agreement that is not just weak, but targeted on the wrong thing.
So here goes. I will do my best to lay out my contrarian position — but be clear that I base it on strategy, not cynicism.
The only outcome that matters in the end is on how we can redirect this new energy to where it actually needs to be — from the partial restraints of Copenhagen to full blown eco-conversion. Copenhagen is a story of many contradictions, but the need to "lose" at Copenhagen in order to expand the momentum for this conversion is the biggest of the bunch.
The problem with treaties
I am not pulling rank here, but my own (too long!) experience makes me very wary. As you know, I went to law school in the '70s with a goal of stopping whaling. When I graduated, and came back to Vancouver, the media was ablaze with photos of the Greenpeace zodiac between the Russian whaling ships and the whales. I soon found myself in the Greenpeace office on Fourth Avenue, where it was easy (in those early days) to convince a core group — Bob Hunter, Pat Moore, and Paul Spong — of my plan. Greenpeace had the world's attention — but it wasn't where the decisions were being made at the International Whaling Commission. So, yes, they agreed, let's do it. And I had a job — get us accredited at the IWC, be our delegate, and get a ban.
And so, I worked with Greenpeace (and others) over the next 20 years on a variety of international negotiations. I have also studied these treaties, and taught them, and I have learned a bit about what they can and cannot do.
For example, everyone today is freaked out about the leaked emails of last week that are throwing the climate science into question. (Interesting timing, eh?) Science is, they say, being politicized. Right. It has always been this way. The problem is that the real politics in science that I have experienced are on the other side. At the IWC, my biggest lesson came at my first meeting — I was your age. A critical analysis of the reproductive rates of sperm whales in the North Pacific had shown that the proposed quota for the next summer should be slashed from 10,000 to 0. After a major struggle, and with only a handful of environmentalists in attendance, we got the cut! But with a caveat — the science would be reviewed at a special follow-up meeting.
Sure enough, in Tokyo the following winter, the science was "revisited," and the quote was jacked back up. One variable was changed — and the following summer, 10,000 whales were killed. But the effort that the whalers expended the next summer to find that dwindling population was so great that the hunt could no longer be justified, however much you fiddled the variables. The result was that the recovery of the sperm whales in the South Pacific was set back for many, many decades to come.
Now the upside is that we did get a moratorium — one on long distance whaling in 1979, and a full commercial moratorium in 1982. So treaties can work, even though Japanese whalers are still whaling, operating under a phony "scientific" exemption (there it is again). Meanwhile, Japan repeatedly threatens to leave the International Whaling Commission.
But enough history. Here are some lessons that I have learned.
More problems with treaties
One is that our individual governments operate at these levels only in their perceived "national interest." This is the "collective action" problem. Canada, by the way, was one of the worst pro-whalers right up until the 1982 moratorium. So its bad reputation today has long preceded it, despite federal green-washing.
In these negotiations, what’s right for planetary health counts for almost nothing in comparison with what counts politically (and economically) at home. Why do you think there isn’t any global forests convention, though God knows, we need one. All forests are national, and all the negotiations even to discuss a treaty have produced more smoke and mirror than you will ever see over the next couple of weeks. Again, Canada is no supporter here; its concern for national sovereignty trumps its planetary responsibilities hands down.
As any international environmental lawyer will tell you, the results of treaty negotiations reflect the "lowest common denominator" of the states involved. (That denominator is economic.) The necessity of Copenhagen is to redefine that denominator, and push it way up. But such a goal is not on the table, because it is state delegates, not environmentalists, who draft the treaties, sign them and implement them (or not).
Yes, treaties can be effective, but there's another irony here. Their effectiveness is greatest when there is the least at stake. Like where there are only a few bad guys to control, or a low-cost solution at hand. At the Whaling Commission, there were only two long distance whalers — Japan and Russia — and it was still a huge battle.
And we were able to "solve" the problem of ozone depletion from CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) only because we could easily replace CFCs with a different refrigerant.
But in Copenhagen, these conditions don't exist. Everyone is more or less a bad guy because everyone contributes to climate change, and controlling it goes to the heart of every national economy.
'Well it's a first step' and other fallacies
There is another lesson that should cause real caution if it looks like something minimal is coming out of Copenhagen. Targets that are set as minimums end up becoming maximums. If science later points to the need for more aggressive action (as it has a habit of doing), no matter. It takes years, decades, a whole generation to bump up the targets. In other words, a weak treaty itself becomes an immovable object, so that overcoming it becomes a massive energy sink for the whole movement. Time is wasted.
If one were to be cynical, or realistic, this would help explain why so many world leaders support a treaty. It will provide a shield against more demanding political commitments, and sheathe the sword that might actually slay climate change. Given the minimal positions of the U.S., China, India and a host of other states (not to mention Canada), nothing more can be expected. Even Dr. Climate Science himself, James Hansen of NASA, is now saying that Copenhagen should fail. This is why.
So, when you start hearing "Well, it's a first step," it's time to shout "Fire!" and race for the exits. And take the voting delegates with you!
One last lesson: even minimal targets are meant to be missed. We have seen this with the Kyoto Protocol. But there is an even more telling example that is not yet big news. When the Framework Convention was agreed to in Rio in 1992, the other big achievement was the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). The parties to the CBD — the same governments at Copenhagen — later set a fixed date and formally agreed to "achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level." In their upcoming meeting next April, these parties will announce that they have been unable to meet these targets, and that there is no hope for doing so.
The elephant that is not even in the room
Speaking of the CBD, there's another big problem too — biodiversity loss. And this unfolding global catastrophe is not related historically to climate change. And it's not the only one such problem.
You know the whole debate about the "hockey stick" — the proposition that when you plot the increase over time in atmospheric greenhouse gases on a graph, the shape of the trajectory looks like a hockey stick, rising gradually over the decades then shooting up like a rocket in recent years. Well, the real issue here is not whether science supports this hockey stick graph. That whole debate is really a minor skirmish, and a diversion, because we are not talking about a single hockey stick, but a whole locker room full of hockey sticks!
If you were to pass around a single piece of information at Copenhagen, it should be the two pages of graphs at the beginning of an interesting book written by Gus Speth, this generation's leading environmental bureaucrat in Washington D.C. The book is The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. Speth sets out 16 hockey stick graphs that portray increases in water use, in the damning of rivers, in CO2 concentrations, ozone depletion (hopefully now slowing down), rates of increase in average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, the rising frequency of great floods, depletion of ocean ecosystems, loss of rainforests, biodiversity decline, increases in fertilizer and paper consumption, and the explosion in the number of motor vehicles.
And three others: growth in the size of the global economy (GDP), foreign direct investment, and population.
Together, these graphs — all hockey sticks — provide a single message. We are killing the earth in every way imaginable, getting rich in the process, and providing a model for a growing world population to join in on.
In short, the message is that we have a system problem, not just a climate problem. And, for me, this leads to two questions. First, can we solve a system problem by solving one aspect of it? Clearly not. But, you will say that climate change is hugely urgent (yes, it is), and it is going to make all those other problems worse (yes, it is). So we have to act on it now, and fast. This is understandable; this is the mantra.
But I would then ask you a second question — can you solve one problem (climate) without addressing the underlying system problems driving it and all the others? Few, if anyone, with the power to make a difference in the hard negotiations is addressing this question, because the whole conference is premised on that answer being "Yes, we can." Unfortunately, the correct answer is "No, we can't."
Tomorrow: Bring in the elephants.
Michael M'Gonigle is the EcoResearch Professor of Environmental Law and Politics at the University of Victoria. Read his earlier essays on The Tyee here.
View full article and comments: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/12/06/CopenhagenContradictions/
My daughter actually works for the Department of Climate Change in DC, and most of them are not crazy about cap and trade, preferring that we should have an emissions cap with a limit on the price of allowances/permits, to limit the cost to industry of meeting the cap
I tend to agree with that position. Lord knows, though, we need to do something and up here and the LEAST we could do is not exploit the tar sands or start building a pipeline across the country so we can ship the extracted materials to Asia.
Best quote I read today about this situation: "If this becomes an issue like the baby seals, God help us."
My daughter actually works for the Department of Climate Change in DC, and most of them are not crazy about cap and trade, preferring that we should have an emissions cap with a limit on the price of allowances/permits, to limit the cost to industry of meeting the cap
MONTREAL — Canada has the largest crude oil deposits in the world after Saudi Arabia, and the biggest in the Western Hemisphere. But approaching the United Nations climate change conference, which takes place over the next two weeks, it has found that the bounty makes it enemies as well as friends.
Critics portray it as a “dirty oil” producer that has abandoned its commitments under the 1997 Kyoto climate change treaty and has fallen short in the fight to reduce climate-altering carbon emissions.
By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, in 2002, Canada’s previous Liberal government pledged that it would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels over the period from 2008 to 2012. The present Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and in power since 2006, has, however, disowned that policy, substituting instead a commitment to reduce emissions by 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020 — a modest target that has been widely panned by Canadian environmentalists.
The environment minister, Jim Prentice, who will lead the Canadian delegation at the Copenhagen conference, told The Globe and Mail newspaper in October that Canada’s negotiating stance would be to seek less aggressive emission targets than Europe or Japan, to reflect its faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure.
Driven by frustration with what it sees as the government’s backsliding, the Canadian arm of the environmental advocacy organization Friends of the Earth has mounted a legal campaign to hold it to the track that was agreed upon earlier.
In October, lawyers for the organization unsuccessfully went before the Federal Court of Appeal to challenge a lower court’s refusal to hear its case against the government for noncompliance with the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. The act, a Liberal legislator’s private initiative that opposition support pushed through the Canadian legislature in 2007, requires the environment minister to prepare an annual climate change plan outlining how the country will meet its Kyoto targets.
Having failed in the appeal court, Friends of the Earth is now considering whether to try to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“This plays into very deep concerns we have as Canadians that our government is out of step with what we as citizens expect — which is best efforts, real efforts, not no efforts,” said Beatrice Olivastri, the organization’s chief executive in Canada.
“Any country that has done its work on Kyoto would have developed a plan and regulations to deliver that plan,” she added. “Canada hasn’t done its homework, and worse, it doesn’t even want to try.”
The high-stakes pursuit of an international climate treaty is an especially sensitive, and hugely important, issue for a Canadian economy that is now based largely on carbon-producing industries. According to its 2007 Greenhouse Gas Inventory — the latest data available — Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in that year were 33.8 percent higher than its Kyoto target, reflecting “large increases in oil and gas production — much of it for export.”
Canada’s total oil production is currently estimated by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers at 2.8 million barrels a day, about 60 percent of which is exported to the United States.
Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to its southern neighbor, a position resting largely on the production capacity of Alberta’s vast and internationally controversial oil sands developments. Canadian oil sands — mixtures of sand or clay, water and extremely heavy, viscous bitumen crude oil — hold more than 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil, in volume terms second only to the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Oil from oil sands projects accounts for half of total oil production, or about 1.4 million barrels a day.
Transforming the thick bitumen into petroleum is an energy-intensive process that uses much fresh water and natural gas and releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases.
A 2008 RAND Corp. study found that oil from oil sands produces 10 percent to 30 percent more greenhouse gases over its production life cycle than does conventional crude.
Set against that, another study, by the Canada Energy Research Institute, estimated that oil sands would contribute $1.7 trillion to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years and that by the end of that period, nearly 500,000 Canadian jobs would be related to oil sands investment and development.
“One of the ways to look at it is that the oil sands generate about 0.5 percent of the total emissions that come out of North America,” said Greg Stringham, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ vice president of markets and oil sands. “We will be growing, and so our challenge is to make sure that we actually grow in an efficient way to try and keep that number from rising dramatically.”
Before the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce last month, Mr. Prentice emphasized that he would not be willing to aggravate a weakened economy for the sake of environmental progress.
“To say the least, reducing 2020 emissions in Canada by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels is easier said than done,” the environment minister said, referring to standards called for by environmental groups. “The impact on the overall economy would be dire. Instead, our government, and the United States government, will be aiming for a still ambitious, but we believe more responsible, goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible and as far as possible, without killing the economy and making the cure worse than the disease.”
Mr. Prentice pointed to the deployment of carbon capture and storage, or C.C.S. — technologies that trap carbon dioxide output and store it underground — as a possible solution. Carbon capture, he has said in the past, is “one of the most promising areas” for cooperation between the United States and Canada.
The Alberta Province government has invested about $2 billion in the research and development of C.C.S. technologies, including a $745 million payout in October to help fund Quest, a C.C.S. project developed by Shell for the Athabasca oil sands venture. The Canadian government has contributed another $120 million so that, together, the Canadian and provincial governments will pay for nearly two-thirds of the project’s estimated $1.35 billion cost.
That cuts little ice with the government’s critics, however. A recent joint report by Co-operative Financial Services, part of the British-based Co-operative Group, and the environmental organization WWF-UK said carbon capture and storage could not justify a continued expansion of Alberta’s oil sands mining. The report disputed claims by the Canadian government and the oil industry that advances in C.C.S. technology would sufficiently limit emissions generated by oil sands operations.
The study found that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the production process would need to be cut by about 85 percent to make bitumen crude comparable with conventional crude — far beyond even the most optimistic forecasts for carbon capture and storage.
It also calculated — taking into account the oil industry’s best estimates for the application of C.C.S. and the lowest growth forecasts for production — that projected emissions from oil sands projects would be greater than Canada’s entire 2050 carbon budget if the country were to “meet what many consider to be a fair and appropriate G.H.G. reduction target of 80 percent compared to 1990.” “G.H.G.” refers to greenhouse gases.
“Canada is not going to be able to meet emerging international regulations and develop the tar sands at the same time,” said Colin Baines, ethics and campaign adviser for Co-operative Financial Services. “The province of Alberta, which is offering billions of dollars in subsidies to help get carbon capture and storage going, is actually throwing good money away that we could be using to develop low-carbon alternatives.”
He also said that the likely introduction of environmental legislation would present serious long-term risks to investors in the oil sands. Co-operative Financial Services has been campaigning against new carbon-intensive investments for over a year and is now working with 40 international investors, together worth about $3 trillion, to put pressure on oil sands companies to address carbon intensity.
“We’re investors ourselves, and we first came to it from that perspective,” Mr. Baines said. “Then as we dug more, we found that besides the big potential financial risk there was a huge environmental risk as well.”
The Canadian oil industry, meanwhile, which has stressed the energy security benefits of exploiting the oil sands, is worried that new U.S. fuel standards could discourage the use of bitumen crude.
“If the standards are discriminatory and just based on targeting out one single source of supply, that does raise some worry with us,” said Mr. Stringham of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “But if the oil sands are mixed in with the other supplies and there’s a standard that they need to meet, we’ll meet it as well.”
Peter Hall, chief economist of Export Development Canada, said that the biggest worry for oil sands producers was what the cost per barrel of new legislation would be.
“Until there is something concrete on the table, it would be very difficult to do a fine-point estimate of the added cost to extraction that such legislation would bring about,” he said.
In the probable absence of any international treaty agreement in Copenhagen, Canada’s target is to “harmonize realistic targets and goals” with the United States and develop a North American cap-and-trade system, said Sujata Raisinghani, spokeswoman for the Canadian Environment Ministry.
Evidence of global warming continues to stack up despite a growing cloud of skepticism
By Scott Simpson, Vancouver Sun December 5, 2009
These roughnecks drill for natural gas in the Fort St. John area. One report warns that the reduction of greenhouse gases will have huge implications because they are so much a part of the energy industry.
On the eve of a pivotal United Nations climate conference that many observers are already describing as a failure, some of the gloomiest climate research data on record has been making its way into the public realm.
In recent days, leaders of nations including Canada, China and the United States have indicated they will attend this month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen.The decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to make an appearance, albeit a short one, at Copenhagen prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to announce last week that he, too, would attend.
Neither Harper nor Obama, however, is promising significant action to reduce fossil fuel emissions in their respective nations — both are promising to implement greenhouse gas cuts that will leave them, by 2020, still short of reduction targets other developed nations are attempting to reach by 2012 under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.Moreover, the purpose of Copenhagen is to build on the Kyoto Protocol by setting new, more ambitious targets for reducing emissions — and that means Canada and the U.S., most notably among developed nations, will be left even farther behind.
Meanwhile, scientific evidence of global warming continues to stack up — even here in British Columbia — paralleling reports of increased human-caused concentrations of greenhouse gas in the Earth's atmosphere.
"Even as the science is screaming out, saying we've got to deal with it, the policy makers are posturing and managing messages and doing nothing," University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver said in an interview. Weaver is one of the authors of an international report released last month updating research since the landmark 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "It's a very frustrating time to be a climate scientist. You feel like Noah, screaming out, 'Okay, it's going to rain, time to do something,' and nobody is listening."
The new report says concentrations of greenhouse gas are at their highest levels ever recorded, Arctic sea ice is disappearing 40-per-cent faster than projected just two years ago, and the rate of sea level rise from warming oceans is 80-per-cent faster than predicted in 2001. These findings appear to present an overwhelming rebuttal to recent claims by climate change skeptics that, based on allegedly stolen e-mails from researchers at England's University of East Anglia, some sort of global conspiracy is underway to fabricate evidence of climate change.
Weaver said the controversy has obscured the fact that two other independent sets of data — both produced by researchers based in the United States — show that, if anything, the British data is underestimating the severity of the situation.
"The denial movement don't care about facts," Weaver said. "All they want is to try and throw a bunch of stuff at the public jury hoping that something sticks and leaves an element of doubt. I think the average person recognizes this for what it is: an attempt by special interest groups to undermine the science in the lead-up to Copenhagen."
In recent weeks, some of the world's most compelling research comes from British Columbia, where BC Hydro is supporting studies into the behaviour of glaciers that are essential to drinking water, aquatic habitat — and future electricity supply. A study co-authored by University of Northern B.C. glaciologist Brian Menounos and cartographer Roger Waite, looking at 20 years worth of satellite imagery for B.C. and western Alberta, reported in October that glacier-covered terrain shrank more than 3,000 square kilometres from 1985 to 2005, that 2,000 of 14,000 glaciers "disintegrated," and that 3,000 glaciers disappeared altogether.
Waite and Menounos are part of a group of glacier researchers associated with the Western Canadian Cryospheric Network, which represents universities in British Columbia, Alberta and Washington state, and have received funding from BC Hydro and Environment Canada to investigate the effects of global warming on the mountain watersheds Hydro needs to generate electricity.
Waite and Menounos were aided in their work by a German glacier researcher, Tobias Bolch, who had previously undertaken studies of substantial glacier declines in Asia's Himalayas and Europe's Alps. They compared satellite images from 1985 and 2005 in a B.C.-Alberta area that accounts for 23 per cent of North America's non-polar ice. On average, they found that B.C. glaciers shrank 11 per cent. The findings for Alberta are even more dramatic — glacier coverage fell 29 per cent between 1985 and 2005 on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.
According to Waite there is a distinct mark, almost like the grime ring in a bathtub, that denotes the maximum growth of glaciers during the Little Ice Age that lasted until about the middle of the 19th century. "When you see that, it brings it home that the ice has decreased by quite a lot," Waite said in an interview.
There was a period about 7,000 years ago, following the last major Ice Age, when glaciers almost disappeared, but Waite said the current rate of melting greatly exceeds the natural history of that event. "What will say is that it never has retreated at this rate. The rate of ice melting far exceeds what happened at the end of the ice ages."
Nor was there any evidence that any glaciers, anywhere in B.C., are growing. British Columbia Environment Minister Barry Penner echoed those findings in a recent interview that suggests the melt trend continues.
"One of the things that gave me concern this past summer, in August. The Ministry of Environment issued which was in my memory unprecedented," Penner said. "It was a high stream flow advisory — in August during what amounted to a drought. How could that be? Because it was so hot that the glaciers on the coast were melting at a very rapid rate.
"There were clearly, unusually high flows when we hadn't had any rain on the coast for weeks and yet the water levels were so high that people in the river forecast centre felt we needed to issue a public warning about staying away from riverbanks — particularly in the Sea to Sky corridor where we have some good-sized ice caps.
"Those kinds of things really trouble me because that's our heritage up there. I view that as our insurance plan for long droughts. When it starts melting at such a rate that the rivers are raging, with no precipitation contributing, all coming from the ice melt, you know you are drawing down your heritage assets at a rapid rate."
Glaciers provide water
A BC Hydro report released last month at a glaciologists' conference in Lake Louise shows that while Hydro relies primarily on rain and snowmelt to supply its hydroelectric reservoirs, glaciers provide up to 11 per cent of annual water inflow to reservoirs for its Revelstoke and Mica generating stations on the Columbia River.
In particular, they provide a late summer bump of water after all the previous winter's snow has melted. An 11-per-cent shift in glacier water inflows to those reservoirs represents the difference between a good water year and bad one for Hydro. If you compound an 11-per-cent decline over as few as three years, you're looking at a significant, persistent supply shortfall for the province's primary electricity generating system — and for all the U.S. generating stations on the Columbia downstream of the Canada-U.S. border, including the Grand Coulee, the fifth largest dam in the world.
Numbers like that explain at least partially the interest of the B.C. provincial government in developing substantial new small-scale hydroelectric resources over the next 15 years, for both domestic consumption and export.
Other numbers explain Canada's broader reluctance, under Harper's Conservative government, to embrace Copenhagen as an opportunity to commit to large-scale greenhouse gas emission reductions. Natural Resources Canada reports that energy resources account for seven per cent of Canada's GDP, make a positive $55-billion-per-year contribution to the nation's balance of trade, and represent 20 per cent of domestic exports.
They are also the primary reason the Canadian dollar has gained strength against the U.S. currency in the last two years, buoyed by higher global prices for oil. Canada would need to curtail emissions 29 per cent just to come into compliance with the Kyoto Protocol that it ratified in 2002.
Canadian plans failed
Kyoto is only the first of a series of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets that by 2050 would put emissions 50 per cent below the 1990 'baseline' levels established by international climate scientists as essential to avert runaway global warming by the end of the century. The United States, facing a 31-per-cent cut to reach the Kyoto target, declined under Republican president George W. Bush to become a signatory to the protocol. European nations, by contrast, face cuts of three to nine per cent, and will go into the Copenhagen conference prepared to negotiate a second, deeper round of cuts.
Efforts by the former federal Liberal government to curtail Canadian greenhouse gas emissions did not succeed, and two subsequent sets of policies by the Conservatives have achieved nothing. According to a forthcoming book co-authored and co-edited by University of British Columbia political scientist Kathryn Harrison, "Canada accepted perhaps the most ambitious commitment among all parties to the agreement." Harrison suggests Canada is unlikely to take action until its largest trading partner and largest oil customer applies the spurs. She thinks this has become likely with Obama's election.
"After two 'made-in-Canada' plans, it has become increasingly clear that the next round of Canadian climate policy will be made in the United States," Harrison writes in Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change, which will be published in 2010 by MIT Press.
"Given the close integration of the two economies, actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States will reduce the economic effects of, and thus political opposition to, adoption of comparable measures in Canada. And if the opportunity to respond to voters' expectations at a low cost is not enough, the threat of trade retaliation will undoubtedly ensure that Canada closely follows the U.S. lead."
In an interview, Harrison said, "Climate change is a particularly difficult issue for Canada in two ways. One of them is that our economy is relying to a significant degree on production and to a large degree sale of fossil fuels.
"Fossil fuels, used as intended, produce climate change. So we are in some ways in the business of producing greenhouse gasses.
"It's also true that our manufacturing sectors and we as individuals are used to having low-cost fossil fuel-derived energy available to us. So climate change represents a big challenge for the Canadian economy and for Canadians because if we are going to be serious about addressing climate change we have to over time move away from a fossil fuel-dependent economy.
"Fossil fuel production in Canada, certainly the oil sector, is certainly getting more, not less, greenhouse gas intensive as we move from reliance on conventional crude to oilsands and heavy oil."
A 'huge' issue for Canada
Harrison noted that Alberta's oilsands at this point account for "a relatively small per cent of Canada's emissions. But growth in production is expected to account for a very significant share in Canada's growth in emissions" if Canada proceeds on its present course. So absolutely, this is a huge issue for Canada as we try to deal with climate change." Harrison adds that curtailing emissions would be challenging for any Canadian federal government, not just one with a power base in Alberta. "The Conservatives actually have seats in Alberta. They have more members of their caucus from western provinces that produce oil and gas. So in that sense it could be more difficult for them. But this is a difficult issue for any federal government, not just because of the economic significance of the oil and gas industry for Canada but also, because it's regionally concentrated, the industry tends to have very powerful defenders in the form of provincial governments. It's not just Alberta and Saskatchewan. Increasingly, it's provinces and territories that are counting on expansion of their currently small oil and gas sectors like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories. The industry has a strong voice on its own but it also has powerful defenders at the table at first ministers conferences or meetings of environment ministers."
Harrison doubts Canada will take more decisive action without a stronger message of support from voters. "I think to some degree Canadian voters have been inconsistent. We want politicians to fix this problem, to show leadership but whenever proposals come out that might involve some pain a lot of people make a big stink. Witness the reaction to a very minor carbon tax in British Columbia — two cents a litre and people were outraged. That's where I think there's a lot more the electorate could do to put their actions — and indeed it's going to take money — where their ideas are, and to back politicians who take tough positions."
Two groups of countries
Meinhard Doelle, an environmental law specialist at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, believes a failure at Copenhagen to advance the emission limits inherited from the Kyoto Protocol would serve Canada's interests — but only in the short term.
"Broadly speaking you have two groups of countries in the negotiations," Doelle said in an interview. "You have countries that are pushing for more ambitious global agreement, and you have countries that are pushing for a less ambitious global agreement — or none at all. I think right now Canada falls into the category of a country that would like nothing better than to have no agreement or an unambitious agreement because of the short-term economic costs that are associated with meeting a more ambitious goal. We clearly have challenges that no one else has. We are one of only a few developed countries that are significant exporters of fossil fuels and that creates challenges that put us in a different position than most other developed countries."
If Canada were to take a longer-term view, he adds, a greater commitment to action might be easier to embrace.
"Europe has positioned itself uniquely so far to take full economic advantage of the transition we know is inevitable, not just because of climate change but also because of energy security issues. You know the transition is coming. Really the question is, how long do you delay engaging in that transition? The tradeoff is that, for as long as you can delay it, you have a marginal competitive advantage. But as the transition takes place, those that paid a little bit of extra early on are way ahead because they are more energy efficient because they have invested in technologies that are part of the solution, and all of a sudden the scale on the economic side shifts dramatically to those countries that are ahead of the game. The real risk for Canada is that for the benefit of protecting a few industries in the short term, we are going to lose big-time in the long term."
Simon Fraser University energy economist Mark Jaccard, a globally sought expert on greenhouse gas emission policies, sees more than a small amount of posturing in the way the federal Tories and the Alberta Conservative government are dancing around the issue of emission controls. Jaccard was one of the Conservatives' choices for a National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy which in 2009 delivered a report, titled Achieving 2050; A Carbon Pricing Policy for Canada.
The report indicated that the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Tories, 20 per cent by 2020 and 65 per cent by 2050, represent change on a scale "that should not be underestimated."
"Greenhouse gases are so widely embedded in the energy we use that to significantly reduce emissions will have wide-ranging economic and social implications," the report warns. The round table recommended an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to "provide real market incentives" for both businesses and families to reduce dependence on fossil fuel by putting a price — a noticeable cost — on every purchase or expense that requires combustion of CO2-emitting fossil fuel, whether it's driving an automobile or buying an imported strawberry at a grocery store.
The recommendation for a cap-and-trade system to curtail emissions followed a blunt rejection by the Tories in 2008 of an earlier round table report on the merits of implementing carbon taxes to achieve the same objective.
True to his non-partisan approach, Jaccard's consulting company followed up this year with a report for TD Economics, David Suzuki Foundation and Pembina Institute, titled Climate Leadership, Economic Prosperity, looking at both cap-and-trade and carbon taxes as tools for reducing emissions without sacrificing the economy. Jaccard has said publicly on many occasions that he does not care which policy is adopted — his only interest is seeing a meaningful reduction of emissions that does not destabilize the Canadian economy. He believes the report for TD Economics and its enviro-partners contains a blueprint to achieve that goal. However the report was quickly rejected after its November release by both federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach — even though, Jaccard noted in an interview, it was premised upon the work of the federal government's own advisory body, the round table.
Jaccard wonders how much of the report's negative reception was due simply to the way in which the data was presented. For example, his company's economists described Alberta as facing a minus-10-per-cent growth rate projected over the next 10 years if an emission reduction policy is adopted nationally. What was absent from that projection was an explanation that in fact, Alberta's economy would grow 50 per cent in 10 years under an emission policy rather than 60 per cent without one, Jaccard said.
The first half of the article was fine pointing out the political elements and reminding us about the ice age predictions of the 1970s. Then as is not uncommon he started giving examples of a recent weather to follow through his thinking. WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE. Some of the examples he gave are also remembered to have caused tremendous hardship at the time that they occurred and that is the problem with the speed of change.
Long term trends not short term blips are the issue here. The speed and volume of the changes are also an issue. Yes the earth has been warmer before but the rate of change at the moment is phenomenal. The casual observers who say we don't mind if our summer is 2 degrees celcius warmer are really missing the point of fragile ecosystems used to change over many thousands of years and of species and human populations already living at the edge of the envelope. Anyone fancy moving to the Andamans or the Maldives and hoping that their kids will be able to live in the same homes?
OK, my take on it is this. We have amassed a lot of evidence. Time to take decisions. There is a small possibility that the decisions will be wrong. Well, that's life- often you have to reassess in a few years time. Reducing our consumption of resources to protect them for the longer term is hardly bad news for future generations. Funnily enough many of the gainsayers are from some of the older generations who are quite naturally careful about not wasting resources because that is how they were brought up.
But the real tragedy of the Climategate scandal is that a lack of confidence in climate data will seriously impair mankind's ability to assess and react properly to a potentially huge problem.
Now under pressure, the CRU has finally agreed to publicly release all of its temperature data. Just how valuable this will be has been thrown into doubt, however, since the CRU has admitted, "We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data." This raises legitimate scientific questions about how the lost original data were manipulated to produce the "value-added." The Times (London) reported that Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. "The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us'. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science," he said.
And greater transparency should not be limited to just temperature data, but to all aspects of climate science. In an email response to me, climatologist Pielke Sr. argues, "I completely support the view that the computer software must be available for scrutiny by independent scientists. Otherwise these models should not be used in climate assessment reports." Only through such transparency can other researchers determine whether or not climate models are adequate forecasters of future climate change or are merely prejudices made plausible.
Climategate: was Russian secret service behind email hacking plot?
Does this matter? What difference do the motives of those involved make?
For that matter what difference do the motives of the scientists involved make? If the earth is warming up due to a human-caused increase in carbon dioxide levels then an honest assessment—by anybody—will show it.
All of us have biases, agendas, petty personal issues that color how we look at the world. Scientists are no exception. The way we keep those biases from driving important decisions is transparency and skepticism. No claim is true until it is proven, and the only proof that matters is if someone who isn't already convinced can repeat the results. True for special relativity, true for gravity, true for climate change.
The behavior exposed in the UEA correspondence showed people acting not like scientists but like activists. If they want to speak with the authority of scientists they have to use the discipline of scientists. They can't suppress dissent, they can't destroy the data they allegedly based their conclusions on. But they have.
They aren't the only people on the planet drawing the same conclusions, and none of this makes those conclusions wrong, but it does call their work into question. It changes what they've said on the subject from signal to noise. We already have more than enough of that.
There are enough shrill voices in this debate who, to be blunt about it, don't know what they're talking about. For them it's enough that a conclusion matches their prejudices. Disagreement isn't legitimate inquiry, certain to make the conclusions stronger when resolved, it's apostasy. You don't discuss your data and methods with those you haven't convinced, you burn them at the stake as heretics. You cast them out of the temple. You shut them up by any means necessary.
It's too bad their emails had to be hacked to expose this. Every time this kind of behavior comes to light it calls into question every inconvenient scientific conclusion. Does smoking really cause emphysema and lung cancer? Do germs really cause disease? Is sickle-cell anemia really an genetic trait, or was that just somebody with an agenda?
Blame the light if you like, but I blame what was going on in the dark.
As I have been on the road, I haven't had time to look at this video and others, but I am familiar with the fact that there hasn't been any warming in the past decade. That alone should be enough to cause people to stop and re evaluate the data in case the flat line is significant and means things might be going in the direction of cooling or that of long term stability. Sure we can come up with some valid contingency plans in case warming returns. But to foist an expensive knee jerk response due to a very short term (geologically) observation of warming is dangerous and could cause more harm than good. Isn't a 10 year (and growing) period of stability just as equally worth noting as only several decades of moderate warming ? Global weather stability would be bad for business, or at least the business planned in Copenhagen.
Climategate: was Russian secret service behind email hacking plot?
There was growing speculation on Sunday that hackers working for the Russian secret service were responsible for the theft of controversial emails in the ‘Climategate’ scanda
Thousands of emails, from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were first published on a small server in the city of Tomsk in Siberia.
So-called ‘patriot hackers’ from Tomsk have been used in the past by the Russian secret service, the FSB, to attack websites disliked by the Kremlin, such as the “denial of service” campaign launched against the Kavkaz-Tsentr website, over its reports about the war in Chechnya, in 2002.
Russia, a major oil exporter, may be trying to undermine calls to reduce carbon emissions ahead of the Copenhagen summit on global warming. The CRU emails included remarks which some claim show scientists had manipulated the figures to make them fit the theory that humans are causing global warming.
Achim Steiner, the director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said the theft of emails from CRU, which is a world-renowned centre for climate research, had similarities with the Watergate scandal which brought down US President Richard Nixon.
But he said: “This is not climategate, it’s hackergate. Let’s not forget the word ‘gate’ refers to a place where data was stolen by people who were paid to do so.
“So the media should direct its investigations into that.”
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he believed the theft of the emails was not the work of amateur climate sceptics.
“It’s very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services,” he told The Times.
“If you look at that mass of emails a lot of work was done, not only to download the data but it’s a carefully made selection of emails and documents that’s not random at all.
“This is 13 years of data and it’s not a job of amateurs.”
Mr van Ypersele said the expose was making it more difficult to persuade the 192 countries going to Copenhagen of the need to cut carbon emissions.
“One effect of this is to make scientists lose lots of time checking things. We are spending a lot of useless time discussing this rather than spending time preparing information for the negotiators,” he said.
However he insisted the emails did not change the science. “It doesn’t change anything in the IPCC’s conclusions. It’s only one line of evidence out of dozens of lines of evidence,” he said.
A Russian hacking specialist told the Mail on Sunday: “There is no hard evidence that the hacking was done from Tomsk, though it might have been. There has been speculation the hackers were Russian.
“It appears to have been a sophisticated and well-run operation, that had a political motive given the timing in relation to Copenhagen.”
Attempted breaches show larger effort to discredit climate science: researcher
Megan O’Toole, National Post
An alleged series of attempted security breaches at the University of Victoria in the run-up to next week's Copenhagen summit on climate change is evidence of a larger effort to discredit climate science, says a renowned B.C. researcher.
Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria scientist and key contributor to the Nobel prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says there have been a number of attempted breaches in recent months, including two successful break-ins at his campus office in which a dead computer was stolen and papers were rummaged through.
"The key thing is to try to find anybody who's involved in any aspect of the IPCC and find something that you can ... take out of context," Mr. Weaver said, drawing a parallel to the case of British climate researcher Phil Jones, who was forced to step down this week after skeptics seized upon hacked emails they allege point to a plot to exaggerate the threat of climate change.
"People don't like it, so they try to discredit it, and the way they try to discredit it is by attacking the individual responsible for it," Mr. Weaver said.
University of Victoria spokeswoman Patty Pitts said there have also been attempts to hack into climate scientists' computers, as well as incidents in which people impersonated network technicians to try to gain access to campus offices and data. However, those incidents took place at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, she said — an Environment Canada facility located at the university. As such, Environment Canada would be the investigating agency.
"They have a completely separate computer system from ours," Ms. Pitts said.
The office break-ins took place late last year, Mr. Weaver said, while the other alleged hacking attempts at his colleagues' offices — all unsuccessful — took place within the past few months.
Both campus police and the Saanich Police Department helped probe the office break-ins, Ms. Pitts said, but to date, no suspects have been identified nor arrests made.
Sujata Raisinghani, a spokeswoman for Environment Canada, said while the agency has no evidence of "successful" hacking attempts at the climate modelling centre, it cannot comment on "threats against its infrastructure" for security reasons.
"Environment Canada routinely monitors its infrastructure and takes necessary precautions to protect its information assets," she said.
Mr. Weaver believes the timing of the alleged attempts to breach security is linked to the coming Copenhagen summit. In the Jones case, he blasted the media for being sucked in by the minutiae of old emails rather than trying to determine who is ultimately responsible for what he called an agenda-based campaign to discredit climate science.
"The real story in this is, who are these people and why are they doing it?" Mr. Weaver said, noting the Jones controversy was not the result of a "lucky hack" days before the Copenhagen conference. "They're trying to find anything. They don't care what it is."
He believes the campaign is driven by the fossil-fuel industry, citing "a war for public opinion."
In the Jones case, critics contend that a series of hacked emails from the computer systems of the British Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia show scientists have exaggerated the case for man-made global warming. Climate researchers deny any wrongdoing, saying the emails have been taken out of context.
Among those messages is one from Mr. Jones, which reads: "The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone."
In another, Kevin Trenberth, a lead IPCC author, writes: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't.... Our observing system is inadequate."