No 95, Posted by fw and Helga Wintal, December 10, 2010
“People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave.” Howard Zinn
In Part 1, we recounted the story of our meeting with Harper MP Jeff Watson in his constituency office in November 2009. Among other things, that post, in essence, summarized the Harper government’s position on climate change.
In Part 2, presented below, we provide a copy of a letter that we sent to this MP, outlining our opposing viewpoint.
An Opposing Viewpoint
Prepared by Helga Wintal, November 23, 2009.
Following is my response to selected key points on climate change made by Conservative Party of Canada MP Jeff Watson in his constituency office on November 12, 2009. [A summary of Watson’s position on climate change was presented in an accompanying document, which is more or less the same as Part 1 of this two-part post].
1. Support for speedy passage of Bill C-311
The G8 countries, including Canada, have agreed to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average temperature to avoid the worst consequences of runaway climate change. To meet this target, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in 2007 that industrialized countries must reduce emissions by at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and achieve reductions of 80% by 2050.
Your Government’s plan proposes a 20% reduction from 2006 levels by 2020, which amounts to only a 3% reduction from 1990 levels. Clearly, this plan falls far short of the IPCC recommendations. Other aspects of the plan – such as intensity based targets for industry – will make it even more difficult to achieve your modest reduction targets. Under intensity based targets, total greenhouse gases emitted will increase whenever the level of production increases. In our view, hard caps on emissions are essential.
Bill C-311 conforms to the minimum recommendations of the IPCC. We urge your government to pass this bill quickly, to satisfy Canada’s global climate change obligations.
2. The need to take quick action
The earth is experiencing devastating consequences of warming that were not expected to hit for decades. For example, the oceans are warming about 50% faster than the IPCC reported in 2007, while the amount of ice melting in Greenland last summer was nearly three times more than the previous year. The threat of sea-level rise is so serious that 43 island nations are seeking to limit average global warming to a 1.5 degree increase, to avoid being swamped by rising sea levels. With the longest marine coastline of any country, Canada, too, is vulnerable to sea level changes.
It is likely, therefore, that the IPCC recommendations don’t go far enough. The chief climate adviser to the German government has just released astudy which says the United States must cut emissions 100% by 2020 – i.e., quit carbon entirely within ten years. Germany, Italy and other industrial nations must do the same by 2025 to 2030. China has until 2035, and the world as a whole must be carbon-free by 2050.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has refused, for three years, to accept and implement the best recommendations of climate scientists by passing Bill C-311 or its immediate precursor, Bill C-377. The government is playing games with percentages, or intensities or starting dates while precious time is lost. We urge you to act now on the best available scientific recommendations. The longer you delay, the more drastic will be the consequences and the more costly the action required.
3. The need to act morally and responsibly
Since the Industrial Revolution, developed countries, which represent less than 20% of the world’s population, have emitted almost 75% of all greenhouse-gases that are now destabilizing the climate. According to Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank, about 75 to 80% of the damages caused by global warming will be suffered by developing countries. Ethics, morality and social justice demand that the world’s richest economies, including Canada, recognize their responsibility to make immediate and significant cuts in their own greenhouse gas emissions and to assist developing countries to adapt to a more hostile ecology through technology transfer and other forms of assistance.
4. The need to accept differentiated targets
The United States, Canada, and Australia each emit above twenty tons per capita of carbon dioxide per year. India emits less than two tons per capita, and China emits between five and six tons per capita. Climate scientists advise that the world must reduce per capita emissions to 2.0 tons per capita by 2050.
The perception that climate goals can be met only if large developing economies such as China and India commit to immediate emissions reductions, or if developed countries adopt draconian measures, is incorrect. Early action by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with a commitment by developing countries never to exceed the average per capita emissions of developed countries would result in a declining per capita emission rate, converging to less than 2 tons by 2050.
(See A fairer formula for emissions targets, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 October 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/15/carbon-emission-convergence-principle)
Opposing differentiated targets ignores the historical context – that developing countries have contributed only a small fraction of cumulative manmade greenhouse gases – and the unfairness of asking them to curtail economic development based on cheap fossil fuels when Canada refuses to curtail further development of its oil and gas industry and switch to clean energy.
5. Costs are not prohibitive
A recent study commissioned by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation concludes that Canada can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25% cent below the 1990 level by 2020 and still have a strong growing economy, a higher quality of life, and continued job growth. Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, argues that the transition to a low-carbon economy is affordable and compatible with continued economic growth. According to Stern, protecting the environment is good business, as low carbon growth will be the big technological driver of the next two or three decades. This is confirmed by a HSBC Global Research report: “The world’s climate-related business sector grew by 75 percent in 2008, with revenues climbing to $530 billion, passing global aerospace or defense industries… By 2020 it could reach $2 trillion… HSBC analysts say revenue has shattered forecasts because more and more businesses are adapting their business models in the face of climate change concerns. Seventy-six percent of revenue occurred in the United States, Japan, France, Germany, and Spain….[T]he major areas of investment will be production of low-carbon energy, energy efficiency, climate-related finance, and management of water, waste, and pollution.”
Why is Canada not an enthusiastic player in the new economy?
Lastly, I want to express disappointment with your behaviour in threatening to throw my husband, Frank White, out of your office. Although his use of the word ‘infallible’ in an to attempt to clarify his question number 8 may have been open to a pejorative interpretation, your over-reaction was, I believe, unprovoked and uncalled for. I expect better behaviour from our politicians, as I need to have confidence in their ability to represent me in a variety of situations.
These are my thoughts, for your consideration.
Although Helga invited the MP Watson to respond to her letter, he never did reply. However, he did copy us on a letter that he sent to the nominal leader of our delegation to thank her for the visit. In it, he repeated his accusations about my line of questioning and for trying to put words in his mouth. He offered no words of apology for his own intimidating behaviour.