Harper government claims to be a leader on climate change action

Harper government claims to be leader on climate change action

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Harper government claims to be a leader on climate change action

OTTAWA – The Conservative government has responded to an international report on “unequivocal” global warming by slamming past Liberal inaction and renewing its warning of an alleged NDP carbon tax.

The latest report Friday from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the planet is heating up and that it’s “extremely likely” human activities are the cause.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” said the scientific report released in Stockholm.

[quote]The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.[/quote]

The report says the effects are especially apparent in the Northern Hemisphere, affecting everything from sea ice and snow fall to permafrost.

“Multiple lines of evidence support very substantial Arctic warming since the mid-20th century,” says the document.

Haper government playing ‘leadership role’ on climate change?

While environmental groups and some governments around the world used the report as a clarion call for action, Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a statement saying her government is already “playing a leadership role in addressing climate change.” Said Aglukkaq in the release:

[quote]Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21-billion carbon tax, our government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs[/quote]

Canada, however, is on pace to achieve only half of its 2020 promise to reduce greenhouse gases by 17 per cent below 2005 levels, according to Environment Canada.

And of the reductions made, 75 per cent were attributed to provincial actions in a 2012 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy — a group the Conservative government has since closed down.

US on track to meet its targets

The State Department in Washington, meanwhile, reported Thursday that the United States is on track to meet its 2020 target.

John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, is nonetheless calling Friday’s IPCC report “another wake-up call.”

“Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate,” Kerry said in a statement.

Harper won’t take ‘No’ for an answer on Keystone XL

The contrast in tone on the climate file between Ottawa and Washington was reinforced Thursday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a forum in New York that “you don’t take ‘No’ for an answer” on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The TransCanada project to export Alberta bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, which still needs President Barack Obama’s approval, has become a potent symbol for American environmentalists.

Critics fuming over Conservative comments

Aglukkaq’s sharp-elbowed, partisan response to the IPCC report left environmental critics fuming.

“We have an opportunity to rise to the challenge of protecting our kids’ future, so let’s not blow it to score political points and prop up oil company profits,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.

New Democrats said the minister’s comments embarrass Canada.

“This report should be a call to action for one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation,” said NDP environment critic Megan Leslie, “not the basis for Conservative attacks on non-existent NDP policies.”

John McKay, the Liberal environment critic, labelled Aglukkaq’s release “really stupid.”

“As long as you’re not serious about pricing carbon, you’re not serious about climate change,” said McKay, something he said a number of provincial governments have already recognized.

Canada will face disproportionate effects from climate change

The IPCC report, the fifth by the UN-sanctioned intergovernmental panel, is designed to provide governments with solid scientific evidence to support policy making.

The reports also make up the baseline for UN negotiations toward a new global climate deal, which is supposed to be completed in 2015.

To that end, the IPCC reported that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any since 1850.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years,” said the report.

Canada can expect disproportionate climate effects because of its northern latitude.

“From a Canadian point of view it’s important to remember that the temperature change we experience in Canada is larger than the global average temperature change,” Greg Flato, a climate scientist with Environment Canada, said in an interview.

“That’s been the case in the historical observations and that’s been projected to continue in these climate model projections of the future.”

Fossil fuels driving climate change

Burning fossil fuels is the driving force, says the report.

Thomas Stocker, a co-chair of the IPCC working group, flatly asserted in an accompanying release that “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions” are required.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers noted that global energy demand is expected to grow by 35 per cent by 2035.

“Most economists agree that most of this demand will be met by fossil fuels for the foreseeable future,” CAPP spokesman Alex Ferguson said in an email.

Ferguson said the oilsands account for just 0.14 per cent of global GHG emissions, and Alberta requires a carbon tax of $15 per tonne — something many other oil exporting countries don’t have.

That won’t dissuade environmental critics who have long argued the Harper government’s emphasis on pipeline building, energy exports and oilsands expansion simply can’t be reconciled with overall emissions reductions.

Amid the accusations and counter-claims, Ian Bruce of the David Suzuki Foundation said the IPCC report actually does offer a message of hope, if governments have the will to hear it.

“Our parents’ generation didn’t know about climate change, but we do,” Bruce said. “It’s really up to our generation to tackle this problem.”

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8 thoughts on “Harper government claims to be leader on climate change action

  1. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ spokesman Alex Ferguson needs to revisit his math.

    Global consumption of oil is approx 90 mbbl/day; tar sands production is approaching 2 mbbl/day; that calculates out to approx 2% of global consumption. Oil from the tarsands produces 3 – 5 times the amount of CO2 as conventional crude. That puts Canada’s well-to-wheels contribution of global greenhouse gas from oil at 6 – 10%, not 0.15% as proponents want to claim.

    When you relate that to the fact Canada’s population is 35 million compared to 7 billion global inhabitants, you can appreciate Canada’s enormous per capita impact on climate change.

  2. I think he probably misunderstood the question: he probably meant to say “a leader in climate change” period!

    The man is a disgrace, and worse, a criminal. I keep wondering why we let him stay in office and ruin the country some more.

  3. The report also quantified the greenhouse-gas carrying capacity of the atmosphere if we’re to have a better than even chance of avoiding 2C warming. The threshold is 1,000 gigatonnes of which natural methane accounts for 200. Of the remaining 800 gigatonnes we have already emitted 530. That leaves just 270 gigatonnes remaining. Existing known fossil fuel reserves, if burned, would create 2,700 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. What that means is we will have to leave 90 per cent of our known fossil fuel reserves untouched.

    For countries like Australia (coal) and Canada (bitumen) that produce high-carbon fossil fuels that means their natural resource should be abandoned in favour of low-carbon, conventional fossil fuel from elsewhere.

    It means the world is awash in unusable fossil fuels. This, in turn, means existing fossil fuel prices are dangerously inflated – a Carbon Bubble. Athabasca bitumen is not merely high-carbon but high-cost for extraction, transportation and processing, which leaves it doubly vulnerable as a high-risk commodity.

    High carbon fossil fuels may be nearing a tipping point of their own which means Canada could be left holding the bag for environmental devastation, wasted subsidies and unrecoverable revenue deferrals. If the Carbon Bubble bursts it will begin with Athabasca.

  4. Caption for the photo above: “Don’t worry, Canadians, the Harper Government will have all this unsightly ice melted in no time.”

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