OTTAWA – OPINION – magine your hockey team mates started shooting at your own net. And when they had good opportunities to score on your opponents, they intentionally shot the puck over the boards.
Crazy though it sounds, that is what is happening in the climate debate in Ontario. Groups you would expect to work to help the province recover from its economic woes are unwittingly helping the Wynne government impose what is, in effect, another tax, this time on carbon dioxide (CO2).
Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives could have the most influence on killing a CO2 tax. They could easily point out that CO2 is invisible, odourless plant food, the very opposite of ‘greenhouse gas pollution’ as Premier Wynne labeled it in her cap and trade announcement on Monday. They could highlight reports such as the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change which demonstrate the vast uncertainty in the science and the fact that hundreds of peer-reviewed research papers in leading science journals show that there is anything but consensus in the field. They could point to the past 18 years with no global warming while CO2 levels have risen 10%, something that should not have happened if the climate models on which the Wynne government relies were valid.
The PCs could then demand that open science hearings be convened with experts from both sides of the debate testifying, something that has never happened in Ontario. They could condemn the government for costing us billions of dollars while trying to hide the science debate from Ontarians.
In other words, they could easily show that the fundamental reason for ‘pricing carbon’ is at best debateable, if not completely misguided.
However, afraid of the reaction of activists were they to question the science, interim PC Leader Jim Wilson and his team shoot at their own net instead, actively supporting Wynne’s assumption that humanity controls our planet’s climate. All they do is complain that the government’s plans cost too much, too many jobs will be lost, and there are better approaches to climate policy.
While their financial concerns are justified, they have no chance of winning the argument. Most sensible citizens see it as our responsibility to lead the world in solving important global problems, climate change being critical in many people’s eyes. So they regard the PCs as opportunistic and misguided, whining about policy minutia and a few cents per litre gas costs, while Wynne is seen as a responsible leader prepared to make tough decisions for the benefit of future generations.
The first line in Monday’s ‘Statement of Intent’ agreement between Wynne and Québec Premier Philippe Couillard gave her opponents a wide open net to shoot at: “The Government of Ontario and the Gouvernement du Québec recognize that immediate actions are needed to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond the dangerous threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.”
An easy way, indeed the only way, to defeat this position is to demonstrate the futility of trying to control ‘global temperatures’ like a thermostat. Accusations that Wynne and Couillard want to ruin the economy or destroy jobs have little traction, since most opinion leaders do not believe it. Most of those who recognize the enormous costs involved regard these sacrifices as necessary to be responsible environmental stewards.
Wilson’s PCs are not the only ones shooting at their own goal or over the boards. Among those cited by the government in support of Monday’s cap and trade announcement were the Cement Association of Canada, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, General Motors Canada, Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, and Canadian Fuels Association. Even Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters supported the government’s overall objective.
So starting soon, thanks largely to Wynne’s witless opponents, we will have to pay for the improbable climate change impact of everything we buy.
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.