The Environment

We’re continuing with our discussion of the major issues facing Canadians in the upcoming October 21st election.  Last post it was the Federal Budget - this week we’re going to look at the Environment.

A recent Nanos poll revealed that the environment has become the number one concern for Canadians, surpassing cost of living and healthcare.  Although “environment” is the broad issue, the more specific hot button is actually climate change.  

Fortunately we have moved away from the days where some people would put their head in the sand and deny global warming.  Any reasonable person must admit we have a problem.  Meteorologists have stated that this past July was the hottest month on record ever.  Global warming is a fact.

There is no doubt that Canada has a responsibility to address this as best we can to prevent irreparable damage to our planet.  But how can we effectively do that?  Well most scientists have agreed that the best fix is to reduce carbon emissions. 

And where do carbon emissions come from?  The majority are a direct result of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.  Now keep in mind what I just said - it’s from the “burning” of these fuels, not the supply of them.  In other words it’s the usage of the product that creates the carbon emissions, not the extraction of it.

As I see it, there are basically two ways to limit our usage of fossil fuels - A) motivate the end-user to reduce consumption or B) motivate the producer to reduce the supply.  If either one of these happens, the other will naturally follow.  So this brings us to the basic difference between how our two major political parties plan to address global warming in Canada.

The Liberal Party and Prime Minister Trudeau are proponents of A) – motivating the end-user to reduce consumption.  Their idea is that a punitive “Carbon Tax” would be such a deterrent that people and industry would alter their behaviour and change their consumption habits.  

The problem, though, is two-fold. 

First of all, what if the end users don’t change and are simply prepared to absorb the financial pain?  That might be a bit of a hypothetical question, but there is some evidence to back that assumption.  British Columbia was the originator of the carbon tax in Canada when it introduced the idea back in 2008.  But recent statistics show that our CO2 emissions have actually been increasing in recent years.  British Columbians are still turning on their lights, heating their homes and driving their cars despite the highest gasoline prices in the country.  Our consumption has not decreased – in fact it has increased.  We’ve just bitten the bullet and kept on doing what we’ve always done.

Here’s the second problem, though.  Even if we succeeded in reducing our carbon footprint, what impact would that have on global warming?  Currently Canada is responsible for approximately 1.6% of the carbon emissions in the world while the “big three” of China, United States, and India account for 50%.  Unfortunately CO2 doesn’t recognize international borders when it enters the atmosphere.  So even if we totally eliminated our carbon emissions, the effects from China, US and India would still adversely impact our Canadian Artic.

Now please understand me, I am not suggesting that Canada shouldn’t do its part as a good global partner.  Caring for our own house and setting an example to the rest of the world is a very noble objective.  But we also need to realistically concede that reducing our carbon footprint unilaterally will have minimal effect on solving this planet-wide issue.

So, if using a carbon tax as a deterrent doesn’t appear to be all that successful, let’s look at option B and brainstorm on what it would take to get the producers of fossil fuels to reduce the supply. 

If the demand for energy isn’t diminishing and people still want to drive their cars and heat their homes, what if producers could provide us with an alternative energy source other than fossil fuels?   What’s that you say?  Someone’s already thought of that?  Oh yes, it’s called “green technology”!

Okay then, why not focus on dramatically improving research and development of green technology right here in Canada?  What if we put current tax dollars to work and partnered with private companies to fast track this technology?  That’s the plan that Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party are proposing.

If successful, this would not only reduce our current emissions nationally without having to impose a carbon tax deterrent, but it would also create a product that the rest of the world would covet.  Countries would be knocking at our door to buy this, which would not only be incredibly beneficial to our national economy but would now make us a significant player in reducing carbon emissions world-wide.  Instead of just focusing on our 1.6% footprint, we would be helping to reduce the 99% that other countries are responsible for.  It appears like a win-win-win scenario.  No higher taxes for Canadians, creating a job-producing industry, and taking a leading role in combatting global warming internationally. 

Holden Bowker,

Richmond Centre Conservative Association

(Photo Source: https://www.conservative.ca/)

Alice Wong