Dear Conservatives, Climate Change Is The Real Threat, Not A Carbon Tax | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

Gerald Kutney's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

Dr. Kutney, Ph.D. in chemistry, has studied climate change policy development and is a pundit on the politics of climate change. Gerald was an adjunct professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, where he taught the graduate course Climate Change & Global Warming. Now living in Ottawa, he has presented several guest lectures at Carleton University on climate change

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Dear Conservatives, Climate Change Is The Real Threat, Not A Carbon Tax

March 28, 2019

I am profoundly concerned by the proliferation of "fake news" on climate change in Canada. By making this a wedge issue, conservatives have moved public attention away from climate change, the real threat, to the carbon tax, an Orwellian-political threat. Despite the partisan rhetoric, the price on carbon is trivial compared to the escalating cost of damages from extreme weather and related events. No one has ever died from a carbon tax, but they have from climate change.

We are forever indebted to Premier Doug Ford, who first fired off the blistering salvoes against the former Ontario Liberal carbon tax, with the repetitive claims of "absolutely worst tax for Canadian families," and more recently: "No family should have to choose between heating and eating.""

What would have happened if he had not reversed this horrible, horrible policy? Well, not much; we might have even been better off. In a previous op-ed, I explained how the Ford slogans were an exaggeration.

Weeks later, shots were fired again by Ford, using the same fear-mongering spins, but this time aimed at Trudeau's federal carbon tax. Ford, now, added another faux-calamity: "I'm here today to ring the warning bell that the risk of a carbon tax recession is very, very real... A carbon tax will be a total economic disaster, not only for our province but for our entire country." Despite economists challenging this claim, only a few days ago, the "job-killing federal carbon tax" was again attacked by the Ford government.

Ford and Jason Kenney, along with Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe, have mustered their forces, vowing to protect citizens from this hyperbolic scourge by suing the Government of Canada. With the economy of Canada hanging in the balance, the case is now in front of the courts, where the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal must decide whether the carbon tax is related to the "fate of the planet" or just a "division of power." Provincial and Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for the legal costs of this frivolous lawsuit (as a resident of Ontario, I will be paying for both sides).

We are essentially suing ourselves over a policy for the greater good of humanity, which has little impact on the Canadian economy. Is this what we expect from our public officials?

There are consequences to all Canadians for these silly court cases and partisan games to garner extra votes. Science has repeatedly warned that climate change is an urgent issue, and governments need to enact policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A special study was conducted by the IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5℃, just to deal with why it was important to act sooner than later. The climate experts asked "why are we talking about 1.5℃?" The answer began with these sobering words: "Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet."

The IPCC report from last fall had sparked a call by the Liberals, NDP and Green Party (but not the Conservatives), for an emergency debate of Parliament to discuss the threat of climate change.

A month later, further warnings came from a U.S. government study Fourth National Climate Assessment, which forewarned of the impact of climate change on the U.S. economy: "With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states." Upon hearing of the economic peril, President Trump famously stated "I don't believe it."

Canada had already responded to the issue of climate change by placing a price on carbon, a popular marked-based mechanism to combat climate change, endorsed by Nobel-prize-winning  economists. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, praised Canada's initiative: "I commend Canada for its ongoing efforts to put a price on carbon. Pricing carbon is an important step for all nations to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions."

The younger generation also recognizes the urgency of climate change, as witnessed by the youth movement under the hashtag #FridayForFutures, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thuneberg. A student in the large turnout in Montreal, Maria Burgos, declared that: "The politicians, the older generation, they can pass this off on us. We won't stand here and do the same for our children and grandchildren."

The science of climate change, as with all science, is apolitical, by definition. Yet, climate change has become mired in a political battle royale. Conservative politicians seem oblivious to this threat or are willing to put politics ahead of people and the planet. We are but several months away from the election, and Andrew Scheer still has no plan to address climate change.

Whether Scheer moves forward with a carbon pricing scheme or not, I, for one, don't care. The important issue is that Canada establishes policies that produce material reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. If the Conservative party really has no better solution for addressing climate change, then they should, at least, stand out of the way of the one that has already been enacted.

In the 2019 election this October, we need to remember that it is climate change, and not the carbon tax, that makes this election "the most important of our lives."