Economic harm for nothing: Alberta gave in on science against warming, and lost its best defence
Wed 04 Sep 2002
In Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II, a rebel famously declares, "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." I say, "First thing we do, let's kill all the stakeholders."
Stakeholder consultations are a popular politician's trick for co-opting opposing sides in a public conflict and wringing all the controversy out of an issue. They are skirts behind which timid "leaders" can hide instead of making bold decisions that might cost them votes.
Special interest groups like them. And corporate executives favour them, too. They permit corporations to claim sensitivity to community concerns and engagement in socially responsible behaviour. But mostly stakeholder consultation is a farce.
And on Kyoto, it has led the Alberta government into its current, untenable position.
Don't misunderstand me, I loathe Ottawa's Liberals, perhaps more than ever, for the contemptuous, cynical and dishonest manner in which they have chosen, unilaterally, to impose the specious, economy-hobbling Kyoto accord on Canada, and especially on Alberta.
Again the Liberals have decided Albertans shall bear the brunt of one of their elaborate re-engineering schemes.
As they did with the National Energy Program in the 1980s, when they sucked more than $60 billion of our provincial economy to finance their fantasy of a made-in-Canada energy price and energy self-sufficiency, they are poised now to make Albertans forgo as much as $25 billion in economic activity over the next decade just so they can be seen to be "green" to the world -- and to voters in central Canada.
Environmentally, Kyoto is only symbolic. Even if fully implemented, it would have almost no impact on global temperatures. Economically, it could be devastating, particularly to Alberta. Even if tens of thousands of Albertans and other Canadians lose their jobs in the Liberals' rush to ratify, the globe will warm as much with Kyoto as without.
At least 95 per cent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year is from natural sources -- decomposing trees and plants, oceans, geothermal activity, and so on.
No more than five per cent, and very likely much less, is generated by power plants, factories, SUVs and other human activity.
Without Kyoto, human-generated CO2 in the atmosphere will increase by 35 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years. Kyoto might -- MIGHT -- slow that increase to 25 per cent. What all these percentages boil down to is this: By 2015, without Kyoto, manmade CO2 will constitute around four per cent of the total CO2 in the air. With Kyoto, that might be limited to 3.75 per cent.
Now maybe that one-quarter of one per cent is the straw that will break the camel's back and send the Earth warming dangerously, as environmental alarmists have warned. But that seems highly unlikely. Would you bet your job on it?
Yes, lots of highly-placed, government-funded scientists have said humans are causing global warming and the warming will be bad. That is one of the Liberals' principal excuses for bullying ahead with Kyoto. But since when has objective truth been determined by a show of hands, even a show of scientists' hands? Most scientists used to believe the sun revolved around the Earth, and that didn't make it so.
There is no conclusive proof the Earth has warmed appreciably in the past quarter century -- surface thermometers say it has, but the far more accurate weather satellites say it has not.
Even if the globe is warming, there is no proof man is causing the warming -- it's more likely the sun is to blame. And if the planet is warming and if we are to blame, there's no proof the warming will be bad -- 1,000 years ago it was four degrees warmer than today, and that brought on an age of great plenty in Europe and Asia.
But say the planet is warming, we are the cause and the results will be awful, Kyoto won't stop the overheating. We are about to endanger our economy for nothing.
Still, the Alberta defence is no defence at all. The province is going to go to court and say "We agree with Ottawa that global warming is real and very bad, but we favour a made-in-Canada solution to the UN one." So what?
Having given in on the science against global warming theory, the province has left itself a single, weak, reedy leg to stand on.
What court is going to rule that it is bad to cripple our economy in the name of Kyoto, but good to do it with some home-grown solution? And what difference would it make, if it did? Whether UN-imposed or made-in-Canada, a devastating solution is still a devastating solution.
No, by trying to act like a good stakeholder, by co-operating with federal consultations on Kyoto for the past five years and by abandoning the science behind the accord, the Alberta government has backed itself into a corner from which it will now find it difficult to escape.
Columnist, The Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, The National Post