Friday, June 16, 2006

Climate Change Initiatives

Ignatieff has come under fire for briefly mentioning a carbon tax as an approach for addressing climate change. I happen to think that this would be the most efficient, fair and effective way to reduce GHG emissions. But, in some ways, that's beside the point.

Harper, at budget time, came under fire for slashing Canadian Kyoto-related activities. But, I feel the reality is that no Liberal government was going to produce substantially-better results.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require people to make changes and sacrifices, at least in the short-run, and probably the medium-run. This is a big deal, and it will be impossible to make such big changes without a sea change in the public's disposition. No party will do this until the public is truly ready, if it ever is.

Real and significant change would require strong leadership that can transform opinion and -- most likely -- an election focused on this issue. The focus on climate change by some Liberal leadership candidates is admirable. But they are talking to their base, not fighting a general election.

I have not seen An Inconvenient Truth yet. That's the sort of campaigning that is required, but I suspect it just scratches the surface. Climate change may just be a much-too-large collective action problem for humanity to ever solve. I find it difficult to imagine how we (as a species) can avoid burning every fossil fuel just about as quickly as we can get them out of the ground.

Yes, new technology. But what force and what economic rationale makes this new technology come into being? And if it is invented, what prevents people from burning fossil fuels anyway? In the end, the new power sources need to be cheaper than digging and burning, or a penalty needs to be applied (globally) to digging and burning.

Not easy when people can't agree to take this seriously.


At 12:05 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

I used to find this type of realism depressing.

I'd swing between wild optimism that the world could be made to behave sensibly and the uneasy notion that how to shoot a gun was probably a decent life skill to teach any grandchildren that might show up.

Finally, I think I've ended up in a sustainable place -- for me. I keep my own behavior as responsible as I can tolerate and advocate for sensible actions from others. Things will turn out as they will.

Overall, I think you're exactly right. We will likely burn every available fossil fuel on the planet and avoiding -- or even mitigating -- serious climate change is a collective action problem that is just to difficult to overcome.

I wish the consequences of postponing my weight loss were as indistinct and as far out in the future :)


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