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It's a gas gas gas

13 May 2020 | OP ED Watch

Lost in the pandemic shutdown are some numbers that ought to give anyone concerned about climate pause. You know how our government is like so totally going to meet its Paris targets because you know climate change man? Not that doing so would, according to the computer models, stop climate change or even slow it down. Not even if everyone did it rather than just virtuous modest Canada. But never mind because… there’s no way we’re going to do it. So says the Toronto Sun editorially, because in 2018, the last year for which we have numbers, our GHG emissions were 729 million tonnes. Up from 714 in 2017 and 706 in 2016. Elizabeth May may chortle that “oil is dead”, but not according to consumers like Elizabeth May who frequently flies between her West Coast riding and Ottawa. And it better not be if we’re to get out of this deep recession. So what’s a pro-Paris government to do? Keep on faking it?

The Sun thinks so, predicting that “at some point things will get back to normal, or at least a new normal, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At which point Trudeau and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson will keep spouting nonsense about how Canada is on track to meet its United Nations target of lowering Canada’s emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to net zero by 2050.” And one reason why it’s nonsense is what meeting the Paris targets would really mean.

The Sun notes that so far, Canada’s emissions compared to the 2005 Paris benchmark have dropped by 1 Mt, or 0.14%. But to get where we said we’d be by 2030, they have to drop another 218 Mt, to 511 Mt. “That’s what 30% below 2005 levels means.”

We have no desire to channel Michael Moore here. But it should be said, and said firmly, that if we actually have to get to 511 Mt, or if we actually want to, we have to take far more drastic steps than anyone supposedly reputable except Ms. May and her strange bedfellow Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet seem to be advocating. (In mocking them in the National Post, William Watson wonders pointedly whether Blanchet wants an end to subsidies to Quebec shipyards as well as Alberta oilfields. But Watson also points out that low prices are hardly likely to wean us off fossil fuels, especially in hard times.)

If the survival of the planet means we must stop using oil and gas, or use half as much as we used to, it doesn’t matter how much pain would be involved. We need to do it. But if it’s not necessary, we absolutely need to avoid it. Which means we need politicians who either say “We’re going to do it even if it hurts” or “We’re not going to do it because it would hurt too much”. We might even be willing to have one say “The pain is imaginary” although their utopian vision of an abundant alternative energy future with endless clean, meaningful green jobs appears to be receding over the horizon faster even than the typical mirage.

What we can’t tolerate is politicians who say “We’re doing it and it doesn’t hurt” when the reason it doesn’t hurt is that they’re not doing it. And it’s what we’ve got and what we’re going to get. Because if nobody’s telling the truth, you can’t debate the matter and get smarter people or smarter policy.

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