Opinion, September 23, 2018 by Darren Clarke
Carbon Tax, The Poorly Named
People don’t like the Carbon Tax.
If I wasn’t certain of this prior to 2018 it was made abundantly clear in the hundreds of angry posts that filled up my social media feeds during the run up to the Ontario provincial election that ended with the anti-Carbon tax Conservative party in power. And while there really isn’t a good excuse for it I have to admit that the Carbon Tax was a bit of mystery to me. So, in the midst of my new provincial representatives looking to extricate us from all Carbon Tax mechanisms I decided to attempt a little, better-late-than-never, self-education.
Here’s the first thing I found out- Ontario didn’t actually have a Carbon Tax.
Yes, all those angry meme’s about the Carbon Tax during the 2018 election and Ontario didn’t have a Carbon Tax. What it had until July 2018 when the newly elected Conservatives scrapped it was a Cap and Trade System. So why did opponents of any kind of Carbon emission reduction plan refer to it as Carbon Tax? Maybe because it’s harder to hate the idea of Cap and Trade than Carbon or Tax.
When I hear the word Carbon I think- carbon monoxide, carbon copy, carbon based. Carbon monoxide makes me think of something that can kill you in your sleep and is sometimes used by people to commit suicide, Carbon Copy makes me thinks of things in triplicate- formal, bad, things like speeding tickets and car repair bills and finally, Carbon Based, makes me think of science class and science class never went as well for me (and probably a lot of other people) as I might have hoped. Now, add the word Tax with its’ reference to taking things, often hard earned things, from people for not always transparent purposes and yeah, it’s an all-Mr. Hyde-no-Dr. Jeckel phrase that is easily made the stuff of a million enraged meme’s (all featuring unflattering pictures of Kathleen Wynne) galloping madly off the social media cliff into the political white noise abyss.
Cap and Trade on the other hand doesn’t make good meme. Cap and Trade sounds like a Fantasy Baseball term designed more to bore the average person than enrage them and make no mistake, opponents of the taking action on climate change want people enraged.
Down with the Cap and Trade.
It’s not catchy.
Down with Carbon Tax.
That, that is a winner.
So for opponents of any meaningful system aimed at reducing carbon emissions Conservative Party advocates, often posing as independent news outlets, i.e Ontario Proud and Axe the Carbon Tax, burned the midnight LED filling social media platforms with anti-Carbon Tax, anti-Liberal party, anti-liberal, propaganda with little to no interest in enlightening us (and potentially themselves) as to the actual details of the Carbon Tax/Cap and Trade System.
Mind you, just for an extra curve in the narrative, it needs to be pointed out at this point that, as part of Canada’s efforts to participate in a Global effort to reduce carbon emissions, either provinces create a plan to reduce their emissions or the Federal government will apply a Carbon Tax themselves.
If you are confused you should be. It’s confusing. But that’s what we’re here for.
What are the carbon tax and cap and trade systems? What are they designed to do? Why is everybody so angry about it? What is the actual cost? What are the alternatives? And what would be a more palatable title for it?
Let’s Not Have Our Kids Living in the World of Mad Max Tax? Trying To Not Destroy Ourselves Tariffs? Avoiding Boiling the Oceans Tax? Let’s Keep Fiji Above Water Tax?
Global Warming, The Green House Effect
To understand how the Carbon Tax/Cap and Trade system came about we have to first examine where we are at in terms of interacting with our living environment in general and quite specifically via Carbon. Part of the equation here is that we assume that the processes that create carbon are completely normal, completely natural, when, if you look at it, it’s kind of crazy-as-all-get-out.
Drilling down into the earth to get fossilized algae and zooplankton to refine and translate into fuel for transportation, for the creation of steel and concrete, for keeping our homes at room temperature year round, for fuelling your plastic contraption on wheels that blows warm air on you when it is cold, cool air on you when it is hot, that allows you to drive-through your local Starbucks to get a Chai Tea latte (that’s what everybody is getting right? It isn’t just me?) is a long ways from being naturally intuitive. But we have come to view this as completely normal, as if burning fossilized zooplankton was after all how God managed to do what he did in seven days.
The burning of fossilized zooplankton isn’t the only contributing factor to Global Warming. Overdevelopment of land, deforestation, factory farming, rice farming (which creates large amounts of methane), meeting the significant demand for red meat, the use of fertilizers and our landfills are all contributing factors in Global Warming via the Greenhouse Effect.
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
National Geographic introduces the Greenhouse effect as, “… the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse.” This trapped heat causes the earth’s temperature to rise which then leads to all kinds of negative impacts to our living environment including increasing the likelihood of things like water levels rising and displacing portions of the population, extreme weather, forest fires (which emit even more Carbon into the atmosphere) and extinction of certain animals and plants.
Among climate scientists there is pretty much absolute agreement of what is happening and why it is happening vis-a-vis humanity run amok. And you don’t really have to be a scientist to know that we are continuing to overpopulate, overdevelop, not to mention overwhelm our living environment with pollution. The idea there would be no consequence to that is beyond naive.
We’ll continue to look at the agreement amongst climate scientists about the reality of man made global warming as we try to understand how it is that, despite that clear consensus, Canada and the States appear to be moving away from very limited action on carbon emissions and towards complete denial of climate facts. (A very recent example of this- On September 11, 2018, Reuters reported that the American government proposed rolling back methane gas regulations, “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the changes will save the industry $75 million a year in regulatory costs between 2019 and 2025, while increasing methane emissions.”)
But now that we’ve seen the problem that bore the search for a solution we can examine the carbon tax/cap and trade system in terms of its’ design as a solution to that problem.
What is the Carbon Tax/Cap and Trade System? What is It Designed to Do? What is the cost?
Proponents of the Carbon Tax including politicians, economists and scientists, view the tax/trade systems as the least contentious, easiest to implement, manner of taking action on the issue of human created climate change. By design the Carbon Tax/Cap and Trade generally focuses the brunt of mildly-prohibitive cost on businesses and corporations that deal in, and thus profit from, carbon emissions. The carbon tax/cap and trade systems attempt to raise the costs commensurate the negative social/environmental impact of carbon. The rising costs attached to carbon would in theory incentivize the use of alternative options by creating a more level playing field for them compete on (the cost of alternative energy options becoming more and more affordable choices as they are increasingly mass produced) thus allowing for a less tumultuous transition away from carbon.
But the methodology of definitively collecting a tax that is much less definitively routed elsewhere is at best a recipe for suspicion at worst fodder for inflammatory partisan propaganda imparted via crazed, cap-locked, conspiracy theories.
In fairness the Federal Liberals have suggested that the Carbon Tax revenue will be routed back either to the Province or lower income Canadians directly (depending upon the method the Province chooses to implement for complying with the Tax). Needless to say, skepticism remains.
For the opponents of the carbon tax/cap and trade systems the challenges attached to change are too much for them to bear. You can’t help but notice however that in the absence of suggestions to fight climate change they are advocating doing nothing.
Axe the Carbon Tax is a right-wing website created by controversial, sometimes Conservative party member, Jim Karahalios, entirely devoted to fighting the carbon tax in Canada. The description of the Carbon Tax/cap and trade system and why they oppose it is concisely presented and will serve us nicely in an effort to get a general understanding how those that oppose the tax define it in function and why they oppose it-
“A carbon tax is the method by which government directly or indirectly places a price on carbon dioxide emissions. A straight up, “direct” carbon tax, directly raises taxes on goods and services that emit carbon dioxide…
The “cap and trade” carbon tax is just an indirect carbon tax by a different name. It compels businesses to buy permits from the government for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, at a price set by the government. These businesses are forced to pass this cost on to the consumer in the form of higher prices – with gas, heating bills, food, electricity and many other essentials affected.”
While we’ll revisit the idea that businesses are forced to pass along cost later the issues that axethecarbontax.ca and many other Carbon Tax opponents stress is that they view the tax as nothing more than a tax grab that does not provide actual results. That this is your government taking more money out of your pocket and putting it directly into an ambiguous and entirely ineffective bureaucracy. By design carbon tax opponents gear their message to make it appear that the carbon tax/cap is in whole applied directly to the average tax payer. It isn’t.
But what is the cost to the average taxpayer?
A Macleans magazine article from 2017 estimated the total of direct and indirect costs attached to the carbon tax at just under $250 a year for a typical Canadian household. A report in the National Post by John Ivison just this week, September the 19th, 2018, though quoting from, “...an advance copy of a paper to be released by Canadians for Clean Prosperity, a non-partisan group led by Mark Cameron, ex-policy director to Stephen Harper, that promotes putting a price on pollution and cutting taxes,” noted that via the Federal Carbon Tax (which technically would go into effect once the Ontario Conservatives remove the Cap and Trade) that the current and projected realities would carry beyond the revenue neutral ideal leading to the average household making money via the carbon tax, “… in five years the net benefit per household at that income bracket would be $328 in Ontario, $1,231 in Alberta and $1,711 in Saskatchewan.”
That’s right, the National Post, generally considered a Conservative leaning paper, relayed that an ex-policy director of former Conservative PM Stephen Harper, was forecasting that those rebates that the Federal government would be sending back to Canadians would come to outweigh the various costs of the Carbon Tax.
There’s still lots of room for skepticism here but let’s move on to the another major concern of Carbon Tax/cap and trade opponents- The idea that it places Canada at a distinct competitive disadvantage in the North American and world markets when it comes to maintaining and wooing businesses.
To explore that we will go back to Axe the Carbon Tax.
While most of the additional sources of information provided at axethecarbontax.ca serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry and proponents of the current carbon-centric social-economic model also included in the source material is a paper from David Murrell, Ph.D., circa 2008, via the non-paritsan, Canadian Centre for Policy Studies. This is a somewhat dated paper however its’ message is in many ways still in circulation today with Murrell suggesting that any reductions in carbon emissions in Canada would be undone by large scale carbon emissions from places like China and that, “A carbon tax is a cost that all businesses will incur, either directly or indirectly. Higher production costs will reduce the competitiveness of Canadian products and services in international markets resulting in lost jobs.”
And Murrell’s concerns are legitimate. A significant move away from carbon in Canada will have impacts on aspects of the job market. Change is change. The question then becomes are we creative enough to adjust to the changing landscape and urgent enough to recognize opportunity within that change. To that end Huffington Post pointed out in 2016 that for the first time there were more people employed worldwide in the alternative energy fields than oil and gas and that Canada was falling dangerously behind its’ global counterparts when it comes to proactively embracing alternative energy sources and the jobs that come with it.
Similarly Murrell’s concern about the impact of Canadian reductions being muted by larger carbon emitting countries, i.e. China, India and the United States not taking meaningful action to cut their own emissions is not without merit. But if there’s anything to be learned from these integrity challenged times it’s this- It doesn’t take too much compromising to be fully compromised. So, regardless of the choices made by others Canada only directly controls the choices of one country. If we can’t make the right choice how can we expect anybody else to? Letting the lowest common denominator be our guide seems flawed.
So if greenhouse gases are an established problem is Carbon Tax/Cap and Trade the solution?
The shortest distance between two points in terms of finding a solution to global warming would be a much more dramatic course correction. A more significant move away from dependence upon fossil fuels, overdevelopment, factory farming, landfills, all our various destructive forms of consumption and more determined embrace of an economy focused more on alternative energy and sustainability with communities seizing upon a humbler, more respectful, relationship to our living environment and all the various life within it.
But that would mean upheaval. That would require lots of work and frankly stress. So like any determined addict we fish for excuses then choose a passive aggressive methodology that we will inevitably cheat on.
So here we are. We are in the midst of a significant threat to our living environment, a threat to our species and we have chose to sort of half do something that’s pretty close to doing nothing.
That’s crazy right?
Yes. Yes it is.
How did we get to Crazy?
Now we can revisit the idea presented by carbon tax/cap and trade opponents of businesses are being, “forced to pass along cost,” to customers. Businesses aren’t forced to pass along costs any more than profits force them to pass along savings. And given the massive profits reaped over the years by these companies while undermining the environment we live in asking them to absorb that cost is entirely reasonable.
As Bernie Sanders articulated in a 2014 Huffington Post Article-
“… the fossil fuel industry for too long has shifted these enormous costs of carbon pollution onto the public, walking away with billions in profits while their emissions help destroy the planet. The top five oil and gas companies alone made over $1 trillion in the past decade. That’s over $250 million per day. The fossil fuel industry is destroying the planet with impunity and getting rich while doing it.”
It’s here we get to Crazy. It’s here we get to where the heart of the sickness lay-
The insatiable modern corporate business model that is guided only by increasing profits. A fully crazed, soulless, model that suffers no dedication to integrity, principles or to not doing harm.
It’s here that what we are talking about isn’t so much about political philosophy as simple unchecked economic philosophy, unchecked Free Enterprise.
It’s never been about socialism vs free enterprise. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to have a weekly subscription to the Marx and Engels Times to believe that acting responsibly within our environment is necessary to the continuation of our species and so many other forms of life. There are any number of checks within our current pseudo-Free Enterprise system designed to ensure we have a healthy society- Laws in general, Labour laws, work place safety codes, traffic lights, age limits for drinking, drug laws, environmental standards, just to name a few. They are there for generally very good reasons. But somehow when we talk about business improving its’ destructive relationship with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we stand on, we go all limp and confusedly pragmatic.
The 2003 documentary The Corporation noted that the moment of drastic change in corporate sensibilities occurred long ago in North America when corporations successfully managed to secure legal recognition as a person. In doing so Corporations went from being what Richard Grossman characterized as, “a subordinate entity that was a gift from the people in order to serve the public good,” to an individual. The narrator of the film then asks the question, “Having acquired the legal rights and protections of a person, the question arises – what kind of person is the corporation?”
Dr. Robert Hare answers the question succinctly, “The corporation of that sort is the proto-typical of a psychopath.”
The need for constant stimulation, the grandiose sense of self, the lack of empathy, the lying and manipulation, the, criminal versatility, the irresponsibility, the lack of realistic long term goals, the parasitic life style, the failure to take responsibility.
The failure to take responsibility.
In one sentence the global warming threat is defined- The failure to take responsibility.
And that corporate psychopath has managed to insinuate itself into the very core of our society. It’s done so mainly by buying politicians who manifest those same psychopath tendencies- populists and authoritarians adept at lying, manipulation and criminal versatility. Adept at cultivating a group of just enough people to win elections.
The goal then- find the easiest 20% of the population to manipulate and polarize, to shape into a rigid tribe. And while few parties are immune from being infiltrated by big money, compromise and corruption, few embrace it quite as rabidly as the Conservative Party of Canada and the Republican Party in the United States.
Which brings us back to the challenge of getting widely accepted climate science widely accepted.
The Great Partisan Divide
A 2018 Yale report indicated that 49% of Americans are, “Extremely/Very sure global warming is happening,” versus 7% that are, “Extremely/Very sure global warming is NOT happening,” and an article in The Verge in March of 2018 advised that 45% of Americans, “… think that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime.”
While given the fact we are being impacted by Global Warming right now those numbers are a little disappointing they aren’t without hope. Those are numbers that can be worked with. The problem though can be seen when we look at the contrast in belief system along partisan lines.
For those working against the effort to decrease Carbon emissions in North America and seeking a base to co-opt to allow for that, the Conservative base in North America, as ably represented by the United States Republican Party, is a more than willing tool to that end as evidenced in a March 2018 Gallup poll.
Consider the following numbers-
- 35% of Republicans believe Global Warming is caused by human activity versus 89% of Democrats
- 34% of Republicans believe Global Warming has begun as opposed to 82% of Democrats
- 18% of Republicans believe Global Warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime as opposed 67% of Democrats
- 43% of Republicans agree that scientists believe Global Warming is actually occurring versus 86% of Democrats.
43% of Republicans agreeing that scientists believe Global Warming is actually occurring.
An objective report from 2016 designed to capture the viewpoints of all climate scientists entitled, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consenus estimate on human-caused global warming,” advised that there was 97% consensus on the idea that we are in fact causing climate change, “We examine the available studies and conclude that the finding of 97% consensus in published climate research is robust and consistent with other surveys of climate scientists and peer-reviewed studies.” And while 97% appears to be the high water mark, independent studies generally assign 90% and up as the level of agreement among climate scientists aligning with Bart Verheggen of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency survey of 1,868 climate scientists that, “… showed that there is widespread agreement regarding a dominant influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on recent global warming. This agreement is stronger among respondents with more peer-reviewed publications.”
So how could it be given the overwhelming information available confirming that global warming is happening that Conservatives could be so off the mark? Well, to start, people are working really hard to lie to them.
Take James Taylor of the Spark of Freedom Foundation via Forbes Magazine for example.
Taylor wrote an article published in Forbes magazine in 2015 entitled, “Peer-Review Survey Finds Majority of Scientists Skeptical of Global Warming Crisis,” leading the article off with this-
“Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.”
In essence Taylor was saying that the majority of scientists believe that it’s nature being nature at the heart of Global Warming. What Taylor doesn’t tell you in his writing is which scientists were asked in the survey. What Taylor doesn’t relay is that the study was actually designed to understand how, in the wake of accepted climate science stating clearly we are putting our future in jeopardy, the petroleum industry continues to look to undermine that truth. When you seek out the actual study Taylor is cherry picking from you are provided the real context of the paper-
“… we reconstruct the frames of one group of experts who have not received much attention in previous research and yet play a central role in understanding industry responses – professional experts in petroleum and related industries.”
Far from being a referendum of climate scientists at large the study was rather a look at the professed perspectives of, “professionals,” and scientists that work within the Petroleum industry. More to the point the study was an attempt to understand why and how they look to publicly undermine the necessary momentum required to affect change. In simpler terms the study was essentially an attempt to ask the scientists and professionals in the industry- Why you lying? As the studies authors stated-
“Our research reconstructs the frames the members of a professional association hold about the issue and the argumentative patterns and legitimation strategies these professionals use when articulating their assumptions.”
The study actually takes it as a given that these people know about climate change and the calamity that lay within. What it discovers is that only 36% of them will tell the truth. Make no mistake though, they know. The Guardian published an article September 19, 2018, entitled Shell and Exxon’s Secret Climate Change Warnings that provided documents from the petroleum giants indicating they have long known about Global warming, the part they play in it and the consequences of it-
“…in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections.
Shell’s assessment foresaw a one-meter sea-level rise, and noted that warming could also fuel disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, resulting in a worldwide rise in sea level of “five to six meters.” That would be enough to inundate entire low-lying countries.
Shell’s analysts also warned of the “disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction,” predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland,” and said that “new sources of freshwater would be required” to compensate for changes in precipitation. Global changes in air temperature would also “drastically change the way people live and work.” All told, Shell concluded, “the changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”
Despite this longstanding awareness of human created climate change in the business community, thirty years later Forbes magazine is publishing an article that an exercise in climate change denial. This is how a challenging topic with so much at stake gets bogged down by dishonest voices. Corrupted voices look to muddy the waters and bring out the worst scientist and/or worst political hack in all of us.
And at times it seems like the worst scientist in all of us just can’t wait to get out.
Consider your average amateur Facebook/Twitter scientist (and/or President of the United States)- A cold day equals the end of the global warming debate for them, a fluctuation within a trend invalidates the trend and the fact that science as a matter of evolution of thought proves some past science wrong allows for the bad scientist to dismiss all science. Of course this doesn’t stop the amateur scientist from selectively using the work of real scientists to support their theories. For an example of a selectively engineered debate take this widely circulated meme about a 2015 NASA report that appeared to indicate the Antartica ice cap was growing.
The ridicule reached derisive heights despite the fact that the report by glaciologist Jay Zwally itself indicated that it could foresee a trend that would lead to a loss of overall ice mass, as the Scientific American noted-
“Zwally’s study team claimed that if mass losses in West Antarctica continued to increase, it would only be a few decades before they overtook the gains in the east. Also, the team has additional, unpublished data showing the mass losses in West Antarctica have not only increased, but have tripled—at least from 2009 to 2012.”
Further, the report was immediately contradicted by other scientific studies indicating Zwally’s measuring methodology was flawed and that in fact the Antarctic ice cap was decreasing in overall mass. Still the amateur scientist brigade played on, wielding only the one aspect of the one report that agreed with them while removing everything that didn’t support their view, including the fact that there is zero debate that the overall ice mass of the planet is clearly declining as evidenced by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (which operates under Department of Commerce) reporting clear, substantial and disturbing losses to the Arctic ice mass, stating in their 2017 Arctic Report Card, “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”
The propagandists also ignore the very same NASA they were quoting making it abundantly clear the trend of rising temperature for the planet had manifested itself in 1.53 degree Fahrenheit increase since 1880. (While 1.5 degrees might not seem like much the impact of small increases in global warning can result in severe weather, droughts, heat waves and in rising water levels that can lead to population displacement)
This corrupted system of processing information is part of the larger challenge of public discourse on social media often referred to as tribalism. On Facebook, on Twitter, people define their belief system by their pre-determined partisan leaning, their tribe. Right or left. Liberal or Conservative. Democrat or Republican.
And it can get silly. Real silly. Consider straws.
The efforts to draw attention for our need to limit our intensive use of those thin, small, often red and white, plastic tubes has lead to derisive moaning from the right wing. It’s just a straw! You can see the ridicule in Alberta’s Conservative leader Jason Kenny ridiculing the Federal Environment minister Catherine McKenna (who Conservatives have charmlessly labelled, “Climate Change Barbie”) on Twitter, “… maybe you should go back to tweeting about straws.” What harm could a straw do? Jason Kenny and the chattering masses say? Well not enough to end the world. Not on its’ own that’s for sure. But yeah, not using straws would be a good idea.
The Get Green Now website advises that, per market research firm the Freedonia Group, Americans use 390 million straws a day. A day. That is just America. We’re talking about volume and we’re talking about necessity, as in, you don’t need a damn straw guy. The impact of all these straws on the environment and the wildlife that ends up interacting with it is incredibly negative and at times fatal. Sure, the world isn’t going to end because of straws any more than it began with straw (though that would be an interesting story, “In the beginning, there was a straw…”) but that’s not the question you take into consideration when acting. Just because solving larger problems often require multiple solutions doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do any of them.
An off shoot of this kind of crazed over politicization of basic things is that many people simply turn to apathy. The fact something as simple as, “We should use less straws,” can get you labelled derogatory terms leads many people simply choose to be apolitical. Which, given the urgent circumstances of Global Warming is as dangerous as being entirely uninformed or determinedly misinformed.
The challenge for the scientific community in terms of communicating its’ findings to the press, to you, in this paritasinly charged, often apathetic times, is large. You have to feel for scientists and reporters trying to convey the sense of urgency attached to global warming over a sea of dishonest white noise while trying to avoid exaggeration. I imagine the conversation going something like this-
Scientist #1- “Did you tell everybody about climate change?”
Scientist #2- “ I did.”
S1- “Well, what did they say?”
S2- “Nothing really they went back to watching football.”
S1- “Did you tell them of the potential future consequences if we don’t take meaningful action and how doable change is?”
S2- (seeming to stare off in despair) … and it was a Bills game they were watching…
S1- Damnit, we’ve got to grab their attention! I mean if we continue like this we may irreversibly impair our living environment at some future point!”
S2- The World Will End!
S1- Well, that’s a little dire. It’s a lot more complicated than that. And I don’t know if the world is going to so much end as the environment of living things on the planet will be massively impacted and the resulting displacement and calamity would be zero fun to be a part of.
S2- But Scientist #1 if you would have seen their eyes glazing over as I explained some of the nuances, we have to keep it simple.
S1- “The World Will End!” it is then.
And the white noise at the political level is never ending.
For a particularly vivid example of a corrupted information source let’s consider Niagara’s own Sam Oosterhoff who plies his trade in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for the newly elected Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
On August 14, 2018, Mr. Ooosterhoof spoke on the topic of why, as his Facebook page titled the video, “Carbon Taxes Don’t Work.” First, I have to mention that Oosterhoof’s approach to public discourse would best be summed up as a Twitter troll with a crush on Tucker Carlson and an endless supply of Fun Dip. It was a painful twenty-minute watch for me that I will forever resent him for. The video features Oosterhoff lecturing the Legislature in August on the relative success of the U.S. in cutting emissions compared to Canada. Here Oosterhoff pointed specifically to a 2018 paper by Jeff Rubin of the Think Tank Centre of Governance Innovation entitled, “An Ironic Outcome,” to support his argument.
The irony Rubin puts forward in his paper was that Canada, despite the pretense of being environmentally conscious was actually trailing the United States, who were to all appearances gutting their environment, when it came to cutting carbon emissions. When you look at Rubin’s report though he suggested that Canada’s unrelenting attachment to Tar Sands was the main driver of Canada’s issues reigning in its’ carbon emissions and that the United States success was the unintentional result of not achieving more success in its’ effort revive the sagging coal industry along with its’ continued aggressive use of fracking to allow for significant use of Natural gas which, as opposed to coal, results in approximately half the carbon emissions.
Oosterhoff held up Rubin’s paper about irony to the people of Ontario as proof the Carbon Tax doesn’t work when, perhaps ironically, it did no such thing. Instead the paper fully implicates Canada’s unwillingness to veer away from its’ economic reliance on the Tar Sands as the culprit in increasing carbon emissions. And there is absolutely no way Oosterhoff’s Conservative Party would suggest something be done about scaling back work in the Tar Sands, particularly given federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, despite all evidence to the contrary, referred to the Tar Sands on August 29, 2018 (via Twitter), as, “the cleanest, most ethical, environmentally-friendly energy in the world.”
Rubin’s paper while providing a frank look at Canada’s economic addiction to the Tar Sands does serve as a kind of an insincere commentary on the U.S. “achievement,” of besting Canada as in, not sucking quite as bad at making little to no improvement in an area that quite clearly need to improve in. Oosterhoff when mentioning the United States, “achievement,” even referenced the increased Fracking endeavours by the United States as if he was referencing something environmentally positive. Fracking may be many things but positive for the environment it is not. Fracking is extremely controversial in lieu of how much water is required to facilitate it and the threat it poses to groundwater in the areas Fracking occurs in.
So, what was Oosterhoff’s point? Well, given Oosterhoff finished his group of anti-the-other-tribe catchphrases without endeavouring to offer any meaningful information on the Carbon issue in general, without suggesting a replacement to the Carbon Tax, a better idea, or a defence of doing nothing, we have to assume the dissertation was simply an act of vanity. Oosterhoff as just another disingenuous voice on climate change. And there’s far too many.
In these tribal times Oosterhoff is just trying to increase his tribe by any means necessary. He was trying to increase and solidify his parties just enough to get elected base. Attacking the Liberal parties Carbon Tax is less about the the integrity of the information he provides us with and more about the likelihood of increasing his tribes influence.
That’s the culmination of the support group a psychopath like the Corporation, businesses, developers, bankers, require to function. They need that same destructive mentality to happen at the political level and in the general population. Oosterhoff was just tending the garden.
It sounds drastic right? Destruction or our living environment by psychopaths. But that’s our history. That’s what we are trying to overcome. That substantial disposition in humanity towards crazed egomania. And this is why we shrink from it.
How could it be that this is us? We create beautiful things- music, writing, planes, castles, dresses, diamond rings, toasters, we can be kind, we can be gracious. And those beautiful works both great and small all seem so real and so infinite. Extreme weather, flooding, displacement of populations and more extinctions of various plants and animals. That’s just a movie recommended on somebody else’s Netflix profile. The need for significant change is abstract. Particularly when in the end we are really looking at the need for change on the scale that accompanied the industrial revolution. It is massive change with an unprecedented motive- To save ourselves from ourselves. Further, recognizing and enacting change can only be accomplished with the kind of finesse and skilled navigation humanity isn’t famous for. Stumbling and thrashing about, sure, we can do that, we’ve done that, skilled navigation, not so much (for a reference you can ask one of the 477 species of life that, since 1900, no longer exist due to humanity or the 16, 306 species currently listed as endangered)
Where are we at?
Is there hope?
Well yeah. There maybe hope but it’s a diminished hope at this point. In the prologue to his August 2018 article in the New York Times, entitled, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” author Nathaniel Rich warned the following-
“If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.”
Rich’s article delves into the advent of widespread awareness of human created climate change in 1980 and suggests initial efforts to fight climate change across business and political lines were diminished as, “…coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989.” Others, like the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer struggle with Rich’s narrative of a time where everyone was working together in perfect harmony, pointing to Ronald Reagan’s dodgy record on Carbon,
“In President Reagan’s first year, the White House defunded solar-energy research, considered closing the Energy Department, and expanded coal-mining on federal lands. When an executive agency warned that burning fossil fuels could “permanently and disastrously” warm the atmosphere, the White House tried unsuccessfully to shutter that agency, too. In 1982, after its bid to close the Energy Department failed, the White House specifically tried to defund the department’s carbon-dioxide research program.“
But the point remains. We knew. We didn’t act. And those most responsible worked hardest to bewilder the public, me and you, from knowing the truth.
Here we are in a high stakes game of chicken against the craziest opponent possible- ourselves.
Here we are faced with the overwhelming evidence of our destructive lifestyle quibbling about whose tribe we are on, whose truth we are shilling, and if not destroying ourselves is convenient.
Here we are with the our limited attempts to fight climate change largely undone by population growth, development, and determined resistance to even modest change, i.e. the attack on the cap and trade/carbon tax in Canada.
What will happen?
My dollars-to-donuts take would be that the worse case scenario will have to reach a crescendo of clear and present disaster in order for more meaningful action to take place on the requisite individual, local, national and global scale. That’s kind of humanities Modus Operandi. The rich psychopaths that have lead us here will look to use their wealth to insulate themselves from being impacted and those of us that are feeling the impacts of climate change will have to overcome their megalomania to try and save what we can of us and the world around us.
But maybe that doesn’t have to happen. Maybe we will move away from leveraging ego, partisanship and unchecked belief systems to filter information. Maybe we’ll stop voting for populist tools talking about a greatness we have never had. Maybe we’ll recognize that you can’t work with a psychopath, you can’t compromise with a psychopath, you can only try to remove psychopaths from positions of influence and in conjunction with that create healthier social/economic/political structures. Possibly we will come to understand that the further away we get from nature, whether it be via over development or over reliance on technology to sustain us, the closer we come to a really rough day of reckoning. Maybe we will look to move our communities away from being destructive forces and towards a more harmonious relationship with the life and support systems around us. I mean, maybe we’ll finally understand that the moment we fully respect and value all life around us is the moment we will respect and value our life.
I don’t know. Here’s hoping.
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