Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is Stephen Harper trying to derail the international fight against global warming?

At this time last year Stephen Harper was a global warming/climate change denier. He did not equivocate, he believed it did not exist. In fact, during his end-of-year interviews he used that lovely phrase "so called global warming". All of that changed when polls showed Canadians did believe in it and they indicated that it was the most important issue to them. Suddenly Mr. Harper was a believer.

Of course, that is not the case. He is still a denier and his actions and the actions of his government over the last 9 months have proven that. It has become politically expedient to believe and his government is not one to let principle trump expediency.

So with this in mind what are we to make of Mr. Harper's strategy of demanding developing countries be treated as equals in any agreement to reduce ghg emissions?

Let us look at India and Canada.

Currently India's annual ghg output is 1343 megatonnes. Canada's output is 639 megatonnes.

Worked out as a function of total population India produces 1.1 tonnes of ghg for every man, woman and child on the subcontinent. For Canada it works out to 20 tonnes.

Looking at those numbers it is obvious that India is nowhere near Canada's equal in the ghg emissions. Indeed, it demonstrates just how much of a laggard Canada is in the fight to reduce ghg emissions.

India is a developing country that is still developing its industrial base. Canada is a developed country with a well established industrial base. For India to reduce its ghg emissions by any sigificant amount it would have to stop or even reverse its industrialization. In other words it would have to stop or reverse its development.

Of course, any demand by the developed world to that effect would be soundly rejected by India and the rest of the developing world possibly leading to a breakdown in the global effort to fight global warming/climate change. Does Stephen Harper know this? Is this his ultimate goal in demanding the developing world be treated as equals in the fight to reduce ghg emissions?

For a denier like himself, who has lost the argument about the need to fight global warming, derailing the global effort to fight it would get the job done. The belief in global warming would not be reduced but he could claim that Canada cannot fight it alone and such a message would probably resonate with Canadians.

I do not believe he is that clever. I believe he has chosen that approach because on its face it sounds reasonable. That is the MO of this government. Put forward ideas that sound good on the surface but do not stand up under close scrutiny.

However, could he still inadvertenly derail the process? Thankfully, the answer is no. With the exceptions of Canada and the United States the rest of the developed world is committed to reducing ghg emissions and fighting global warming. They are acknowledging that it was the developed world that created this problem and that they are going to have to provide leadership in solving it. They will be able to keep the process going until George Bush is finally thrown into the dustbin of history and Stephen Harper is forced by circumstances to finally join the rest of the developed world or he is replaced by someone who is a believer of global warming.

So I expect the Bali conference will end with the planet marking time in finding a new agreement on fighting global warming. The process will not be advanced but it will not be damaged either.