Marking Time on Climate Change

In our blog on COP 22 ( “Trump spoils the party at Marrakech.” ) we reported that President Trump moved quickly to fulfill his campaign promise to pull the US out of the Paris Accord.  We observed that: “. . . the whole UN process has been undermined by US politics. If the US withdraws its financial support of the Green Climate Fund that could be the kiss of death . . . “

As for the future we concluded:

“The best prospect is a change of Government in the US at the next election [2020]. Let’s cross our fingers that the lack of international progress on climate change over the next four years is not fatal.”

So where do we stand one year after COP 22?

A Manchester Guardian commentary – Fundamental obstacles to an Effective International Strategy to Fight Climate Change – is an excellent summary of the conclusions to be drawn from COP 23.  The Guardian’s key points, reproduced in italics in paragraphs 1-4 below, are followed by our observations.

  1. “The catastrophic impacts of altering the atmosphere impose an enormous cost on future generations that the current generation creates but has no incentive to fix”.

A fundamental problem, complicated by the uncertainty over the choice and cost of mitigation measures and – more seriously – continued disputes over how these measures should be financed.

  1. “Given what is at stake, it is worth pausing to consider where – and how quickly – the globe is going.”

The difficulty is the “known unknown”.  We know there will be consequences of global warming, but how severe? are they inevitable and when will these consequences materialize? and how will different countries be affected?  There are no conclusive answers to any of these questions, although climatologists can draw reasonable inferences from the climate change that  has already occurred.

  1. These green talks, – such as occur at COP sessions- which are fundamentally about ethical concerns, are nevertheless becoming more like discussions about trade.

4RG considers that ethical concerns are reason enough to limit climate change.  However, some “developed” countries see climate change as opening the possibility of commercial opportunities, such as the development of renewable energy technology.  And some countries who have prospered from the exploitation of large fossil fuel resources don’t wish to see their economy undermined by internationally imposed restrictions.

  1. Domestic politics is central to determining the way people live in a globalised world, and whether they like it.Any government, even though it supports the COP process, has to worry about its re-election prospects.

Our Federal Government emphasizes the need for Canada to reduce the level of our GHG emissions.  But to achieve this objective it has to persuade Canadian voters that our standard of living will not be prejudiced. Voters In the Western Provinces also expect Federal approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, minimal taxes on carbon  and tolerance of relatively high levels of provincial emissions necessarily incurred in the exploitation of the tar sands.

The job of environmental organizations, such as 4RG,is to use all means to persuade politicians that Canada’s leadership on climate change is too important to our grandchildren to be buried in “politics as usual”.

 

 

 

 

 

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