In our last blog we referred to the assessment of Climate Tracker, an internationally recognized Non-Government Organization, of Canadian Government estimates of progress to meeting reduction targets for Greenhouse gases.
Saturday’s Globe & Mail has an article about the risk that Arctic warming presents to polar bears. The Commission of Environmental Cooperation, established under the North American Free Trade Treaty, has directed the Canadian Government to justify its policies for the protection of polar bears.
The decision followed a complaint from The Center for Biological Diversity, a US-based organization, that Canada, meaning the Department of the Environment, ignored the most recent evidence on climate change, and the loss of Arctic sea ice that has been a permanent feature of the polar bears’ habitat. Ice cover is almost essential in hunting seals.
The US Government catalogued polar bears as a “threatened” species, based upon a 2007 study. Canada treated the study as a preliminary analysis of the risk and so did not take similar measures.
One might expect that a senior scientist with the Department of the Environment would have an explanation for its decision. Not so – a communications officer provided comment to the press. Adam Sweet, a graduate of the Manning Center of Democracy who is Peter Kent’s Press Secretary, spoke of a clear and timely response to the direction from the Commission. He also referred to polar bear research by Departmental scientists, in effect suggesting that these Government scientists were on top of the issue and all was well. That positive assurance is somewhat at odds with current comments from a Canadian University scientist that the Department chose to ignore advice that its policy was “flawed.
The Department could have “come clean” and admitted that it misjudged the speed with which the Arctic was warming. After all, many in the scientific community admit they failed to judge accurately the time frame in which the ice cover would disappear. Instead, the Department continues to maintain its policy was right.
We speculate that the Minister of the Environment expects the most optimistic forecasts possible as to the effects of climate change – a speculation that if correct suggests Canada may never take timely action.
Coming as it does after international criticism of Departmental projections, Minister Kent will be handicapped at Doha by Canada’s lack of credibility in this international forum. That may not matter – few countries at Doha will pay much attention to Canada.