Given all the evidence, and in the absence of a better rationale, climate warming can't be logically denied. We’re in the lobster pot and the heat is on.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 6th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

To cook live lobsters you place them in a large pot of cold water and set the pot on high heat. The lobsters may be confused at first by their new surroundings, but being crustaceans, they always try to remain positive. You can barely hear them as they discuss their recent travels and the interesting things they witnessed under sea before crawling into that darn trap.

In a matter of minutes they will begin to feel their environment heating up and the lobster chat quickly turns to lobster screams of panic – hey somebody get me the heck out of here. But eventually the screaming stops as the inevitable befalls them – and soon they are ready for the garlic butter.

That’s us, without the garlic butter. Of course we can’t say with certainty that climate change wouldn’t have happened anyway. The greenhouse effect is really just a theory after all. But given all the evidence, and in the absence of a better rationale, it can’t logically be denied. We’re in the lobster pot and the heat is on.

hurricane-maria-

Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico years ago – they have yet to recover.

Take hurricane Maria which smashed into Puerto Rico last year leaving over 4000 people dead and over 90 billion dollars in damages behind its brief visit. That is almost the entire annual GDP of the small US owned island. And here our own Doug Ford was off in Calgary this week lecturing Albertans on the evils of a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gases. That would be because it has increased the price of gasoline by so little that nobody even noticed when Ford killed the provincial cap and trade carbon tax.

We can’t afford a carbon tax but we can afford the mounting costs of insurance and property taxes. There is the inevitable bail-out for communities like Ottawa and Gatineau, once the bills are in for the damages from their most recent spontaneous twin tornadoes. How much was spent helping people recover from Burlington, Toronto and Calgary’s floods a few years ago?

Go trains flooded

The Don River overflows in Toronto.

It’s not that Ford and his disciples are necessarily stupid and/or shortsighted. It’s that they’re clearly incapable of comprehending complex matters, like the science behind climate change and sound economic policy. Alternatively, they are being deceitful and playing a very dangerous political game with our lives and our future.

Contrary to his stump speech, the carbon tax is not the absolute worst tax for Canadian families and it does not make everything more expensive. It is a selective tax that increases the cost of using fossil fuels, making safer alternatives more attractive. And it is revenue neutral. A well-designed carbon tax is virtually cost-free to society since the money collected for using carbon is rebated to taxpayers. And those who end up using fewer fossil fuels become the real winners, with extra cash in their pockets.

Mr. Ford might do well to read a newspaper once in a while. He would then have seen that seventeen of the 18 warmest years over the almost 140 years (since we started recording global temperatures) have all have occurred since 2001. And 1998 was the 18th. 2016 ranks as the warmest rising almost one degree Celsius.

Donald Trump is the king of all climate deniers but even his own government has estimated that if we continue to use fossil fuels the way we do, the earth’s average temperature will skyrocket by 7 degrees before the turn of the century. If you thought this year’s storms were bad, wait till you see what 7 degrees will do to that tree in your front lawn. And America promises to be one of the hardest hit by the effects of climate change, ironically.

Ford and carbon tax

Bold words.

Mr. Ford has promised to bring forward a climate change mitigation plan of his own sometime this autumn and one can only imagine what that might include. The UK and France have set 2040 as the year in which all gasoline and diesel vehicles will be banned. China and Germany, which arguably invented the motor car, are also developing guzzler phase-out plans. India has set an aspirational target of 2030 and Norway of 2025. So what about Ontario?

Ford is clearly blowing smoke when he says that a carbon tax is the absolutely worst tax. Perhaps he hasn’t heard about the highly regressive HST, which allows his government to gouge us eight cents on the dollar for just about everything we buy, sell and re-sell. Since he cancelled cap and trade and the extensive rebates of the former Liberal government, Ford is now sitting on over a billion big ones which can only be spent, by law, on helping to reduce carbon emissions.

Why doesn’t our ‘Billion Dollar Man’, who hates the worst taxes, just eliminate the provincial portion of the HST for electric cars? Perhaps he could talk nicely to the feds, for a change, and convince them to also lift their portion of the HST. That would be a powerful incentive for new car shoppers looking to clean up their driving habits. And Ford could still boast about how he is cutting taxes and saving hard working families money on their next family car.

Electric cars

Buying an electric or gas-electric hybrid car is perhaps the most important thing one can do to help reduce their emissions.

Buying an electric or gas-electric hybrid car is perhaps the most important thing one can do to help reduce their emissions, without having to radically alter their current lifestyle. Folks might also consider switching from natural gas heating to electricity for hot water and their homes. Though that only would make environmental sense if the Ford government stopped dismantling of our renewable energy system. And without a carbon tax, switching to electricity is not likely a sound economic choice for the average family.

But we don’t need to wait for government. Those of us who eat red meat and consume dairy products should look at cutting back our consumption of these foods. Cows and sheep are ruminants, and belch methane gas as part of their normal digestion process. Though carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up almost 80 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, methane traps as much as 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over its decade-long life. It is over 20 times more potent as a contributor to climate change than CO2.

So reducing our intake of red meat and dairy products can help each of us do our little bit to save the planet. New Zealand has a huge dairy and red meat sector and has considered implementing a tax on animal methane – a FART tax they call it. Perhaps Mr. Ford has that in mind for his upcoming climate plan. But when it comes to the carbon taxes Ford seems to spew as much hog wash as bull.

Thanksgiving family-dinner

Thanksgiving …

But the good news is that turkey, not roast beef, is the traditional fare for the upcoming weekend’s celebration of Thanksgiving. So enjoy and give thanks for today because we really do harvest what we sow, and the times they are a changing. Oh and by the way, even eating lobster would be better for our climate than beef – if only we could afford it.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 Background links:

Puerto Rico –     Ottawa Tornado –    Global Temperatures

Seven Degrees –     Billion Dollar Man –   Ford Lectures Alberta

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9 comments to Given all the evidence, and in the absence of a better rationale, climate warming can’t be logically denied. We’re in the lobster pot and the heat is on.

  • Ray Rivers

    Marco, I hope you continue to add your voice drawing on your broad sweep of experience in so many fields. Thanks for your contribution,

    As for Ontario’s renewable energy industry being a disaster here is what the National Energy Board has to say….

    “In 2016, Ontario generated 33.4% of its electricity from renewable sources and generated 91.7% of its electricity from sources that are non-emitting during operation. Oil and diesel were 0.1% of Ontario’s generation in 2016. Natural gas was the only significant fossil fuel source of electricity, accounting for 8.2% of the electricity generated in 2016.” (https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/sttstc/lctrct/rprt/2017cndrnwblpwr/prvnc/on-eng.html)

    Mr. White – really good suggestions which I mostly agree with. I can drive to Stratford and back on my EV and still have a hundred kms left – even with the heater or air conditioner working.

  • Hans

    Most suggestions for climate change mitigation address some relatively ineffective aspects which will create new problems; e.g., there is probably no effective system for dealing with depleted electric car batteries when they start to number in the many thousands.

    The basic problem is that the planet can not support its large population and no one seems to be addressing it. A systemic approach with strong leadership is sorely needed.
    We’re probably doomed :-(.

    • I completely agree with Hans’ assessment of human over population. Furthermore, I see it as the common denominator of every environmental problem. Keeping populations poor and desperate by restricting or banning their access to contraception is a time proven tactic of totalitarian states. Cheap and desperate labor; easy supply of cannon fodder.

  • Luke

    Happy Thanksgiving Ray,
    Going green ain’t easy.
    Once we replace all these red-meat grazing beasts for more vegetables where will the Methane come from then? After all they are grazing so the methane is just a function of breakdown of the grazed diet. In other words 4 quarters for a dollar.

    Perhaps a better approach might be to develop and implement some sort of Methane capture in Barn raised cattle to process the EFW of Methane. A hell of a lot easier than sequestering people with gas in a modern world.

    Ethanol production for fuel streams has converted thousands of acres of food production land to Corn for Ethanol, which when burned produces a particularly awesome Carcinogen. Nice we can call that culling the herd.

    Newer Diesel fuelled transports equipped with DEF generators and low sulphur diesel to burn are not as bad a polluter as they once were, but people hate big trucks.
    To this end lets just make all those big trucks park.
    With nearly everything you use buy or eat arriving to where you purchase it, it will be about 3 -6 days before you have total anarchy.
    Home and auto fuel supplies gone at the pumps in 2-3 days, fresh dairy and meat at the grocery store 1-2 days, dry goods about one week, medical supply, gases, equipment and pharma 5 -7 days.
    By the end of the week we’ll all be green, and starving. Well played.

  • Stephen White

    The limited range of many electric vehicles doesn’t make them a viable option for many consumers. Until the battery range can be extended to at least 500 kilometres between charges then they will remain a specialty purchase. That being said, the Ontario government could and should provide incentives to consumers to purchase them such as reducing the provincial sales tax. Someone buying a gas guzzling Land Rover should pay a much higher provincial sales tax than someone purchasing a Chevrolet Bolt….even a more conventional Toyota Yaris. That being said, providing $14K rebates so affluent buyers can secure an $80K Tesla doesn’t cut it with households struggling to stay afloat.

    The Wynne government’s approach to Green Energy was seriously flawed, and to uphold it as the ideal is problematic . The Global Adjustment that was charged on electricity bills and was intended to support renewable energy sources ballooned by 71% between 2008 and 2017. If the Global Adjustment provides 90% of revenue for renewable generators then one has to question both the design and the execution of the program. 660,000 Ontario taxpayers have problems paying their monthly energy bill, and thousands go into default, you know there is something seriously askew.

    Ford’s credibility however is challenge when cancelling the Green Energy Program without having something to replace it. If he doesn’t support the carbon tax then he needs to present a practical alternative that will encourage conservation, reduce emissions and clearly demonstrate action on this file. A good start would be dramatic increases in fines for polluters, particularly diesel trucks. A second would be to cut the provincial sales tax on energy efficient products (e.g. refrigerators, stoves, etc.). A third might be to promote the adoption of energy efficient products in home renovations (e.g. solar panels) through more lucrative incentives. A fourth would be to dramatically expand the planting of trees to replace our arbour as a significant number of communities have been denuded by the emerald ash borer.

  • Ray. Knowing you as I do I am certain you wrote “just a theory” mockingly. But for the sake of those benighted individuals who still employ that phrase I hope you will grant me the chance to address it. When we notice two phenomena occurring together we say it is an Association. No directional causality is ascribed. However, when we suspect a directional causality (e.g. excess heat causes stronger storms) we form a hypothesis (hypo-small; thesis-thought). Once this hypothesis is independently tested and confirmed numerous times it rises to a theory (formally structured and demonstrated thought). Several theories, such as Human Evolution, will likely remain theories not because they are wrong or lacking but because we cannot go back and do them over again for ultimate proof.

    I have yet to meet a climate denier who has even an elementary grasp of science. (Association: Climate denial – Ignorance of basic science). In fact, I’m tempted to form a hypothesis, compile growing independent testing and observations, and announce the Ignorance of Basic Science Theory as it describes climate deniers.

    Thank you for allowing me this space.

  • William Statten

    Ray,

    Your bio should reflect your lifelong involvement and support and bias towards Liberal governments in Canada at both the federal and provincial level.

    Will

  • Charles Jones

    Dear Ray, you haven’t had a thought in your life too complex for me to grasp. The fact is, most people believe in climate change and AGW (even Ford “disciples”). What they don’t believe in is our government’s ability to fix it in any meaningful way and the cost to consumers is a lot more than you imply. I know every added tax to you lefties is just the cost of one more cup of coffee but on the macro scale, every one of these micro-taxes has added up to where we are right now: massively over-taxed.

    BTW: the renewable energy program has been a complete disaster for Ontario. I say this even though I made lots of money off it but we’re all paying for it anyway in the form of a hell of a lot of those cups-of-coffee taxes. You’re not wrong that electric cars are the way to go, but that has precious little to do with renewable energy. It’s primarily because the majority of our power comes from nuclear and hydro sources. The fact that solar and wind energy cost so much more (particularly in this province) is all you need to know about it. It is inherent that something that costs more has a larger carbon footprint (unless you think those profits all went to carbon capturing operations – they didn’t, they bought people bigger houses, bigger cars, boats, etc.). When renewables can compete with carbon based energy in the open market without government help, that’s when you’ll know they are the environmentally sound choice. That day is coming but that has zero to do with the way the McGuinty-Wynne governments rolled it out (as I said, disastrously).

    The bottom line is you don’t need to take shots at Ford to make your argument. Conserving energy and being environmentally responsible are good concepts at face value. You’ve written several hit jobs on Ford already and he was only elected a few months ago. Give it a rest.

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