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What is the biggest scandal of them all?

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Prime Minister’ Harper’s former Chief of Staff appears to have broken the law.

Chiefs of staff report directly to the Prime Minister and this Chief engaged other senior government officials in the now notorious $90,000 payment on behalf of Senator Duffy.

But this highly controlling, micro-managing Prime Minister got the mushroom treatment, we are to believe, and was kept completely in the dark.

They call it the Senate scandal, but perhaps Prime Minister’s Office scandal would be more appropriate.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a liar, has admitted to engaging in criminal activity, refuses to answer questions from the police and behaves in a boorish, bullying, vulgar and disruptive manner in Toronto City Council meetings.

Still there are folks out there who ardently support him.

One gruff man -- and Ford’s supporters seem to be almost all men -- rhetorically asked Ottawa radio host Lowell Green: "Doesn’t [Ford] have the right to his weekends?"

It is not clear which is the greater scandal here: Ford’s dishonest criminality, or the fact that self-styled tough-on-crime "conservatives" still support him.

Scandals with greatest long-term consequences do not grab headlines

Still, there are much bigger scandals -- scandals with far greater consequences -- than Ford Nation and Harper’s office. They will have a far greater impact on Canadians’ lives and they should worry us.

They just don’t get the attention they merit.

Here is one: Canada ranks almost at the bottom of the Climate Change Performance Index, a highly reputable scientific report on the contribution to global warming of countries around the globe.

The report shows that Canada is one of the world’s ten largest carbon dioxide emitters.

That may not be surprising, given the size of the Canadian economy and Canada’s geography and climate.

Canada’s share of global emissions -- 1.58 per cent -- puts this country in tenth place. And so there are nine bigger emitters than us.

But Canada’s performance is really much worse than that tenth place indicates.

Only two other countries on this top ten list have populations below 100 million: South Korea, with about 50 million, and Germany with about 80 million. The bulk of the list takes in the world’s most populous countries: the United States, China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Compared to most in the group of ten, Canada is pumping out a huge volume of emissions per person.

Germany’s share of the world’s population is over 4 per cent, more than double Canada’s at 1.74 per cent. Germany contributes 2.23 per cent of the global carbon dioxide emissions. Canada, with less than half Germany’s population, pumps out just under 2 per cent, very close to Germany’s amount, despite the big population difference.

When compared to developing countries on the list, Canada’s numbers are even more dramatic.

Indonesia has seven times Canada’s population, but not even two times Canada’s emissions.

That means the volume of dirty carbon dioxide spewed on behalf of each Canadian is about six times the emissions for each Indonesian.

It is not surprising that the report classifies Canada’s performance as "very poor."

Failing grade on climate policy

The report’s overall evaluation is not just a numbers game.

The Climate Change Performance Index evaluates a bundle of indicators, including development of renewable energies -- Germany is tops here -- and energy efficiency.

One of those indicators is climate policy, which "reflects efforts toward an efficient and low carbon society." Denmark, Korea and China are, the report says, among the "winners" in this area, while Canada "lags far behind."

In every grouping of countries, and based on every index, Canada’s performance is at or near the bottom.

Among the OECD countries, for instance, Canada is dead last, in 58th place.

This would be a national scandal, one might think, on a par with pay-offs to Senators and drug-taking, lying mayors.

It should be especially scandalous against the backdrop of the typhoon in the Philippines.

But it hardly makes a ripple in the national media and the national consciousness.

What we get, instead, are hostile, anti-environmental political attacks from the Conservatives, and weird rationalizations from key mainstream media personalities.

Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure

In the latter category, take The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente’s argument that the devastation in the Philippines is not really related to global warming.

Wente quotes figures from an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showing that there has not been an increase in the number of tropical typhoons over the last century.

That is a classic example of "figures don’t lie, but liars can figure."

The IPCC and other scientific sources do tell us that while the frequency of these storms may not have increased, that frequency will likely increase in the future.

More important, scientific data show that the severity of tropical cyclones has significantly increased, and will continue to do so in the future.

And that terrible consequence can be directly attributed to global warming.

As well, climate change has resulted in higher sea levels, which exacerbate the impact of severe storms on coastal areas.

Wente does make the legitimate argument that infrastructure in the Philippines is shoddy. Were roads, buildings and homes in that country better designed and built, she says, the devastation would have been significantly mitigated.

All that is true -- but it does not detract from the equally true fact that global warming contributed to the severity of the typhoon.

Where Wente gets outright demagogic, though, is in insisting that building more sound infrastructure in the Philippines will be an energy intensive, and therefore greenhouse-gas producing, enterprise.

So take that, you bleeding heart environmentalists.

Wente’s nasty conclusion is silly and quite beside the point. Building infrastructure in developing countries has not been, nor is it likely to become, the main cause of global warming.

That cause is our own piggy-ness and indifference to the consequences of our actions and habits in the so-called developed world. There is a great deal more that we in a country like Canada could be doing, on the home front, to reduce our carbon emissions.

Here are just a few suggestions:

1. Vastly increase the use of public transport, cycling and walking with a commensurate decrease in automobile use

2. Favour consumption of food and other products produced close to home

3. Invest heavily in sustainable and low or non-carbon producing forms of energy

4. Finally -- and this one is the Conservatives’ chief bugaboo -- tax what pollutes and give tax relief to what does not pollute

As it stands, we are doing none of those.

Instead, we are pursuing a different course, led by the Harper government.

Here is how the Climate Change Performance Index characterizes what Canada is now doing:

"As in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized coun­tries."

"Worst performer of all industrialized countries:" if that is not a scandal, what is?

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