Harper compromising Canada's climate credibility

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The Prime Minister is off to Germany to meet with other leaders of the developed countries to discuss such weighty issues as security, economics and climate change. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Harper will take positions that represent the views of most Canadians. While over 80 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the problem of greenhouse gas emission, the Prime Minister prefers to take sides with President Bush and deny that there is a serious problem. One should not be surprised, of course, that is what the corporations that provide their support want them to do. Being responsible about the environment is just not profitable, at least in the short run, and since the modern western business model has no long term vision the disasters that their current policies will bring them in the future are not even on their radar screen.

The Europeans, though not remotely squeaky clean on the global warming issue, are miles ahead of Canada and the US in their thinking. While Bush and Harper dilly dally with empty rhetoric and token legislation with the purpose of deflecting the issue, and while our emissions increase, European nations have actually reduced their emissions and are calling for a world wide cut of emissions to half of the 1990 level. Mr. Harper and Mr. Bush see this as too radical and Mr. Harper is out to seek a compromise with the Europeans and take a middle road.

Compromising with Bush and Harper on the global warming issue would be like compromising with Clifford Olsen or Paul Bernardo on homicide issues. Why would any sensible person want to even entertain the idea.

Every month more studies are released showing that the global warming problem may be worse that previously imagined. An article in The Independent last week detailed events around the world such as melting glaciers, rivers drying up in some areas and flooding and freak storms in others, that can be linked to a changing climate, one that is getting warmer. USA Today ran a story recently on worldwide increases in carbon dioxide emissions and NASA released a report that said human made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth's climate close to the danger mark.

It is almost impossible for Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper and their ilk not to be aware of this information. That they either don't take it seriously, or think that they can finagle around it and make a few more bucks for their supporters before the lid blows off, is a threat to all of us.

Critics of the issue of global warming, when not denying that it is happening, will say that it is just part of the natural cycle and so what, as if it is no big deal. Well, they are right about global cycles in general, the Earth heats and cools in a rhythm, a very long rhythm, at least in human time frames. But they are wrong about it being no big deal. However warming and cooling happen they affect the lives of many of us since as the environment changes so does our ability to get food, clean air and clean water. Severe changes in the environment can mean death for many species, including humans.

In this case they are also wrong about the timing, the global warming that we are having now is out of step with the natural cycle. We are warming when we should be cooling. William Ruddiman, a retired professor of Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia has done research on the orbital cycles of the Earth over the past millions of years and identified a recurring pattern of warming and cooling. About 10,000 years ago we started into a cooling cycle which should last for many thousands of years. However, about 8,000 years ago something changed and the cooling trend slowly reversed.

What changed, argues Ruddiman, is the advent of agriculture and the development of human civilization which increased the release of carbon into the atmosphere enough to stop the cooling trend. The changes were modest until the coming of the industrial revolution and exploding world population. Where the atmospheric carbon increases of earlier eras of civilization are marked by a gradual rise on the chart, the last few hundred years are marked by an almost vertical climb. There is no doubt that the planet is warming, and there is no doubt that humans are the cause.

The future of our race and many other species will be determined by how quick and how effectively we can radically reverse this trend. A trend whose causes, though exacerbated by the industrial revolution, go far beyond it to the very foundation of our civilization. Whether we can choose leaders who can deal with it and have the collective willpower to stick with them is questionable. But one thing is for certain, the Harpers and Bushes of the world are not the answer.

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