Ig­nor­ing cli­mate change is hardly vi­able plan

PressReader - Tke Channel - Ig­nor­ing cli­mate change is hardly vi­able plan
Premier Doug Ford’s sig­nal achieve­ment in his first 100 days lead­ing On­tario has been to kill the prov­ince’s cli­mate-change pol­icy and re­place it with prom­ises.He flew back from his west­ern tour, hav­ing ap­peared with Premier Scott Moe and Al­berta con­ser­va­tive leader Ja­son Ken­ney to rail against the evils of car­bon taxes, to take a short Thanks­giv­ing break and then rally once again in his Eto­bi­coke rid­ing Tues­day night, cel­e­brat­ing his three months in of­fice.In the mean­time, the United Na­tions’ In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change pub­lished yet an­other of its grab-us-by-the-lapels-and-scream re­ports, and an econ­o­mist won a No­bel for a life­time of work on cli­mate-change pol­icy. By its ac­tions, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment as­serts that they’re nin­nies.The UN panel’s lat­est work, sum­ma­riz­ing the cur­rent state of cli­mate science, doesn’t ex­am­ine ways of re­duc­ing emis­sions, only what hap­pens if we don’t. Even there, it’s fo­cused on a nar­row dif­fer­ence: be­tween an in­crease in global tem­per­a­tures of 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius, which is what we will have by mid­cen­tury if we get our col­lec­tive butts in gear ur­gently, and 2C, which is what we get if we’re just a lit­tle more sloth­ful about it.Some of it is what you’d ex­pect: more killing droughts at 2 C than at 1.5 C, but also more storms and floods depend­ing where you live, for in­stance. Higher sea lev­els. More dead fish, more trop­i­cal ill­nesses es­cap­ing the trop­ics. Bad enough, those things.But not ev­ery ef­fect is lin­ear. If ice is just be­low zero and warms to just above zero, it stops be­ing ice. If wa­ter rises a cen­time­tre above your pro­tec­tive wall, you have a flood where you didn’t be­fore.The sci­en­tists think the dif­fer­ence be­tween 1.5 C and 2 C could be crit­i­cal for vast ice sheets in Green­land and Antarc­tica; if sub­stan­tial ones crash into the sea, they could raise ocean lev­els by me­tres, not cen­time­tres, and sud­denly, not slowly. Whole cities could be flooded out. At 1.5 C, the panel thinks the Arc­tic could be com­pletely ice-free about one sum­mer ev­ery cen­tury; at 2 C, that could be once a decade. The dif­fer­ence be­tween 1.5 C and 2 C is prob­a­bly about two mil­lion more square kilo­me­tres of per­mafrost turn­ing into muck. That’s an area the size of Nunavut, or two On­tar­ios.The IPCC re­port — or rather its sum­mary for pol­i­cy­mak­ers — is 34 pages of this. Just on and on and on.So then ... what? What do we do about this?As it hap­pens, that No­bel me­mo­rial prize in eco­nomics was also given out this week­end. Two econ­o­mists shared it; one of them is Amer­i­can Wil­liam Nord­haus, for work on in­cor­po­rat­ing cli­mate change into large-scale eco­nomic mod­el­ling. Among his con­clu­sions from a life­time of world­class work are that cli­mate change is a mas­sive threat to long-term growth, and the most eco­nom­i­cally ef­fi­cient way of avoid­ing it is, um, a wide tax on green­house-gas emis­sions. That’s how we get the most ben­e­fits for the least cost.Ex­cept in Canada, where the premier of the most pop­u­lous prov­ince calls car­bon taxes the dumb­est, most use­less form of tax­a­tion ever de­vised, based on sub­stan­tially no ac­tual ev­i­dence. Where we await an al­ter­na­tive plan for re­duc­ing green­house­gas emis­sions, due this fall, that will some­how not cost peo­ple any­thing.Get­ting to work on adapt­ing to a warmer fu­ture would at least be an hon­est al­ter­na­tive. On­tario has some things we should do, things that will prob­a­bly end up more ex­pen­sive than car­bon taxes. We don’t know for sure, be­cause the prov­ince has never done a full risk as­sess­ment for what the fu­ture might hold.Start by re­build­ing our sew­ers for big­ger rain­falls, a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar project for Ot­tawa alone that the city gov­ern­ment can’t af­ford on its own (On­tario cities al­ready need $6.8 bil­lion worth of work like this, ac­cord­ing to the pro­vin­cial en­vi­ron­ment com­mis­sioner). Spend more on city wa­ter, too, and ac­cept brown parks and fields through much of the sum­mer. Re-map our flood­plains so peo­ple who own houses close to wa­ter can start pay­ing up for in­sur­ance and see their prop­erty val­ues prop­erly dis­counted. Ren­o­vate pub­lic build­ings, es­pe­cially schools and nurs­ing homes, to cope with hot­ter sum­mers; add air con­di­tion­ing, im­prove ven­ti­la­tion and start plant­ing shade trees. Get crack­ing on med­i­cal re­search and train­ing to cope with af­flic­tions we aren’t used to see­ing here. In­crease our ca­pac­ity to fight for­est fires.Que­bec es­ti­mates that 93 peo­ple died in last July’s heat wave. On­tario doesn’t gather such num­bers. We ought to.Na­tion­ally, we should plan for refugees flee­ing famines and droughts and wars over scarcer wa­ter and food — pre­par­ing ei­ther to ac­cept them, as the law cur­rently re­quires, or to meet them with new laws (not com­pat­i­ble with in­ter­na­tional treaties, but hey) al­low­ing us to turn them away. Start build­ing roads to the Far North, so when Rus­sia or some­body starts eye­ing our Arc­tic we can get up there in time to stop them with some­thing other than pickup trucks. Much of metro Van­cou­ver will need flood walls.All of this will make for a more ex­pen­sive, more pre­car­i­ous, more cruel world. If we aren’t se­ri­ously try­ing to stop it, we should be get­ting ready for it.

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