Dear Senator Patterson,
In your message to me you spell out what the Conservatives have been arguing all along. The bill’s targets are unrealistic because we’d have to shut everything down.
We have a problem, don’t we? The carbon emission reduction targets set in Bill C-311 were recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the body that collects the findings of more than 2,000 scientists from approximately 130 countries who study the climate. The findings from 2007 IPCC report are determined at 90 percent probability, which we know must be taken very seriously. The truly scary thing is that it appears that with new findings, the 2007 report is already out dated.
When the IPCC issued its 2007 report, it stated that the world must prevent a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius to avoid runaway global warming. We have since learned that this target should be below 2 degrees. The arctic ice is melting much much faster than previous predicted, releasing methane in the process, and we’re only at 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That is a big warning right there.
So what do we do? We’re at the negotiating table with Mother Nature. Explain to her that meeting her target is impossible. Do you believe she’ll say: “that’s alright dear. Let me know your target and I’ll do my best to accommodate you.”
The government is negotiating with 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The scientists say it has to be 20-40 percent – as of three years ago. It’s likely higher now.
Imagine a city by the sea. Scientists warn that the likelihood of a Category 5 Hurricane striking is high. The only way to prevent the sea from flooding the city is to build a wall 20 feet high. No no, the government says. Completely unrealistic and impossible! We’ll build a three foot wall instead. The investment of a twenty foot wall would have been high, but nothing compared to the cost of the flood and lives lost.
What do we do? You and the government seem to imply that if we continue business as usual, spend billions on crazy schemes like sequestering carbon (even though the oil and coal will inevitably be burned), and do a bit of investing in renewable energy, we’re going to be just fine. Well. Whew.
In your heart of hearts do you feel a little uneasy? If you don’t, you don’t understand the magnitude of our problem.
As I’m sure you know, the issue of climate change, and peak oil (that’s coming too), is the biggest challenge the global community has ever faced. Keep in mind that civilizations have crashed and burned because of what they did to their environment. The Mayan and Easter Island come to mind there. Unfortunately their hubris and ignorance could not save them when they cut down their trees.
In order for us to successfully rise to the challenge and survive reasonably intact as a civilization we need to make significant changes. This presents enormous challenges considering the complexities of western societies. What this great challenge requires is great leadership ranging from global players to those working at the community level. It requires innovative thinking, new ideas and the will of countries and communities to take them on. It requires understanding the magnitude of the challenge and rising to meet it. It takes passion and commitment to make a difference for our immediate and subsequent descendents. It requires a lot of love, and a great deal of courage.
You tell me the only way to meet Mother Nature’s deadline is to stop everything. I ask – is that the extent of your imagination? We need to decarbonize our economy. What does that look like? What are the opportunities? What are the benefits?
As it stands if there is a major supply problem in oil (and that is likely starting to happen), how will the world cope? How resilient and adaptive are our communities? They’re not very resilient are they? A meltdown in the US affects the entire world.
What do we need to do to become adaptive and resilient? Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuel, what does that look like? Our 20th century way of thinking tells us that centralized power is the only option, that it’s ok to waste energy because it’s so cheap and that the party will never end. It tells us that the carbon economy is the only economy, the only way of being.
Welcome to the 21st century. World oil is peaking (which is why the expensive tar sands are all the rage) and the world is warming because we’ve been burning highly concentrated carbon that has been sequestered for millions of years.
Centralized power doesn’t make much sense anymore. The global economy is about to crash and burn. Oh, it did already. Oil prices will continue to rise and hit the economy hard because the current economy is completely carbon based. How can the federal government help facilitate the development of local and carbon neutral economies?
Impossible you say? Let’s examine your alternative, that 3 percent below 1990 levels which really means doing precious little.
In the Stern Review: Summary of Conclusions, Sir Stern warns that if we don’t reduce our emissions, based on scientific targets, the loss to global GDP is estimated at 5% per year, and as high as 20% if the wider range of risk and impacts are taken into account. According to Stern: “In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.”
If we take the road you suggest, we’re all going to land in quicksand.
Any other bright ideas? Time is a’ tick’n.
The targets are the targets. Call them unrealistic, but they are what we have. Now what?
Leaders confronted with real challenges do not deny them. They articulate the problem and bring together the best minds to try to solve it. That’s a leader. What is the Conservative government doing? Because I must remind you, Mother Nature is the boss. She is about to whip our asses. She’s already begun. The heat wave, drought, fires and deaths in Russia (the subsequent loss of Russian wheat); the colossal flooding in Pakistan affecting 20 million people (!); the decimation of 25 percent of BC’s forest because of the pine beetle; the drought in the prairies; the melting of the arctic ice; and on and on and on – Mother Nature’s just warming up. Literally.
According to Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, emissions must peak by 2015 and decline thereafter. Time is ticking away, and the unelected Senate killed a bill that was attempting to address this great problem.
My sense is the government either doesn’t fully understand the danger we face (and opportunities), or – surely it must care if it did. This government seems stuck in the 20th century in its vision and understanding. It seems to me that the word ‘transition’ is not in the Conservative vocabulary. I suggest you start working it into sentences. Ask your colleagues to do the same. It’s an important word for the 21st century.
You urge me to consider the practical implications of this bill before condemning you for voting against it. Oh, I’ve considered them alright.
I urge you to consider the dangers that await us by killing this bill. But you didn’t wait to consider them or know them or even try to understand them. Would you have listened even if we tried?
What have you done?
PIs it really necessary to print this e-mail? Think green…
From: Patterson, Dennis [mailto:patted@SEN.PARL.GC.CA]
Sent: November 20, 2010 12:37 PM
Subject: Re: What happened to Bill C-311?
Putting aside the procedural mismanagement of this bill...
Why did I vote against this bill?
The targets set in this bill were completely unrealistic. If we were to shut down every vehicle in Canada, including cars, trucks, heavy equipment plus railways and airplanes as well as every coal or fossil fuel - sourced power generation facility in Canada, we would only then barely meet the target set in this bill.
Shutting down all the heating sources for every home and building in Canada - and we are a mostly cold country - would only take us less than 25% of the way to meeting that target.
Shutting down the oil sands completely would take us to about one seventh of the targets in the bill.
Completely unrealistic and impossible.
I wish passing a law could simply make these reductions happen, but we have to have a realistic actionable plan before we set targets.
I am as concerned about climate change as anyone, being from Nunavut, but could not support a bill that had no chance of being implemented.
The implications of the bill were obviously not considered by the authors.
Our government has set realistic targets which will not disrupt our daily lives in this vast country nor cripple our economy as we recover from the recession.
I urge you to consider the practical implications of this bill before condemning us for voting against it.
Thanks again for your concern.
Senator for Nunavut