Monday, April 09, 2018

Is History Repeating Itself?

The federal government's plan to deal with climate change is running into stiff head winds -- partly because many Canadians don't believe the science. Andrew Coyne writes:

Fully 40 per cent of Canadians think climate change is either not happening or is due to natural causes, according to a new poll by Abacus Data. Even among the 60 per cent who think it’s real and man-made, there is no consensus on what, if anything, should be done about it.
The picture grows even cloudier when it comes to the particular solution of carbon pricing. Only 42 per cent claimed to have any understanding of the concept; most could not even say whether their own province had such a plan. And while nearly half (46 per cent) thought it was a good idea, versus 22 per cent opposed, this was very much in the abstract, with carbon pricing yet to be implemented over much of the country, and barely begun to be phased in where it has.

Saskatchewan is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. If Doug Ford wins the election, Ontario will become a big naysayer. And who knows what will happen in Alberta? In the face of the growing backlash, Coyne  makes a straightforward proposal -- raise carbon taxes to a level that will significantly slow fossil fuel consumption while lowering income taxes to make up the difference. That is not what governments have been doing:

Rather than recycle any revenues collected back to the public in the form of cuts in other taxes, moreover, as under B.C.’s pioneering (and successful) carbon tax, they have increasingly used the proceeds to spend on other things, notably the same failed subsidy and regulatory programs carbon taxes were supposed to replace.
Indeed, not only have they kept all the old programs, but they are piling new ones on top, hoping these costlier, but invisible-to-the-public programs will attract less popular wrath than the cheaper but all-too-visible carbon tax. But the failure to tax carbon at a level that will do much good only invites the public to ask why it is being taxed at all. And, equally, it invites the response: as a revenue grab. We have, in short, the worst of both worlds, saddled with programs that won’t work but will cause maximum public aggravation.

Coyne spouts the usual conservative boiler plate -- government programs don't work -- a highly contentious argument. Nonetheless, scientists generally agree that the current carbon tax proposal will do little to stop climate change. If the government established a tax of $200 per ton, and offset that cost with a cut in income taxes, we might reach our climate change goals. Come to think of it, Coyne's proposal sounds a lot like Stephane Dion's Green shift of fifteen years ago. Is history repeating itself?

Image: Radio


The Mound of Sound said...

Coyne seems to be piling onto Paul Well's column last week in Maclean's.

Wells made the point, projecting Tory wins in Alberta and Ontario, that provinces representing half the population would be dead set against carbon "pricing." What a stupid term, pricing. Trying to cast it as something other than a tax only increases skepticism.

This fiasco rests squarely with one person, Justin Trudeau. Imagine trying to persuade the public to support carbon taxes without first making an "all of government" effort to inform the public of the reality of climate change and the impact our children and grandchildren will experience. To raise public awareness, however, invites unwelcome questions as to what this government is doing pushing through pipelines to exponentially grow the extraction and export of the filthiest, most toxic, most carbon-intensive ersatz oil on the planet. The two plainly cannot be reconciled and so Justin and the future of climate change in Canada are floundering.

You post a photo of Dion, another flawed and deeply incompetent Liberal leader. That fool tried to push his Green Shift initiative as an election plank of an opposition party. All he did was invite Harper and Layton to club him over the head with it - before he could properly explain it to the Canadian public. It was dead on arrival. Again that was an "all of government" challenge, something to be laid out, explained and sold after coming to power, not before.

Look at the incompetents the Liberals have thrown at Canadians - Dion, Ignatieff and now Trudeau. Now compare that lot to great Liberal leaders such as Pearson:

Trudeau has made a less than half-hearted effort on climate change and Canadians see through his hypocrisy. Now his party will pay a price for this inexcusable bungling in the next election.

Owen Gray said...

There is an immense difference between a leader and a statesman, Mound. Climate change requires statesmen to deal with the problem. Everyone knew that Mike Pearson -- even with his lisp -- was a statesman.

Lorne said...

Mound's trenchant and hart-hitting indictment is well considered, Owen, but it is also disheartening to read of the massive disbelief among Canadians that climate change is caused by human activity.

Owen Gray said...

It seems we are as thick headed as other nationalities, Lorne. We are easy marks for demogogues.

Toby said...

An great many people cannot handle complex science; think evolution, quantum mechanics and now climate change. Worse, those who cannot understand complex issues refuse to credit those experts who do. If it's not black or white, if Fox News is against it then they are too. Mob thinking prevails.

Owen, you were a teacher. Are the young not being taught basic science anymore?

Owen Gray said...

I've been out of the system for awhile, Toby, so my peceptions are probably out of date. But in the last years of my career -- under Mike Harris' government -- teachers began teaching to the test. And that meant almost everything was reduced to a formula. Complex problems cannot be reduced to a formula. Perhaps that's why climate science eldues so many people.