Saturday, November 27, 2010

Government sabotaging climate policy abroad

The cover of the Climate Action Network Report.

It's been clear for a while that fossil fuels, from whatever source, are our government's bet for economic prosperity for the future. Actively interfering with other countries who are making progress to protect the climate is particularly shameful.
Tactically, this makes sense for the government. We have the resources, and a strong resource based economy helps ensure re-election.
Strategically, weakening other countries' climate policy, is like doing a rain dance during a flood. It's silly at best, and if it's successful, it makes the larger problem even worse. 
With fossil fuels, the problem is the product. No matter how you extract it, the carbon from the use of these resources finds its way to the atmosphere. The climate doesn't care where the carbon comes from.
The world is going to address this problem sooner or later. Sooner would be nice, because it will avoid some of the pitfalls of inaction. Later, fossil fuels will become unaffordable and the climate will be worse than if we act now. Bad news.
The good news is that having the resources puts us in control of our destiny. Between coal, oil, natural gas, and unconventional oil we have lots of resources here. We get to decide how, and whether the resources are used.
Politically, the current strategy seems to be closely aligned with smoke 'em if you got 'em, or perhaps basking in the warmth of an out of control grass fire. Not a good long term strategy.
The efforts to weaken other countries' climate policy (Mr. Stelmach goes to Washington, for example) attempts to lock in a fossil fuel infrastructure for our own short term benefit. What it misses is the opportunity to lead the transition to a carbon-neutral future.
It will take more willpower and innovation to transition off fossil fuels, but the rewards would be tremendous, both economically and environmentally. Do you want your wind turbines manufactured here or abroad?
Ask your government to lead you to where you should be going, not back to where you were.

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