October 6, 2002
11:19 AM   Subscribe

As the Alberta government ratchets up its campaign against the Kyoto Protocol (and the Canadian government's support thereof), two environmental groups release a report that argues that Canadians could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent and save $30 billion a year in the process by 2030 (PDFs of the report summary and full report). And, if reducing emissions starts at home, you can apparently cut your own energy bills and emissions in half simply by stopping leaks and drafts in your house.
posted by mcwetboy (11 comments total)
Recent Metafilter posts on the Kyoto protocol: Quitting Kyoto; Canadian Prime Minister surprises with pledge to put Kyoto accord to Parliament.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:19 AM on October 6, 2002

"An Alberta medical officer of health says he has been fired because of his public support of the Kyoto Protocol..."

(Alberta has a lot of oil, for those of you non-Canadians not in the know.)
posted by The God Complex at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2002

Some background: The Canadian constitution delegates all power to negotiate and sign international treaties to the federal government. Prime Minister Jean Chretien has promised to introduce legislation to the House of Commons by the end of the year. After it passes the House and Senate and is assented to by the Governor General, it will become law.

But this is an issue of politics. As Mr Complex notes, Alberta has a lot of oil; despite some attempts in the last decade, it has not really diversified its economy. (Increased demand from the US -- we're now the Great Republic to the South's biggest supplier of black gold -- has been a disincentive.)

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein -- a former TV journalist, v popular two term Premier, drunkard -- listens carefully to the oil lobby in his province. He has threatened to take the Feds to court to try and block ratification. (He'll fail; see paragraph #1.) Albertans have never been big fans of the federal Liberals; most federal seats are held by the opposition Canadian Alliance. They also resent the ratification promise as they see it as a repeat of the hated "National Energy Policy" of the early '80s, an attempt by an earlier Liberal PM to quasi-nationalise the oil fields. Klein has also raised the spectre of Alberta separating -- a la Quebec -- although even he admits a miniscule number of Albertans want to leave the confederation.

Despite Klein's blustering, ratifying the Kyoto Accord is supported by a majority of Canadians and by a majority of provincial premiers.

The biggest obstacle to ratification is, counter-intuitively, the Prime Minister. He's announced he will resign in Feb, 2004, to make way for former finance minister Paul Martin, who led a successful back-room putsch this summer. There is a general perception Mr Chretien, never one for the "vision thing", is legacy shopping and Kyoto is a big purchase. Mr Chretien's announcement we'd ratify was preceeded by little consultation and no planning; there are no details about how we will ratify and how we will meet our emission reduction targets with a minimum of economic upset.

The Prime Minister has a rock-solid majority in the House and Senate. So it will get ratified -- but it might get ugly.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2002

there are a number of issues mentioned in the pdf and adverts offered on the alberta/kyoto site, such as pollution credits and gas emission reduction by percentages, that would do w/some clarification . . . for anyone who is interested, i recommend gregg easterbrook's 1995 book on the environment, 'a moment on the earth'. a centrist book, it attempts to demystify the misleading way information on the environment is presented (from both sides). he creates, i believe, a strong argument for progressive environmental strategies, but does so by demonstrating how much has already been accomplished. it is a positive message because he tries to educate on the issues rather than create a strict polemic. easterbrook is now a senior editor at the new republic, has done a large amount of investigative journalism, and is noted for his work reporting on the environment.
posted by buffalo at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2002

Speaking of Easterbrook, this article, found with a little bit of Googling while investigating what buffalo was on about, appears to be germane to the links I posted above:
The Kyoto Protocol on global warming may be dying politically, but intellectually it lives on: Its complex, costly structure has convinced just about everyone that action on climate change is possible only through painful sacrifice. Presumably that's why President Bush has proposed nothing to address the problem -- because he's convinced that really tackling it will harm the economy. But only in Kyotoland must greenhouse reform be onerous. There are practical steps the president can take immediately that will do a great deal of good at a very reasonable price. In fact, Kyoto's demise may be a blessing in disguise. It creates a fabulous opportunity to switch from costly, cumbersome greenhouse ideas to affordable ones that actually work.
If Kyoto can be exceeded by simple measures such as better insulation of old homes, as the Globe and Mail article above suggests, then the rhetoric used by both sides is overwrought.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:11 PM on October 6, 2002

I'd just like to offer the Alberta perspective that Alberta is one of only two "have" provinces left in Canada, and that Chretien's ratification of the Kyoto accord will cripple Alberta's economy, leaving Ontario to provide for the ROC all by itself, which, much as it might like to think of itself as the Centre of the Universe, it's unlikely to be able to do. Some Albertans think Chretien just wants to do everything he can to punish Albertans for not voting for his party in the last election, but I think he's probably just legacy-hunting.

(sigh) so much for my never posting about anything to do with politics...
posted by kate_fairfax at 3:29 PM on October 6, 2002

If Kyoto can be exceeded by simple measures such as better insulation of old homes, as the Globe and Mail article above suggests, then the rhetoric used by both sides is overwrought.

Interestingly, President Bush's ranch in Crawford
"boasts a stunning array of eco-friendly features."

posted by gyc at 11:36 PM on October 6, 2002

In a sense, some of the basic precepts of Kyoto are "flawed", for the link between energy consumption and economic growth is tenuous indeed; one can have economic growth without increased (or even with decreased) energy consumption. This is true because current systems are so grossly inefficient.

But the costliness of cutting Greenhouse gasses is really a measure of the speed at which they must be cut. Building energy efficiency into systems is many orders of magnitude cheaper than emergency measures. Indeed, energy efficient systems tend to save money. But the US has been dragging it's feet about cutting emissions and so it is steadily ratcheting up the cost of dealing with the problem, for when Kyoto, or the "son of Kyoto" passes, the US will be forced to take the quick (expensive) rout -emergency measures- because it has been avoiding the planned (cheap) way.

Or it could just flex it's imperial might and refuse to take action anyway, even if the rest of the world implements Kyoto or something like it, but....

Meanwhile the people at Woods Hole, the preeminent oceanographic research institute in the world, are screaming -as loudly as scientists ever scream- about an impending shutdown of ocean circulation, driven by global warming, which could bring on a mini ice age. The president of WHOI says - "not IF but WHEN" .....and probably soon. http://www.whoi.edu/home/about/whatsnew_abruptclimate.html

Play on, little humans, play on.......
posted by troutfishing at 12:20 AM on October 7, 2002

Can you really blame us (read: Torontonians) for thinking we're the Centre of the Canadian Universe? After all, we've got all the people, money and culture.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 8:57 AM on October 7, 2002

Culture? Mike Bullard and Tie Domi are not culture.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:20 AM on October 7, 2002

You've got me on the first one. Mike Bullard and his ill-conceived television ilk (Royal Canadian Air Farce, Red Green, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, etc, etc) sends me into a foam-at-the-mouth rage. When it comes to quality television, Canada's meager offerings rank somewhere above Bahamian soap operas and just below Mexican wrestling.

As for Tie Domi, despite what most Canadians would have you think, hockey simply doesn't register on the cultural radar. It's thugs on ice, nothing more.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2002

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