Rivers: Clearly his Cabinet and caucus, acting like the well trained sheep they’ve been so far, are not going to change his mind. Are they/you all sheep as well?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 11th, 2018


“The world can’t say it wasn’t warned – repeatedly. But unfortunately, the dire cautions being levelled by climate scientists these days don’t seem to be precipitating the global panic and outrage that they should.” (Globe and Mail – Oct 10, 2018)

If we are already experiencing global warming, why did it snow so heavily and early in Calgary this year? The answer apparently has to do with the warming of the Arctic. The melting of the polar ice is affecting how the jet stream functions, and the jet stream has a lot to do with our weather patterns.

This new wobble or crookedness of the jet stream is also the reason last year’s hurricane Harvey, the costliest on record at $125 billion in damages, stalled and flooded Texas instead of striking and moving on as hurricanes used to do. Of course the final bills aren’t yet in from either Florence or Michael.

tipping-point- matches

Tipping point

The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the earth. And as the ice melts it stops reflecting solar radiation which enables further warming. And one day within the next decade, as the permafrost really thaws, there will be massive releases of frozen methane. That won’t be the end of the planet but it will be the end of the planet as we know it – the so-called tipping point will have been passed.

But Donald Trump has heard that the climate in the future will be fabulous. I mean who needs 6,000 scientific references from 91 authors across 40 countries when your would-be prescient president knows better. Perhaps he gets his grounding in science from playing as a real estate tycoon and reality show host. Trump calls climate change a hoax and has taken pride in rolling back Obama-era climate change policies, one after the other. First it was coal emissions and power plants, then auto emissions, and now HFCs, (hydrofluorocarbon) the so-called ‘super-pollutants’.

HFCs were the first replacement chemical for the ozone destroying CFCs, (Chlorofluorocarbons)  which had been used universally in air conditioning and hair sprays. It was a rare moment back in the ‘80s when the entire world agreed to phase out the global production of CFC and thus to help forestall a global epidemic of skin cancers. But HFCs add 14,000 times as much global warming to the atmosphere as CO2 when they eventually get released.

And that is where Trump’s Brett Kavanaugh comes in. As a lower court judge, a little while ago, Kavanaugh overruled an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulation to ban HFC’s. And as if in a nod of approval to their newest member, the US Supreme Court just the other day denied an appeal on that decision. Now at least we understand why Trump was so keen on this appointment which places all three centres of government under his thumb.

What we don’t understand is the rationale behind Trump’s criminal neglect of the health of the planet. And it is already contagious. For example, Australia, despite toying with green energy and being the perfect candidate for self-sufficient solar collection, has decided to stick with coal for 60% of its electricity. And then there is Canada where the conservative party’s brain trusts are all in lock-step with Trump, regardless that they disclaim being climate deniers.

In any case, we Canadians talk a good story on the environment, but we’re not much better than the Americans in terms of our per capita GHG (Green House Gasses) emissions. We’re just smaller so pollute less in aggregate. And we are every bit as schizophrenic as our American cousins when it comes to climate policy, vacillating between doing something with liberals in power then reversing and otherwise doing nothing when conservatives take over.

The fate of our planet should not be the subject of political partisanship – it is a serious matter and we should all be in this together. Yet only one political party in Canada is opposed to taking action to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps it’s because today’s Conservatives haven’t got any other issues and are desperately trying to distinguish themselves from the others.

American economist William Nordhaus’ won this year’s Nobel Prize for economic research only a week ago. His research verifies that the most efficient remedy for problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions is a global scheme of carbon taxes uniformly imposed on all countries. But the leading forces of Canada’s conservative parties think they know better.

Doug Ford, Jason Kenny, Scott Moe and even Andrew Scheer are so bent and determined on doing everything to prevent Canadians from doing anything to help in the fight against global warming, you’d think they were being paid by the fossil fuel industries instead of the people. But B.C.’s decade-long experience with carbon taxes proves that the carbon taxes don’t kill jobs. It is absolutely not the worst tax, as the Tory Neanderthals would have you believe.

In fact the arguments of these political leaders are totally baseless, flawed and misleading. First of all, carbon taxes are revenue neutral, so the money goes back to the taxpayers. There may be distributional effects but the tax is as efficient as any. And clearly the higher the tax, the more effective it would be in changing human behaviour.

A damaged apartment building is seen in Gatineau, Que. on Sunday, September 23, 2018. Houses and Apartment buildings had roofs torn off and windows blown out and automobiles were damaged after a tornado caused extensive damage on Friday to a Gatineau neighbourhood forcing hundreds of families to evacuate their homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

A damaged apartment building is seen in Gatineau, Que. on Sunday, September 23, 2018. Houses and Apartment buildings had roofs torn off and windows blown out and automobiles were damaged after a tornado caused extensive damage on Friday to a Gatineau neighbourhood forcing hundreds of families to evacuate their homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Second, the costs of not taking action are incredibly high as we see with $125 b damages for Harvey and $90 billion for Maria, last year alone. Yes that is America, but what about Ottawa-Gatineau? Higher insurance premiums, greater costs for government relief and uninsured personal losses await us all in the future.

And finally if those leaders do believe that climate change is real, what are they proposing as an alternative to the carbon tax. Ford cancelled the cap and trade program, which was even more effective at reducing emissions with an even lower cost than a simple carbon tax. Cap and trade would have cost Ontario households a buck a day using Ford’s own figures, before netting out the consumer energy savings from better windows and insulation.

Carbon taxes - how they workThe federal


environment minister has compared cancelling cap and trade in Ontario to the equivalent of opening 30 new coal-fired power plants. Still Ford has no alternate plan – and after also killing the province’s renewable energy program he may well take Ontario back to burning coal.

Much has been said about the financial legacy we leave our children and grandchildren, but what about the state of the planet we bequeath them? I didn’t vote for Ford in part because his only plan for the environment had to do with cleaning up litter. But some of you out there must have or he would never have become premier.

So it’s up to you, those who supported him, to let him know that the emperor’s new clothes leave us all naked to a future none of us should relish. Clearly his Cabinet and caucus, acting like the well trained sheep they’ve been so far, are not going to change his mind. So what about those 40 something percent of Ontario voters who put him into office. Are they/you all sheep as well?

I have always been careful in writing this column to embrace passion but stay unemotional. But I am angry now. This is about the future of our planet and we should know better. This is not a drill, there will be no second chances. How will we explain to our grandchildren that we failed them because ideology and partisan politics got in the way?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Arctic Warming Per Capita Emissions –    Tipping Points –    Ford’s Carbon Tax Phobia

Nobel Prize –    HFC Court Action –    Stopping Climate Change at the Table

What is Plan B

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10 comments to Rivers: Clearly his Cabinet and caucus, acting like the well trained sheep they’ve been so far, are not going to change his mind. Are they/you all sheep as well?

  • Ray Rivers

    Stephen – Thanks for your comment. Among the rationale offered for the extirpation of the Neanderthal species was climate change – in this case global cooling. And sheep is a fitting metaphor for a pack which follows its leader without exception and without showing any independent thought. When a characterization fits it is an appropriate descriptor, and not an insult.

    I had provided linkage to a discussion and summary of the most recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which addresses the seriousness of the issue and the little time we have to try to change our behaviour. If they (IPCC) are right we do not have the next four years to sit on our thumbs.

    Cancelling all of Ontario’s climate change mitigation programs in these times was/is unconscionable in light of all the evidence. Worse it is criminal since there will be human misery and death and enormous economic losses as a consequence, as we have already seen. And governments which thwart efforts to change the current course of disaster or don’t even try are complicit.

    The damage estimate for Hurricane Harvey last year is $125 billion (US). It would only take three of those kinds of events to make Ontario’s debt seem inconsequential by comparison. I share your concern about a ballooning debt as I have written often in the past. Primarily, though, debt is a problem because it is burden which will be inherited by future generations. Yet there is no more painful legacy we can leave our children than a sick planet. I believe we should and can strive to attend to both, don’t you?

  • Stephen White

    You really are plumbing the depths of intelligent discourse Ray when we use terms like “Tory Neanderthals” and “well trained sheep” to describe politicians with whom you disagree. I suppose opponents get to use words like “thief” to describe a certain former Liberal Premier who ran up a $12 billion deficit, and whose government racked up the highest sub-national accumulated debt of any government in the world. Does that also mean people get to describe another former Liberal Premier as a “liar” for cancelling a generating plant In Oakville and running up a $1.1 billion loss?

    Two things to keep in mind. First, a lot of people voted PC because they were concerned about the province’s financial management. Many did not see the NDP as a viable alternative remembering full well the financial mess they orchestrated during 5 years in power in the 1990’s. Except in a few ridings like Guelph the Green Party was incredibly weak. Most people who voted PC did not want another four years Liberal rule, and given that the Premier conceded defeat a week before the election voting Liberal would have been an exercise in futility anyway.

    Second, the writing was on the wall as far back as January 2017 indicating the Liberals were in trouble electorally. Why didn’t their membership speak up and demand a leadership review? In the face of multiple resignations from Deb Matthews, Eric Hoskins, Glen Murray and Liz Sandals, why weren’t there calls for the Premier to step down? A certain image comes to mind of a cute, woolly little animal with four legs. How did you describe them….sheep?

    I’m not jazzed by Doug Ford’s environmental agenda either. I’m not happy with the cancellation of rebates on electric vehicles, although I do balk at handing over $14K so rich folks in tony neighbourhoods like Rosedale can buy $80K Teslas. However, I’m not sad to see the Drive Clean program scrapped, an initiative that produced minimal benefits and should have been junked 5 years ago. I’m not thrilled with all the wind turbines dotting rural landscapes and the mounting evidence of health hazards posed to local residents, and if the Tories put the brakes on that then good on them. All that being said, I do want to see a better environmental response from the Tories to deal with the very real issue of environmental degradation (BTW…Tories do believe that global warming is real, contrary to myth and what you may believe). If they have to scrap programs first and then reintroduce new initiatives shortly then they should be judged on the quality and effectiveness of those program and policies. And if they don’t address the issue of global warming then they deserve all the criticism and lambast that ensues based not on personal criticism but on policy relevance.

  • Mark

    Neanderthals, really,well that is a sophisticated argument. At least Neanderthals have less of a carbon footprint than any of us. If we want to save the planet lets all become Neanderthals(a.k.a Conservatives). Your sanctimonious argument only stands true if you are willing to move back to a cave, but please don’t burn any wood for heat because that is burning carbon. You are like the Christians of the Spanish Inquisition, disagree with me and you are labeled a witch or should I say Neanderthal.

    • Phllip Wooster

      The reality is that the human impact on climate is primarily caused by overpopulation. ALL of this environmental policy is simply wealth redistribution from the developed world to the less developed world–its impact on the environment will be negligible. Time to face reality.

  • Brenda Oliver

    The analogy of the frog in slowly boiling water comes to mind. I think there are a lot of frogs in our global governments. There has to be a revolution of the people, but I don’t know how it can happen on a global scale! Very scary times are ahead, if we continue to sit in the pot.

  • V. Muller

    Great article, Ray, but it just leaves one feeling so helpless. (and angry) What can we do to help change things while we wait for Trump/Ford’s terms to end, since it is obvious neither has any clear idea what an impact their present policies (and cancellation of former policies) will have for the future generation, our grandchildren and their children. What makes these twits think they know better than the best scietific minds??? The legacies these so called leaders will leave will be our planet’s ruination. Once we reach the tipping point, there will be no turning back.

  • Lindsay

    There is no surprise here. Those who voted Conservative can breathe easy, knowing they won’t have to sacrifice anything. The other 40% really don’t want to do anything either and can continue to put blame on others. The government should do this and the corporations should do that. Never has it been more evident that the majority of people don’t want to do anything for the environment. It has progressed from doing something only if it doesn’t cost anything. As a Christian, I see that the trend in decreasing church attendance coincides with the reduction in percentage of household income given to charities. The last 70 years has shown the Baby Boomer generation of focusing on “me” has caught on with subsequent generations. When people stop thinking they should help others, it is easy to stop thinking about the planet.

    I would like to see a lottery – people love to gamble- that bets on who can do the most to speed up climate change. You know, buy a Hummer, fly as often as you can, burn oil to heat your house, etc. It is kinda reverse psychology. Of course the winner makes money but the percentage the lottery charges, say 50%, can then go to organizations that are truly interested in change. This could be electric car rebates or improvements in building carbon reduction.

  • Fred Pritchard

    Ray, CON’s are like smokers. The evidence is clear that smoking kills, but yet the blue collar crowd (Ford / Trump voters) continue to do it anyway. You see kids smoking and wonder why, with all the factual evidence, they suggest it won’t happen to them. Climate change is real, the costs are real, hotter summers, more snow in winter. They estimate that Florida took an 8 Billion dollar hit in damages to property. Insurance companies are not going to just absorb that, it will be billed back to consumers. There is a real cost. Wait until Miami beech floods as the oceans rise. Only when parts of the US coast vanish into the ocean will the CON’s catch on. Of course it will be too late to do anything about it. Shameful the way they attempt to CON the voters.

  • Kurt Koster

    Great but depressing article Ray. Like you I wonder how all the elected members, no matter what party, seem to change to puppets once in government. MPP’s re the environment and ready to use the “Notwithstanding Clause” and the cancelling of the “Cap and Trade”. MP’s falling in line with the broken promise of electoral reform and “pipelines are good for the environment”. And then politicians wonder why voter turn out is low.
    A beneficial dictator might be the best solution, any volunteers??