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Like most Conservative MPs, Tracy Gray has spent much of her time over the last few years railing against the Trudeau government’s carbon tax. Last Thursday morning, for example, she tweeted that “Canadians cannot afford Trudeau's carbon tax. It's time to axe the tax and bring home lower prices.” But few have had the audacity to attack the federal government’s climate plan while parts of their own riding and neighbouring communities were on the verge of burning to the ground.

Within less than a day of her tweet, the city of Kelowna and much of its surrounding area were under a state of emergency after the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna exploded to more than 10,000 hectares and incinerated an unknown number of homes and buildings, including Lake Okanagan Resort.

It wasn’t the only major wildfire chasing Canadians out of their homes and communities last week. On Wednesday, a day before huge parts of West Kelowna went up in smoke, all 19,000 residents of Yellowknife were ordered to evacuate as another huge fire bore down on their community. That same day, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre gave a press conference in Prince Edward Island where he repeatedly attacked the federal government’s signature climate policy. "Look out at these roads here,” he told reporters. “These people need to drive vehicles.”

Eventually, Poilievre got around to reading the proverbial room. His team postponed his Aug. 24 “axe the tax” rally in Whitehorse due to the wildfires — and, one has to assume, the increasingly unpleasant optics of holding a rally against climate policy in the midst of them. But don’t expect him or his MPs to acknowledge the disconnect between their relentless campaign against the carbon tax and the wildfires that have defined this summer for so many Canadians.

After all, this is a leader and party that insist the carbon tax is little more than a glorified wealth distribution scheme, one that’s apparently part of the Trudeau government’s master plan to eliminate Canada’s oil and gas industry. Never mind that Canadian fossil fuel companies are posting record-high profits on record-high fossil fuel production, or that the supposedly scheming government in question has spent $30 billion building an increasingly unpopular pipeline.

If anything, Poilievre’s version of the CPC has made its indifference to climate change a key selling feature to its base. That sales job seems to be working, too. According to an Aug. 9 EKOS poll, just 24 per cent of CPC voters assign a “high extent” of responsibility for the surge in wildfires to climate change compared to 91 per cent for people who vote NDP, 88 per cent for Liberal supporters and 81 per cent for the BQ.

If the Republican reaction to the recent fire in Maui is any indication, many Canadian conservatives will find a way to blame arsonists, renewable energy or even “directed energy weapons” or other tinfoil-heavy explanations before pointing their finger at climate change and the industries most responsible for it. Michael Shellenberger, a popular American pro-nuclear (and anti-renewables) activist, effectively summarized this approach when he blamed the Maui fires on “unhinged climatism and wokeism.”

In both countries, conservatives remain far more invested in protecting the oil and gas industry’s status quo than the people and communities its emissions put at risk. Case in point: At an event hosted by the Canadian Energy Executive Association this Thursday in Banff, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean, and Calgary Centre MP Greg McLean will participate in a “fireside chat” — oh, the irony — about “how they are going to help the energy industry and how they plan to deal with Ottawa.” The keynote speaker, meanwhile, is Alex Epstein, someone who wrote a book called — I kid you not — The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

It’s nearly impossible to see that case right now, especially in the smokier regions of the country. But don’t expect Canada’s conservatives to stop trying to make it, along with any number of other equally specious arguments about why climate change isn’t worth our collective attention.

In the midst of one of the worst wildfire seasons in Canadian history, Conservative MPs seem far more interested in eliminating Canada's carbon tax than doing anything about climate change. Will it cost them in the next election — again? @maxfawcett

It’s why they still cling to the fantasy that increasing LNG exports can somehow get Canada off the hook for its Paris Agreement commitments. It’s why they refuse to entertain the possibility that demand for Canada’s oil and gas could decline dramatically in the near future as any number of recent forecasts — including this recent one from BloombergNEF — has predicted. And it’s why, rather than bringing forward anything resembling a coherent policy on climate change, they’ve decided instead to cover their shame with the fig leaf of “technology.”

It’s also why Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, for all of their numerous recent failings, still have a decent chance at winning the next election. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where, after another summer of rampant wildfires, smoke, and other unwelcome reminders of climate change’s growing relevance, a federal election gets triggered. Will Canadians in Ontario and Quebec want to give Poilievre free rein to “axe the tax” and effectively hand premiers like Smith and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe a free pass to pollute at will? And are they really prepared to go backwards on climate change right as the rest of the world accelerates ahead with their own policies and plans?

I won’t pretend to know the answer here. But I know that’s terrain the Liberals would much rather be fighting the next election on — and Poilievre’s Conservatives would desperately like to avoid.

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It seems artificial intelligence (AI) is much smarter than the average conservative when it comes to climate change. When asked why climate change denialism or the lack of interest to acknowledge climate change, AI responded as follows.

Climate change denial, or the refusal to accept the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by human activity, is multifaceted. There's no single reason why all deniers reject the consensus; instead, there are various reasons that can be grouped into several categories:

1. **Economic Interests**: Some industries, particularly those related to fossil fuels, stand to lose a significant amount of money if governments take action to reduce carbon emissions. There's a history of some entities funding climate denial campaigns to protect their interests.

2. **Political Beliefs**: In some countries, especially the U.S., climate change has become a highly partisan issue. Many conservatives view climate change policy proposals (like the Green New Deal) as a ploy to increase governmental control and regulation.

3. **Perceived Threat to Personal Freedom**: There's a subset of people who view any government intervention or regulation as a threat to personal freedoms. For them, climate change measures are seen as another instance of government overreach.

4. **Scientific Skepticism or Misunderstanding**: Some people genuinely believe that the science isn't settled on climate change. They may feel that climate is always changing naturally and that current changes are not primarily caused by human actions. Some might misunderstand or mistrust the data or models used in climate science.

5. **Media Influence**: Certain media outlets and personalities promote climate change denial. Their viewers and readers may adopt these viewpoints based on trust in these sources.

6. **Perceived Economic Burden**: Some people fear that transitioning away from fossil fuels will be expensive, leading to job losses in certain sectors and higher energy costs.

7. **Cultural and Identity Reasons**: In some contexts, denying climate change becomes a part of a group's identity, with social pressures to conform to the group's dominant beliefs.

8. **Short-term Thinking**: Some people prioritize immediate concerns over long-term risks. For them, the potential future impacts of climate change might seem abstract or less pressing than other present-day concerns.

9. **Religious Beliefs**: Some people believe that humans don't have the power to change the climate or that a divine power would not allow us to destroy the Earth.

10. **Conspiracy Theories**: There are those who believe that climate change is a hoax created for various nefarious purposes, such as a ploy to funnel money into certain industries or as a way for scientists to receive funding.

11. **Lack of Awareness or Education**: Some individuals might not be aware of the consensus among climate scientists or might not have had access to comprehensive education on the topic.

It's essential to engage with people with empathy and understanding, recognizing that their beliefs are influenced by a complex web of factors. Finding common ground and communicating the science in a clear, relatable manner can help bridge the divide.

Great summary John (or John's AI tool). A lot of factors at play. I just don't understand why reasonable Conservatives are opposed to climate solutions just because they hate the Prime Minister or think running up the deficit will cause a big recession. The link between hot / dry summers and wildfires outbreaks isn't that hard to grasp, but because a person doesn't like the other political parties they'll convince themselves that far less plausible explanations are true. Very strange human behaviour.

Indeed. Irrational enough to skew towards bona fide hatred, which is absolutely in the human repertoire despite so many progressives trying to pretend otherwise.

Your AI did a great job. The answer on the test is, of course, all of the above. I put special on the emphasis on #7 with honourable mention to eight and 11. When you understand that the "conservative movement" is largely funded by fossil fuel interests you can see why it becomes part of their cultural identity. That and the $billion or so the fossil fuel industry spent on denying climate change over the last 40 years (5) and (11) explains the lack of scientific understanding (4). Poilievre has always been a loyal soldier of the "movement" no matter how deeply he hides it and almost every speech demonstrates his passion for Team Koch. Is he even capable of enlightenment? I guess we'll see.

Absolutely not. He apparently chose politics because he couldn't play hockey for some reason, so this is his TEAM. And he aims to WIN.
In that vein, it's tiresome to see the media egging politicians on toward the next election regardless of circumstances. Very shallow and very American, that obsessive focus on the entertainment factor of the horse race.

Is that still the AI reply at the end there John?
It does sound like the standard delusion on the left, that everyone can be reached and minds can be changed if we just have enough "empathy and understanding." The Achilles heel of the left, being too precious by half and so irritatingly verging on being patronizing and/or naive themselves, what I think of as "church lady."
Because this sounds like advice on how to communicate with either young children or mentally challenged adults. Talk about not reading the room....

That's the Achilles Heel of small-l liberals, Tris. Actual leftists have never had the luxury of such thinking, and for that matter have a fundamental analysis of society to tell 'em why it ain't so. When you don't (want to) believe in class, or in classes having opposing interests, you start to fall prey to that sort of fuzziness.

"Actual leftists" like the NDP you mean, but they've never been in the driver's seat federally and never will be, where all those differences have to be actively juggled.
But their admirable idealism works beautifully in concert, which is what's happening now. It's the only truly hopeful thing in federal politics right now.

That's cute and all, but does not change the truth of what I said. The point is not the political party; no person or movement or political party can seriously be called "left" if their thinking does not involve something like a class analysis, even if it's only as rudimentary as "We are the 99%!". And, anyone who has such a thing is not prone to the problem you outlined; they know there are winners and losers and fundamentally opposing interests. So, the problem you outlined is not a "left" problem. QED.

The thing here is, you want to have things both ways--on one hand, you want to don the mantle of that leftist "idealism" for Liberals. That leads you to say things like how problems that are in fact exclusive to nonleftist political liberals are "left" problems. On the other, you want to rubbish anything on the left that has . . . the very principles you want to give the Liberals the reflected shine from. This is not coherent given that the principles in question are fundamental to calling something "left".

Liberals are often nice. Which sounds like faint praise, but since Conservatives seem to actively encourage everyone associated with the party to bring out their inner asshole as hard as possible, it is in these times quite significant. And they do have some good principles, the principles of liberalism, things like representative democracy and equality under the law and not discriminating based on (the kinds of criteria one finds in Charters of Rights). Again, one might consider this a base condition of entry into politics in a decent society, but the right may not have ever believed in much of that stuff and they surely don't now, so it is significant. But Liberals are not left; those liberal principles are not specifically leftist principles. Specifically leftist principles exist; liberals, and most Liberals, don't believe in 'em. So there is a fundamental political distinction there, which leads exactly to the kind of thinking that imagines it possible to satisfy everybody.

So. There's a difference. I find Liberals at their least impressive when they want to pretend to be on the left--and by far the least impressive when they want to BOTH pretend to be on the left AND say that the left shouldn't go around indulging any ideas that are, you know, left. Especially since where the rubber meets the road is that oligarchs are trying to KILL THE PLANET, the system gives them the power to do it, and left analysis is the only kind that actually acknowledges this.

Are you sailing up there beyond the fray possibly?
The "idealism" I referred to was that of the NDP, not the Liberals. I'm not even remotely tribal, am purely utilitarian politically and a decent person so have always voted progressive, but since politics has truly become binary as in good vs. evil, survival vs. extinction, I'm utterly baffled by the continued nitpicking on the left.
Is it wanting to fight what is perceived as "the good fight" of martyrdom (the church lady thing) or is it just the petty narcissism of small differences?
Either way, for "progressives" to continue to flirt with forfeiting this unique opportunity to actually save us AND the day with such irrational self-indulgence defies logic, therefore lumping us in with a right wing that has undeniably lost its mind.
Tribes and cults be damned for all time; we are human beings first and foremost; it's our only hope and our last chance to evolve.
Did you read Michael Harris's article in Tyee on why the Liberals will probably win next election? Mainly because they're NOT unmitigated assholes for starters, as you alluded to, nor are they batshit crazy, AND because they take the greatest crisis of our time seriously, AND because they realize that government has never been more necessary than it is now. It's all we've got when both democracy and the rule of law are under siege.
Agreed about the oligarchy and corporations but big oil is now being sued and Meta is being challenged, which is the beginning.

Well done, John.

My only critique is that many in the denial "community" are too far gone to change or be open to any kind of rebuttal, well backed with facts or not.

The religious aspect has more power here than admitted, both literally considering the absolutism espoused by the Christian right and figuratively with respect to being deeply committed to a political belief system.

I disagree that such people can be convinced otherwise; it would be a complete waste of time to try. That's like trying to convert a totally immersed evangelical into a secular humanist. The crazy fundamentalist may be rock hard in their beliefs, but their spouse or kids may see the personal damage occurring in real time and shy away from it as circumstances progress.

I fully agree that we must have an understanding of the socio-economic impacts of climate heating and the basic science behind it. I also see a need to understand the thinking behind those who are smart but who would also delay action for their own reasons. Offering logical or moral counterpoint without insulting their intelligence is key.

Too many progressives issue thecsame typical knee-jerk rejection to those whose ideas on climate are lukewarm as those in the radical evangelical camp. The same progressives tend to be a little narrow minded, preach to the choir, fight internally with other progressives over partisan affiliations and wouldn't be caught dead reading a middle of the road editorial on climate in the Globe.

Not being willing to understand the climate thinking behind lukewarm economic conservatives is one of their downfalls. Hectoring and poor listening skills are not traits that will win the unconvinced to your side no matter how clear the facts are.

In that regard, knowing the powerful economics behind renewables and the continual confirmation of the reality of the laws of physics on the ground will do much of the work of putting carbon in its place will give impetus to calmer opinionating and editorialization, perhaps even to saving one's breath and getting on with life with a more mindful attitude.

In other words, acting locally and thinking globally.

It's quite sad that the far right has captured the Conservative leadership federally and in several provinces. These new leaders are dragging their followers into a state of climate denial and I just don't understand why the average person falls for it. I understand that Conservatives follow Post Media and other Conservative media outlets and as long as their news feed supports their leader's views, then others will fall in line. We're witnessing the Republicanization of Canadian Conservatives and news media in real time. Whatever happened to the small "c" Conservative? Clearly, in times of disruption and enormous change emotions begin to override common sense. For example, climate change creates a higher probability of hotter and drier weather around the world. That type of weather is conducive to wildfires and droughts. To slow down and eventually reduce these effects, we have to stop burning fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy are cheap solutions that create jobs and tax revenues. Grid renewal and battery storage make it possible to add more renewable energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Seems like a no brainer. But Conservatives are being told they should hate renewables and net-zero energy efficiency improvements. Does that make sense? How can any reasonable person believe that diversifying our energy mix and reducing the amount of energy we waste be bad for the economy? Willful blindness is a horrible affliction.

It would be dangerous to count on "more of the same" next summer to weaken the strength of the Conservative vote. Weather is variable -- next summer may well be wet and cold. Progressives must double their efforts -- yes, with empathy and understanding -- to make "people in the middle" see the shallowness of the CPC approach to climate change and deny Poilievre their vote.

True about the weather not necessarily or consistently reinforcing the apocalyptic OR, something many of us were shocked to learn during the pandemic, even counting on a dangerous, new virus being able to change a certain type of mind. What it showed instead was that the more fearful something is, the more certain people double down on an irrational response like pretending it's not even happening. Hence the reaction to climate change we're currently seeing among conservatives like the UCP here in Alberta. It's not just embarrassing, it's truly scary now; they're wholly, dangerously incompetent so what do we do under such unprecedented circumstances? It was the one thing Jason Kenney was right about, that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Broadly speaking, liberals can be described as having more open minds than conservatives, but there are obviously degrees. For example it was shocking to hear of people during the pandemic who were dying of covid in the hospital where they had obviously been told by doctors that's what they were infected with, but STILL denied the diagnosis because it came from what they had deemed untrustworthy i.e. medical science (which DID have somewhat variable findings, being science) so they literally denied it with their dying breath.
The phenomenon of the conservative brain IS a thing that has been studied, which provides some context.
And speaking of degrees, there are indeed still some "small c" conservatives who are/were far more reasonable until the uber-religious Reform Party deliberately expunged more than just the word "progressive" from their name, completely hijacking the party, you have to realize that they are no longer in charge. Far from it; Erin O'Toole was the signal that they're going for broke with Poilievre. So when you talk about approaching him, the current Convoy Party of Canada and its rabid supporters with the same liberal "empathy and understanding" you would bring to anyone embroiled in a cult, keep in mind that they have persisted unchanged through the insanity of Trumpism, a ravaging pandemic and are now denying the existential reality of climate change, Poilievre is 7 points ahead of the Liberals, and there are 7 conservative premiers in Canada.
So the centre is not holding; these idiots really could kill us all, and refusing to even identify our common enemy, let alone just HOW bad they really are lumps us in with them, the worst among us.