Last Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the causes of wildfires are "complex" and carbon taxes won't stop them. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a carbon tax is a way to reduce the pollution that causes extreme climate events such as wildfires.
Which one of them is right?
Short answer: Kenney's comments aren't false, but they are misleading, experts say. While Kenney is correct in saying that many factors lead to wildfires, the premier's comments fail to mention that the global climate emergency is worsening the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and that top economists, including two Nobel prize winners in 2018, generally agree that putting a price on carbon emissions is an effective way to slow down and eventually reverse the crisis.
"It's not untrue, but it's totally missing the point," said University of Calgary climatologist Shawn Marshall, referring to Kenney's comments.
Speaking in Calgary under a thick fog of smoke from fires in the northern part of the province on Friday, Kenney told reporters that Alberta has always had wildfires, and some parts of the boreal forest were overdue to burn. "They've had a carbon tax in British Columbia for 10 years. It hasn't made a difference to the pattern of forest fires there ... or in Alberta," he said.
In B.C., the carbon tax introduced in 2008 by former premier Gordon Campbell's government has generally reduced emissions and affected some sectors that rely on fossil fuels, while allowing cleaner sectors to benefit.
"We need to be taking real action to prevent climate change," Trudeau said Monday, referencing this spring's wildfires in western Canada. "That's why we're moving forward on a price on pollution right across the country, despite the fact conservative politicians are pushing against that."
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Trudeau also said natural disasters are "becoming unaffordable" for Canadians and society. "We need to act in a way that puts more money in the pockets of Canadians, which is what we're doing (with the carbon tax)," he added, referencing the rebate that means most Canadians will profit from the tax.
Kenney, who said he believes in climate change, is correct that wildfire is a natural part of the life cycle of Canada's forests, said Mike Flannigan, a wildfire researcher at the University of Alberta. However, increased carbon emissions in the planet's atmosphere are causing global temperatures to warm and conditions to become more favourable to wildfires, he added. Not only does the changing climate have longer, hotter and drier summers that leave the landscape more fire-prone — which Kenney correctly noted Friday — increased temperatures also increase the likelihood of lightning that can ignite more flames.
"We are seeing more fire on our landscape because of climate change," Flannigan said.
The science of attributing catastrophes to climate change is still emerging, but a federal climate change report released in April found human activity most likely increased the risk of extreme fire weather that led to the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires.
Speaking in Vancouver Monday, Trudeau correctly said that climate crisis-linked natural disasters are costing Canadians more money. Some wildfire damage happens because more humans are living, working and spending their free time in forested areas than ever before as urban sprawl expands, but climate change is also a crucial factor, Flannigan said.
Marshall said it's also important to note that carbon emissions are a global-scale problem. The climate crisis affects the entire planet, not just regions with particularly high emissions. Even though B.C. has had a carbon tax for a long time, the world's overall levels of greenhouse gases have increased — carbon taxes don't directly address individual wildfires, but reducing our carbon emissions might help reduce the number and intensity of future catastrophes, Marshall added.
"The bigger picture is that climate change is global, and it's this huge runaway freight train that no one jurisdiction is going to be able to stop."
It's also correct to say that lowering Alberta's emissions, in the absence of any other global action, would represent a small fraction of the total carbon pollution in the atmosphere.
But from a political standpoint, many countries have been reluctant to take action on their own if other large polluters such as the U.S. and China are not participating.
Canada has also been a key player in global climate negotiations as one of top 10 global emitters of carbon pollution and one of the top 10 producers of oil. Alberta also holds the world's third largest reserves of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and the province has tens of thousands of jobs that depend directly on fossil fuels.
Kenney's office declined to comment.
The premier's past statements on the climate crisis are important backdrop to his comments Friday, said Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia who studies climate policy.
Kenney has questioned the degree to which humans are contributing to the global climate emergency.
During this spring's Alberta provincial election, one of the candidates for Kenney's United Conservative Party was revealed to have called climate change "mythology" on social media. In response, Kenney said he believes in climate change but there's a "spectrum of views" on the phenomenon and he won't remove candidates who don't believe in it (the candidate, Karri Flatla, did not win her seat). And last week, Kenney came under fire for eliminating Alberta's carbon tax without replacing it with another program aimed at reducing the province's overall emissions.
A growing number of studies have proven a carbon tax can be effective, Harrison added.
"(Wildfires are) the sort of thing that we know climate change exacerbates," said Harrison. "The mere fact that (Kenney is) making that statement, I think, is calling out to members of his party who reject the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change."
A growing number of studies
A growing number of studies have proven a carbon tax can be effective. There is also a growing number of studies that have proven its not.
If the last 4 year test was
If the last 4 year test was AB's study, then there wasn't much effect. There are not 'no' AB carbon taxes, still taxes on large emitters, coal power still being phased out. And there are still very few EVs in BC deapite carbon taxes and EV subsidies. Last I checked, BC's cruise ships, container ships railways, Ferries, trucks... were still all diesel. All that has to change, or we're just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Maybe Canada could start with mandating 1 or 2 percent bio origin diesel?
I see two basic possibilities
I see two basic possibilities: Either all the market economics stuff that Conservatives normally swear by is real, in which case a carbon tax ought to work. Or, it isn't real, and the Conservative party and all the orthodox economists pushing for market-based solutions to things are dead wrong about the whole economy and ought to fold up their tents, stop running for office, and let the not-so-market people get some real climate action going.
Really, if anyone should believe in carbon taxes, it's the Conservatives. The only reason they have for rejecting them and supposedly embracing exactly the kind of solution they normally hate is that they are still trying desperately to avoid doing anything whatsoever. Like really, imagine this headline: "Conservatives reject market-based solution to major problem, propose regulatory red tape instead!" It's ridiculous. They're just desperately spinning.
The reality is somewhere in between genuine Conservative beliefs and current Conservative positions. Sales of EVs in BC just spiked, doubling to 6% of new car sales, in response to higher gas prices and an additional federal subsidy. Prices, which is what a carbon tax is there to affect, do make a difference to purchase decisions, to a point anyway. But the demand for fossil fuels is quite inelastic. The prices of fossil fuel replacements tend to be capital-heavy, meaning you have to pay big up front for something that is then very cheap to run. So it takes quite a price shift to make it seem worth the outlay up front or the interest and effort costs of a loan. If you're poor it's worse, you don't have the money up front and you don't have access to cheap financing. Renters don't get to decide how their homes or water are heated, and costs are passed on to them. Et cetera . . . so there are a lot of areas where a carbon tax is not actually going to be very efficient compared to government actions such as subsidies, direct construction, regulation including zoning and building codes, or low-interest loans for things like building refitting. And to have a big impact it would have to be far bigger than existing or usually proposed carbon taxes. But they're not useless.
While I agree with much of
While I agree with much of what you say, I think you may be missing what the real purpose of a carbon tax should be. Perhaps because the Liberal tax may not be looking in this direction.
A carbon tax should in my opinion, create the fund needed to address those high initial prices you are talking about. In Alberta, it was doing that while at the same time, rebating the poorer members of society. We added to our solar...and solarized our daughter's place.....for a fraction of what we paid a decade ago.
Carbon taxes should be for the transitional work society has to do. How else are we going to fund the massive changes required, now that the neoliberal scheme has concentrated much of the wealth in the hands of guys like T-rump?
Make the people pay high taxes on fossil fuels and they are more willing to save for solar, give up on that fantasy of a trip to the bloody Bahamas.
Really? Why don't you cite
Really? Why don't you cite some of them? It's relatively easy, with the internet, to follow the money......see what connections there could be to outfits like Exxon. I assume you know their scientists warned them in the 70's of the long term effects of continued fossil fuel extraction? I assume you've also heard they are being sued now....for withholding this information from investors.......and instead pouring billions into climate change denial?
There's a lot of junk science out there.......a lot of Chicago school type economics BS also. Don't assume your sources are trustworthy. Share them with the researchers on National Observer, and we can all look at their evidence. Point is, at this juncture, doing nothing.......or engaging in sterile debates about the degree to which humans are causing climate change, is a conservative stall tactic.
Advantaged Albertans put their money on that kind of double talk at all our peril.
I was expecting to read an
I was expecting to read an article about fact checking of comments made by Kenney and Trudeau
about carbon taxes as related to wildfires. All I found here was Kenney wasn't wrong about wildfires,and Trudeau's answer was nothing about the effect of carbon tax on Canadian wildfires and was all about returning money to Canadians.
Marshall said it's also important to note that carbon emissions are a global-scale problem. Exactly.
Canada's share of the problem is 1.5%.
Unfortunately, the carbon tax won't stop wildfires from occurring until 98.5% of the global pollution is under control. Pollution does not stop at a country's border.
Putting money back in the hands of Canadians does nothing to curb the wildfires, and minimally helps climate change. Sending coal outside of Canada is a contributor to climate change and should be stopped.
Trudeau's plan of allowing the biggest emitters in Canada to have a grace period of 10 years
doesn't offer also doesn't climate change. Nothing what Trudeau is doing helps climate change effectively.
I agree with most of what you
I agree with most of what you have said. One country, like Canada, is not going to be able to stop forest fires without help from the entire global community.
However, that does not mean that we should do nothing. If nothing else we need to recognise that this problem was caused by the western industrial revolution and its spread worldwide fueled by carbon rich fuels. We have a responsibility to now lead with technologies to mitigate the damage that we initiated - if nothing else to own up to having a moral responsibility.
That does indeed meaning weaning our economy off carbon based fuels and accepting the fact that we should not be facilitating their use in the rest of the world. It will not happen overnight but we need a viable plan to make this happen as quickly as we can.
What bothers me is that we do not seem able to face up to the changes that are essential to make this happen and keep gilding the pill so to speak by trying to make it look easy when it is not. The environment must take priority over the economy - if the economy goes down that means we are poorer - if the environment goes down then we die. I know which I think is the more important.
It seems that for both Kenny
It seems that for both Kenny and Trudeau it is all about the money. However Kenny will actually put money in taxpayers pockets if he is able to revive the resource industries. Trudeau is just giving taxpayers back some of their tax dollars. So I agree with your statement that Trudeau is doing that helps climate change - he is playing a shell game with our money.
As far as I know, though,
As far as I know, though, Kenney has nothing when it comes to reviving the resource industries in Alberta--to do that, he'd first have to acknowledge the actual sources of the problem, such as competition from fracked oil pushing prices down, and the limited availability of refineries for processing Alberta bitumen. That would point to solutions such as government-built refineries in Alberta so they could sell full-price gasoline and diesel and other petrochemicals, in significantly smaller less dangerous pipelines, and keep the refining jobs and value-added in province. I'm kind of glad he doesn't have that figured out because I want the Alberta oil sector (indeed, the whole world's oil sector) to die, but still--he could be doing something useful from his claimed point of view, but his emphasis instead is on demagoguery.
Meanwhile, he seems to be planning public sector job cuts, eliminating the push for wind power, and trashing labour protections. The first two will cut jobs, the second will cut pay.
Kenney is likely working to
Kenney is likely working to find a way to Balance the provincial budget, something I wish Trudeau would attempt instead of preaching to us while he Flies around the globe in a private jet burning more fossil fuel than any of us will I a life time,TYPICAL Liberal Hypocrisy. Do as I say not as I do .If Alberta shut down their oil industry how would the rest of Canada
operate with out that fat Equalization payment they' re so accustomed to receiving .
Oh well no trains planes and automobiles
We can all back to the good old days
The Earth has had climate changes in the past and it wasn't the all important Man who saved it. Get your head out of your you no what.Your not that important and your full of yourself if you think you can miraclesly change the climate that is unless your a die hard Liberal or Dummycrat, practicing not what they preach.
But then socialism is for the people Not the Socialist.
Kenney is in the back pockets
Kenney is in the back pockets of big international O&G and has little or no interest in doing what is right for our environment. He and premiers of Alberta before him have turned a blind eye to the rip and ship tactics of his corporate friends leaving Albertans striped of their resources and not recieving their fair share of taxes, a destroyed enviroment and health risks due to air and water pollution.
Winning strategies, if you
Winning strategies, if you want poverty to increase....and I don't think we should forget the conservative willlingness to make war on the poor. Blaming the victims being the underbelly of their corporate ideology.
It is mostly cutie signaling
It is mostly cutie signaling which is what almost all, if not all, Trudeau policy is about.
virtue signaling not cutie.
virtue signaling not cutie.
It would be nice to get past
It would be nice to get past bickering about which politician is worse and start debating real issues that affect our future.
- climate change is real and disastrous for much of humanity and much of the earth.
- Canadians don't deserve a say in the future unless we accept there is a disaster happening and that we are changing our behaviour to be consistent with a solution.
- resource-based industry, that is the extraction and exploitation of non-renewables, has to be reducing, not growing, as a part of any province on national economic plan.
You may need to read it again
You may need to read it again. Or perhaps the confusion is around certainty. Western science teaches us to restrict the variables in order to get that one right answer dualists love. But climate science....and living systems, multiply the variables...and so we have to think more subtly...and act more in accordance with cautionary principles when dealing with living systems.
Kenny is right to say there are multiple causes. He's prevaricating when he says there's a 'range of opinions' on climate change, human's role in it, and its effect on fires.
That doesn't seem like a complex fact to me.
Secondly....if carbon taxes lower emissions and encourage transitional technologies..then Trudeau is right about carbon taxes. The Nobel prize winning economists are right about carbon taxes. Pig headedly deciding to be a no tax whiner in the face of what we now definitively KNOW about climate change, is reprehensible.
If we want to discuss how to make the carbon tax better, more fair, more connected to the job creation work of transition....that's another topic.
It's past time for bolder, clearer thinking....tolerating sale taxes and screaming about a carbon tax is for the new luddite...don't be one of them. I agree Trudeau's plan is still too kind to the major emitters, but I believe we need a carbon tax to begin the work of transition. Neoliberal free markets have emptied the coffers government needs to act....and so far, individuals choose jet set vacations over personal transition.......
So watered down as it is, Trudeau's plan.......and Notley's defunct tax....were light years ahead of Jason's prevarications.
While we fiddle, the planet
While we fiddle, the planet burns. Time to stop fiddling and go for the symphony that demands concentration. collaboration, respect for the co-players, and determination to produce a masterpiece. Producing climate solutions demands a degree of global cooperation never before achieved. Without it, most likely life on earth will fail.
Is the human race up for it?
Wow get a grip on reality!!!
Wow get a grip on reality!!! This is and always has been a tax to enrich the liberal party of Canada, nothing more. You won't stop climate change unless you stop putting your head in the sand. China and India are the world's largest polluters in the world. Oh you must have missed that in your climate change handbook. Maybe just ask your elite friends to help you figure out why your delusional?? Or maybe do some research and see who's funding your ideas. You won't like the answer, considering it's all big oil!! Ya I know they're conscience got them. Not likely.
You should get a grip on some
You should get a grip on some research. I don't know about the Trudeau carbon tax...but in Alberta we had a pretty good start on an effective carbon tax. In four years, it made us the western leader in installed commercial solar...we added 5.88 kilowatts to our array for a third of what we paid without the rebate 9 years earlier...and a renewable energy sector was growing rapidly throughout the province.
It's a bit rich...you guys talking about reality as the planet burns....and methods that might engage more people in transition get dumped by conservatives who want to strip mine our eastern slopes....for COAL!!!. Ah yes. India and China are the problem....our junk fossil fuel is ethical!!!!
Having a grip on reality is something different than a strangle hold...and a carbon tax is only one tool in the tool box. Getting off coal...banning fracking is also on the agenda.
Check out The Green New Deal: its a real possibility.
Of course we are.....but our
Of course we are.....but our corporate masters have other plans....and I fear they have become so impressed with the alacrity with which they've scooped up most of the wealth created in the last forty years.......that saving the planet seems like small potatoes to them.
So conservative governments get elected promising us a return to the past (make some of us great again), turn up the austerity machine, and keep the majority so busy treading water that there's no energy, or intellect, left to confront our real crisis.
We could definitely do it. But a lot of big money is being spent convincing us that we can't.
Let's be clear about one
Let's be clear about one thing, nothing Canada is going to do can affect climate change directly. Canada's role is merely to be a team player so that the world's major carbon generators do not have an excuse to do nothing. Canada's contribution is so infinitesimally small in terms of the causes and sixes, that it won't affect change in global or local temperatures, climate patterns or weather events 1 measurable iota. This is just a fact. With respect to economists saying we have to do this to reverse the effects of climate change, according to the consensus science, nothing can be done to reverse it in the foreseeable future. The die is cast. By the time anything we do globally, again according to the consensus science, is effective at improving the existing conditions it is going to be the distant future based sustained, long-term efforts.
Canada should be focused on adapting to future inevitable change. Perhaps that involves a carbon tax, but that is not where money is going.
The "little Canada" argument
The "little Canada" argument falls flat.
If everyone follows this logic, no one will reduce emissions. Certainly not the 180+ nations that have lower total emissions than Canada.
"All nations contributing less than 2% of emissions are, cumulatively, more important than India or China. It absolutely does matter that these nations reduce their emissions." (Willem Huiskamp, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)
Collective problems require collective solutions. Reducing emissions is a global undertaking. Even on the conservative atlas, Canada is part of the globe.
Canadians contribute disproportionately to the collective problem; we need to contribute to the collective solution.
With 40+% of total global emissions, only China and the U.S. could make a dent in global emissions by themselves. But they cannot solve the problem alone.
That leaves 60% divided among 191 nations. Each contributes a small fraction of the total.
Collective problems require collective solutions. The global emissions problem cannot be solved EXCEPT by collective action.
How does the world solve its emissions problem if those 191 nations are not part of the solution?
There are billions of GHG sources around the world. They are ALL small. If every one argues that their emissions don't matter because they are a small fraction of the total, no one will reduce emissions.
The energy hogs and big emitters live over here, not in the developing world.
I just bought a book at the
I just bought a book at the forks in Winnipeg that you might be interested in. It's a children's book called "The Sad Little Fact". It gets buried by folks who don't like it, and then they start manufacturing phony facts....but you can tell they aren't real facts because they're scowling....suggesting that you'd better believe in them...or else!
It's quite good in making an essential point....a fact can't be spun.
But that is what you are doing with your 'fact' about how Canada can't do anything to effect global warming. We may be small in some ways, but we're a major fossil fuel producer...our tar sands third...behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela....in capacity to finish off life on earth. And our Big Oil boys, CAPP and company, don't want to dwell on that
Because they want to continue to reap the profits of being an energy superpower...while telling little tax whiners that Canada has no role to play in lowering global emissions. It's Bullshit.
We have a potentially large role, because we are a wealthy society. We can lead the transition to renewable energy...we can lead the way to restorative agriculture, acknowledging that it has to be a water savy, anda heat resistant agriculture, and one that gets off Roundup and other poisons....
We need a robust carbon tax to fill government coffers for the transition......and as we develop the technologies and the work practices that don't emit...but that sequester...we need universities and colleges to train the young people who are going to have to engage in this massive work..........AND....we need the vision and the will to help other less fortunate countries.......rather than kill and maim as we regime change to exploit their non renewable resources.
There's a lot Canada can do. And it will make us prosperous. We can be a world leader in fact.....rather than a backslider in rhetoric.
And that, I do believe..........is a fact.
Kenney: "They've had a carbon
Kenney: "They've had a carbon tax in British Columbia for 10 years. It hasn't made a difference to the pattern of forest fires there ... or in Alberta."
Kenney is talking out of his hat.
Observed warming is due to emissions from past decades. More than 90% of trapped heat goes into the oceans. More warming is in the pipeline even if emissions stop tomorrow.
On our current trajectory, warming will continue for centuries, if not millennia. The time to prevent further disaster is now.
Carbon pricing to reduce emissions won't stop wildfires today. Cutting global emissions now limits the catastrophe for future generations tomorrow.
The suggestion that a carbon tax in BC (a tiny fraction of the globe) would stop contemporaneous wildfires in BC in beyond absurd. Reducing emissions is a global undertaking (including BC, AB, etc.). The goal is to protect future generations from spiralling calamity and loss.
I love that you just
I love that you just countered your first comment, in which you offered no evidence to back up your claim, with your second, where you indicated that a carbon tax won't stop climate change, which is exactly what Kenny is stating. ... Shakes head... You're really not good at this. Maybe, try something else for a change, but definitely you should stay away from advocacy, you're just terrible at it.
Nathan Myers wrote: "… where
Nathan Myers wrote: "… where you indicated that a carbon tax won't stop climate change"
In fact, I challenged Kenney's notion that B.C.'s eleven-year old carbon tax should have reduced B.C.'s wildfires.
Given the time lag between GHG emissions and warming, the notion that a small carbon tax in one small jurisdiction could measurably offset the impacts of GLOBAL climate change in the same time frame is absurd.
"a carbon tax won't stop climate change, which is exactly what Kenny is stating"
Don't twist his words. Kenney specifically linked B.C.'s carbon tax instituted in 2008 to B.C.'s wildfires. He made no claim about (universal) carbon taxes, (global) emissions reductions, and (global) climate change in general.
Carbon pricing at a sufficient level discourages fossil fuel combustion, reduces emissions, and encourages more sustainable energy alternatives and smarter urban design.
Lower emissions reduces global warming and resulting climate change impacts, including wildfire.
In the long term, carbon pricing applied globally will reduce the climate change component of wildfire risk.
Canadians contribute disproportionately to the collective problem; we need to contribute to the collective solution.
Short term thinking....spin,
Short term thinking....spin, and a king of pig headed denial of the big picture...is characteristic of conservative thinking. It's hard to think for the seven generations when your primary concern is self interest.
The climate science is clear
The climate science is clear that wildfires, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, ocean acidification, storm energy and all the other climate miseries will continue to get worse until humanity stops adding more CO2 and methane to the atmosphere. And -- critically -- the more CO2 "fuel" we pour into our climate the more energetic and extreme the climate system will become. Climate changes are directly related to the total cumulative emissions.
The latest IPCC report summarized the latest climate science that says that the entire world must get to net-zero emissions by 2050 preserve a safe-and-sane climate system.
That means that Canada must soon stop dumping the two million of tonnes of climate pollution it does every day currently. The USA and China must also stop dumping climate pollution. France and the UK must stop. India must stop. Turkey too. All countries have to stop pouring fuel on the climate fire...and soon.
Carbon taxes are one of the tools society can use to get to zero emissions. So far they have been so low in Canada that they have only made a small impact. For example, to get to current European gas tax levels Canada would need to increase our carbon tax to $500 per tCO2. We are in political sandbox fights over $50 per tCO2.
You do realize, we actually
You do realize, we actually need CO2 in our environment.... Right? Our did you sleep through that class in school? I'm curious, do you actually know how much pollution the other countries contribute? And do you actually think, you're going to see the major polluters all of a sudden stop? Are you also prepared to stop driving your car, stop flushing your toilet, stop lighting your home? Are you ready to give up your smart phone? Are you ready to stop costing other cities that require you take public transportation? Because unless you are willing to do all that your platitudes around what needs to be done, come from a hypocritical, idiotic point of view. If youre foolish enough to believe we can reverse the effect of climate change, than you never sat through a science class after grade three. But go ahead, start the train, give up at least one thing! I dare ya. And stop blaming the big companies that employ half the country... Shakes head.... Start with you and your friends, if you can get them all on board, and the minute ya'll stop enjoying carbon, we will go for those companies.
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