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Canadian Projects

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA's Canadian Representative


Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)

Can Politicians Actually Think?

Comments in the United States, Actions in Canada Suggest Too Many Can’t

Published 11/22/10

Imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Now imagine a man with an eyedropper and a bottle of black ink, walking around the pool’s edge. At midnight, each day, he puts a single drop of ink into the pool, no matter what part of the parameter he is passing at that exact moment. Two weeks later can we see a difference? No. A year later? Nope. The 365 dissolved drops of ink are miniscule compared to the volume of the water.

But suppose instead of one man it were several people, and instead of drops of ink it were cupfuls, and suppose instead of them adding the ink once a day they did it several times a day. Two weeks after this new regime, would you see a difference? Possibly not, but if enough ink were added often enough, the water ultimately would change. The relationship between adding the ink and the change in the water is called “cause and effect.” Every action has an effect, a reaction — although it may be, like putting the odd drop of ink into a massive volume of water, too small for us to notice at the time.

And yet there is a dangerous way of thinking that is sadly prevalent on the political right — that somehow, what we do and how much we do it do not matter. And nowhere is this more evident than in the issue of global climate change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently collected some quotations from politicians who won in the United States’ recent midterm elections. Todd Young, newly elected to Congress to represent some folks in Indiana, said, “With the possible exception of Tiger Woods, nothing has had a worse year than global warming. We have discovered that a good portion of the science used to justify `climate change’ was a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues with an agenda.” Equally dumb was the comment by Ron Johnson, the new senator from Wisconsin: “I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s far more likely that sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate.”

Hmm ... sunspots “or something” can have effects, but not the emissions of vast amounts of greenhouse gases?

Consider Steve Pearce, a newly elected congressperson from New Mexico, who so elegantly said, “I think we ought to look at whatever the group is that measures all this, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], they don’t believe the crap.” Well, Steve, I don’t know what “crap” you refer to, but in its last report the IPCC found that there is approximately a 90 percent likelihood that warming is anthropogenic, or as Sen. Johnson would say, “man-caused.” It also found that sea levels will rise, there will be more heat waves, cyclones and extreme high tides, and that all of this will continue for more than 1,000 years.

Instead of looking at the messenger, perhaps we should consider the actual evidence and the overwhelming opinions of the international community of climate scientists.

And then we have Kentucky’s Rand Paul, newly elected to the Senate, who also wants to avoid the evidence and demonize the messengers. He said, “It’s a bigger issue, we need to watch ’em. Not only because it may or may not be true, but they’re making up their facts to fit their conclusions. They’ve already caught ’em doing this.” Does that mean the ice caps and glaciers aren’t in retreat, seas aren’t rising and the average temperature is really not increasing? Is it all just a fiendish socialist conspiracy? Roy Blunt, the new senator from Missouri, bluntly said, “There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the Earth.” I think it would take utter magic, not science, to explain how humans could do so much in terms of producing greenhouse gases and destroying plant life without consequences.

The climate change deniers have shifted a little from denying that there even is climate change (since the evidence is overwhelming and consistent) to simply saying we humans couldn’t possibly cause it, let alone reduce our contribution to it.

And in Canada? Well, for the past five years a lot of people in and out of government worked very hard to draft Bill C-311, which called upon Canada to establish five-year plans to meet greenhouse gas emission targets by 2050. It was approved of by Parliament, which consists of elected Members of Parliament (MPs), and then sent to the Senate, which is not remotely like the U.S. Senate, as it consists of appointees. In parliament, the majority of MPs don’t belong to the ruling Conservative Party. That is what is called a minority, or hung, government, one with a very weak mandate from the people, most of whom voted for one of the other parties. But although the prime minister, leader of the Conservatives, ran on a platform of Senate reform, in fact he appointed enough Conservative sympathizers to the Senate that in a surprise move late on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 16, they abruptly voted the bill down. They weren’t elected, they don’t represent the majority of Canadians, their action is virtually unprecedented and nondemocratic, but they don’t care.

The Canadian Conservatives don’t even deny anthropogenic contribution to climate change; they make it plain they won’t pay the socio-economic costs of doing what is required to slow, let alone reverse, the process.

While many people recognize the risk that rising warmth places on polar bears, because of their need for sea ice, in fact a large number of animal species are at risk to global warming, rising seas, expanding deserts and shrinking alpine habitats. Our world is finite, actions have consequences, and if we can’t understand that, our children and future generations face the kinds of upheavals and disruptions that a small number of our gutless politicians, too afraid or too stupid to treat their constituents to the hard realities, are now creating for them.

Blogging off,
Barry Kent MacKay

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