COMPLIMENTS OF OUR FRIENDS AT THE STAR
Does Baird know what he's saying?
The Toronto Star
Tue 18 Dec 2007
Byline: Mark Abley
Source: Special to The Star
Poor John Baird. I know it's getting close to Christmas, when we should all show charity, but perhaps the federal environment minister needs to spend the festive season in a secure psychiatric institution.
I say this because of the radical disconnect between what Baird appears to see and what the rest of the world sees. That kind of disconnect gives psychiatrists a major part of their income.
The minister spent last week in Bali, at the United Nations conference on climate change. Business leaders, diplomats, environmentalists and politicians all knew where Canada stood. Along with Russia and Japan, we lined up behind the U.S. in opposing binding commitments on greenhouse gas emissions for developed nations.
The Americans at least had the lucidity to grasp their own position. Baird, however, seems to believe in calling a spade an important agricultural breakthrough.
Last Thursday, when he addressed the gathering, he declared that "Canada is committed to developing a new international framework, driven by the science." "Let me be clear," he said. "Canada is determined to honour our commitments."
Poor man. Just like someone watching the traffic inch toward the Gardiner and muttering that the zebras are moving at high speed, he uttered words that are wildly at odds with reality. Under the Conservatives, Canada has no intention of honouring the commitment it made when it ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002.
The power and pace of climate change are now beyond debate. For Baird to claim that science was shaping Canada's position is on a moral and intellectual par with Japanese whalers announcing that their work is motivated by compassion for humpbacks.
If science were really driving the framework (Baird's incoherent metaphor, not mine), then the 2007 assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would have provided a basis for the final accord. That report made the need for prompt action blindingly clear. But in Bali, the European Union's attempt to establish binding targets for emissions was shot down.
And, in fact, the IPCC report may already be outdated. It predicted that Arctic sea ice would probably vanish by the summers of the late 21st century. A newer report, from scientists at the Naval Postgraduate School in the U.S., suggested this may occur as early as 2013.
While Baird was blathering on ("Canada is committed to the United Nations process and these discussions"), his delegation was fighting hard to keep verifiable targets for developed nations out of the Bali agreement. We won the battle, even if we helped ruin our children's lives.
Emilie Moorhouse, of the Sierra Club of Canada, was in Bali last week. Describing this country's stance in her blog, she used the following adjectives: "extreme ... undiplomatic ... absurd ... disruptive ... ridiculous . .. shameful ... embarrassing."
"Canada is committed to action," said Baird. True, if stalling and polluting can be defined as action.
Or perhaps Baird meant that Canada is committed to sabotage. That was the verdict of Hans Verolme, global climate-change director of the World Wide Fund for Nature. "The U.S. government," Verolme stated, "aided by a small group of nations including Canada and Japan, has ... thrown up several roadblocks in the negotiations."
Of course, it's also possible that Baird isn't mentally ill at all. It's possible the minister was lying through his teeth. But that wouldn't be a charitable thing to say at Christmastime, would it?
Montreal journalist and author Mark Abley appears fortnightly.
markabley @ sympatico.ca