Thursday, April 19, 2007


The Cons' idea of environmental action once again consists of looking for excuses to avoid getting things done - this time in the form of their attempted "validation" of the claim that Canada's Kyoto commitments can't be met. But let's keep in mind why there's plenty of reason for skepticism both about the data itself, and the spin the Cons will presumably try to put on it.

To start with, let's remember what happened last time the Cons looked for outside support in trying to support their fiscal outlook. Shortly after Harper and company started trumpeting a Conference Board of Canada conclusion that their 2006 platform fit into Canada's fiscal means, it was revealed that two of the Cons' largest platform planks had been omitted entirely. As a result, the outside evaluation reflected something other than the Cons' actual plan.

Needless to say, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the Cons are pulling the same type of trick now, manipulating the assumptions underlying their study to inflate the costs of Kyoto compliance. And it seems entirely likely that the Cons were so eager to leak the study's conclusions in order to win a desired headline before the underpinnings of the study get torn to shreds.

Moreover, the Cons' outside advice has already given indications of some serious problems within the study's assumptions. From the Globe and Mail's article:
(Don Drummond's) only substantial quibble with the Environment Canada study is that he's not sure the carbon tax would have a relatively constant impact in later years.
In other words, the Cons' own internal study is based on the premise that a tax set at a level which would supposedly decimate the economy somehow wouldn't result in substantial adaptation in order to avoid its effects. That isn't a basis for a mere "quibble", it's strong evidence that the Cons' study is utterly detached from reality.

And there's another serious red flag which Drummond unfortunately seems to have missed:
“The policy shock analyzed is massive: a one-third reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for each of the next five years,” Mr. Drummond writes.
It's not clear what baseline is being used for Canada's current emission levels. But I'm not aware of any data more recent than the 2004 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. And as I've pointed out before, a cut to our Kyoto targets from that level means that Canada's required reductions would be a one-time, 26% drop from 2004 levels.

Of course, it's probably fair enough to say that emissions have risen somewhat in the meantime. But there's no rational basis to claim that in the past three years, emissions have increased to a point would lead to a required cut of a third every single year - which by my math ((2/3)^5), representing emissions being reduced to two-thirds of their former level five consecutive times) would have the effect of reducing emission levels by 87% by the last year. While such reductions would make for a noble goal if achievable, they don't appear to bear even the most basic relationship to Canada's Kyoto targets.

Finally, there's always the overriding issue that Canada's Kyoto commitments can be met through purchasing credits in addition to reducing emissions. And with the Cons supposedly on side with that idea, one more of the the underlying assumptions necessary to conclude that Canada can't comply with Kyoto falls away.

In sum, the Cons appear to be dumping a steaming pile of disinformation in hopes that Canadians won't pay much attention to what's included. But if the Cons aren't willing to be even faintly honest about either the required cuts or the economy's likely reaction to an attempt to meet them, there's every reason to think they know the facts aren't on their side.

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