Machinations of modern medieval madness

The recent election of a Conservative majority government here in Canada gives promise of a return to sanity on the issue of global warming aka climate change. An announcement by Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, to the effect that cap and trade is “off the table” is welcome news; although the current plan to implement “regulations”, sector by sector, in order to reach “emission targets” means we’re not out of the woods yet. But one would hope that common sense will eventually prevail.

Unfortunately, there’s a remarkable deficit of common sense in the policies and practices of the provincial government in my neck of the Canadian woods (i.e. beautiful British Columbia, sometimes known as Lotusland). In no small measure [pls. see below] thanks to the influence of Andrew <barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles> Weaver and fruit-fly expert, David <I’m in the death zone> Suzuki (and – lest we forget – the IPCC’s AR 4, the holy writ of which is frequently cited by the provincial government), B.C. has been saddled with a carbon tax at the gas pumps (and other sources of energy) for a few years now.

In reality, though, this carbon tax is nothing more than yet another instrument with which to bribe residents of BC with their own money. Or in the bureaucratic double-speak to which we have unfortunately become accustomed:

the B.C. Government has taken action by introducing the revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions. By law, government must show how all of the carbon tax revenue flows back to individuals and businesses as tax reductions. To ensure this occurs, by law the government must table in the Legislature an annual plan that clearly outlines how every cent of carbon tax revenue will be returned to taxpayers in tax cuts

Unlike Ontario, the landscape of which has been pillaged and blighted with a proliferation of unsightly, costly and highly inefficient wind turbines, B.C. has not yet significantly tilted in that direction. But (and this is a very BIG BUT) notwithstanding the fact that education and health care have consistently registered as higher priorities than costly action to protect the environment, the government of B.C.’s Climate Action Plan includes (p.22):

The B.C. government is setting an example and working to ensure that all its operations are carbon neutral by 2010. This commitment – enshrined in legislation – is the first of its kind in North America. It applies to all provincial public sector operations, including government ministries and agencies, schools, colleges, universities, health authorities and crown corporations.

As part of this commitment, everyone who works for the Province will be required to:

- Report their baseline greenhouse gas emissions – the amount they produce in a “business as usual” scenario;
- Reduce these emissions as much as possible; for example, government travel will be replaced with teleconferencing wherever feasible; and
- Offset the remaining emissions. Offsetting means investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so the net effect of our activities is carbon neutral. [emphases added -hro]

This undated (but possibly written in 2007) Climate Action Plan has numerous Appendices, one of which is “Appendix A: Status of 2007 Climate Action Commitments” (p. 75). Item 7 in this Appendix is interesting:

“[Overall] Interim targets will be set for 2012 and 2016. [Progress] The targets will be determined by the Climate Action Team and legally mandated, through regulation by the end of 2008.

The “Climate Action Team” evidently has (p. 78): 16 Members, 6 Ex-Officio Members and 1 Special Advisor. Amongst the 16 “Members” are 3 from (B.C.’s) University of Victoria, one of whom just happens to be Andrew Weaver and another of whom just happens to be “Peter Robinson, CEO, David Suzuki Foundation”. Five of the six Ex-Officio Members are from the University of Victoria – and three of those five are from the … wait for it … “Centre for Climate Modelling & Analysis”. But I digress …

While the Climate Action Plan’s 2010 deadline may have fallen by the wayside, as Toronto columnist, Lorrie Goldstein, recently highlighted, the actual impacts of this “carbon neutral” legislation are such that:

Canada’s carbon catastrophe begins B.C.’s schools, hospitals forced to buy carbon credits rather than fund nurses, teachers

It’s like watching the same train wreck — twice.

Our politicians are starting to commit the same wasteful blunders, resulting in the same perverse consequences, as the Europeans have in pricing carbon dioxide emissions, ostensibly to fight climate change.

The harbinger of many bad things to come for us is now happening in B.C.

There, the provincial government is forcing the transfer of millions of tax dollars from cash-strapped schools, hospitals and other public institutions, by requiring them to buy carbon offsets.

Money which then benefits hugely profitable energy companies like Encana.

[...]

The reason for the fiasco in B.C. is the provincial government has decreed schools, hospitals and other public facilities must become “carbon neutral,” with municipalities joining the list next year.

The only way they can comply, because so many of their buildings are old and energy inefficient, is to buy “carbon offsets” to — in theory — cancel out their excess emissions.

As Craig McInnes of the Vancouver Sun reported May 7, the city’s school board, facing a budget shortfall of $8.4 million, nonetheless had to spend $450,000 on carbon offsets and a “smart tool” to calculate its “carbon footprint.”

[...]

As a result, schools are hiring fewer teachers and turning the thermostat even lower in winter in already poorly-insulated buildings to save money, prompting complaints from parents and students.

The money schools, hospitals and other public institutions pay for carbon offsets (the Sun estimates up to $25 million annually) is used by Pacific Carbon Trust — a government agency — to buy carbon offsets from energy companies like Encana, helping it to pay for new technology to lower its emissions.

This is so dumb it’s hard to know where to begin.
[...] [emphasis added -hro]

Too bad that Bob Ward, the U.K.’s PR hack who recently infiltrated Canada’s public airwaves in praise of the U.K.’s own ‘dumb wasteful blunders’ (although he certainly didn’t refer to their notorious Climate Change Act as such!) is so ill-informed that he failed to mention B.C.’s “exemplary” Climate Action Plan, eh?!

And speaking of the U.K.’s Climate Change Act … while there is an online petition for this act to be repealed, the government is blindly embarking on an equally (if not greater) ludicrous course of “climate action” – all in the ostensible name of becoming the greenest of us all. As science writer, Matt Ridley observed in a recent post:

Quintuple whammy

Welcome to the neo-medieval world of Britain’s energy policy. It is a world in which Highland glens are buzzing with bulldozers damming streams for miniature hydro plants, in which the Dogger Bank is to be dotted with windmills at Brobdingnagian expense, in which Heathrow is to burn wood trucked in from Surrey, and Yorkshire wheat is being turned into motor fuel. We are going back to using the landscape to generate our energy. Bad news for the landscape.

[...]

The government’s craven decision this week to placate the green pressure groups by agreeing a unilateral tough new carbon rationing target of 50% for 2027 — they wanted to water it down, but were frightened of being taken to judicial review by Greenpeace — condemns Britain to ruining yet more of its landscape. Remember it takes a wind farm the size of Greater London to generate as much electricity as a single coal power station – on a windy day (on other days we will have to do without). Or the felling of a forest twice the size of Cumbria every year.

Yet this ruthless violation of the landscape is not even the most medieval aspect of the government’s energy policy. Its financing would embarrass even the Sheriff of Nottingham. Every renewable project, from offshore wind farms to rooftop solar panels to bio-ethanol plants, is paid for by a stealth poll tax levied from everybody’s electricity bills called the Renewable Obligation,

[...]

As for wood, consider the effect of a simple rule passed by the London borough of Merton in 2003 and slavishly emulated by planners all over the country. The Merton rule requires all developers who build a building of more than 1,000 square metres to generate 10% of energy `renewably’ on site. [...]

Faced with the need to find an energy source sufficiently dense to fit on site, developers have turned en masse to wood (or biomass as they prefer to call it). This has led to convoys of diesel lorries chugging through the streets of London to deliver wood to buildings – how very thirteenth century! Delivering, drying and burning this wood produces far more carbon dioxide than delivering gas would.

[Ridley concludes:]

The neo-medieval policy of picking winners – or rather losers – creates a salivating lobby for subsidies (even the RSPB takes money from wind farms to shut it up about their eagle killing). But it is saddling ordinary Britons with uncompetitive energy prices, lost jobs, rising fuel poverty, spoiled landscapes – and higher carbon emissions too. Time for a peasants’ revolt.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if the politicians so enamoured of the many dubious findings and pronouncements of the IPCC – the authority to which they appeal in support of their absurd legislative acts – were to pause and reflect on the words of William Happer, Professor of Physics at Princeton, who concluded a recent (long but definitely a “read the whole thing”) essay by noting:

The Truth About Greenhouse Gases – The dubious science of the climate crusaders

I began with a quotation from the preface of the first edition of Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and it is worth recalling now a quotation from the preface of the second edition: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

In our efforts to conserve the created world, we should not concentrate our efforts on CO2. We should instead focus on issues like damage to local landscapes and waterways by strip mining, inadequate cleanup, hazards to miners, and the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, and organic carcinogens. Much of the potential harm from coal mining can be eliminated, for example, by requirements that land be restored to a condition that is at least as good as, and preferably better than, when the mining began.

Life is about making decisions, and decisions are about trade-offs. We can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems more efficiently. Or we can be caught up in a crusade that seeks to suppress energy use, economic growth, and the benefits that come from the creation of national wealth. [emphasis added -hro]

Yeah, I know … I know … but I can dream, can’t I?!

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