The Climate Grinch Who Stole Christmas

by Ray Grigg

The heroic efforts of Who-ville to negotiate enough binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions to prevent Earth’s average global temperature from rising above a critical 2°C were held in Lima, Peru, this December. Whether the Climate Christmas event, called the 20th Conference of the Parties, would actually receive a real present was uncertain. Saint Nick and his reindeer are no longer predictable. Global warming is melting the Arctic ice so the North Pole’s workshops, cozy cottage, reindeer barns and good-and-bad lists have been thrown into disarray. The elves and the entire Christmas gift operation may have sunk into the mush of last summer’s melt.

And even if a real present arrived, it might be stolen by a Grinch. As everyone knows, they do not like Christmas presents, especially the kind that reduce GHGs. And this is precisely what happened. No real present arrived. Each country’s binding reductions were stolen and replaced by vague promises of “intended nationally determined commitments”.

Ban Ki-moon, the enthusiastic and ever-hopeful Secretary General of Who-ville, prepared for the Climate Christmas event by organizing a special September Climate Leaders’ Summit meeting in New York, hoping to excite enough enthusiasm for Lima that the real present would arrive even before the COP 21 meeting in Paris in 2015. Over 300,000 people marched in New York to support greenhouse gas reductions, and the leaders of about 125 countries attended the city’s UN negotiations. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, did not attend. Instead, he just went to its banquet.

Indeed, Canada’s Prime Minister is proving to be somewhat of a Climate Grinch. His government, having abandoned its legally binding Kyoto GHG obligations, will not even be able to meet its 2005 emission reduction commitments for 2020. Mr. Harper has been promising since 2006 to place emission regulations on Alberta’s oil and gas industry — the country’s fastest growing source of GHG — but has yet to do so. And now, since the price of oil has dropped below $60 per barrel, he says emission controls would be economic insanity — he hasn’t explained why he didn’t implement the controls during the previous 8 years.

Indeed, the Prime Minister says as little as possible about climate change. Jeffrey Simpson, writing in Who-ville’s Globe and Mail (Nov. 15/14), gives a very credible argument for Mr. Harper to be designated a Climate Grinch:

• First, writes Simpson, the Prime Minister is “distinctly uncomfortable when forced to discuss [climate change].” This is one of the most obvious clinical characteristics of the Grinch Syndrome. Abject silence hides the repressed resentment, frustration and defiance seething within. Even the most oblique reference to climate change — merely a mention of carbon dioxide emissions, global warming, extreme weather or sea level rise — gives credibility to a scientific certainty that the Grinch believes to be a contrived fiction of the imagination.

• Second, the core of his Conservative Party is still filled with climate change deniers, so Mr. Harper maintains and entrenches his political support by cultivating and projecting his Climate Grinch personality. A man and a party heavily invested in the economics of an oil and gas industry will perceive any overt communication about climate change as a threat to be avoided at every opportunity.

• Third, “Mr. Harper doesn’t like being pressured.” And the world community — Ban Ki-moon in particular — is certainly pressuring Canada because of its appalling climate record. Like pushing a long and recalcitrant rope, a Climate Grinch just bunches into indignant and obstinate knots when pressured.

• Fourth, Mr. Harper doesn’t believe in climate deals; they haven’t worked in the past and they won’t work in the future, so participating in them is just a waste of time. He has his own messianic plans for Who-ville. A Climate Grinch believes in the unquestionable wisdom of the free-market economy, not in some vague and pagan illusion of humanity living in a state of sustainable harmony with nature.

• And fifth, the only good climate deal is one in which every nation in the world joins under equally ambitious conditions, a stipulation so extreme and disconnected from political realities as to be conspicuously obstructionist.

A Climate Grinch is happiest when party loyalties are not violated, when political support is not threatened, when economic plans are not disturbed, when heated pipelines are humming a yuletide carol of flowing bitumen, and when fossil-fuelled lights are blazing atop every plastic Christmas tree in the whole world.

So the PM has sent his Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, to the Lima Climate Christmas event with instructions to set no new targets and make no commitments. She is to make only a token request to reduce the emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), those potent GHG chemicals that were supposed to replace the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were wrecking the planet’s ozone layer. Since the HFC’s represent a mere 1 percent of Canada’s emissions, the symbolic gesture will neither disturb Canada’s oil and gas corporations, the generous funding they give to the Conservative Party, nor the visions of pipelines dancing in their heads.

Meanwhile, as the rising GHG emissions force global temperatures ever higher, as extreme weather becomes more common, and as the deadline for yet another hopeful climate agreement looms, Ban Ki-moon continues to press for Canada “to become ambitious and visionary for the global future of people and the planet.”

Grinches, however, are not dissuaded from their opinions or diverted from their objectives by the sentimental drivel of grandiose global hopes. They say what they mean and they mean what they say, all with a heart “that is two sizes too small.”