The Green Paradox

On the topic of greenhouse gases (GHGs), I think that the Conservatives will have more success cutting Canada’s output of them than the Liberals ever did. This is because swing voters are skeptical that the government will accomplish GHG reduction and therefore the Tories have something significant to prove. In a similar sense, we can look at the Liberals and their elimination of the deficit. As in that case, the ruling party is receiving pressure from the other side of the spectrum and the swing voter is skeptical of their abilities on the particular issue. This provides incentive as these voters and the pendulum swing between parties causing government turnover.

For some reason, people are more likely to believe that parties on the left will be more proficient at GHG reductions. Certainly, the record doesn’t indicate this. I’d like to show that this reasoning and the result are paradoxical.

On the environment, left-wing parties can take this sort of thinking for granted and say green things and do much of nothing. Conversely, voters don’t see the Conservative Party as the natural choice to progress on the issue and working uphill, the Conservatives are framed as a party with a lot to prove on their ability to reduce GHGs. This provides incentive to act instead of taking voter prejudices for granted as Liberals do on this particular issue. If the environment is framed as the number one issue, the Conservatives don’t have the convenience of solely paying lip service.

Conservatives have already secured the voters that favour a tax-cutting government. What they will act upon lies where they have to extend themselves to get non-traditional votes. Similarly, Liberals have more of a secure hold on environmental voters as Canadians believe the party to more of a regulating party than their Conservative opponents.

Dion’s strategy of making the environment an issue right from the start of his leadership campaign is challenging Harper to be more flexible and as a result, he is able to grab a few extra votes. Dion is handing the incumbent an opportunity to show agility over an extended period of time. Of course, it will be difficult for Mr. Harper to show real progress on GHG reductions as the current economy has quite a lot of inertia against the trend of overall GHG reduction. However, if the PM can show sincere policy that he’s put in place to get the job done over a realistic period of time, he should be able to neutralize Dion and show the voter than he’s acting in good faith on the issue.

Strategically, Dion could have made the environment a smaller issue (and one of many others) to prompt little action from the government to act on GHGs. Subsequently, he could have fired on all hybrid cylinders during an election to contrast how Canada could be different under his carbon-cutting direction (even if it is all talk).

Some say that it was the Reform party that prompted Paul Martin to balance the budget. Perhaps now it’ll be Dion that prompts Harper to succeed on the environment. And remember, on the budget, only Martin got credit.

Does the same logic apply with the Conservative party and tax-cutting? Specifically that voters expect Conservatives to be the party of tax relief and reduced spending? I believe that this reasoning does apply to the Tories, but only to a certain extent. People expect the Conservatives to cut taxes and to a degree, empty talk and promises will go far to satiate the voters. However, over an extended period of time, as we’ve seen, the conservative movement is likely to tear apart the Conservative Party if it doesn’t see its ideological agenda fulfilled. While the Liberals faced pressure from Reform to put the government’s books in order, Conservatives face not only opposition pressure but pressure from within to keep it’s course. It will be interesting to see how Conservative party addresses the environmental issues while balancing the prospect of electoral defeat with that of devolution from within. Or can it find a common path that spares it from both?

Thoughts about Live Earth

Yesterday, on seven stages around the world over 1 million people attended a mega-concert event geared to raise awareness on the issue of climate change or the “climate crisis” as billed by event organizers.

News reports claim that the event had a reach to about 2 billion television watchers around the world.

Despite the disputed logic of the cause by some, it was heartening to see so many people interested in attending a rally for what they truly believe to be a good cause. It is good to know that there is a lot of positive energy out there ready to be channeled to fight for good causes whatever they may be.

However, it is unfortunate that these concerts do not do much to raise “awareness”; often participants of such mega-concerts are the most aware of these issues. I’m not sure how many people tuned in and said “Global… warming? Really? Thank goodness for John Mayer or else I would have never known”. On a more useful note, Billy Corgan made me aware that his new Smashing Pumpkins CD is about to be released. Thanks Billy.

Despite the good intentions of these mega-concerts, the problems that they purport to address still exist and for the most part, have not really advanced along a good track. Live Aid, and most recently, Live 8 meant to raise “awareness” of poverty in Africa. Despite the collective efforts of our mothers (“eat your vegetables, there are children starving in Africa”) and the calling upon the power of rock to solve the world’s ills, poverty still exists in Africa.

Often, the logic behind such efforts is paradoxical. Dumping money and aid on Africa, according to some economists, is exacerbating the problem there. Further, the music industry is the vanguard of consumerism. How does flying Madonna’s 100 member entourage from New York to London on her private jet to express a message of conservation ring true to anyone? Media is to be consumed and the music industry cranks out a lot of plastic, puts a lot of rubber on the road (and CO2 in the air) while musicians tour, and demands terawatts of electricity to power countless speakers and to illuminate hundreds of millions of TV screens.

As for the Live Earth mega-concert, the worst moment was at Giants stadium in New Jersey (billed as New York), when Petra Nemcova, the supermodel that survived the Asian tsunami took the stage to help raise awareness about our “climate in crisis”. I would never shrug aside Ms. Nemcova’s harrowing ordeal, however, no serious scientist would ever link that particular tsunami with climate change as the 2004 tsunami was caused by an earthquake, not by CO2. It is unfortunate that the tragedy of that event would be used erroneously to advance such a debatable call to action on a debatable cause.

There were a few ironic moments including rap superstar Ludacris telling the audience (in song) that “if you ain’t got no money [sic], take your broke ass home”. Of course, this lyric is a part of a song that he sings on with Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame) which also includes the songstress singing “We [sic] flyin’ first class / Up in the sky / Poppin’ champagne / Livin’ my life / In the fast lane / And I wont change / By the Glamorous, oh the flossy flossy”. The video pictures Fergie flying in a private jet, ironically the vehicle of choice of some of the Live Earth performers. Irony is being told by some of this world’s greatest CO2 producers to cut our consumption. Ludacris’ other credits include a starring role in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Was it a movie about plug-in hybrid cars? Not likely. The film has inspired a generation of nitrous-infused street racers. Oh well, I’m sure he got some carbon credits in his gift basket to help offset the guilt. Ludacris! [sic]

Finally, if the intent of the mega-concert was to be a massive information campaign to finally bring everyone, united, onside to fight climate change, why the divisive elements? Melissa Ethridge chastised Bush’s ‘with us or the terrorists’ refrain by saying that in addressing the world’s problems that there is no “us and them”. She proceeded to drive a wedge between left and right by calling both Nixon and the current Republican president “criminals”. In fact, Ethridge’s performance was more of an anti-war screed than a call to unite against climate change. Macy Gray’s appearance also sought to alienate a significant proportion of the American population by having her stage performers wear anti-Bush and anti-Cheney t-shirts. The concert became an appeal to the left and had the effect of preaching to the choir while it did little to reach out to what should have been its intended targets: the skeptics on the right.

Were you one of the “2 billion” that tuned into the Live Earth concerts? What are your thoughts? If Al Gore runs for president (and wins) will we be fighting a costly war on warming AND a war of terror? Will Gore have any better luck bringing China and India into the Coalition of the Cooling? Will you be buying the new Smashing Pumpkins album when it comes out on July 10th? Consume, but don’t consume!

U.N. says “flick off” for Darfur

Climate change is responsible for the genocide in Darfur, we’ve recently learned. According to the Secretary General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, the Darfur genocide is due in part to anthropogenic global warming:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the slaughter in Darfur was triggered by global climate change and that more such conflicts may be on the horizon, in an article published Saturday.

“The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change,” Ban said in a Washington Post opinion column.

UN statistics showed that rainfall declined some 40 percent over the past two decades, he said, as a rise in Indian Ocean temperatures disrupted monsoons.

“This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming,” the South Korean diplomat wrote.

Those poor Darfurians, the U.N. has brought the genocide into the realm of climate science. When global governments reverse the trend of planet-wide climate change with their bureaucratic wisdom and wide-spread policy changes, can Darfurians really rest assured that the killing will stop? Of course, most of us would prefer that the international community take more immediate action on factors that are more directly linked to the conflict.

Unfortunately the world has not taken any real action to stop the Darfurian genocide. Is the U.N. really appealing the popularity of climate change and Darfur as issues in order to guilt us to turn off those extra light bulbs? Since the time-frame for starting to reverse global warming is 2025-2050, is this about stopping the genocide or this about using the genocide as a poster campaign to affect global attitudes surrounding climate change?

The secretary general of the U.N. claims that anthropogenic climate change is responsible for Darfur. The U.N. should stop thinking up twisted graduate thesis topics and take immediate steps in encouraging and enabling the international community in ending the genocide.

The industrial revolution has been responsible for generating the tools of wealth creation, has been responsible for removing barriers for the movement of labour and capital and has created the conditions for globalized and freer trade among nations. In fact, industrialization has done much to spread philosophy and enlightened ideas around the world. Arguably, the world is richer because of our emission of greenhouse gases and if Darfur is suffering, it is not because we drive SUVs, it is because of ethnic hatred that has existed long before the Watt steam engine or the mechanized loom.

The War on Warming

If the left argues that the War on Terror is simply a slogan to exaggerate a real but smaller problem in order for their right-wing counterparts to advance bad and expensive policy, then what of their War on Warming?

If we don’t do it for the polar bears, then what about the kittens? Won’t somebody think of the kittens?

Droves of cats and kittens are swarming into animal shelters nationwide, and global warming is to blame, according to one pet adoption group.

Several shelters operated by a national adoption organization called Pets Across America reported a 30 percent increase in intakes of cats and kittens from 2005 to 2006, and other shelters across the nation have reported similar spikes of stray, owned and feral cats.

The cause of this feline flood is an extended cat breeding season thanks to the world’s warming temperatures, according to the group, which is one of the country’s oldest and largest animal welfare organizations.

If Al Gore announces that he’s running for president, many observers predict that he’ll have a good shot at the White House. If so, are we about to see an escalation of The War on Warming on a full scale, spending billions upon billions to fight an invisible but determined enemy?

CBC Fauxtography

Kate McMillan did some fantastic work yesterday uncovering image manipulation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on an April 19th story about the government’s sobering Kyoto costing. McMillan discovered that the CBC had cropped and applied a photoshop “dirty” filter to an image of smokestacks in Toronto to accentuate environmental damage. Not only was the juxtaposition of pollution and a story on Kyoto costing inappropriate (a less but still inappropriate image would have been a photoshopped stack of papers stamped “Kyoto” crushing the piggy bank of a Canadian family) but to manipulate an image to reflect a editorial point of view is downright unethical. The image was also used in a news story back on February 14th.

top-kyoto.jpg
Pre-photoshop image

cbckyoto.jpg
Screen-capture of April 19th story

Not only is the photoshopping unethical, it violates CBC’s own Journalistic Standards and Practices:

From section III, subsection 2:

Accuracy

The information conforms with reality and is not in any way misleading or false. This demands not only careful and thorough research but a disciplined use of language and production techniques, including visuals.

Integrity
The information is truthful, not distorted to justify a conclusion. Broadcasters do not take advantage of their power to present a personal bias.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that agents of news organizations have manipulated images dishonestly to exaggerate the news in order to convince others of their worldview. News organizations ought to be dispassionate observers and reporters of events and never should have an agenda of convincing the audience of the merits of any particular agenda.

Hello Steve Janke!

There’s a lesson here: never throw out the B-roll!

As some of you may know, I, along with Tasha Kheiriddin and Greg Staples armed ourselves with video cameras and stalked the halls of the Liberal Party leadership convention in December looking for interesting people to talk to and fun moments to catch on tape.

Steve Janke has the post of the day (already featured on Bourque, National Newswatch and Rutherford) about John Duffy’s hypocritical position on climate change. Duffy is co-founder of the website www.climateliberal.ca and was pushing the issue of climate change at the convention. As Steve Janke brilliantly points out today, Duffy’s position is… um… unsustainable as the former Paul Martin confidante was a lobbyist for the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum (a front for the bromine producing industry) where he worked to keep bromine off of Environment Canada’s list of toxic chemicals. Bromine is “the most effective heat trapping greenhouse gases of all” according to Environment Canada.

Anyway, do go and read Steve Janke’s excellent post!

And, now… watch the following video that Tasha was able to shoot for Blogging Tories during the Liberal convention.

CTV’s Canada AM makes a poor edit

Last week, I was watching Canada AM and would have spit out my coffee if I had been drinking some at the time.

I had just seen the program’s Seamus O’Regan interview Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion about climate change, the oil sands, the terror threat against the oil sands and then finally a potential election. It was a standard four minute interview which ended with some rhetoric from Stephane Dion, saying that Harper wants to make the country right-wing, Republican, far right, evil, etc… par for the course and standard fare for Dion. The Liberals have recently been pushing that very message in every QP breath they take.

At the top of the hour, they replayed a clip of the Dion interview which described the Liberals as a moderate alternative to Harper’s “far right” party. Again, inaccurate, but expected. Immediately following this clip, the anchor goes to the next news story to describe “far right” nutjob Ernst Zundel being convicted in Germany. It’s almost as if Dion teed up the ball and CTV drove it 350 yards.

Take a look (Youtube video):

In CTV’s defense, the same “far right” descriptor was used to describe Zundel in the previous top-of-the-hour news update (before Dion had given his interview – Dion went live at 7:40am EST). However, who cuts a clip of Dion describing Harper as “far right” and then gives the anchor text on Zundel describing the Holocaust denier as “far right”?

Also, what’s with the kid gloves Seamus? If Dion uses language to describe Canadian conservatives that CTV reserves for Holocaust denial, aren’t you supposed to call him on that? The proper response would have been “now wait one second there, Mr. Dion…”

For the record, this is editing on live television. I don’t think that there was any malice intended on the part of CTV… the result was just unfortunate. If this had been a pre-packaged broadcast, I’d be quite upset. With that said, I do believe that lessons above (and in the video) regarding language and kid gloves should be considered by CTV.

UPDATE: Should we instead be disappointed with Dion for twisting the misnomer (on all fronts) for his own agenda? Haven’t we heard Dion describe Harper as a ‘far right climate change denier‘?

Liberal vs. Conservative narratives

in 2007 and post Liberal leadership, we’re seeing two narratives emerge on the federal political landscape. The Conservatives are telling us that Stephane Dion is not leadership material and the Liberals are pushing the idea that the Conservatives are weak on the environment and the Liberals will save the day.

Today, it’s about -21C (much colder with the windchill) and a friend of mine emailed to say that he counted just 56 Liberal MPs in attendance. Who can blame them, it is really cold out. But, that’s just part of the problem for the Liberals when it comes to their message. The environment as an issue became much less of an important issue for Canadians when they finally started to chip ice off of their windshields. The Liberals didn’t have enough dedicated members to carry Dion’s singular message: that Stephen Harper isn’t doing enough to keep the Earth from warming.

That brings us to the Conservative narrative: that Stephane Dion is not a leader. I believe that this narrative will be much more effective than the dual-citizenship of the Liberal leader. On the surface, Dion does not instill confidence. Back during the leadership convention, I met the man who would become Liberal leader and found him to be a very nice guy however, at the time I wrote that he’s not the kind of commander to lead his troops over the hill. Pundits at the time gushed that the two Steve’s would bring policy to the fore, leaving politics behind. Well, the honeymoon is over and politics is always a constant in this town.

Dion’s full investment in a single issue also makes his leadership a liability to the Liberal party. If the Conservatives are able to make progress on some green issues, show that the Liberals would be just as bad, or accomplish some from column A and some from column B, they will disarm this Liberal iteration and in my opinion, they will accomplish this soon.

Former Liberal leadership contenders are still passively organizing behind the scenes? Bob Rae just announced that he’ll be running as a candidate in the next election; the former Ontario NDP premier doesn’t want to miss the second act of the Liberal leadership contest. It is clear to anyone paying attention that leadership runner-up Michael Ignatieff doesn’t have much confidence in Dion. He almost looked ill after having to stand up and parrot Dion’s environmental attack on the Conservatives. Clearly, there’s much more that the former Harvard professor wants to discuss than how Stephane didn’t get it done and how Stephen won’t get it done.

The Conservative narrative is more likely to resonate with Canadians while polling shows that Canadians believe that the Liberals are just as bad as the Conservatives on the environment. The difference, Harper is in a position and appears so much more capable of getting it done.

Liberal meltdown

This week was the first week back after a break for Canada’s New Government. Climate change was expected to lead the agenda as it seems to be the sole issue on which the Liberals care to define themselves. Conservatives rose to power promising to clean up government after the most significant corruption scandal in Canadian history. The Liberals think that they’ll rise to power cleaning up… Carbon dioxide and water vapour? Canadians have perceived Harper delivering on the Federal Accountability Act while Canadians believe that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will deliver on climate change.

In fact, I believe that this underlines a key weakness in Liberal messaging. While polling has shown that the environment is a top priority for Canadians, they’re not about to throw out the government on the issue when they actually go to the polls. If heathcare — an issue which actually has a direct effect on the life and death of Canadians — can be taken off the ballot of the electorate by a couple of weeks of warm weather in Toronto, it would seem that there aren’t any pressing issues that are really on the minds of Canadians. “Environment? Sure that sounds like something I should care about”

Unless a hurricane hits Toronto killing scores of people, the electorate is not about to uproot a government to install the old guard led by a sponsorship-era cabinet minister with no real record on the only issue on which he has chosen to define himself.

That’s why this week’s messaging was so puzzling. At the beginning of this week, a protester braved the freezing temperatures of downtown Ottawa to stretch out to play the part of a sunbathing polar bear. One wonders if the protester only had the suit rented for that day.

Liberals were sporting green ribbons in the House this week,
presumably to show that they care about the environment. Since Dion’s election as Liberal leader, the Liberal website has also incorporated a splash of green. Apparently this is to make it known that our Liberal friends care about the environment so long as the vehicle for their environmentalism is the Kyoto protocol. According to the popular narrative these days, one does not believe in saving the environment if one does not believe in a global, bureaucratic, statist wealth transfer agreement. In fact, one also does not believe in the science of climate change if one does not also believe in such a one world collectivist approach to saving the Earth from certain doom (according to our latest amended models). In fact, while Michael Ignatieff was lecturing the government to meet global Kyoto targets, the green ribbon-clad Ignatieff had his own words thrown back at him when environment minister John Baird quoted Ignatieff questioning Kyoto by saying “nobody knows what Kyoto is or what it commits us to”.

Thursday afternoon, Mark Holland, part of the new Liberal rat pack, had a meltdown (actually he didn’t flinch) when he said on Charles Adlers’ show that a Liberal government would control oil sands development in Alberta. Sacrificing the Canadian economy just because green has become fashionable will have Canadians thinking twice about the Liberal party. (The Liberal Party of Canada is already dead to Albertans).

Earlier on Thursday, Dion had a poor question period performance as he bizarrely stated that Harper was “paralyzing the world” when it came to Kyoto. Somebody ought to proofread Dion’s notes before QP, but I imagine this would be a difficult talk as I hear that Dion is very top-down in his approach and has no time for criticism from his staff.

All in all, a bit of a bizarre week for the Liberals on their climate communications. We heard some whispers about an old Harper letter calling Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but the Liberals didn’t seem to get any mileage on it.

Why would the Liberals spend this frigid week lecturing the Conservatives on the global warming file (one on which they themselves have a dismal record). Is there really nothing else to talk about? Did the Liberals really spend the week telling Canadians “We got nothing”?

BONUS BAD MESSAGING: Bill Graham demanded Conservative action on Guantanamo Bay, a bizarre request given that Graham was foreign affairs minister in the years after 9/11.

Also, Dion called Harper fat?

CBC’s Paul Hunter tries too hard on climate change story

Consider the following clip by the CBC’s Paul Hunter which aired on the National broadcast on January 9th, 2007. (Watch for the “curb” comment and the criticism of the PM and the RCMP for idling the PM’s motorcade).

Mansbridge: “As Paul Hunter discovered today, Baird may have some work to do curbing his own colleagues.”

Hunter: “But is the government listening? Even as the environmentalists were saying that inside, just outside the Prime Minister’s motorcade sat idling. At 10:30 this morning, 11:30, 12:30 and beyond, just meters from his office door.”

Hunter failed to report on a few facts that, when revealed, hardly puts the PM in a negative light.

RCMP security protocol demands that the Prime Ministerial motorcade (ie. security detail) be ready to evacuate the Prime Minister at a moments notice.

The RCMP are not permitted inside the confines of the buildings of Parliament. If not meters (meters!) from the Prime Minister’s door, then where? 10 meters? On Wellington? In Gatineau?

What was the Prime Minister doing that day? Is his office newsworthy, or his cars?

Stephane Dion’s new limo is a Cadillac, not quite so environmentally friendly.

How many greenhouse gases are produced by coast-to-coast-to-coast broadcasting during idle times at the CBC? (ie. during the nightly test pattern and re- (and first-)runs of The Hour).

Does the CBC idle its satellite trucks?

UPDATE: Steve Janke asks some more good questions.