When the TD Bank's Don Drummond agreed to spend $110,000 on a study of the impact of climate change policy on Canada, what he had in mind was to elucidate the regional impacts of such policies. This was a worthy objective, although everybody knows that it's Alberta that stands to get hammered. But Mr. Drummond chose to channel the study, which was carried out by climate policy wonk Mark Jaccard, through the Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute, organizations hardly known for their objectivity on the issue. Why do this? Mr. Drummond told me yesterday that these activist organizations have "technical expertise," while Mr. Jaccard apparently has "the models."
TD certainly got media bang for the buck. His report was leaked to the Globe and Mail, and yesterday's Globe featured a front-page story, two columns and an editorial. However, the thrust of coverage appeared to contradict the smiley-faced conclusions of the report, which was titled "Climate leadership, economic prosperity." Or, please hobble us so that we can run faster!
Under reasons for draconian action, the report quotes the widely discredited report from British economist and climate extremist Nicholas Stern. Meanwhile, the Jaccard study claims that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the fount of science, but then maintains that the situation is much worse than that presented by the IPCC.
The Stern report's central flaw is a ridiculously low discount rate. If that sounds technical, what it means is that man-made climate change is claimed to be already costing us 5-20% of global GDP annually. It's just that we can't see where.
Lord Stern is increasingly becoming a figure of ridicule. This week, he suggested that vegetarianism might save the world, and projected that attitudes towards meat eating might become like those towards drunk driving. He has also predicted climate change would turn Europe into a desert and turn the world back in time by 30-million years. (See Simpson and the Shillers, below).
Naturally, there is no mention in the Jaccard/Suzuki/ Pembina report that there has been no warming for the past eleven years, contrary to all UN models, or that leading IPCC scientists have admitted that we may be in for an extended period of cooling. Instead, apocalyptic warnings from the likes of Al Gore's pet scientist James Hansen are included: that the world hasn't been here for 3 million years, when sea levels were 15 meters higher. Lord Stern recently said we haven't seen conditions like this for millions of years. Pick a number. Meanwhile the report's authors take IPCC figures for projected sea level rise this century and treble them. Which still only adds up to a meter. Or more.
The Harper government has announced a necessarily vague plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3% below 1990 levels by 2020. Their main priority is not to do anything that's going to lumber us with U.S. sanctions. The Jaccard report, by contrast, declares that "fairness" (plus the UN) requires a slashing of Canadian emissions of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. And it will hardly hurt at all.
The report claims that "with strong federal and provincial government policies," Canada can meet the UN targets "and still have a strong growing economy, a quality of life higher than Canadians enjoy today, and continued steady job creation across the country." All we need is to penalize industrial activity by pricing carbon at up to $200 a tonne by 2020 (multiples of anything suggested in proposed U.S. legislation) and adopt a vast range of meddlesome policies. The economy will carry on, cranking out 2.1% annual growth. We can slash carbon emissions by 72% in 2020 vs. "business as usual" and the economy will be only 3.2% smaller. It's a miracle! Or yet another example of large-scale and long-time-frame modelling. Whether it's the climate or the economy, the outcomes are unlikely to be any more than best guesses as to where we will be in 20 years, let alone 50 years.
Similarly improbable is the claim that more jobs will be created under heavy government intrusion than under freer markets. How? By giving half the $70 billion-plus business tax burden by 2020 back in lower income taxes! And you thought Stephane Dion's Green Shift was dead!
Government will promote carbon capture and storage, reduce "fugitive" emissions, regulate vehicle and building efficiency, and fund renewable investments and public transportation. Plus it will ship billions annually to developing countries to pay for carbon "credits" (via the UN. Remember oil-for-food? No problem. Canada will only engage in "carefully chosen investments.") Still, by 2020, this thinly disguised foreign aid will amount to $6 billion annually. It will be like funding a GM and Chrysler bailout every year (only with little or no local benefit except for some pie-in-the-sky "cleantech" industries). There will also be massive elaborations of the tax code to take care of the poor, regional variations in energy costs, and protection of "the most vulnerable manufacturing sectors."
The report confirms that the main burden of new legislation will fall on Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, Alberta is still projected to grow faster than any other province.
So what conclusions did the Globe draw from this pile of policy?
John Ibbotson declared the report was a "rigorous and unbiased assessment" and that now "no one can now hide behind bafflegab and rhetoric." Jeffrey Simpson claimed that "Scaremongers would have to eat their words if they gave this study a fair-minded report, but so, too, would those who paint cost-free scenarios of reducing emissions."
But both these assessments seemed a bit at odds with the Globe's main editorial, which declared -- accurately -- that the report's analysis was "unsaleable and dangerous."
The TD's Mr. Drummond apparently doesn't "endorse" the report. He told me he just wanted people to have "something to shoot at."
But such a study, while an inviting target, should hardly be the starting point for rational analysis of the greatest policy threat to freedom and prosperity in living memory.
What it does confirm is how far the policy "debate" has been taken over by activists, supported by Big Corporate money.