Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown surprised many members of his party when he announced last March he was in favour of putting a price on carbon. At that time he said, “Climate change is a fact. It is a threat. It is man-made.”
This apparent turnabout for the PC leader has not been met with much enthusiasm among conservatives who continue to have doubts about all sorts of things related to anthropogenic climate change, or “global warming” as we used to call it. Ontario PC membership—much like other conservatives across the country—span the full gamut of this issue.
In 2013, environmentalist Dana Nuccitelli, in an article he wrote for The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., used the term “climate contrarians” to describe sceptics who questioned the various aspects of climate change. He said the opinions of climate contrarians “spanned … 5 stages of global warming denial.” And from what I’ve read and heard over the past decade or so, I’d say most conservatives I know, or whose works I read or to whom I listen regularly are pretty much at one of those five stages.
In my opinion, only a minority of Ontario conservatives have made it through all five stages and is now fully accepting of the science, agrees it is caused by human activity and presents an impending threat, and is committed to mitigate the effects at virtually any cost, including carbon taxes or other greenhouse gas reduction mechanisms.
If Mr. Brown was being frank with us, his statements, “Climate change is a fact. It is a threat. It is man-made,” coupled with his support for “putting a price on carbon” places him firmly among this minority and at odds with the rest of us. But, while he may be among the minority of conservatives on this issue, he is among the majority of people in Canada, America and the European Union who have gone all-in on climate change.
The five stages, by the way, are as follows:
- Deny its existence
- Deny we’re the cause
- Deny it’s a problem
- Deny we can solve it
- It’s too Late
Sound familiar? I’d say it fits pretty well with the knowledge I’ve gained from following this subject closely over the past couple of decades.
I’d say I’m probably stuck somewhere in or between stages four and five. Yes, the issue seems real and does seem to be a problem, especially with the effect rising sea levels are having on many inhabited parts of the world. I’m still not convinced, however, that it’s all to do with human activity and would not have occurred anyway as a natural cycle of the planet’s cooling and warming. But I suppose human activity could be accelerating the process.
My main areas of contention though are: (a) can we really stop it or even slow it down or should we spend our limited recourses on mitigating its effects; and (b) this should not be used as a cash grab by governments to raise money for more social programs with which to bribe the electorate. In other words, any tax raised should be offset by tax reductions elsewhere.
At the end of the day, though, does any of our skepticism really matter? Regardless of what any conservative might think about the veracity of the science surrounding anthropogenic climate change, the science on this issue is, for all practical purposes, settled.
And while it may be considered heroic by some to continue to challenge the overwhelmingly large worldwide majority opinion, I believe it is a waste of our time.
Better we concentrate our efforts on making sure governments choose the least damaging and costly mitigation strategies, and also that every cent of carbon tax is returned to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes elsewhere and not as some social service or other offset that does not go back proportionately to those who paid the tax in the first place.