Why Liberals and Greens voted against the NDP climate change motion

Ted Hsu
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HsuT01On April 29, 2013, we voted on the following NDP opposition day motion which was debated the previous Thursday:

Ms. Leslie (Halifax) — That this House: (a) agree with many Canadians and the International Energy Agency that there is grave concern with the impacts of a 2 degree rise in global average temperatures; (b) condemn the lack of effective action by successive federal governments since 1998 to address emissions and meet our Kyoto commitments; and (c) call on the government to immediately table its federal climate change adaptation plan.

We voted against the motion and were joined by Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Here are my two reasons for voting against:

1) The motion misses the point about a 2 degree rise in temperature. In fact we would be happy to limit the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees. The big problem is that we are in danger of overshooting 2 degrees by a lot. That is the really scary thing, and the motion  is worded in a way that does not reflect the true significance of the 2 degree limit.

2) It is unfortunate that the debate on this motion became more partisan than necessary. MP Leslie’s  opening speech contained this sentence:

 “It is only the NDP that can be trusted to tackle climate change because it is at the core of who we are as social democrats.”

which unnesssarily tries to exclude other parties from working together to tackle climate change. The motion itself ignores the fact when the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005, then Environment Minister Stephane Dion’s Project Green, an broad initiative that included action on climate change, was ready and announced in April 2005. Project Green was killed when the Liberal government was defeated and replaced by the current Stephen Harper government.

One good thing that came out of the debate on this motion is that Conservatives have been “smoked out” to use a phrase of CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen. Conservative MP James Lunney said this when questioned (and therefore had to move beyond his written speech in order to answer) about the dangers of the world heating more than 2 degrees:

“In terms of the 2° warming, we have to look carefully at the data and there is reason for some debate. We thought spring had arrived a couple of months ago and it has not. We are seeing climate variability for sure. We are seeing instability and that is typical when climate is changing, as it has changed in the past. We go through periods of instability. We are seeing later springs and winters are not quite as cold. We have a very cold spring, for example. As we experience climate change, we are seeing all kinds of variabilities.

When we deal with complex models, multiple variables and incomplete data, our understanding of these processes will be advanced as more data becomes available.”

This is the language of the climate change deniers – confuse the issue, sow doubt, avoid admitting that the science is clear, that the earth is clearly experiencing rapid warming caused by burning fossil fuels, and that scientists strongly recommend we try to limit global heating to not more than 2 degrees Celcius.

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