Today’s Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s newspaper of record, serving the purposes of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Today’s Globe features two climate change stories on the front page, and one on the editorial page.

The editorial sums up the Globe’s position on the main story. The story asserts that Canadian Kyoto compliance would require a 1/3 reduction in greenhouse gas net emissions per year spread over the next five years. So it is not hard to credit the following:

“I believe the economic cost would be at leaqst as deep as the recession in the early 1980s. …” Mr. Drummond writes in a letter.

It will be difficult for the Liberals to attack Mr. Drummond, a senior Canadian economist whom [the Liberals among others] have consulted over the years.

Showing that for politicians, having politics trump actual reality is not a phenomenon that is unique to one side or the other of the political spectrum, the Liberals are happy to score cheap points off a problem that is of their own making. (They were the majority party during most of the Kyoto years, while Canada’s emissions burgeoned.)

I am interested in making a case that economists should not be listened to on long time scales, but the other side of the coin is that their advice is indeed valuable on short time scales.

Canada has already procrastinated to the point where meeting Kyoto protocols is an impractical goal. It is ludicrous to suggest starting now to meet those goals, and it is offensive for the party that promoted those increases to blame the failure on the new conservative government.

Canada should strive to meet and exceed Kyoto goals as quickly as is possible without major disruption. Avoiding major disruption is, after all, the point of reducing emissions. Starting out with a major disruption misses the point.

(None of this is to offer much enthusiasm for the Harper government which is making plenty of other mistakes, like rolling back gun registration laws. But that’s for another time and place.)

Indeed, the Globe’s editorial page, in my opinion, more-or-less rightly summarizes:

The opposition MPs, led by the Liberals, have let crass politics trump their policy judgment. The federal government cannot and should not take such drastic action to meet Kyoto goals.

None of this letts Ottawa off the hook. Global warming is real. The Tories have a duty to produce a substantive package of market-based policies that would foster real reductions, albeit at a slower pace. But the federal government cannot destroy Canada to save it.

Well, whether the policies are market-based or not, they need to happen. The idea of Kyoto was that we would have 15 years to reduce modestly, not ten years to grow rapidly and then 5 to shrink spectacularly. The second plan makes no sense, and pretending it does to make cheap political points is not the way out of our predicament.

The second GHG related story states that Ontario intends to eliminate sales of incandescent bulbs by 2012. Good. Not market based at all. Purely regulatory, and perfectly appropriate.