Will Martyrdom reduce greenhouse gases?
In my younger days I walked the Arctic barren lands and observed firsthand the shallow ponds Dr. Smol talks about. They are (were) very shallow, on average less than five feet, and without aquatic life, since they froze to the bottom each winter. Smol observes that these isolated ponds have mostly evaporated and considers this change to be evidence for global warming.
For the sake of discussion, let’s agree that this observation along with other reported data are evidence for climate change and moreover, assume that the activities of mankind are responsible for this phenomenon. Before commenting further on this matter I note that Dr. Smol compares the effects of increased greenhouse gases with the effect of acid rain on fresh water lakes. He states that the public was in denial about acid rain and is in denial about climate change. I disagree. Acid rain was and is a real problem that was comparatively easy to recognize and understand. It differs markedly from climate change in that it is a local condition occurring downwind from heavy industry producing sulphur dioxide, etc. I don’t think that the public was ever in denial of this problem and for that matter the conditions causing the problem have only been marginally reduced.
But back to the main matter, which is how do we reduce the production of greenhouse gases? According to the Greenpeace Report way back in 1990, production of energy from sources that do not produce greenhouse gases, natural gas or uranium for instance, even hydro is not the answer. We must reduce energy consumption by an incredible 50 per cent. This will require a very significant carbon or energy tax. So, what might be expected from this big new tax?
It will seriously damage our most important businesses including oil, gas, mining, auto and aircraft manufacturing. High energy costs have already virtually wiped out the pulp and paper industry throughout the north and shut down one smelter.
People will move to the large centres, park their vehicles and buy a bicycle. If they have to get to another town or city, they will take a bus. Certainly there will be far fewer off shore weddings. Unemployment will skyrocket; a few will find jobs building bikes or erecting windmills. In most jurisdictions medicare will go bankrupt.
Now do you think that this “martyrdom” by Canadians will reduce greenhouse gases? Considering that our small population is responsible for maybe one percent of the gases; not a chance. Do you think that our sacrifice will influence others like the United States, India, China or Indonesia to join forces? Same answer.
In the meantime what happens if a real natural disaster wipes out half a continent? I am talking about a major volcanic irruption, earthquake, even a meteor strike. We do know that many of these events have occurred in the recent past, with disastrous results. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen in Canada, because we won’t be able to provide much help.
The folly is not in denying global warming, but in the idea that Canadians can really do something to correct the problem.
R.J. Bradshaw, Arts'58
The writer majored in Geology at Queen's.--Ed.