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Life after Kyoto will be more expensive

By Steven Martinovich

The Professor(February 21, 2005) Last Wednesday marked the arrival into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty that refused to die even when economic powerhouses like Australia and the United States declined to sign on. Although environmentalists and the federal government may be pleased, the average Canadian has little to cheer about.

The goals of the treaty are fairly simple: those nations that have ratified it have pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to six per cent below 1990's level by 2012. That doesn't sound like a difficult goal until you learn that Canada's emissions will have to be cut by 30 per cent to honour that promise. That of course means that to meet Kyoto's goals our lives will become more expensive.

That was borne out this week by a new report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Building on a 2002 study the organization commissioned from Dr. Ross McKitrick, the CTF argues that the price increases and wage reductions necessary to meet Kyoto's goals will hit $3,000 a year by 2010.

"The only way to meet Kyoto targets without spending billions of tax dollars to buy 'hot air' from Russians is with strong price incentives to curb energy demand here at home," said CTF Federal Director John Williamson, referring to an emissions credit market. "And this means raising the cost of energy by way of higher taxes, which will mean lower wages and reduced family incomes."

Of course, that's not what we're being told by the federal government. Outside of their inane One Tonne Challenge, which helpfully urges Canadians to take public transit, faster showers and install storm windows, we're not really sure how the federal government plans to make the enormous cuts in energy consumption necessary to hit our targets. The best Environment Minister Stéphane Dion could muster recently was that Kyoto would work because it "will appeal to Canadians; that will, I think, mobilize the population to a great cause."

Dion may be right, that Canadians are attracted to great leap forwards but not likely at the cost that Kyoto will inflict. This isn't some esoteric exercise. The treaty may be a global one but it impacts locally thanks to increased energy costs -- which will hit us even harder given our northern climate, reduced potential economic growth, the loss of jobs, and higher taxes.

A few years ago the federal government pegged the cost of the treaty at as much as a 1.5 per cent impact on the country, which means as much as $16.5 billion from a $1.1 trillion economy. Along with the direct economic cost, it was also predicted a loss of 200 000 jobs, mostly in Alberta and Ontario, would take place. Others have argued that we could see as many as 450 000 lost manufacturing jobs and a $40 billion loss for the economy.

Those might just be numbers to you but imagine a world where gas prices jump as much as 80 per cent, electricity costs double its current rate or natural gas prices rise 60 per cent. Every Canadian made good or service will increase in price, from the bread you buy to the car you drive. The average Canadian will be materially poorer in seven years compared to today and the economy will reflect that. This is the reality of implementing a treaty that literally asks us to step back over 15 years in time, the reality that the federal government doesn't tell you about in Rick Mercer's commercials.

The Kyoto Protocol was sold to Canadians as a relatively pain free way of saving us from ourselves, but it was a transaction that didn't present us with a bill. Rather than provide us with realistic numbers, the federal government prefers to offer cheerfully confident predictions of a bright economic future as we transition away from an industrial economy to a new vague environmentally friendly version. Unfortunately for Canadians they'll be paying the real costs of this misguided vision

When genocide is not genocide

By Steven Martinovich

The Professor(February 7, 2005) The United Nations took another step in its long road to irrelevancy on January 31 with a report announcing that the Sudanese government was not conducting a genocidal campaign in the Darfur region. It agreed that there were indeed mass killings of civilians, torture, rape, pillaging, possible war crimes and perhaps crimes against humanity, but there was no evidence of genocide.

"Some of these violations are very likely to amount to war crimes and given the systematic and widespread pattern of many of the violations, they would also amount to crimes against humanity," the report said.

The report hung its conclusion on the belief that there was no "genocidal intent" by the Sudanese government to kill off a particular group on the grounds of ethnicity, religion or any other reason, a rather dubious finding. No such policy was implemented, the report maintains, by the government, either directly or through militia groups under its control.

Such an assertion comes as a surprise to anyone with basic familiarity with Sudan. Although the Sudanese government denies it, it's widely believed that it supports an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed -- the group chiefly culpable for causing the region's strife -- in an effort to put down a rebellion by non-Arab African groups. Experts believe that the Janjaweed is attempting to exterminate three tribes so that they can take their land.

Since the campaign began in March 2004, thousands of homes in several villages have been destroyed in the fighting. At least 70,000 people have died from disease, hunger and fighting, hundreds of thousands have fled the region to neighbouring Chad, and two million are now affected by the conflict.

Even if one accepts that the Janjaweed aren't backed by Khartoum, the idea that the government has had nothing to do with the killings is laughable. The commission responsible for the report compiled a list of suspects that includes government officials and government-backed militias responsible for some of the worst crimes committed in Darfur. The report also maintained that most attacks "were deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians." At some point an official declaration of genocidal policy merely acknowledges the reality of what's already going on.

And yet according to the United Nations, although conditions that lead to mass killings and the targeting of a particular group exist, it falls short of being genocide. While the United Nations can engage in bureaucratic hair-splitting in trying divine whether genocide is taking place, the rest of us don't have to. As is commonly said of art, we may not know how to define it, but we know genocide when we see it.

It's ironic that we recently celebrated the liberation of Auschwitz. After the full scale of the Nazi atrocities was revealed to the world we all joined together to say "Never Again." Words have rarely translated into real action, particularly when it comes to Africa. In January 1994 Kofi Annan and the United Nations ignored a cable by now retired Canadian Major General Roméo Dallaire reporting that the Hutu planned to launch a genocidal campaign against the Tutsis. Three months later a 100-day orgy of killing began that resulted in the murder of over 800,000 people.

Where eleven years ago one might have argued it was unlikely that a massacre on the scale of Rwanda could occur, today we are under no such misconception. The evidence is staring us in the face in the victims of Darfur. The United Nations can afford to engage in technicalities in defining genocide and willful blindness to when it occurs but doesn't mean that the world has to. We must either act to end the genocide in Darfur or once again we'll wonder how mass murder occurred in front of our eyes and no one did a thing to stop it. "Never Again" wasn't meant to be a mantra, it was meant as a call to arms.

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

 






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