ankle deep in sydney

According to Friday’s Guardian, the Greenland icecap is melting so much faster than predicted it is “triggering earthquakes as pieces of…

According to Friday’s Guardian, the Greenland icecap is melting so much faster than predicted it is “triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off.”

The Ilulissat Glacier is melting three times faster than it was a decade ago, and scientists say the affects on sea levels could “make predictions this February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change far too low”.

This February the IPCC predicted that, at current rates of CO2 output, sea levels in the early part of the 21st century will rise 18 to 59 centimetres accompanied by an increase in severe storms and extreme high tides.

If these predictions are far too low, coastal cities, tide flats and several island nations are doomed, possibly in the quite-near future.

The case for global warming is now so overwhelming that even Stephen Harper admitted in his speech to the APEC summit last week: “The weight of scientific evidence holds that our atmosphere is getting hotter, that human activity is a significant contributor, and that there will be serious consequences for all life on Earth. The physical evidence is already there for all to see.”

It’s a big step for Harper, who used to speak of “the so-called ‘greenhouse gas’ phenomenon,” to admit that global warming exists.

As recently as 2002, Harper was calling the Kyoto Accord “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations,” claiming that it was based on “tentative and contradictory scientific evidence” and that it falsely maligned carbon dioxide, which he described as “essential to life.”

At the time Harper made those remarks he was on a self-declared “war on Kyoto”.

He still is.

The rhetoric has changed, the tactics have changed, but Harper is the same general and it’s the same war.

Harper said then and still believes today that mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions are both “job-killing” and “economy-destroying”.

In 2004, he still had faith in the strategy of quoting Exxon scientists and Fraser Institute “reports” against the word of every genuine climate scientist on the planet.

Then the glaciers began to pour, and it became necessary to change strategy.

Today Harper’s strategy is to acknowledge climate change — though steering clear of nasty-sounding words like “crisis” — and to pretend to take action while actually moving backwards.

Upon taking office in 2006, Harper quietly closed 15 separate programs that were aimed at curbing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

If he could have found a 16th, no doubt he’d have closed it too.

Before the Sydney APEC meeting had even begun, Harper was busy setting the stage for Friday’s heavy-rhetoric zero-accomplishment conclusion.

Even the wishy-washy “aspirational standards” his conservative crony Australia’s John Howard came looking for were too much to ask, Harper said, predicting instead a broad general agreement that global warming exists and something ought to be done, someday.

Harper proved himself an able schemer and manipulator by getting exactly what he set out to get in Sydney: nothing at all.

The final agreement, noised about with so much fanfare, sets standards that will do nothing to slow coprorate profits or greenhouse gas emissions.

You have to wonder if it ocurred to any of the delegates to look around themselves and wonder how the famous Sydney Opera House will remain one metre above sea level.

Harper prorogued Canada’s parliament last week, shutting down all the business of the House, and promising “a fresh start” on October 16.

Besides getting rid of all those annoying parliamentary committees the Conservatives have been struggling to undermine, this move throws down the gauntlet to the opposition.

Next month there will be a throne speech, and the very real chance of a non-confidence motion, and then an election.

Monday morning in Sydney, Harper told reporters he would not hold another vote on the war in Afghanistan until he’s sure of getting the outcome he desires, or in other words, until he has a majority in Parliament.

Wars are always handy during an election. Even if the public doesn’t support the mission, there’s nothing like waving a large flag to distract the voters’ eyes.

Polls reveal the global climate crisis is the biggest issue for Canadians today.

And when the electorate comes to examine his record on global warming, Harper is going to need all the distractions he can get.

Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.

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