It will cost us

  • January 10, 2008

{mosimage}The report released Jan. 8 by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy is no more or less gloomy than the many other reports being issued these days by organizations given the task of assessing how real the crisis over greenhouse gases actually is and what should be done about it. Unfortunately, few political parties in Canada, with the possible exception of the tiny Green Party, appear ready to really grasp the nettle.

The dilemma is that almost every credible report on the environment says that little can be done to reverse the ecological damage we are inflicting on the Earth unless we are willing to make sacrifices (though there are also economic opportunities in environmentally friendly technology once we’ve made the investment). This means many things, including reducing consumption, paying more for clean technologies or products, or paying higher taxes so governments can implement environmental measures on our behalf. Meanwhile, the main political parties in Canada are absolutely chary of advocating any public policy that smacks of sacrifice. Ghosts of the much-maligned National Energy Program of the Trudeau era still haunt the corridors of power in Ottawa and politicians quake at any mention of the NEP in the same sentence as “Alberta” and “oil sands.”

The National Roundtable report, like its colleagues, backs carbon taxes which could penalize both consumers and industries for using carbon-based fuels that emit greenhouse gases. It also examines such options as carbon trading systems which penalize heavy polluters while rewarding those who reduce their carbon-fuel consumption.

Groups such as the National Roundtable can only advise. Governments must act and we urge them to at last take this issue seriously. Pollution is a moral question as well as a political, social and economic matter. While the Catholic Church does not dictate concrete goals and objectives, church leaders do use their moral authority to give weight to the battle to save the environment for future generations.

As noted here before, Pope Benedict XVI has returned to the environmental theme repeatedly in his public statements. Most recently, in his World Day of Peace message on Jan. 1, Benedict linked the theme of global peace to the fight to save the environment. He said the costs must be shared globally, but with recognition that poor nations have limited capacity to help while industrialized countries bear greater responsibility. He went further, urging the creation of a new international agency to co-ordinate “the stewardship of this home of ours.”

Special attention must be paid to “the stewardship of the Earth’s energy resources,” to over-consumption in rich countries, to the need to expand use of renewable sources energy and to ensure that poorer countries with natural energy resources are not exploited, he argued.

The Pope adds much-needed moral weight to the global warming debate. On this particular issue, both Catholics and non-Catholics should take heed.

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