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Climate change creates winners and losers.

So states a new report by a pair of Stanford University professors who have tried to calculate the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions on global inequality. It was published April 22 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Global temperatures have risen nearly 1 C since the 19th century, and the study was aimed at quantifying what effect that increase has had on national economies.

It found that in a warming world, the poor countries are getting poorer while some rich countries, especially the ones that have been exploiting fossil fuels for the last half-century, have actually benefitted from climate change.

The reason is the relationship between temperature and economic growth. In general, warming has increased growth in cold countries and decreased growth in warm countries.

As a result, most of the world’s poor countries are poorer today than they would have been had humans not messed with the global thermostat.

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Between 1961 and 2000, climate change reduced the per capita gross domestic product in the world’s poorest countries by between 17 per cent and 31 per cent, states the study.

The Northwest Territories might be way up in the northern hemisphere, but we’re facing the problems of the global south.

It’s a vast territory with a tiny population and one that lacks, entirely, the infrastructure needed to cope the emerging climate policy coming from Ottawa.

Last week we reported on an April 23 panel discussion on climate change at Northern United Place. Ecology North and the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians organized the event to mark Earth Week.

A number of speakers spoke about how Northern communities are already feeling the effects of climate change and though we believe action is needed, the federal government’s policies to slow or halt climate change have costs that fall heaviest on the poor and tend to be geared toward reducing fossil fuel usage in large urban centres, not rural or remote areas like the North.

Take David Bob, president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, who noted the federal government hopes 10 per cent of the vehicles Canadians purchase by 2025 will be zero-emission and that all our vehicles will be zero-emission by 2040.

If the federal government thinks Northerners will be driving electric cars in 20 years we have a Deh Cho Bridge to sell them. The majority of electric vehicles on the market today must be recharged after less than 300 km. How does this work in the Northwest Territories?

Who’s going to set up the highway charging stations? When will an electrical vehicle be produced that can not only withstand our freezing subarctic winters but can be charged for long distance journeys in less than an hour?

The problem with much of the climate change rhetoric is that it cannot meet the realities of the present.

A carbon tax on gasoline, which in the North, essentially means a tax on all consumer goods, will be hard enough to swallow.

Until Northerners have real, affordable options beside fossil fuels, it will remain extremely difficult to convince regular people to make the switch.

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