When I hear people saying that we don’t need to do anything more to reduce carbon emissions it is tempting to label them as “climate change deniers.” We often hear that term bandied about in reference to political parties that are fighting against carbon prices or arguing in favour of the continued use of oil, gas, and coal as primary energy sources. But within my experience “climate change deniers” are actually pretty uncommon, at least in Canada. There are only a few stubborn souls left who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence and still claim that human activities are not having an impact on the global climate.
Although climate change deniers are rare, we are swamped with “Climate Action Deniers” or CADs for short. A typical “Climate Action Denier” accepts that climate change is real and serious, but still offers innumerable reasons why we shouldn’t take meaningful action. Usually those reasons can be summed up in a simple phrase “It’s somebody else’s problem.”
So how can you identify a CAD within your social network? It’s surprisingly easy. Here are a dozen ways. A CAD will say:
I believe in climate change, but…..
- ...we still have lots of time to find a solution. (According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], we actually only have a decade or so to make significant changes that will prevent catastrophic climate change. This means that we will need to reduce emissions much more rapidly than the targets we currently have in place.)
- ...we can’t make changes because it will disrupt the economy (While some economic disruption is inevitable, shifting to a green economy can also be a huge opportunity, especially in terms of creating new jobs (see link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4). We are also in one of the most wealthy and advanced countries on the planet, and as the Bank of Canada points out, the Canadian economy is resilient and adaptable enough to make the shift. Besides, catastrophic climate change will disrupt the economy even more.)
- ...Canada doesn’t produce much carbon pollution compared to China or India (Canada is still one of the top 10 global emitters, despite being #38 for population. On a per capita basis Canadians emit three times as much carbon pollution as the average global citizen [see link 1, link 2].)
- ...you can’t charge people more for necessities like gas and oil. (Energy is a necessity, burning gas and oil is just one way to obtain that energy. Given the right incentives and government leadership, people will heat their homes and drive vehicles using clean energy.)
- ….Prince Edward Island is too small to have an impact on the world. (If we show leadership and come up with innovative solutions others will see our success and want to emulate us. Also, by banding together small islands around the world have had big impacts on the international stage [link]. Never underestimate the impact of many voices doing the right thing.)
- ...we are already doing enough (Actually we’re not; see point one)
- ...carbon pricing doesn’t work (It has, in fact, been shown to work, and there is a broad consensus among economists that it is the most cost-effective and efficient way to encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions [link 1, link 2].)
- ...carbon pricing is just a tax grab (A carbon pricing plan can be revenue-neutral with all money collected going directly back to taxpayers, such as the plans proposed by the PEI Green Party [link] and the federal backstop [link]).
- ....low and middle-income Islanders can’t afford to pay more tax (The PEI Green Party’s plan and the federal backstop would put more money in the pockets of low and middle-income Islanders than they spend in carbon tax [see links in #8 above]).
- ...rebates will be enough to convince people to change their behaviour. (Although any serious plan must include rebates, rebates on their own are actually a significantly more expensive and less efficient way to encourage change [link]. For example, the Quebec electric vehicle rebate is estimated to cost the equivalent of $395 per tonne of CO2 reduced [link: p. 44]. Besides, those rebates need to be paid for with taxpayer dollars, so they are not “free”).
- ...we should focus our efforts on carbon sequestration/ nuclear power/ natural gas/ reducing meat consumption/ developing new technology etc. (Climate change is an incredibly complex issue and no single approach will achieve our goals. We must implement a range of efforts on many fronts to prevent catastrophic climate change.)
- ...Canada is too cold, anyway. Bring on the Global warming. (Although climate change could produce some opportunities, such as year-round shipping through the Northwest passage and a longer growing season, the costs of climate change on PEI will far outweigh any advantages [link].)
You will encounter many Climate Action Deniers during any policy debate on how to tackle climate change. It is important to identify them and understand they aren’t offering meaningful solutions, but just providing excuses to postpone action.