Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you all this morning.
I will start off by saying I am not an environmentalist. I represent no special interest groups. I am a capital markets person who has been trying to grasp this issue for more than 20 years, and I have attempted to keep up personally not only with the science but with the economic and social impacts and the way in which capital markets can be expected to respond, especially to changes in fiscal policies.
I try to steer a course between worry and realism. I have five suggestions: one about science and four about policy.
I believe this country is not prepared for what seems likely to happen. This is reflected in the apparent unwillingness to distinguish between mitigation and adaptation, and the difference in fiscal policies that arise from that failure.
My first point is on the science, and the melting of the permafrost. I believe the Canadian government should instigate a thorough emergency research program into the melting of the permafrost. We usually think of this as being the impact of climate change on the residents of the north, but the other side of the coin has incredible implications. This is the feedback loop of how the melting of the permafrost is and will be liberating hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane.
I prepared a chart that is being left with you. It's my attempt to quantify the best research I can find. As you can readily tell, if my estimates are anywhere near right, we are headed for a greenhouse gas stabilization that is three and a half to four times pre-industrial levels. This is quite stunningly about double other estimates, such as are in Nicholas Stern's report to the Government of the United Kingdom or the most recent IPCC reports, which do not account for this feedback loop.
Under this scenario, Canada would be the source of maybe one-sixth of global emissions, not one-fiftieth. These emissions might already be out of control, because the faster they happen, the bigger the feedback.
I have not put estimates of resulting temperatures in the charts because I can't find any authoritative work. It would appear most likely that the temperature changes and rises in sea level would be much greater than the recent IPCC estimates.
The outcome of this research will have many implications. One, about 30% of the permafrost is ours. It is our international duty to get the answer to this question.
Two, the public expects its leader to tell them all the news, especially the bad news, so we can prepare ourselves for the future. How awful it will be if it turns out the government knows how serious things are but doesn't tell us.
Three, if the research I've used is anywhere near right, the global economic damage will be far greater than that estimated by Nicholas Stern. Canadians will suffer.
Four, maybe this will inspire China, India, and other developing nations to work more closely with us to avoid a truly huge disaster.
Five, it will help Canada determine where to focus attention and resources. We need to decide whether we should spend our scarce resources on adapting to climate change or trying to slow it down.
If I'm right about this, and I'm right in my unconditional skepticism about international treaties, then we should try to understand how to prepare our citizens for living with what's coming.
Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by mid-century would be a cruel target because it would not be enough to have any positive impact on Canadians then alive. We'll have to learn to live with drought in many places, with vastly reduced global food production, with overriding gross changes in the economic well-being of citizens around the world and in our own country, with a very different makeup of the job market, and with new diseases.
This implies to me that it might be far more important to focus fiscal policy on changes like new genetic improvements for humans, nano technology combined with biotechnology to produce new and maybe artificial crops, water conservation and use, much less energy per unit of GDP without sacrificing standards of living, and new adaptations of urban living.
Secondly, there are economic and social issues. The argument about whether humans are conscious of climate change is surely over. Now it is time to turn to how much we should be spending. To simply say “do everything you can” is to ignore fiscal scarcity. Climate change is a trans-generational problem, not unlike the national debt. We have to decide what, if anything, we give up when the real cost is squarely on my and your grandchildren.
I would request that the government fund an independent third party, someone such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, to estimate the social and economic cost to Canadians at predetermined intervals of, say, 20 years from different temperature regimes and depending on the accumulations of greenhouse gases--so for example, in 2020 or 2040 or 2060 or 2080.
The results of the research about emissions from the permafrost must be included.
These costs should include estimated impacts on things such as agricultural production, including the impact from reduced water flows from the Canadian Rockies to the prairie grain crops. As The Globe and Mail noted last Saturday, at 40°C, temperatures that are now starting to occur in many areas, heat stress causes photosynthesis to shut down. Making fuel from food is a very short-term proposition. The costs should include the estimated impacts on fisheries, both ocean and fresh water, especially since there are those who now believe our salmon are doomed; rising sea levels and their impact on real estate values or the cost of dykes; flora such as forests, whether through heat, dryness, or disease such as the mountain pine beetle; water for personal and industrial consumption, including the ability to generate electricity from hydro and manufacturing--for example, will there be a Canadian car manufacturing business in 2060?
The effect on people will include population dislocation and decisions about whole sections of a dispossessed society similar to paying for the loss of fishing income for the Maritimes, but on a massively greater scale; first nations livelihood from the loss of fauna; reduced birth rates and increased immigration, especially from nations whose food outputs are under siege; just about every job in the country; revenue collection; and additional expenditures for federal and provincial governments, meaning less is available for key services such as health care and education.
Demonstration site. Canada's human emissions make little difference to total greenhouse gas accumulation. After all, Canadians emit less than 2% of global human emissions, which is about the same as the annual increase in emissions from China. We should be addressing why causing some potential disruption to the Canadian economy will make a difference globally.
I believe our attention should be on helping the developing world. If Canada doesn't make the effort, why should they? After all, they argue--and convincingly, in my view--it's been our greed and wealth accumulation that has caused the problem. Why should they be restricted from seeking the same standards? China has made it very clear that on the basis of equity alone, it is entitled to ignore its emissions of greenhouse gases. Telling China to cut back on future standards of living is no more likely to succeed there than it would here.
The question is how do we help. The implication, to me, is this. Canada should think of itself as a demonstration site to show two general things: first, that there are systematic approaches that can work; and second, that we can be a place that spends time and money developing new technologies whose feature is enablement of improved greenhouse gas performance at low cost. Many of these technologies can't get to their lowest manufacturing price with the volumes available in the Canadian market, and perhaps not in our traditional markets either. If they are a feature of developing economies, volumes can be sufficient.
Using Canada as a demonstration site is useful only if we have a deliberate, proactive dissemination plan. Such a plan ought to include, one, inviting foreigners to play a role in demonstrations, including those funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada; two, agreeing that the business opportunity is not to sell Canadian goods, but instead to use Canadian technology as a partnering opportunity to combine forces with developing nations to drive down manufacturing costs; three, the government guaranteeing intellectual property protection; four, the government promoting the effective use of the clean development mechanism to recirculate Canadian dollars; five, proactively supporting organized industries--for example, the Chinese want our hydrogen and fuel cells to improve fuel efficiency, improve their local air quality, provide an industrial opportunity, and maybe even reduce their greenhouse gasses, and they don't care what our rationale is--six, using the low-cost manufacturing technology overseas for partnered access to third country markets; seven, setting up an industrial feedback loop whereby we agree to be the first developed market to buy and deploy the products they make less expensively as part of our own systematic approach to reduce greenhouse gases. The other reason for such a plan is to attract capital, and to that I'll turn next.
Capital markets and new technologies. These two subjects are intimately related. First, there are only two ways to influence international behaviour: either diplomacy along the lines of Kyoto--and that is demonstrably going to fail because the big countries will not submit to sanctions--or through the actions of capital markets.
Capital markets are unsentimental. They care only about winning and not losing. International money, institutional money shifts very fast and is waiting to move where fiscal policy shows it can either benefit or maybe, more importantly, avoid losses. It will move to places where it's evident that GHG-benign policies are put in place. It will move away if policies continue to encourage industries whose output will not sell. Capital markets are going to be the great rationing card as we scramble to allocate future scarcities.
Second, capital markets are enthused about funding new solutions, and they will respond. Conversely, there's no point in trying to introduce new technologies unless there's receptivity in capital markets.
Sustainable Development Technology Canada plays a great role in pre-market demonstrations. The work it does is unique in the world and must play a role in a comprehensive Canadian policy. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has endorsed its results, and especially its governance model. I encourage you to give it more funding.
Even for SDTC, profit-oriented capital market uptake is crucial. The same market acceptance filter ought to be imposed on every so-called technology fund the bill mentions.
If you introduce underlying fiscal policies that improve the general circumstances for making money out of technology change, entrepreneurs and capital markets will pay attention. In other words, I believe that every fiscal measure you think of introducing should be measured more against the impact on capital markets than against anything else. Fiscally induced changes in behaviour are important only if they cause capital markets to pay attention. Send the right signals, and capital markets will react.
For example, capital markets—