Madam Speaker, of course I would like to welcome my hon. colleague back to the House. I know he had some health challenges at one point. He is looking fantastic, and he gave a vigorous speech in defence of his bill.
Climate change is a huge challenge. It is a complex problem, and as parliamentarians and as a society, when we are called upon to deal with complex problems like climate change, what is really important at the very base of everything is truthfulness. This is not just a platitude. By truthfulness, I do not mean simply avoiding the spreading of flagrant falsehoods. I mean ignoring the temptation to indulge in political spin aimed at convincing people of the rightness of one's position. I am talking about the need to avoid specious arguments for the sake of political gain.
In my view, the climate change debate illustrates why truthfulness is important, and why avoiding the temptation to spin facts in an effort to reach one's political objective more quickly is counterproductive and harmful to the greater good.
I would just like to set the record straight on one issue, and again I commend the hon. member on his bill. However, I recall that in the fall, the NDP was spinning in overdrive as the Copenhagen conference neared. Again I do not say this with any rancour. I congratulate the member on his work, and we have a very good NDP member on the environment committee. However, the NDP was in overdrive when it kept telling us that we had to pass this bill before Copenhagen or the world as we knew it would end. That came complete with a protest in the gallery, an interruption of parliamentary debate, which we could even call a mini-prorogation during that moment of protest during question period.
If we look at the situation a little more closely, we see that it was not absolutely imperative to pass this bill before Copenhagen. First of all, if the bill had passed the House of Commons, it would still not be law, because it could never have passed in the Senate before Copenhagen. Second, anyone who was observing the goings on, the negotiations and the deliberations at Copenhagen would understand that President Obama and the leaders of great nations such as China and India had a lot of things to deal with and a lot of things on their minds other than a private member's bill by the fourth party in the House of Commons. That was an unfortunate spin, because it created a kind of cynicism about the environmental movement.
However, now I would like to move on to the spin that comes from the other side of the House, the spin of the climate change deniers. That is even worse, because it is creating this false belief within public opinion that we do not have a problem, and we do have a problem.
As the hon. member from Thunder Bay mentioned, science is never exact. It is a question of probabilities, but the fact that we do not have absolutes in climate change science does not mean that we should not do anything. It is very important that we address the issue of climate change denial, and many members on the other side can be said to be climate change deniers.
During the debate on this bill that preceded Copenhagen, I remember driving home to Montreal, listening to the radio in my car and hearing advertisements by a group called Friends of Science which claimed, in very strong, baritone voices, that climate change is just a myth, that global warming is caused by the sun. At one point I thought I was listening to an outtake from Saturday Night Live and I was not sure whether to laugh or cry, but unfortunately it was a serious attempt to derail public opinion against action on climate change.
I will address the scientific issues as well as I can as a non-scientist. It is very clear that human activity since the industrial revolution has been adding to CO2 in the atmosphere. There are measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. I think we are now at 385 parts per million, whereas for 10,000 years we were at 280 parts per million. When the industrial revolution came along in the 1750s, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere started to rise. It is measurable and this is fact.
We also know that temperatures are rising. We can measure that. There is a hockey stick phenomenon, as we all know, in which CO2 was level until we hit the industrial revolution, and then it went up quite drastically and, of course, we see temperatures going up.
The climate change deniers say that we do not have really good readings of temperatures because the temperature monitoring stations are in urban areas, and urban areas are hot spots, and therefore the readings are all wrong. However, that myth has been put to rest, because we see that the readings in urban areas are really no different from the readings elsewhere.
There is another intervening factor, of course, because it is not as simple as saying that there is more carbon and, therefore, the temperature goes up as a result of the carbon in the atmosphere. There is another greenhouse gas that affects temperature readings and, of course, that is water vapour. Water vapour means the planet is heated up more than it otherwise would be based on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. These myths have been put to rest, and I think the climate change deniers, many of whom sit on the opposite side, are doing humanity and the planet a great disservice by persisting with these arguments.
I do not believe that these targets can be achieved if we have a Conservative government in Ottawa much longer. We are voting for the targets, but, let us face it, every day the Conservative government is in power makes it less probable that we will reach these targets. In fact, the targets right away are very different from those being proposed in the United States. What is being proposed in the United States is a 3% to 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a baseline at 1990 by the year 2020, whereas we are talking about 25%.
We in the Liberal Party are supporting this bill because it is important to put pressure on the government. It is important to start somewhere. In fact, that is why the Liberal government signed Kyoto in the first place. It did not put all the measures in place and did not know exactly how it was going to get from point A to point B, as is the case with any great endeavour, such as the space program. On the day that John F. Kennedy called for putting a man on the moon, the scientists did not have it all worked out in advance. They did not wait until they had it all worked out in advance on sheets of paper before making the commitment and effort.
By signing the Kyoto agreement, a Liberal government got Canadians talking about climate change.