The recent announcement that the province of Ontario will join Quebec and California in a cap-and-trade scheme for “carbon emissions” is depressing in more ways than one. It will provide zero benefit for the environment and will only serve to depress the economy.
In all likelihood it will result in a further skewing of the already dysfunctional transfer payment system by requiring other provinces to buy carbon credits from Ontario and Quebec.
And let’s get the semantics right. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not “carbon”. Carbon is commonly known as carbon black (soot), which can be a pollutant, graphite, as in pencils, and diamonds, as in rings and diamond drills bits. CO2 is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that we exhale with every breath. It is not a pollutant.
It’s not a minor point that all life on earth is carbon-based and that CO2 is by far the most important food for all that life. Plants, with help of sunlight, turn CO2 into the sugars that feed themselves and the animals that feed on them. Without the trace amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere, this would be a dead planet, period.
Then there is the widely known fact that there has been no statistically significant warming of the planet for more than 15 years despite 25 percent of all human CO2 emissions occurring during these years. This is accepted by no less than the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Met Office. There is simply no scientific proof that our CO2 emissions are the cause of the slight warming that has occurred over the 300-year period since the peak of the Little Ice Age.
The most noticeable effect from increased CO2 levels is the “greening of the earth” as the biomass of forests and other ecosystems is increasing rapidly. This is due mainly to the increase in atmospheric CO2 from our use of fossil fuels. Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Australia, very arid regions, are benefitting the most. At higher levels of CO2 photosynthesis becomes more efficient, requiring less water to produce the same amount of growth.
During this Pleistocene Ice Age, which began 2.5 million years ago, CO2 has sunk to the lowest levels since the evolution of modern life in the Cambrian Period beginning 590 million years ago. During some of the major glaciations CO2 has dipped as low as 0.018 percent of the atmosphere, only slightly above the threshold of 0.015 percent where plants begin to die for lack of it. Even during the present inter-glacial period, known as the Holocene, CO2 was at only 0.028 percent before the Industrial Revolution began, low enough to greatly reduce the growth of many plant species. Today CO2 is at 0.040 percent, still much lower than the optimum level for plant growth.
The greening of the earth from increased CO2 will have tremendous positive impacts for both the natural environment and the economy, especially in agriculture and forestry. It is already standard practice in greenhouses around the world, including Ontario, to inject additional CO2 to increase growth rates by up to 40 percent at concentrations double or triple the present level in the atmosphere. A little warming would increase productivity even more.
Canadians in general, and Ontarians in particular, should not be sucked in by alarmist’s claims that warming, should it ever occur, would be a disaster for one of the coldest countries on earth. What we should really worry about is cooling of the climate, which would be very damaging to agriculture and would result in higher energy costs. We have no idea which way the climate is going next; let’s hope it is warmer rather than colder.
The demonization of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide marks one of the most misguided chapters in the history of modern civilization. Fossil fuels have helped make the difference between a life that was short and brutish and the unprecedented wealth so many enjoy today. Punishing those who produce this energy and those who use it to make our lives better is simply insane.
Ontario’s decision is a clear case of environmental policy based on faulty assumptions that will only result in higher energy prices and a less competitive Canadian economy.
We should be celebrating CO2 for the giver of life that is rather than penalizing the entire economy on a false pretense.