Alberta province of Canada is considered one of the strongest economies in North America, being culturally diverse as well as politically and environmentally stable. Its varied landscape, sunny climate and varied geography make it a most ideal locality and provide its people an excellent quality of life. Alberta is endowed with abundant natural resources, natural sceneries, and capable manpower that altogether make it the perfect place to live and work in. These outstanding features are collectively referred to as the Alberta advantage (Government of Alberta 2002). Its people are vibrant, resourceful and productive entrepreneurs, whose goods and services rank among the most excellent in the world. This level of excellence draws from the inherent pioneering spirit of the earliest settlers of the province. The present principal industries of the province are agriculture and related industries, forestry, telecommunications, oil and gas. Its oil and gas industry, which began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, grew rapidly after 1947. It has a current population of three million (80% urban). It was proclaimed a province in September 1905.
In 1997, the federal government of Canada signed the Kyoto Accord, which committed it to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases to six% (below 1990 levels) by 2012. (Reuters). Alberta, which produces the majority of Canada’s oil and gas, opposed the Treaty, as it would significantly injure and cripple its energy industry and deprive it of billions of dollars. In the 1980s, Alberta also fought and won over the federal government’s imposition of tax energy exports to the United States. The province has the highest level of greenhouse emissions per capita in Canada, mainly because of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases emitting from the industry.
The Kyoto Accord is an international treaty among signatory countries to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by their industries if their neighboring countries do likewise (Green 2003). At present, the Treaty requires a 6% reduction from Canada and 5% from the U.S.A. Why is the Kyoto Treaty important? Greenhouse gas levels, carbon dioxide in particular, began to rise sharply at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. These gases collected from burning the oil, coal and forests and which have rise to such high levels throughout the many years, are trapped in the atmosphere, and this condition is known as global warming (Green).
Global warming has disturbed nature at an alarming rate and ways. It has already reduced the depth of winter polar ice cap since the 1970s by 40% (Green), which threatens to render polar bears to become extinct if the condition continues. Almost all glaciers are fast retreating, and this accelerates the heating effect. With more heat, there is more energy in the atmosphere, and, therefore, more bad weather. More heat will also redistribute rains. There have been many disasters throughout the world due to inclement weather. Droughts are another consequence of disturbed weather, and droughts have occurred in Canada. Monsoon rains, on which depends Asian agriculture, no longer come regularly because of this imbalance. There have also been mass extinctions of species as high as 70% of all species.
Having more heat in the atmosphere will not be good for cold countries. If the heat remains, air conditioners must be run throughout the year. When this happens, electricity bills will go up. Water will also evaporate more quickly. Additional rains will come upon some areas while drought will occur in others. In places where droughts happen, tap water will have to be delivered and this requires higher water bills. And because farmers will need a lot of water for irrigation, food costs will rise steeply.
Tap water in Alberta comes from glacier melt water (Green), but with global warming, there will be summer water shortages. Already, grand fir trees were lost to heat and drought in last year’s summer. Cutting and replacing them with heat-and-drought-tolerant species will take an entire generation to grow.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein organized a task force to examine the grounds of the ratification of the Kyoto Treaty (Reuters). Initially, Canadians were split on whether Canada should split from the Accord and develop an indigenous “Made in Canada” plan, according to a poll in November last year. The majority in Manitoba in the West believed that the federal government should withdraw; the majority in Ontario in the East and Quebec wanted it to ratify the protocol. The majority of Alberta expectedly wanted a withdrawal. But the Ipsos-Reid/CTV/Globe and Mail poll found that 74% of Canadians voted for the implementation of the Accord, clarifying that the government should spend more time investigating the time and expense involved in it. Strongest support for the Treaty came from Quebec. More than half felt that the Treaty should be supported despite the costs it would entail. There remained an opinion that an alternative to the Treaty should be developed (CTV), mostly in Alberta, Premier Klein’s task force in particular, which deplored that the Accord would cost the province as much as $1 billion a year to implement. The poll came out of the announcement made by Prime Minister Jean Chretien that the federal government would ratify the Treaty that year. Alberta, through Premier Klein, vigorously opposed it, saying that it would lose hundreds of thousands of jobs and increase electricity bills.
He argued that if emissions would be reduced, less oil would be consumed, and therefore Alberta would make less money on oil. For the sake of Alberta’s economy, he wanted the Kyoto Treaty dropped.
The poll was conducted between October 1 and 3 last year among randomly select samples of 1,000 adult Canadians. In December last year, Prime Minister Chretien officially signed the Kyoto Accord and had the ratification instrument brought by his Minister of the Environment, David Anderson, to the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA. This official act made Canada the 98th country to ratify the Treaty (Paraskevas 2002).
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that his government and large industrial emitters were not too far from an agreement. He saw the problem getting solved in a 10-year period, with the Accord requiring adjustments from all the sectors of Canadian society. Despite differences in domestic opinion on the Treaty, he said that the provinces must play a role along with the federal government and the private sector. He stressed that things must change, because climate change is an extremely important problem. The majority’s ratification was his mandate that he obeyed by signing the Treaty.
A major study recently undertaken was published and its findings bore evidence that major rivers were sending more water into the Arctic Ocean. Those who conducted the study believed that these heavier flows were caused by global warming, which can cause ocean currents to push warm water from the tropics to slow down or even stop by the end of this century (Paraskevas). Among the consequences can be more and stronger storms in the country and a lower temperature in the eastern part.
Despite the official signing of the Treaty, its opponents continued warning that it would be disastrous to the economy of oil-rich Alberta and stall the country’s own competitiveness in achieving economic targets. They bewailed that it demanded a whole change of life from the people, with the Canadian Alliance environment critic Bob Mills, commenting that “it’s one of the worst things that a government has done to its people for a long time.” But Environment Minister Anderson said that the Canadian people had already become involved in coming up with ways of helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Paraskevas),
Who are to blame for global warming? American lobbyists were quick to point the bad finger at India and China. But the truth is that the United States produces more carbon dioxide than the rest of the world combined.
If all the world immediately reduced gas emissions to zero, the gases already accumulated in the long past would still retain global warming. The 6% agreed reduction is only a small start, which will not be enough to correct the problem that has already evolved. But we have to start somewhere. The worst polluters in the world are the most industrialized, such as the U.S. And Canada, and they have the most to sacrifice.
To re-emphasize, Canada is committed under the Kyoto Agreement to reduce emission levels to 6% below that set in 1990, which is 20% below the 2002 level. This will be 35% below the projected 2010 levels while conducting business. Anti-Kyoto factions should consider the rewards of the Treaty in the overall context. The feared negative economic drawbacks of the 6% reduction would become negligible in the face of the projected positive economic aspects of the clean-up, which would offset these drawbacks (Green). Economic factors, such as interest rates, exchange rates, wards, unrest and tariffs, would dwarf or nullify perceived deleterious effects of Kyoto.
At present, there exists technology that can cut the energy consumption of home appliances – like refrigerators and washing machines – into half. They only need to be gradually phased in. There are already high-efficiency automobiles, which only require incentives for manufacturers. There are is a vast area of 100 by 100 miles in New Mexico, covered with solar panels, for all the energy needs of the U.S.A. Only a very few new and clean energy plants should be built to meet the 6% Kyoto target.
Among the countries that have ratified the Kyoto Treaty are the 15 member-states of the European Union, the Czech Republic, Norway and Romania, Japan, Russia, China, India, and New Zealand. The U.S. wanted India and China to sign first and they have. Part of the agreement was for the U.S.A. And Canada to develop the high technology required and then field-tested, to sell to India and China.
Premier Klein should have thought about the problem backwards. He should have thought of reducing emissions by using more efficient cars and machines that will use less oil. Oil reserves, then, will last longer, which, therefore, means that oil producers can continue to make money for longer periods. Alberta’s oil companies can still raise oil prices because their customers will have more money because they would be using more efficient vehicles. That will not cost more to produce oil than at present. Hence, the oil producer could and would realize more earnings for the same amount of oil in his reserves (Green).
It is fortunate that the majority of scientists in the world have joined the movement towards cleaning up the atmosphere, although once in a while, a few turn shortsighted or are bribed to try to mislead the public. This happened when industry yelled at restrictions to acid rain, but it was later discovered that acid captured in the smokestacks more than compensated for the cost of the equipment that would collect it. The pattern happened in Alberta. In each case, capturing and reusing a pollutant, or avoiding it, always turns out to be unexpectedly beneficial. It only points to the fact that politicians do not all understand the science needed to deal with a solid reality like global warming.
What happens to lost business opportunities in Alberta because of the Kyoto Accord? If vehicles used are more fuel efficient, oil companies can charge the same as they do now, but with less oil used. Profits will still increase and reserves will last longer. Alberta oil companies should not lobby or mourn over fuel-inefficient vehicles. They should consider other business that can profit from Kyoto and realize that the more efficient use of energy always results in higher profit in the long run. This is because energy costs are reduced. As oil reserves are used, the prices of oil will go up, according to the law of supply and demand. With or without global warming, there will be a change for energy-efficient machines and vehicles.
The issue to decide is whether Canadians (or any other society) would want to provide or just the buyers of high-efficiency, low-emission technology. The sooner they develop the new technology, the likelier will they become the providers of the technology to the world. As it is, Japan government and Sharp are tiling the roofs of Japan with solar panels in attempting a solution to the energy problem at less than $1 per watt. This is cheaper than hydroelectric or coal/oil-fired electricity. This trend indicates that Japan will dominate the world energy market.
As already mentioned, Kyoto is only a start. Most people fear that cleaning up will be a costly act, but oftentimes, results disprove the fear. There are now very powerful techniques that can triple or even quadruple energy and water efficiency in most building. And with all the potential for energy saving, protecting the world’s climate cannot at all be considered costly but, in fact and ultimately, profitable and necessary. Let us ponder over these words by R. Buckminster Fuller:
Pollution is nothing, but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” xx
Brown, Jim. 2003: Canada’s Chretien Downplays Kyoto Economic Impact. CNEWS. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2003/10/20/23/511-cp.html
CBCNews, 2002: Consumers Will Feel Pinch of Kyoto, Say Opponents. CBC. http://www/cbc/ca/stories/stories/2002/09/03/ab_kyoto020903
CTV News Staff. 2003:Three-quarters of Canadians Support Kyoto: Poll. CTV.ca. http://www/ctv/ca/servlit/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/10340/4051181_29423251/:hub=Canada
Government of Alberta. 2002: Canadians Divided on Kyoto Ratification. http://www.gov.ab.ca/home/index.cfm”Page=332.
2003: About Alberta. Statistics Canada. http://www.ab.ca/home/Index.cfm”Page=2
Green, Roedy. 2003: Kyoto Accord. Canadian Mind Products. http://mindprod.com/kyoto.html
McMaster, George. 2002: The Kyoto Accord: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire. Express News, University of Alberta. http://www.expressnews.ualerta.ca/expressnews/articles/ideas.cfm?p_ID=2480&5=a
Orrick, Bob. Assisted Suicide, Marijuana and Kyoto Accord. Canadian Senior Years. http://www.senioryears.com/index.html
Paraskevas, Joe.. 2002:Chetien Signs Kyoto Agreement. Calgary Herald. http://www.canada.com/national/features/kyoto/story.html
Reuters. 2992: Canada Alberta Province. Reuters News Service. http://www.planetark.com/avanto/dailynewsstory.com.cfm?newid=17908
Schnee, Paul and Brett Hudson. 2001:Climate Change and the Kyoto Accord, a Resolution. http://www/apha/ab/ca/Resolutions/res02-6.htm
Schneider, Walter H. 2002: Economic Harm for Nothing. Edmonton Journal. http://www.fathersforlife.org/articles/gunter/kyoto=1.htm
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