Globe & Mail & Lawyers

My search for that rarest of commodities, reliable reportage on the climate issue and the Copenhagen summit, lead me to The Globe & Mail and an article headlined Facts and Fiction on Climate Change. Good stuff, or a good start anyway.

But it included a dozen or so comments from climate change deniers of one stripe or another (there seem to be several). I wanted to post my own reasonable reasons for pursuing a strong carbon treaty, so i decided to create an account.

Simple enough: name, email, password, postal code. Oh, and the check box beside the little sentence that reads “Yes, I have read, understand and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.”

I know most people just click the little box and get on with it, but like to know what i’m agreeing to. So i clicked the Privacy Policy link, only to find a page easily twenty screens long — the longest by far i’ve ever seen. In fact, i just pasted it into a blank OpenOffice text document to do a word count, and it weighs in at 4,528 words — a respectable short story (written in boring legalese).

The Terms and Conditions? Even longer: 5,654 words, 27 sections, and a whopping 15 pages as cut-and-pasted into a blank text document.

If newspapers are wondering why they’re having difficulty attracting and holding readers, this might offer one tiny clue.I mean, i like thoroughness, but if i can buy a newspaper with $1.25 why do i have do sign a contract to read it on-line?

The Privacy Policy page had a form at the bottom for “Privacy Inquiry.” I submitted this:

I just started to register for your site, but thought i’d better check out your privacy policy and terms & conditions.

The former is about twenty screens long, and the latter is longer still.

If you cannot do better than making me read half an hour of legalese to sign up with your site, i’ll have to go elsewhere.

Put the lawyers out to pasture and get some real people on the job. I’d love to read and interact with and support the G&M, but this makes it impossible.

Cheers,

~greg

The Munk-eys debate

Hah! Did you watch the Munk debate on climate change last Tuesday (viewable online at the link, i think)?

George Monbiot, journalist, and the Green Party‘s Elizabeth May versus Bjorn Lomborg, environmental skeptic, and Lord Nigel Lawson, former financial journalist and ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, two high-profile deniers. Most instructive.

I’d say Bjorn pretty much won, by cleverly steering its focus to the word “defining” in the (poorly framed) question under debate: “Be it resolved climate change is mankind’s defining crisis, and demands a commensurate response“. He argued that there are other serious crises that deserve the world’s attention too, which the pro side could hardly disagree with. So the whole thing devolved into a wrangle about that.

Surprisingly, neither “denier” actually tried to deny that climate change is upon us; rather, they (Bjorn in particular) openly acknowledged that the climate is changing. So apparently that point is now conceded, and we now need a different word for that camp. In their eyes the wrangle is now about where we direct our effort — meaning, of course, money, which seems now to have entirely eclipsed principle, moral duty or anything else not readily summed up in billions, as the basis for our decision-making.

They say we should spend our money and effort (and money, did i mention money? They sure did, over and over) not on retooling our energy system to keep CO2 levels from increasing in the atmosphere. Instead, we should spend it in ways that will save lives now — on things like HIV/AIDS and malaria and making starving, isolated African tribes wealthy. (Bjorn’s example, not mine.) Because that will save more lives in the short run. And besides, it’s evident that we here in the West will not suffer too badly from climate change, insulated as we are by our wealth (and geography). So the same reasoning (except maybe for the geography part) should apply to the tropical world that will bear the brunt of climate change effects in the next century.

Exactly how this applies to the Maldives, for example — which are forecast to be entirely underwater sometime during this century — was not clear. Maybe everybody there will be rich enough to own a yacht. As for the millions we save now from disease, well, let’s hope they can all eat “the sand which is there” when their agricultural lands desertify. Ha ha, i kill me.

Pundits to the left of them,
Zealots to the right of them …
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six billion.

(With apologies to Alfred Tennyson.
And the whole ecosphere.)

Maggie says

Here are a few nuggets from the celebrated Margaret Atwood, who read in Tofino last Saturday from her new dystopic book, Year of the Flood. Still a lively and witty lady, and it was a good West Coast crowd that gathered to see her.

What most impressed me, though, was the co-reading given by her partner Graeme Gibson from his book, The Bedside Book of Beasts. What sounds from the title like a whimsical tour of the animal kingdom (real or imaginary) — and looks, at first blush, like a picture book of animals through the ages — is actually a meaty read, full of surprising thoughts and connections. There’s some deep thinking in it about the human characterizations of animals, and what that says about us. I came away wanting to buy a copy.

From my random, chicken-scratch notes of the evening:

Graeme:

Tree-hugger? Why not a tree-lover?!

Quoting someone: “The whole of Nature is a conjugation of the verb ‘to eat,’ in the active and the passive.”

“Forest bathing” (a.k.a. walking in the woods) … Nature Deficit Disorder…. Some interesting revelations about how time spent in wilderness eases behavioural disorders. People heal faster when they have a scenic view — even just a painting — as opposed to a relentless cityscape.

If you don’t have predators, you don’t have a forest. The predator-prey relationship informs everything about the forest.

Humans domesticate any number of other species, but we ourselves are the only evolved domesticate.

Some of Graeme’s recommended books: Thinking Like a Mountain (Otto Leopold); Last Child in the Woods (author?); Rogue Primate (John Livingston)

Maggs:

This is a book, and these are its covers. The advantage of a book is that you can close the covers and what’s in the book stays in the book. The job of everyone here today is to make sure what’s in the book doesn’t get out of the book.

Ecology as potential religion…? It’s here. Check out The Green Bible.

Once everything is owned by governments and corporations, there will be no neutral third party left to say “No, you aren’t allowed to do that.”

Do I have hope? Hope is built-in. Back in the paleolithic, if you were too bummed out to get out of bed in the morning to find something to eat, you weren’t around for long. We are evolved to hope.

Writing a book is a hopeful thing to do, in and of itself. You hope that you’ll finish it. You hope someone will publish it. You hope it will find readers, and you hope they’ll like it.

I want everyone here to make a pledge today. Coffee is the second most traded commodity worldwide, after oil. It has a huge impact. If you’re only going to do one thing, I want you to pledge that you’ll only drink shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee from now on.

I’m about a third of the way through Year of the Flood. Tain’t timeless lit’ra’chure, but it’s interesting.

True North censured over climate stalling

Here’s a serious piece of leverage against Canada’s stalling and obstructing on climate change (emphases mine). If i were Stephen Harper i’d be in a bit of a sweat right now. Not only do three-quarters of Canada’s population poll as being embarrassed over his stalling on climate action, but this new censure adds potential economic teeth to the consequences of his government’s inaction — something the PM will understand.

So it seems he now will be personally attending the Copenhagen conference — at which both Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao will now be present. (I read that Jintao has pledged to cut Chinese carbon intensity almost in half.)

Poor Stephen. Think i’ll give him a call tomorrow to urge him to save his own ass. Not to mention the rest of ours, here on Planet Earth.

Scientists target Canada over climate change

Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.
The coalition’s demand came before this weekend’s Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad and Tobago, at which global warming will top the agenda, and next month’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Despite criticism of Canada’s environmental policies, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, is to attend the Copenhagen summit. His spokesman said today: “We will be attending the Copenhagen meeting … a critical mass of world leaders will be attending.”
Canada’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the world’s highest and it will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target. It is exploiting its vast tar sands reserves to produce oil, a process said to cause at least three times the emissions of conventional oil extraction.
The coalition claims Canada is contributing to droughts, floods and sea level rises in Commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and Mozambique. Clare Short, the former international development secretary, said: “Countries that fail to help [tackle global warming] should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights.”

Full article at the excellent Guardian.

Oh, well that’s okay then

bangheadRecently received from the federal Liberal party (info@liberal.ca), in response to my email berating the party for not supporting the NDP’s bill C-311.

Dear Greg:

I would like to acknowledge receipt of your recent e-mail regarding Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

As this is a Private Member’s Bill it was a free vote for all members of the Liberal Caucus.  Those Liberals who voted for the motion did not vote against Bill C-311, but rather voted for a 30 day extension of hearings at the Environment Committee.  We continue to support Bill C-311 in principle but wish to examine it further in Committee to ensure that Canada actually achieves greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.  Currently, Bill C-311 only focuses on emissions targets but has no mechanisms to achieve them.

The Liberal Party remains focused on actual ways to reduce GHGs.  That is why we have committed to the largest investment in clean energy Canada has ever seen.  We are also working with ENGO’s, to implement a strong cap-and-trade system with hard caps, with no loopholes, that will actually achieve real reductions.

The Liberal Party is committed to an ambitious result from Copenhagen, unlike the Reform-Conservatives whose sole objective is to sabotage international progress in the fight against climate change.  However, it is clear that no progress will ever be achieved so long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Sarah Cloutier-Powell

Correspondence Officer/Agent de correspondance
Liberal Party of Canada/Parti libéral du Canada
Telephone/Téléphone: (613) 237-0740
Fax/Télécopieur: (613) 235-7208