Paralysis by analysis

David Anderson, our federal Minister for the Environment, spoke to CBC Radio host John Lacharity this morning (Tuesday August 6) on the topic of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming.

During the interview, Minister Anderson used the phrase “paralysis by analysis.” This is as apt a moniker as there could possibly be to describe the seemingly eternal studies on whether or not global warming exists, etc., that successfully delay acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol.

If you’re wondering exactly what the Kyoto Protocol is all about, go to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, found at this website:

Here you can browse the latest information about this UN Protocol. As well, you’ll discover it’s history:

“The text of the Convention was adopted at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on the 9 May 1992; it was open for signature at the Rio de Janeiro from 4 to 14 June 1992, and thereafter at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, from 20 June 1992 to 19 June 1993. By that date the Convention had received 166 signatures. The Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994. Those States that have not signed the Convention may accede to it at any time.”

As a reminder about exactly what global warming is, an succinct review is found at the Government of Canada website (

“Climate change is a change in the “average weather” that a given region experiences. Average weather includes all the features we associate with the weather such as temperature, wind patterns and precipitation. When we speak of climate change on a global scale, we are referring to changes in the climate of the Earth as a whole. The rate and magnitude of global climate changes over the long term have many implications for natural ecosystems.”

The “greenhouse effect” is central to climate change and again, for review, this website assists us.

“A natural system known as the “greenhouse effect” regulates the temperature on earth. Human activities have the potential to disrupt the balance of this system. As human societies adopt increasingly sophisticated and mechanized lifestyles, the amounts of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have been increased. By increasing the amount of these gases, humankind has enhanced the warming capability of the natural greenhouse effect. It is the human-induced enhanced greenhouse effect that causes environmental concern. It has the potential to warm the planet at a rate that has never been experienced in human history.”

The trend to higher net global temperatures has been proven by scientists working all over the globe who have documented warming and cooling cycles. In fact, figures demonstrate that the last two decades (1980s and 1990s) were the warmest on record. Other factoids on this website indicate that “the 10 warmest years in global meteorological history have all occurred in the past 15 years” and “the 20th century has been the warmest globally in the last 600 years.”

If global temperatures do rise from 1 to 3.5 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years, does it matter to us here in Canada? Yes: this translates into a rise of “annual mean temperatures in some regions of between 5 and 10 degrees.”

Think about how this would affect us here in the Pontiac, where agriculture and forestry remain mainstays of our economy.

We only have to look at southern Alberta and Saskatchewan this summer for indications of how temperature affects farmers. Drought. Freezing temperatures. Both situations have decimated crop yields and as we know, Pontiac farmers are going to be sending hay out to Alberta, so that livestock there can be fed.

And this is what Minister Anderson commented upon on Tuesday morning. He noted that we need look no further than Alberta’s crisis in hay production for why Canada needs to have a cohesive plan on how to address global warming. Ironically, Alberta’s Premier Klein disagrees, suggesting that his province’s oil and gas industry will suffer irreperably if global warming checks and balances are adopted.

Minister Anderson doesn’t want the federal government to act unilaterally and impose sanctions. He wants any plan to have the commitment of the provinces. He’ll only get that if all partners – federal and provincial ministers – can agree to a workable plan.

Let’s all hope a plan is forthcoming, and that Canada doesn’t continue to suffer paralysis from analysis.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based in Quyon.