Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Economics and quality of life: beyond ideology

We live in a market economy where spending is an essential feature of our lives and buying "stuff" is an economic indicator which measures progress. But it does not take into account happiness, respect, environmental degradation and poor air quality --just to name a few examples. As such, a team of experts in the United States and France are now working to examine how to expand the GDP concept to calculate these other important indicators. A few months, the International Herald Tribune published an article on this issue. A similar article also appeared in The Times of India. The European Commission, in partnership with its' Directortate-General of the Environment and Statistics, have launched an initiative called Beyond GDP. Having worked in Europe for over ten years, it is obvious that the European continent is light years ahead of North America, and Canada in particular, when it comes to environmental well-being.

If we examine this closer and ask why this is the case, the answer is that in Europe, climate change and environmental issues are not divided along ideology. In North America, climate change is an ideological issue where the right believe that environmental protection equates to increased regulation and government intervention. Furthermore, it is their belief that these concepts are being pushed by the Left/ liberals and therefore have launched a series of campaigns to confuse people on climate change. This is starting to change as people are not only understanding more and more the science, but are also actually seeing the changes occurring in their physical environment. As a result, 85% of Americans now agree that global warming is a problem.

In Europe, the right (Conservatives in the UK, Christian Democrats in Germany) recognize that these are issues to tackle and the sooner, the better. Angela Merkl, the German Chancellor, has aPhD in theoretical physics (therefore understands the science behind climate change) and works closely with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to put in place targets for reducing GHG emissions. The Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research was created by Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives.

Back in Canada, there is a feeling that the Conservatives want to use climate change more as a political and military instrument. The rise of Arctic sovereignty issues, as seen during 2007, was a result of the Russians planting a flag on the Arctic seabed. The Danes and the Americans are also getting excited over the Arctic because there is no legal agreement on who owns this territory and hence the natural gas and oil resources which can become more accessible as glaciers and ice melts.

Canada is going about this issue the wrong way. We need to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels and we need to tackle climate change by addressing the causes and putting a plan together to reduce this dependence.

1 comment:

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