The Saskatchewan Government’s “White Paper on Climate Change”

The Government of Saskatchewan released its White Paper on Climate Change a couple of days ago as a response to the Trudeau Government’s imposition of a federal “carbon tax”. I’ve spent the last couple of days since going over the document and now want to comment on what is wrong with Premier Brad Wall’s policy, for it demonstrates the kind of “zombie logic” that we’ve discussed earlier. The White Paper is an example of how NOT to address the problem of climate change and the tough issue of transitional economics.

This morning, columnist Murray Mandryk of the Regina Leader-Post published a critique of the paper, pointing out that the policy does no better in addressing the problem of climate change than does the federal carbon tax (“Wall’s climate plan no better than Trudeau’s carbon tax“).

There are multiple problems with Wall’s White Paper, but the most glaring one is the presumption that the climate crisis is a technical problem moreso than an ethical issue: technics trumps ethics throughout. More than a technical issue that can be resolved through another techno-fix, the issue is the ethos which has resulted in the crisis in the first place. And by “ethos” we mean here the “consciousness structure”. This is essentially the point of Heraclitus’s famous remark that “ethos is fate”. Usually “ethos” is translated as “character”, but it actually implies what we mean by a “consciousness structure”.

The Wall government’s policy emphasis is on “adaptation, resilience, and innovation”. This triad, basically, assumes that the fundamental problem is one of technics. And while these issues of adaptation, resilience, and innovation cannot be ignored, neither can the ethos. It avoids the essential question which got us into this mess in the first place, and in those terms, though it appears like a “transitional” strategy, it’s merely an adaptive one designed to insulate the ideology and economic orthodoxy of market fundamentalism from any serious scrutiny or any real transition at all. And not only that, but recasts climate change crisis as both a “technical” and a “marketing opportunity”, recalling Naomi Klein’s critique in The Shock Doctrine of “disaster capitalism”.

In effect, then, Premier Wall and his government are engaged in a slight-of-hand. The White Paper effectively decouples the issue of climate change from the issue of neo-liberal ideology and the prevailing economic orthodoxy. Economic thinking and climate crisis are treated as two separate issues, befitting an obsolete “either/or” logic, rather than conjoined issues in which, in effect, the environment/climate is forced to take a back seat to ideology – the political and economic orthodoxy of neo-liberalism or “market fundamentalism”.

This is an example of “zombie logic”, and, in fact, the document is riddled with absurdities, such as the claim that Saskatchewan deserves “carbon credits” for exporting its uranium around the world, as this takes 375 million tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere annually that would otherwise be produced by coal generation. Since Saskatchewan generates 75 million tonnes of carbon annually, with this kind of “offset” or carbon credit, Saskatchewan would be classified as a negative emitter, having 300 million tonnes of carbon credit in its account. So we wouldn’t really have to do anything serious about mitigation or transition.

Fortunately, the paper doesn’t push that claim to strenuously. But while the Saskatchewan government insists it will assume responsibility for mitigating its share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it engages just as much in rationalising why it shouldn’t and focusses more on building a firewall around the economy — “adaptation, resilience and innovation” are just a three-prong plan for erecting a firewall around the economy rather than giving any serious consideration to economic transformation or even what we call “soul-searching”, ie, questioning the technocratic ethos.

Certainly, we can acknowledge the predicament and dilemma that many governments now find themselves in. But that doesn’t excuse them from the necessity of examining why we’ve ended up in these predicaments and dilemmas in the first place, and why the “techno-fix” (and, God forbid, even geo-engineering) is not an appropriate response to the predicament and dilemma. It’s the ethos that must be scrutinised.

Another problem with the White Paper is that it involves a potential “moral hazard”, as it is called in economics — in this context, the temptation to appear to be doing something significant without actually doing it at all.




5 responses to “The Saskatchewan Government’s “White Paper on Climate Change””

  1. Scott Preston says :

    There was a pretty interesting article today in, of all places, Vanity Fair about the current “dystopia” we live in as reflected in some TV show called Black Mirror. I don’t own a TV, so I kind of regret not being able to check that out, but it was an interesting article.

    I’m not sure what the title “black mirror” refers to, unless its some kind of reference to dark age.

    • abdulmonem says :

      How Right, It is a problem of ethos not a problem of technology. It is a problem that faces the soul not the needs of serving the bodies only. It is the problem of not recognizing the big picture and get submerged in the limited view of life. When one talks in term of the ethos, every human can participate while technology is a distancing issue that does not rings a bell with everybody. When humanity is being fed with the images of fear without feeling any resistance, but finds itself prone to it ,there is without doubt,something fundamentally wrong. It is a question of truth that needs to be recognized and wake up to. I was reading about Brandolini law that says that negative energy needs a higher order of positive energy to overcome, then I feel frightened to see our world positive energy is on a decline curve, yet I do not loose hope completely when i read your sobering voice in this barren world of ours, calling upon the dormant soul to wake up.. Thank you.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I had to look up Brandolini’s Law, which states, apparently:

        “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it”

        That appears apparently the case, given also what I read today in The Guardian about “the Trumpocene Era”.

        The plague of bullshit seems also to follow from Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society” since society can only exist where people speak the truth to one another, or are at least sincere in their belief that they are speaking the truth. Bullshit is a society wrecker, and is another aspect of nihilism. What else does “post-truth society” point to? In other respects bullshit is just a reflection of the culture of narcissism, and is also a survival issue.

        Anyway, I listened to a response from a dude in Saskatoon from Climate Justice to Wall’s White Paper. Mark Bigland-Pritchard did a pretty fair analysis of the inadequacies of the White Paper, and I post a link to it here because others may find something of value in his critique for their own uses in their own locales….

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Over the ages the humanocene perversion is always behind the destruction of the earth. The story of NOAH which is no longer believed and the following destructive stories which are denied like what we are doing with the climate change and other calamities which are relegated to the realm of the farcical and fabricated fairy tales. It is the faithless ethos with its encroachments on the true and the beautiful in the absence of a strong stand of an aware, effective faithful ethos is behind all the previous destruction and certainly will be behind the coming one. It seems the world is designed to be destroyed as a natural consequence of the human ills. The scriptures are replete with such stories and with future scenes of coming stories, as reminder to the sleeping soul, that it may awake before it is too late. People are busy discussing what is at hand, as if we are going to live for ever, oblivious of the demand of the large picture of time and space and their cyclical events. At the end I like to cite two episodes, the first says Oh human you are at lose, save the one who have faith and do good deed and propagates truth and be patient for its fruition and the second, Oh human watch your quivering earth that has been forced to throw its internal treasures as indication of drawing the curtain on this greedy nihilistic and oppressive humanity.

  3. Andrew says :

    A worthwhile read from Capt. Watson:

    I’ve never been a big fan of his but he echoes my sentiments on this issue precisely. The real hoax in CC is that world leaders are doing anything about it! In fact, they cannot; not under this economic model . The fiat/fractional/debt system would have to be completely dismantled for there to be any economic hope on this issue .

    And really, the way to trump Trump and the greed of the right on this issue is to talk about all pollution and its unacceptability . I don’t know whats going on at 70,000 feet but I know I can’t breath properly because of low level carbon pollution . The streets are filled with garbage; you have a culture of consume and throw away; chemical pollution of all the earths water systems, etc., etc., etc…

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