How much is moral leadership worth?
We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that the price tag will be steep. Justin Trudeau’s new climate deal with the provinces will cost Canadians many, many billions, maybe more. Some will come directly from our pockets in the form of carbon taxes. Some of it will disappear by stealth, swallowed up in complicated cap-and-trade schemes, infrastructure investments, clean-tech subsidies and a whole thicket of new building codes and regulations. No cost-benefit analysis has been provided, or ever will be, because too much is subject to negotiation, and too much is impossible to measure even if you tried.
Mr. Trudeau is not a man to set his sights too low. His goal is to fundamentally change the way Canada produces and consumes energy. But his climate deal is not so much a master plan as a dog’s breakfast. The only thing we know for sure is that even if Canada were to miraculously achieve its 2030 target for reductions in carbon emissions, the net impact on global warming would be zero. Sadly, we just don’t count. If the coastal populations of the world are destined to drown in iceberg melt, they will anyway.
I know it’s cruel and insensitive to say these things. It’s like telling your five-year-old that there’s no Santa Claus. So I’m sorry. But the age of climate realism is at hand. Donald Trump is ascending to the White House, which means the age of climate idealism is dead. The news seems not to have arrived in Ottawa, where Mr. Trudeau seems to believe that he can single-handedly rescue the Paris Accord and persuade the rest of the world to do the right thing.
So what can we expect? First, we’ll have a federal carbon tax. Carbon taxes are allegedly efficient, transparent and easy to understand. But this is Canada, so good luck with that. In fact, every province will have a carbon tax equivalent that it will have to hammer out with the feds. Some provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, won’t have a carbon tax at all.
They’ll have a cap-and-trade scheme, which is basically a black box into which tax dollars disappear. Ontario will collect $8-billion in cap-and-trade revenues over the next few years, mostly by charging more for gas and home heating. But greenhouse gas emissions will barely budge because Ontario will probably wind up buying carbon credits from California. Got it?