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The silent scandal 

Tim Bousquet brings the heat, climate change-style.

Nova Scotia’s scandal du jour demonstrates what journalists can do when they set their minds to it.

The Ernie Fage saga has generated reams of newsprint, hours of videotape and stoked the investigative instincts of Halifax’s finest news gatherers. And all this great journalism was spawned by a sports reporter’s dented fender.

So what do these same press hounds do when the premier and legislature obfuscate, spin and otherwise hide their inaction on an issue of greater import, say, the end of the world as we know it? Not so much, sadly.

The story begins in 2001, when the annual conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers (then-premier John Hamm represented Nova Scotia) adopted a Climate Change Action Plan.

Hamm and the others agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, 10 percent below that by 2020, and a further long-term cut of between 75 and 85 percent.

Those numbers make sense: there is wide scientific agreement that North American GHG emissions must be cut by at least those amounts in order to stabilize overall global warming to two degrees Celsius, the likely “tipping point” past which climate change cascades out of control—in other words, the world as we know it ends.

Last month, five years after the plan was adopted as official Nova Scotia policy, environmentalists from across the region issued the Climate Change Roadmap for New England and Eastern Canada, a remarkable document that shows how stiff GHG targets can be met by 2050 if state and provincial legislators take action.

But beyond paying token lip service to the issue, Nova Scotia has done very little of substance, says Brendan Haley, energy coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.

“The province still doesn’t have a climate change plan, one of the first things the 2001 agreement called for,” he explains.

And, as detailed in the Roadmap, Nova Scotia also hasn’t adopted energy efficiency standards for appliances, hasn’t adopted California-like GHG emission standards on SUVs and light trucks, hasn’t seriously moved on implementing carbon sequestration technology, and has built regulatory roadblocks to using proven wind energy technology. (There’s plenty more—the Roadmap is posted online at:

On Tuesday, the province announced that it will for the first time introduce stiff energy standards in the building code—effective 2011. “Why wait?” asks Haley. “They can do that by next year.”

No surprise, the goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 is simply a joke. We’re three years away, and emissions have increased 16 percent.

It’s too late to meet the 2010 targets, but the Roadmap shows exactly what policies can be adopted in order to get to the long-term GHG goals signed onto by the governments.

“What we’re saying is here’s what can be done now,” says Daniel Sosland of Environment Northeast, the Maine group that sponsored the Roadmap. “Do it now. Let’s stop dodging around the issue.”

But it takes wide popular concern to prod the government to act, and so far the public remains largely uninformed about the particulars of the climate change issue (despite wide interest in the topic). Certainly the average person on the street knows more about Ernie Fage’s booze of choice than, say, the International Energy Conservation Code.

Maybe that’s because local media barely cover the climate change issue—no one from the Chronicle-Herald or the Daily News has contacted Northeast Environment about the Roadmap, says Sosland.

It’d help if the local press covered the provincial government’s inaction on climate change as thoroughly as it covers governmental inaction on a fender-bender.

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