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Letter to the Editor: Tax dollars for climate change mitigation vs. more affordable housing — which is best?

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On February 22, REM published a well-researched and well-argued article about the public outcry against ever-increasing property taxes.

One small, innocuous phrase that says so much caught my attention: The Montreal mayor was quoted as stating we are facing “unprecedented challenges” around inflation, housing and climate change.

While most of the problems around inflation and housing were actually caused by governments, I want to challenge the assertion that we’re facing an unprecedented challenge around climate change.


Is climate mitigation investment worth taking money from more affordable housing?


Spending our tax dollars on climate mitigation is very expensive and causes more tax increases, but this will have (and is already having) a more significant effect on our economies.

Is the investment in climate mitigation worth the huge amounts of our tax dollars, especially given that there are no win-win solutions?


There is no climate emergency: Making housing more affordable is a better use of our tax dollars


It takes money away from somewhere else, and I believe somewhere else — making housing more affordable — is a better use of our tax dollars.

I decided a year and a half ago that climate was important enough to study in-depth. I can’t go into detail in a letter of this length, but I can say that all my claims are easily verifiable. Climate is a very complex system and I can only scratch the surface.

There is no argument against CO2 rising rapidly (currently about 400 ppm). But, there is no climate emergency, there is no scientific consensus and there are no climate “deniers.”


Let’s start with CO2


CO2 has indeed risen quite rapidly in the last 150 years and industrialization is very likely contributing to it, but it is NOT the cause. The earth’s climate changes naturally over several cycles as long as 120,000 years due to variations in the planet’s orbit and spends many years in cooler periods (ice ages) and then shorter periods in warmer interglacials. We happen to be in a peak interglacial right now (yay).

What happens during these peaks? CO2 and temperature rise rapidly, which have been much higher than now (about as high as 1,000 ppm) and likely will be again. One day, though, Canada will be under a mile of ice again and there is nothing anyone can do about it. 


Between new technologies and population decline, CO2 will come down


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), of the United Nations, came up with several scenarios to determine what will happen under various CO2 emission models. They recently dismissed their worst-case scenario (the one all the end-of-the-world predictions are based on) as highly unlikely, and I believe they’re considering removing the second worst-case scenario, too.

It turns out Western nations’ carbon emissions have been declining for a couple of decades. Nations like China and India are major contributors, firing up new coal-powered plants every week. The IPCC’s worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 18 inches by 2100. Plus, the world’s population is predicted to peak within 50 years and then decline. Between new technologies and population decline, CO2 will come down.


Consensus: Foreign to science


It also turns out there is no scientific consensus. Consensus is not even a concept in the world of science.

“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”


– Albert Einstein

The whole purpose of science is to question assertions, and consensus is foreign to the endeavour. The 97 per cent consensus position was first put forward by John Cook, from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, who reviewed hundreds of papers, and it has been vigorously challenged. Another scientist reviewed the same papers and found something like a 5 per cent consensus. 


Yes, CO2 is increasing — but it’s about the level of concern


Last year, the CLINTEL (Climate Intelligence) research foundation produced a climate declaration challenging the “consensus” and so far over 1,900 scientists and professionals have signed on, including a Nobel Prize winner.

This brings us to the “deniers”, an embarrassing argument for any scientist to make. This is called arguing against the person and is widely recognized as no argument.

No serious scientists deny increasing CO2, but many question the level of concern.

Remember the argument that increasing CO2 will make the world more arid and threaten food production? CO2 is plant food and, drum roll please, an area one to two times the size of the U.S. has greened and food production has increased dramatically.


Investing climate money in housing affordability will dramatically improve the lives of ordinary Canadians


So, with all these factors to consider, is climate change a wise use of our property (or other) tax dollars? I say no, certainly not yet. Bjorn Lomborg eloquently laid out the details of climate and the consequences of mitigation. The more we spend on climate, the less we can spend on roads, bridges, schools, medicine and housing.

Canada contributes 1.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our efforts will have zero impact on climate but will result (and already are) in economic disaster. Investing that money in housing affordability instead will dramatically improve the lives of ordinary Canadians. On top of this, research finds that the better off people are economically, the more they are amenable to saving the planet.*


*For example, a UN survey found poorer nations ranked climate their last priority, with things like better healthcare and better job opportunities coming higher. A 2030 version of this survey is currently underway.


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