Cary critiques Wente, in parting

by Milan on December 15, 2010

in Climate change, International relations, The media

The Economist is far from being the only newspaper to consistently print misleading things about climate change. Canada’s Globe and Mail sometimes gives them a run for their money, particularly with columns by Rex Murphy and Margaret Wente.

Anthony Cary – who has spent the past four years as the British High Commissioner to Canada, and is now leaving – responded today to Wente’s recent piece on the Cancun climate change negotiations:

I return to London this week after four years as British High Commissioner. It has been a privilege to serve in this great country.

My one sadness is that, over that period, Canada has still not got to grips with the climate issue. Margaret Wente’s wearily predictable commentary on the outcome of Cancun (Great News from Cancun! – Dec. 14) reminds me of why progress has been so difficult. She is at once illogical (because the goal is “a very long way off,” it is hubristic to begin the journey), unfunnily sarcastic (“King Canute, come on down”) and content to jeer from the sidelines. If, as she predicts, the world will some day be powered by clean energy, that will not come about by accident but because people choose to make it happen.

If Ms. Wente’s goal is to provoke debate, she can feel well pleased with herself. But her satisfaction comes at a heavy price for her country and the world. Each year that we delay the long transition to low carbon, we force up the economic and human cost of it.

It is much appreciated when respected people lend their eloquence and authority to the cause of combatting climate change. It is an issue where weak thinking often prevails in both the media and public debate, and where every convincing corrective has value for all those who will deal with the consequences of our rapidly changing climate.

Unfortunately, it seems most likely that Wente will take the letter as evidence that her thoughts are sufficiently profound to attract the interest of people in high places. In fact, her analysis is so cringe-worthy that I always have to brace myself a little before plunging into her latest column.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrian Mohareb December 15, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Again, I will push a button. While they allow Rex Murphy and Margaret Wente to spew half-truths and outright lies that would make Don Cherry proud (though not blush), they also provide a platform for the excellent work of Jeffrey Simpson, who does understand the gravity of climate change and the measures that are needed to address it.

Adrian Mohareb December 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Mr. Cary’s comment here is also appreciated. It’s quite instructive to see how the UK Government is approaching climate change as well. By no means are they perfect (and no government is on the issue – Sweden, which may be in the lead, still doesn’t even have a feed-in tariff for renewable energy), but they at least talk a decent game.

Milan December 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Jeffrey Simpson does write good stuff. I reviewed his book: Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge..

That said, printing the defensible views of one person isn’t something you need to balance out by printing indefensible views from people like Wente and Murphy. Of course, uninformed opinions might be more useful for selling papers.

. December 15, 2010 at 6:27 pm
James O'Ready December 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Anthony Cary’s non-stop complaining about Canada’s position on climate change was tiresome and predictable. The Brits have a reputation for gossiping about official Ottawa and doing little else. I’m glad he’s gone.

Milan December 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Canada deserves all the bad press it has been getting on climate change, and more. For years, our government has sought to create the impression that something is being done about the problem, while actually doing nothing significant to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are already excessively high.

Canada may have to become an international pariah before the citizens and politicians actually become willing to take action on the scale this problem requires.

. February 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Britain’s new envoy to Canada, Andrew Pocock, is signalling something of a reset in relations on the thorny issue of climate change.

His predecessor, Anthony Cary, was tasked by Britain’s former Labour government with conducting a public diplomacy campaign on climate change, but sometimes ticked off the Conservative government in Ottawa with his calls for Canada to do more. Now Mr. Pocock, who formally took over last Thursday, is striving to set a different tone on the issue, so that it “sheds more light than heat.”

The Trinidadian-born career diplomat has faced real confrontation with his hosts before, as Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe from 2006 to 2009, when President Robert Mugabe rigged two elections and routinely cast the former colonial power as what Mr. Pocock calls “the villain of the piece.”

But now in Ottawa, he hopes to cement a close political alliance in global affairs between Britain and Canada – and to promote Britain’s more active climate-change position without raising hackles.

“That is an agenda I will speak to. But we’ve had a debate on, for instance, oil sands, which, you know, has been a little difficult at times. What we’re doing in London at the moment is thinking through how we keep engaged on that,” he said.

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