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OPINION: Hey deniers, why are you against clean air?

The story of our newly elected prime minister signing the new Paris climate treaty at the UN popped up in my Facebook feed recently. Ever since the change on Facebook that allows users to react in ways other than just clicking "like," people have been able to choose a range of emotional responses to a post including one called "angry." Angry even comes complete with a nasty-looking red emoji. A few minutes after the post had been up, five people had already clicked this. Feeling particularly brave, I began wading through the comments.

I was struck by how there are still people out there who are not convinced about climate change or that we should be doing anything to try and help ourselves through what is going to be a very trying time in the coming years. The science is pretty clear that our carbon emissions are changing the planet we live on, but there are still those who refuse to acknowledge this. I'm also struck by how those same people seem to care so little about the crap being pumped into our air every single day.

So to climate change deniers, I have to ask the question: If you aren't convinced climate change is a real thing, do you at least breathe air? Is there any reason that you can think of that we should allow companies (or private citizens for that matter) to just burn whatever they want and throw that smoke and other particulate matter into the air that we all have to breathe?

To these climate change deniers, I also have to ask: Do you believe that breathing all of this in is healthy? Why would you be opposed to any action to try and clean up our air? Are you perhaps in the air selling business? Are you hoping to corner the market on purified air?

Many of these people who are opposed to carbon pricing are the same people who claim to be against government subsidies for businesses. Allowing a company to dump whatever they want into the air, or permitting a company to sell us a vehicle that pollutes our air for less money than a version that doesn't, is a subsidy. We all subsidize these companies when we tell them it's OK and we pay for the subsidy through damages to our environment and to our health.

Carbon pricing begins to change the conversation. It establishes a cost on the subsidy we've given away for so long and it's a subsidy that quite frankly we can't afford anymore. It puts a price on how much you emit and makes you pay the cost. While we don't really know what that true cost is, we need to start somewhere. We need to give ourselves and industry time to adapt to these new realities, and phasing in carbon pricing seems to make the most sense to me.

Driving a car powered by something other than gasoline, or taking a train to Toronto instead of driving and paying $20 to park when you commute or go to see a show, is not going to change your life so drastically that you should be this hostile toward it. I love my car, I love driving, and when this car is at the end of its life, I'll probably replace it with something electric. I'm not going to stop driving, and no one is asking you to. But we are asking you if you wouldn't mind not polluting so much when you do. After all, the air we breathe belongs to all of us.

Hamilton Spectator

Howard Rabb is a local entrepreneur and former special assistant to Coun. Terry Whitehead.


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