By Philip Cross, August 2, 2022
The CBC continues to fulfill its self-assigned mandate of providing a welcoming platform for left-wing views and projects. Rob Smith, a former Statcan colleague of mine as Director of Environmental Statistics, was given a free ride on last week’s edition of CBC Radio One’s “What On Earth” while arguing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data should be published more frequently than once a year, just as economic statistics for inflation, unemployment and GDP appear monthly or quarterly.
There are several things wrong with this argument. To start with, long-run trends in GHG emissions are all that matter. Sub-annual fluctuations mostly reflect unusual weather or economic shocks such as the pandemic’s onset in 2020, not the structural shift of our society to a less carbon-intensive footing. Global emission targets are made on an annual basis and projected decades into the future for good reason.
Conversely, short-term fluctuations in the economy are important for investors and policy-makers. Not quite real-time data on the economic collapse in the spring of 2020 helped inform policy decisions, as did monthly data on the recent surge in inflation. Policy-makers have the tools to change short-term economic outcomes and should not wait quarters or years to know what is happening to the economy. On the other hand, structural shifts in emissions take a long time to develop and they’re all the matters for climate change policy.