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Christopher Flavelle

A Climate-Change Conundrum

Canadians want to reduce emissions, but not enough to do anything about it.
On one hand ... and on the other hand ...

On one hand ... and on the other hand ...

Photographer: Ben Stansall/Getty Images

Last week's announcement that Canada won't match U.S. emission-reduction targets offers a fresh look at Canadians' enduring bipolarity on climate change: They're far more likely than Americans to say the problem is real, yet keep voting for a government that does nothing about it. Therein lies a cautionary tale for the rest of the world.

In a narrow sense, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement marks a reversal. He has long used the absence of a U.S. climate policy to justify his government's failure to introduce oil and gas regulations he first promised almost a decade ago, on the logic that the two countries are too economically integrated to pursue different approaches. Now that U.S. President Barack Obama has set an official target -- a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 -- Harper is saying the American policy is too aggressive to match.