If the protests in Burma have shown anything, it is that people will put up with a great deal until their government increases the price of energy. What is now seen as a protest against years of military dictatorship in Burma was sparked by the removal of subsidies that doubled the price of fuel. Protests against governments that raise fuel prices are not confined to the Burmese—in late summer of 2000, the UK government had to abandon its plans to reduce road traffic pollution by increasing automotive fuel duties when confronted by widespread public opposition.
Protests such as these mean that few politicians will want to pursue policies intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels by increasing energy prices. As a result, climate policies, such as Prime Minster Harper’s “intensity targets”, will probably avoid fuel price protests but will do little to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.
Submitted to Globe and Mail 26 September 2007