Saturday, October 26, 2019

Voters Opt for Status Quo on the Climate Crisis

Climate crisis, what climate crisis?  Voters went to the ballot box on Monday and opted for more of the same, returning Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to government – albeit in a minority form.  Job one now, according to the Prime Minister, will be to hustle along the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

It is true that by keeping the reigns of power out of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s hands, a moderate victory for the climate was achieved.  Scheer had promised to act quickly to kill the carbon tax – one of the most important tools in the toolbox to help reduce emissions.  With experts concluding that the Conservative plan would have led to more emissions, not fewer, it was pretty obvious to voters that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s characterization of Scheer as “Mr. Deny” was apt. 
Mr. Deny and Mr. Delay

But Monday’s ballot box victory for climate change is about to be completely wiped out by Prime Minister “Delay”. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, if completed, will lock in decades worth of tar sands production.  It was former Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s plan to almost double tar sands output by 2030, using new pipeline capacity to move bitumen to markets.  

What would a doubling of the tar sands mean for Canada?  Prime Minister Trudeau has long claimed that the Trans Mountain project is in Canada’s interest.  He couldn’t be more wrong.

What is in Canada’s interest is getting serious about the climate emergency.  This isn’t an environmental issue.  It’s a clear and present threat to our global economy, to world peace, and to human rights.  A planet warmed by an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be a much different place than the one we inhabit now. With more floods, forest fires and droughts in the areas that grow our food, we can expect significant numbers of people to be displaced, resource wars, economic collapse and chaos.  Climate refugees are already on the move – and anyone who thinks they won’t be coming to Canada needs to think again.  

This isn’t hyperbole.  Children marching in the streets understand this. They know hundreds of millions are likely to die. They’re begging the adults to use the science to inform their actions.  They are telling us in clear terms that by ignoring this peril, we are putting their future at risk. But we adults aren’t listening.  The kids can’t vote, after all.

By opting to return the status quo to power, Canada has decided to once again put off taking any serious action to reduce emissions.  Trudeau might have claimed that his Party’s plan will achieve our Paris targets, but reports published by Environment and Climate Change Canada – an agency of his own government – tell the real story: we won’t even get two thirds of the way there (see: “Trudeau's claim that Canada is 'on track' to meet 2030 climate target is misleading,” CBC, September 25, 2019). That’s not climate leadership. It’s what we call in polite company “pretending”.

Some have suggested that the Liberals plan strikes the right balance for the political environment.  Those who make this argument – many of whom are in the media – clearly fail to understand what the climate crisis actually represents to the real world, rather than to the world of politics. 

The reality is, we either slow down global heating, or we don’t.  We either hold warming at 1.5 C or we risk triggering runaway heating events, like the massive release or arctic methane from melting permafrost.

The only acceptable political choice to make in this climate emergency is the one that is also moral and just to future generations: stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines, and wind down the production of fossil fuels.  That choice, however, was not on offer from either Mr. Deny or Mr. Delay.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Originally published online and in print as, "May: Canadians opt for status quo on the climate crisis," at the Sudbury Star, Saturday October 26, 2019 - without hyperlinks.

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