The most dramatic warming of the planet is happening in its coldest regions.
Sixteen years ago, National Geographic was already reporting on alarming changes in Inuit territory. The melting permafrost and warming temperatures were threatening Inuit communities and culture, and damaging the land and wildlife.
"Sea ice is thinning, and disappearing. Indigenous animals are moving farther north. And melting permafrost has loosened the ground enough to weaken foundations and cause homes to lean. This, plus rising sea levels, threatens to displace an entire community," National Geographic reported back then. The article described the Inuit of Nunavik as the "canary in the coal mine of climate change."
Since then, things have only gotten worse. A new study by researchers in the Northwest Territories shows that the melting of Canada's permafrost has accelerated to even more dangerous levels.
“Megaslumps” of carbon-rich mud are choking rivers and lakes and lighting the fuse on a massive carbon bomb, scientists say.
News of the melting permafrost should set off alarm bells in Ottawa and legislatures across the country. Canada's federal and provincial governments have the tools they need to accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy. The Liberals should make use of their valuable majority to take much faster action on creating green jobs and embracing innovative energy solutions.
For inspiration, they can look to a pragmatist, Hassan Yussuf, president of the Canadian Labour Congress. Yussuf's organization has demonstrated that Canada could create a million jobs for Canadian workers while combating climate change.
The labour leader is one of the growing generation of Canadian business and labour leaders recognizing the urgency of transitioning away from a fossil fuel economy. In this era of populist politics and the automation of traditional jobs, Yussuf's plan for a new generation of good jobs is more important than ever.
But, as we know, governments are cumbersome and too often cater to industry instead of their real mandate, which is to serve the public. And, when you think about it, clean energy solutions, the breakthroughs and the innovations, are really subversive to the fossil fuel industry's goals to improve shareholder returns on oil, coal and gas.
National Observer is committed to bringing you the stories of clean energy innovation and reporting on the many inspiring solutions to the climate crisis.
Here in Canada there are positive steps towards a pan-Canadian climate framework, but there isn't much sense of urgency behind Canada's clean energy transition. Our buildings are still heated by natural gas, our vehicles still run on gasoline or diesel.
For the most part, the federal government seems to hope the market will take care of things with a prod from carbon taxes and some investment in electric vehicle charging stations.
It’s a far cry from the progress in leading jurisdictions where governments are actively mandating the switch to clean energy. In the U.S., California simply made it the law that a rising percentage of new car sales have to be zero emission. It’s proven to be one of the most effective policies to combat global warming.
Over in Norway, almost half of the new cars registered last year were electric. Norway's transportation minister says it is "realistic" to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by 2025 — just 8 years from now.
Hassan Yussuf sees no reason why Canada should be left behind in what he calls the “clean growth century.”
“Canada needs to dramatically accelerate the shift to a green economy, and we know it can be done in a way that is economically and socially responsible, without leaving behind workers and their communities,” he says.
The Canadian Labour Congress’ plan, released in 2016, lays out a pathway to create one million new jobs and reduce climate pollution through investments in high-speed rail, building retrofits, public transit and clean energy.
The federal government will release its next budget soon and you’ll get an indication of whether Canada will accelerate efforts to build a sustainable economy.
One thing you can count on is National Observer telling you more in the coming weeks about the potential for revitalizing the economy and creating good jobs. You'll hear about the paradox of smog-choked China rising to dominance in the field of clean energy. You'll find out which jurisdictions are making the most progress and which policies have driven positive change.
National Observer is fully committed to covering climate change as the critical challenge of our age. You'll be seeing more coverage of the effects of melting permafrost and the ways climate instability is impacting people living in Canada's Arctic. National Observer will be investigating whether Canada's cities can expect an influx of climate refugees from northern regions.
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