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Canada’s climate is in trouble. Perhaps this is old news, but it’s worse than may Canadians thought.
Canada's Changing Climate Report (CCCR)—released this week by government scientists in consultation with university academics—draws this conclusion in a wide-ranging report.
The authors argue that Canada is warming at twice the global rate—the latter figure itself terrifying given the data presented in last fall’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report.
According to the CCCR, the result is directly related to human activity: “Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence…and this warming is effectively irreversible.”
We can expect—among other things—more drastic extremes in weather, more drought, more fire activity, rising sea levels in coastal regions, and, shockingly, freshwater shortages (which makes one wonder how regions elsewhere in the world that already experience water scarcity will fare).
SNC-Lavalin a distraction
So, what has been the reaction so far?
Alarmingly, amidst the turmoil generated by the SNC-Lavalin affair—culminating with Tuesday’s dismissal of former Liberal MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott—the conclusions of the CCCR study threaten to be pushed to the side, or indeed buried altogether.
And that’s what is disconcerting. While the SNC-Lavalin scandal makes for high drama—though who doesn’t know about corruption among politicians and the political-corporate complex?—it hardly matches in real-world terms the menace posed by an increasingly unstable climate environment.
Politicians have acted in their own self-interest since time immemorial. We have come to expect this, and perhaps that’s fine when it comes to banal day-to-day affairs of the parliamentary circus. But climate change is a different beast altogether. Who will lead on this issue that affects our survival?
A national emergency
A strong—I would argue irrefutable—case could be made to declare this a national emergency.
Yet last year, this government went so far as to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, with designs to promote its expansion intended to send bitumen in ever-increasing volumes from the environmentally-devastating tar sands in Northern Alberta, itself a travesty, to the coast and onwards.
This is far from leadership on an earth-preserving agenda, and certainly not even close to being an adequate response to a critical situation.
Much of the popular resistance to the pipeline—which has been strident and persistent—focuses on the concerns around spills. While certainly not an invalid cause, the broader and ultimately more profound issue relates to the inherent problems of fossil fuels themselves and our attendant reliance on them.
The foundational point, a concept apparently grasped by schoolchildren around the world, is that we need to stop burning fossil fuels.
Our leaders do not appear to agree.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, and Rachel Notley’s provincial New Democrats in Alberta, have shown callous disregard for our country, our planet, and the future generations that hope to inhabit it.
You can bet that Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will be no better—just like several of the Premiers across the country that continue to howl their opposition to admittedly ineffectual half-measures like the tepid carbon tax.
It is up to us
In light of the ongoing ineptitude of politicians wearing most stripes—who in some quarters, continue to trumpet outright denial of compelling evidence around the very existence of climate change—ordinary Canadians need to force this onto the national agenda.
There is no time to lose. This needs to be an election issue.
Even the best-case scenario, the so-called “limited warming” prediction presented in the report, appears nearly impossible to achieve under the present political climate. As the authors conclude, "scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world reduce carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially.”
Presently, it is inconceivable how this could come to be.
And that should be deeply chilling to us all.
Forget SNC-Lavalin. That’s the minutiae of daytime soaps.
This is our survival at stake.