The release of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has given humanity a very grim warning and a 10-year time frame in which to make massive changes in how the human race creates energy, produces goods, feeds itself and manages its relationship with the natural world.

There have been numerous calls from scientists, news media and public figures to change our ways on a massive scale. These calls have not, however, provided a large-scale blueprint for sustained and organized change. This desperately needed blueprint for massive, effective and rapid social and economic transformation can be found in Canadian socio-economic mobilization for the Second World War.

When Canada entered the Second World War in 1939, it mobilized every part of its economy and society to meet its responsibilities as part of an international coalition of Allies to fight against Hitler’s Germany. Canada’s integrated and organized approach to fighting the war was highly successful. It helped Canada — a country with a small population — to more than hold its own on the world stage and to play a vital part in winning the war against the Nazis.

The history

During the Second World War, the War Measures Act allowed the federal government to suspend civil liberties and to rule by Order in Council. This meant the prime minister and cabinet had the power to make laws without parliamentary approval. This was done to facilitate speed and efficiency in meeting the changing needs of the war effort. Parliament passed the Munitions and Supply Act to mobilize all aspects of the economy for war.

The Second World War mobilization included wage and price controls, food rationing and establishment of Crown (government-owned) corporations to produce war materials and supplies the private sector was unable or unwilling to provide.

Taxation of the wealthy and private businesses was dramatically increased to support the war effort during the Second World War. Amounts in excess of government-imposed profit levels were taxed away.

In order to mobilize all parts of society to support the war effort, the Canadian government provided housing and childcare for workers in war industries. Publicity campaigns encouraged women, children and all Canadians not stationed abroad to “do their bit” for the war effort. They conserved and recycled on a large scale, and made use of gardens and parks for food production. There was also a large-scale move toward reorienting education and training to support the war effort.

On the international stage, Canada and other western countries made a collective decision to put aside long-standing tensions and rivalries with other countries — in particular, the former Soviet Union — in the face of the enormous mutual threat they faced in the form of Nazi Germany and other enemy states.

Mobilization Policies: Updated and Adapted

One of the greatest concerns about implementing a centralized plan for the Canadian society and economy to meet the climate crisis is the potential for infringement of civil rights. This is a valid and serious concern, as the War Measures Act that was the legal basis for the transformation of the Canadian economy during the Second World War was based on the suspension of civil rights and the power of the Canadian Parliament. This underpinned internment of Japanese-Canadians and seizure of their property. The War Measures Act was also used during the FLQ Crisis of 1970 to send the Canadian military into Montreal.

"Every person currently alive was born into a fossil-fuel economy and infrastructure. We did not give our consent to be part of this destructive system..." #opinion

In order to prevent further violations of civil liberties, the War Measures Act was replaced in 1988 by the Emergencies Act. It protects the civil liberties of Canadians that are enshrined in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The components of Second World War mobilization which should be updated and adapted to meet the climate crisis are:

1. Planned resource management and development, created in partnership with Indigenous communities, aimed at reducing carbon emissions and repairing environmental damage.

2. Taxation of wealth to fund the restructuring of the economy.

3. Reorienting education and training toward development of green industry and technology.

4. Creation of new Crown corporations to meet industrial production needs and protect access to necessaries of life.

5. Building co-operative international relations to reduce carbon emissions and protect shared environmental resources.

Planned resource management

Canada has a long history of resource overuse and long-lasting environmental destruction created by resource extraction. A tragic example is the ongoing mercury contamination crisis on the Ojibwe land of Grassy Narrows, caused by Dryden Chemicals Ltd. dumping mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system between 1962 and 1970. Resource management focused on preservation, serious environmental protection and repair of damaged natural areas must be given the highest priority. Canada must take rapid and effective action to protect ocean and inland waters, land and forests and animal habitats. Human expansion into protected lands must be minimized. For this purpose, a meaningful collaboration between the federal Canadian government and Indigenous governments and communities is absolutely vital. Indigenous-managed lands have been demonstrated to have 80 per cent more biodiversity than non-Indigenous-managed lands. As well, Indigenous communities have had great success in managing animal populations and in protecting water resources. Many Indigenous-led initiatives are underway throughout the country. For example, four First Nations in the Yukon provide environmental stewardship, heritage and culture protection and oversight of economic development in over 67,000 square kilometres of the Peel watershed region of the Yukon. This model should be emulated throughout Canada.

Another initiative is the placement of solar panels on the roofs of more than 300 Toronto schools. This initiative has now become countrywide. Toronto Community Housing has also mounted solar panels on some of its large residential buildings.

Taxation of wealth

Climate-emergency mobilization must be financed by heavily taxing the rich, particularly those who have made immense wealth from investment in the fossil fuels that have caused the climate crisis. As in the Second World War, profits in excess of a government-imposed limit should be taxed away to fund and support environmental restoration and protection. Climate-emergency taxes must support new Crown corporations, which will maintain and expand vital social services.

Reorienting education and training

There is enormous fear and concern from many working people in Canada regarding job loss and economic hardship in the transition away from a fossil-fuel-based economy. This is especially true in Western Canada because of its dependency on the oilsands industries. Reorienting education and training to support oil and gas workers in a just transition of the economy away from fossil-fuel dependency can also be modelled on the policies of the Second World War, when large numbers of workers were retrained and relocated for work in war industries. There is already a movement of this sort in Western Canada. Iron and Earth, a non-profit organization, retrains oil and gas workers for jobs in green industries. This movement could grow exponentially with government support, particularly if the annual multibillion-dollar subsidies of the fossil-fuel industry were redirected toward green-sector education and training.

Creation of new Crown corporations

Crown corporations, modelled on Second World War mobilization, can be used to rapidly transition to new forms of production on a mass scale. As Crown corporations were used to quickly change industries from peacetime to wartime production, Crown corporations could be used to undertake a massive and rapid shift in production to meet the climate crisis. They could be used to transition to mass production of electric vehicles, a move that has already been proposed by Green Jobs Oshawa and members of UNIFOR Local 222 to produce electric vehicles at the defunct General Motors plant in Oshawa. Crown corporations could also be used for a swift change in energy production, especially with a move toward small-scale local energy production in the form of micro-grids. Some of these are already in use and production in parts of Canada. Sustainable farming practices that guarantee local food production could greatly reduce the carbon footprint caused by international transport of food. Crown corporations focused on the creation of plant-based biodegradable products and packaging could also allow for a rapid, large-scale shift away from plastic pollution.

Building co-operative international relations

Climate crisis mobilization must involve international co-operation on a massive scale. Struggle between trade blocs for political-economic dominance must be set aside, and countries must work together to meet the unprecedented risk to our species posed by the climate crisis. For example, current trade wars should be abandoned in favour of meaningful and enforceable methods of regulating pollution of the oceans. Damage to the oceans and to oceanic food chains from de-oxygenation, plastic waste and other toxic wastes is escalating daily and poses a risk to the entire planet. This must be curbed by enforced international agreements.

Naming the enemy

During Second World War mobilization in Canada, Hitler’s Germany was the enemy of Canada and the other Allied countries. In the climate crisis, fossil-fuel corporations and related industries are the enemies of all countries because they have created the crisis we now face. It is clear they intend to continue their practices that now threaten the existence of human life on our shared planet.

Fossil-fuel companies are now claiming we are all responsible for the climate crisis because most of us use fossil fuels. This is a diversionary tactic by fossil-fuel companies to distract the general public from the basic fact that it is these companies who are to blame for what we now face. It has now been revealed that major oil companies such as Exxon knew for decades combustion of fossil fuels causes global warming. Instead of changing their industries, they funded climate-science denial on a massive scale.

Every person currently alive was born into a fossil-fuel economy and infrastructure. We did not give our consent to be part of this destructive system, and numerous attempts by both scientists and ordinary people to change it have been aggressively suppressed and undermined by the economic giants of the fossil-fuel industry. But there are now warnings by major financial institutions such as the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England that fossil-fuelled climate change threatens the global financial system. If carbon emissions are to be reduced in accordance with internationally adopted targets, coal and oil must be left in the ground. This will remove the profitability of large fossil-fuel corporations. There are also a rapidly growing number of lawsuits in various countries against fossil-fuel corporations. These lawsuits contend that fossil-fuel corporations are legally liable for the damage caused by extreme weather events to infrastructure, crops, fisheries and other resources.

Looking to the past for a way forward

Public awareness of the climate crisis is increasing daily, as is public anger and fear. People are afraid the climate crisis will bring breakdowns of social infrastructure, as well as serious threats to public safety and, ultimately, large-scale loss of human life.

It is important in times of crisis to look to history for solutions. The Second World War was a global disaster that involved unprecedented loss of life. We now face potential loss of life on a much larger scale because of climate change resulting from combustion of fossil fuels. The model of Second World War mobilization in Canada demonstrates the incredible capacity of people and society to change rapidly, to adapt and plan and to successfully navigate and survive crises.

Fossil-fuel corporations and related industries have denied climate science. They deny the possibility that we can change the ways we generate energy. They deny the possibility that we can distribute goods and services fairly. They deny the possibility that we can create equitable and sustainable relationships with the natural world and with each other. Second World War mobilization in Canada demonstrates these fossil-fuel companies are wrong. Canada is capable of making the massive, effective and rapid economic transformation we now need. Second World War mobilization has given us the blueprint from which we can meet the crisis we now face and build a new and better way of living.

We tax the rich to reduce their power, not to fund the government. The gov't gets its funding from its central bank which has unlimited capacity to create dollars. We are not dependent on the rich.

False Choice or Real Possibilities, J.D. ALT

"Between 1940 and 1944 (a time period of only 48 months!) something so extraordinary took place it defies the imagination. The U.S. federal government spent (in 2011 dollars) 4.1 trillion dollars to build the largest and most advanced military machine in world history, employing over nine million previously unemployed citizens in the process. Where did those 4.1 trillion dollars come from to pay all those ship-builders, air-plane fabricators, armament factory workers, welders, pipe-fitters, steel-makers, aluminum smelters, fuel refiners, electricians, scientists, engineers, soldiers, sailors and airmen? Where did the dollars come from? Did President Roosevelt arrange to borrow the dollars from China?
There is only one possible answer: The federal government must have issued the necessary dollars by fiat, out of thin air. In other words, the money was “printed.” Before you gasp and choke at the thought, however, consider that, in fact, this is how all sovereign currency (our money) gets created. It cannot, by law, be created in any other way. (This fact, and why it works, is explained in my book The Millennials’ Money.)

First of all, did the issuing and spending of 4.1 trillion new U.S. dollars in only 48 months generate inflation? Yes, of course it did! The U.S. inflation rate went from near zero in 1941 to nearly 12% in 1942. But it’s important to acknowledge the difference between the U.S. inflation of WWII and the infamous examples of catastrophic hyperinflation—Weimar Germany after WWI, Zimbabwe in the 1990s and, possibly, Venezuela today. In each of these cases, the underlying cause of the inflation was the collapse of the productive capacity of the national economy. The money still existed, but there were fewer and fewer things being produced for the money to buy.

Just as inflation began to get out of control, in other words, the federal government began draining large amounts of dollars (taxes) from the citizen’s aggregate spending power. At the same time, a major campaign was implemented to encourage the citizens to use some of their newly earned fiat dollars to buy War Bonds, effectively taking those dollars out of circulation. Many employees were required to accept War Bonds as part of their regular paychecks—deferring their ability to spend those dollars to a future time. Between 1942 and 1945 these efforts succeeded and U.S. inflation subsided to 2.3% (approximately what the Federal Reserve’s current target rate is).

Given the overall results of the U.S. experience with dramatic, targeted efforts of sovereign spending in World War II, given the proof that the federal government and central bank have the means to effectively manage and maintain the value of the U.S. currency in spite of massive expenditures of government fiat money, given the fact we know, from experience, all this can be done without “nationalizing” the economy—and that, in fact, the doing of it, if properly managed, will produce an unprecedented expansion of private innovation, investment, business creation, and employment opportunities for American citizens—given that we historically know all of this, why should we not feel comfortable to undertake, once again, substantial sovereign spending programs to achieve critical collective objectives? And if, indeed, we should do that, why don’t we?"


Modern Monetary Theory in Canada

I don't buy a 'print-money' solution. Firstly, Debt as a % of GDP was much lower in the past, when governments 'printed' there way out of the great depression or paid for an expensive war. Today, the US debt to GDP ratio is over 108% (as of 2017), and Canada's is over 87% (2017). A ratio of 100% is considered high, and over that is considered 'too high'. Also, personal debt levels back then were also low compared to current public debt levels, which are the highest they've ever been, especially in Canada, so there is not going to be as many people willing and able to purchase CC 'War Bonds'. What is conveniently missed in discussions associated with financing with government debt is that the debt costs money, and leaves the government, ie the people, with a large weight of debt to be born by future generations through the tax system, and also leaves them highly exposed to interest rate fluctuation. The argument that the large debt is easily born by the expected economic expansion is just pyramid-scheme mentality. For those who will believe such arguments, I have some Florida real estate to sell you.

No, I think new solutions, not old solutions are required to finance the 'war on CC'. The situation is different, and the solutions are going to be different. When looking for financing, you typically first ask where the money (or money potential) is. It's not in government or public pockets, both are maxed out with debt. On the other hand, there are huge pools of private money (mostly foreign) out there desperately looking for a politically stable, relatively low risk home. That's where you get the money, but we have to make sure we keep control of the investments otherwise we'll loose our sovereignty in the process. On other difference between war-financing and CC-financing, is that wars don't generate any value for your investment, instead, they destroy value. Investments in a sustainable economy to fight CC are true investments in that they generate value going forward to sustain the investment cost. Unlike war-financing, this is not a pyramid-scheme.
We really need a full public discussion along the lines of 'ways and means', but let's learn from the past without trying to repeat it.

When methane began boiling out of the Arctic, mere reductions in emissions became inadequate. We need to re-build the glaciers to restore the climate now. A reasonable regulation would be to require the reliable sequestration of two tons of carbon for every one sold as fuel.

In theory, yes, however, there is no sequestration technology present today, or in the lab, or even on the drawing boards, that comes within a country mile of being able to sequester even a small fraction of that sort of volume. Existing sequestration technology only makes sense in concentrated, high-energy applications such as cement making, or metal smelting.
Pipe dreams aside, the best sequestration technology we have currently is to leave the carbon in the ground sequestered in it's original deposits. These natural deposits benefit from being very stable. There is the added benefit of being 100% efficient, since this sequestration method uses zero energy. If only I could sell this invention!

#JustinTrudeau -- this is your chance to make history.

Also, in the same spirit, "Drop all regulations and reviews surrounding the construction of nuclear power plants, just go with the CANDU designs we've got."

Or is your enthusiasm for massive societal changes, pissing people off, and taking calculated risks, end when your own favourite shibboleths are endangered?

Further to the same point, what if the best way to fight the climate emergency is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer? Isn't life itself worth more than that? What if there are hard choices where the only way to do climate good is to harm other priorities?

It's very rare to be able to eat cake and have it, too.

In the simplest terms I can think of, the principal of the organization used to build a winning 2nd. world War machine is the best I've seen so far to win a future for our species on this speck of a planet. It is our only resource to exploit for life as we know it. Laying blame on those that provide what the market demands is not much help. It is the market demand that needs to be changed and reduced to become compatible with what this Earth's Biosphere is capable of sustaining. This Earth is not expanding. It is us collectively who have expanded our demands on it well beyond its capacity to sustain what we are doing, beyond maybe a generation or two more, unless we cut way- way back. The signs of destruction of the Biosphere are rampant everywhere, land, sea and air. Read the news media!
Prayers will only help if they goad people with the power and intellect to face the facts of Nature and decide it is worth the effort to try and assure a sustained future for our species and enough of those other species that make life worth living.
Using that 2nd. War effort model would be a place to start putting our survival war into action. So far I see only sporadic skirmishes and a "Fifth Column" being more successful in defeating survival success in their promotion of what is destroying the Biosphere. Thanks for the opportunity to express an opinion on a subject that bears on when the Anthropocene Epoch ends.