Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Would You Do?

What if.

Here's a scenario. For 20-years there have been an abnormal percentage of babies born with deformities.

Now it's discovered these deformities were the result of pregnant women being exposed to a chemical, Additive X, that gave beverage producers a really cheap shortcut to manufacture certain products.

Then you find out that top politicians from that time, now comfortably retired, knew how dangerous Additive X was but denied it because they didn't want to interfere with their friends, the beverage industry.

These politicians were the only people capable of acting but they chose to look the other way instead. They even ran interference for the beverage manufacturers, preventing their own government scientists from speaking out. The aftermath of their wilful neglect is genuinely horrific.

What should we do with these politicians who knowingly violated the public trust, who put the interests of a powerful few over the safety and wellbeing of the many? Is cursing them out enough? Are we to be content merely to see their reputations in tatters? Or do we somehow hold them truly accountable, deprive them of their freedom and property as punishment for the horrible suffering they have allowed when they knew better, when it might have been preventable? Do we hold them responsible?

While this sounds hypothetical, we might be asking ourselves these very questions just twenty years from now. The fallout from global warming may have all of us asking those questions.

It's not likely that Canada will melt or go up in flames over the next two decades (although the forests of British Columbia might). But we might well be dealing with the fallout of severe climate change in other, more vulnerable corners of our world, some of them highly dangerous places.

If we reach a "tipping point" over the next twenty years, as some of the top climate scientists warn could well happen, we're going to be spectators to a genuinely grotesque, unfolding reality shift steadily heading our way like a stampeding herd of cattle. By then, of course, events will be out of our hands thanks, in large part, to decisions taken and not taken by those in power twenty years earlier.

Once it becomes plain that we're all caught in the grip of runaway climate change I think I'd want those who allowed that to happen brought forward and held accountable. Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice, John Baird, might as well toss in Rona Ambrose to boot. From the moment they moved to subvert Stephane Dion's "Green Shift" they've been failing to protect this country and our people.

And it's not just their position on cutting carbon emissions for which this bunch deserves to be held personally accountable. They have not kept the public informed on the effects of climate change that we will have to address from the GHG emissions already in the atmosphere. Change is coming. Where I live it's already arrived. Seasonal floods, extended drought, severe storms, species migration, vanishing salmon stocks, the onset of sea level rise.

So what is Ottawa doing to protect us, to inform us of what's happening and what is to come in the near and mid-range future? What information is it giving us so that we can assess our prospects, evaluate options and begin the inevitably long process of planning and implementation of measures to adapt to these changes? The questions are long but the answers are brief - nothing. It's a lot safer when you want to push megaprojects like the Tar Sands to keep the plebs in the dark.

You see, the Harper government realizes that, if they told us that we're in for some serious, unpleasant changes, we just might begin to take these problems seriously. That might lead us to ask questions they don't want to hear and they most definitely don't want to answer.

I don't think this "out of sight, out of mind" approach to climate change is responsible. I really hope I'm wrong but I suspect there will be consequences, a price we'll have to pay for the Conservatives' inaction. And I truly believe that, if that turns out to be true, these people deserve to be held personally responsible for the fallout from their inaction.

And that's what I'd do.

1 comment:

Mentarch said...

"Looks like the "ball" will be inherited by the next generations ... and to hell with our responsibilities today."

This is in a nutshell how the critical problem of climate change/global warming has been handled since ... whenever.