When Stephen Harper looks at the ice-free Arctic Ocean he sees opportunity. In the stunted mind of our petro-addled prime minister, no ice means one thing - access to untapped reserves of oil beneath the seabed and he means to have at it.
But what's really important to Canada and the future of our country is what Steve doesn't see, what he refuses to see and will not accept. That is what's going on above his head in the skies over the newly ice-free Arctic.
It took the boffins at Britain's Hadley Meteorological Centre to figure out that something way up north must be causing global weirding across the northern hemisphere. The droughts and wildfires that swept Russia. The sustained drought followed by massive flooding that beset once climatically benign Britain. The severe winter ice storms that pummeled Europe as far south as Venice. The megadrought that struck America's breadbasket this summer.
The science types at Hadley put two and two together and realized that an ice-free Arctic would be a substantially warmer Arctic and that the warmer surface would then significantly warm the Arctic atmosphere and its usually docile jet stream. And, as the northern jet lurched about like a loose cannon on deck, it would mess up seasonal conditions across the northern hemisphere. So, like it or not, climate change has landed on our doorstep, big time, and so long as we continue to worsen our inputs, primarily greenhouse gas emissions, what we're experiencing will worsen.
As George Monbiot points out, we're now expecting to see changes by the end of this decade that the IPCC recently forecast to arrive, in its worst case scenario, by the end of the century.
Maybe, as Steve dreams of seabed petro-riches, he assures himself that we'll geo-engineer our way out of this mess somehow. Well, he's almost ensuring that we'll eventually resort to some sort of "last resort" geo-engineering. And, as we break the geo-engineering taboo, so will plenty of others in distant corners of the world in forms supposedly suitable for their local conditions. And then we'll learn that geo-engineering doesn't offer a global fix to a global problem but merely shifts problems from one place onto others. Worse yet, the mix of geo-engineering "solutions" may well make overall conditions more severe in short order.
Over the years I have come to accept that a problem of this magnitude cannot be tackled when it remains well down our priority list. It's simply too big for that approach and it's getting much bigger faster than we had ever imagined. So, how does it get moved to the top of the pile? Who dares give it the priority without which our best efforts are doomed to fall far short? How bad will conditions on the ground have to get before we finally act? How far will we have fallen behind by then? Who will pay for our neglect? I'm pretty sure it won't be Steve.