As the world witnesses the steady progress of "early onset" climate change impacts we're coming to realize what it means, that there is no going back. It's a one-way road to nowhere good. Maybe, through some miracle far beyond anything ever experienced by man, someday we'll get really creative and find a way to slow it down, perhaps even stop it from getting any worse but rolling it back, to say the 60s, isn't going to happen.
There are a lot of potholes awaiting us just up ahead. If we want to we can avoid some of them but that's going to take a whole lot more "want" than we're showing so far. We're going to have to want it enough to change course, give up some things, switch to better things. It begins when we stop chasing ourselves ever closer to the edge of that cliff.
The first step could be the hardest. We have to decarbonize our economy and we have to decarbonize our society. That means achieving independence from fossil fuels or almost all fossil fuels and certainly the highest-carbon fuels. It means transitioning to alternative, clean energy options that are both renewable and astonishingly abundant, there pretty much for the taking. It doesn't have to be done overnight. That's impossible. But it has to be started by reducing fossil fuel consumption and replacing it with renewables and, on that score, we're already far behind where we should be. We have much catching up to do. We need action on a Marshall Plan scale.
The reason our governments (and opposition parties) are dragging their heels on this is because it's economically dislocative, at least initially. When the Three Stooges of Parliament Hill look to the tar-fields of Alberta and Saskatchewan they don't see a ticking time bomb for the environment. They see enormous wealth of the worst, low-hanging fruit variety. It's all sitting there, waiting to be dug or boiled out of the ground, and there are companies that will do all that heavy lifting and hand them a cheque on their way out. Free Money, Free Money, Free Money. That's too much to refuse for those Petro-Pimps; Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau.
They're all willing to promise a sop to the eco-minded. It usually comes in some vague notion of carbon tax that will assuredly be low enough not to impede the extractive giants of Athabasca. They don't want to ruffle the feathers of the goose that laid their golden egg. They would rather steer us straight toward that giant, goddamned pothole that's directly ahead, the very worst of the lot.
Chances are you want one of those three at the wheel as we head down this one-way road straight toward that ginormous pothole. I'm sorry but I don't understand that. I think you've got to be out of your mind. Oh sure this one will give you a few extra bucks for daycare and that one will promise you a hike in minimum wages (most of which they can't deliver in any case). And, sure enough, they're not going to be Stephen Harper either. But what does that really mean, why does that matter if they're just going to keep us on the same course toward that godawful pothole?
Would you think of it differently if, instead of bitumen, it was something else equally lethal but less publicly acceptable? What if we were sitting on a mountain of street-grade heroin? No, let's make it highly radioactive opium - laced with asbestos. And, in our name, they want to flog it overseas. They would never do that, would they? Of course they would. Governments do it all the time. We venerate Queen Victoria in this country, especially in my home province, and she presided over the biggest international drug trafficking racket in history.
As I write this I realize the futility of my words. You're still going to vote for Mulcair or for Trudeau and one of those Petro-Pimps is going to be behind the wheel when the last vote is counted. And that will stand as your declaration that, as a people, we don't want that last best chance bad enough. We'll worry about that pothole - wait, it's turned into a sinkhole - when we plummet into it. As for our grandkids, well screw'em.
This from today's HuffPo (many thanks, Lorne)
Obscured by complicated international negotiations, convoluted domestic policy and years of fossil fuel-funded contrarians confusing the conversation, climate change can be confusing. Recently, thanks in large part to some pretty basic math, there is finally some much needed clarity coming to the conversation. It goes like this; there is only so much space in the atmosphere for more emissions, so if we want to have a shot at keeping this planet liveable we need to not release a lot of potential emissions. This means leaving most fossil fuels underground.
Here in Canada that means leaving most of tar sands reserves underground. It's a simple truth that scientists, First Nations, academics and thousand of people understand, but one that politicians in this country refuse to acknowledge. Instead, it seems like politicians either think Canada isn't paying attention or that we're all really dumb.
...Energy East is the culprit again in exposing the confusing, spineless climate policies Stephen Harper's primary challengers, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. Both leaders have bumbled the pipeline file by offering support in one province then rescinding it in another. While they have both critiqued the National Energy Board review process for refusing to consider the climate impacts of projects it reviews, neither have offered a clear plan to change that process. They both have convoluted platforms that include carbon pricing mechanisms that will be inevitably ineffective and seem to be hoping that we don't realize that neither of them have a plan to deal with the fact that the climate math means the tar sands can't get any bigger.
Whether it's deck chairs on the Titanic, Nero fiddling while Rome burns or the boiling of frogs, there is no shortage of played out tropes to describe political inaction on climate change, but in Canada things are getting ridiculous. At this point it feels like the whole of Canada's political class has picked up instruments and is conducting an orchestral performance on a sinking ocean liner while the most egregious among them block women and children from boarding life boats and explaining that there is no proven link between iceberg strikes and sinking ships. Something needs to change.
We can't shut off the fossil fuel economy overnight, but the science clearly says that we need a real plan to leave fossil fuels like tar sands underground. Politicians need to stop treating this country like idiots and recognize that most people want an economy that's not dependent on the boom and bust of the oil cycle. Once we accept that, a new universe of solutions is available to us, but it all starts with ending this political fiasco.