Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Is the Political Forum Too Small For the Fight Against Climate Change?
Two things happened during the Harper Decade of Darkness. The first was an absolute deluge of multi-disciplinary research into climate change and all its impacts. The second was essentially nothing.
Harper came into office dismissing climate change as a hoax, a socialist plot, and, despite his claims to the contrary, he left office in pretty much the same state of mind.
Out with the old, in with the new. The latest federal government says it gets the reality of climate change. It's real, it's bad, we must do something but not everything. Plenty of wiggle room there. Now if your party had its ass handed to it in the last election you'll probably want to rise up in righteous indignation at this point but spare us. Angry Beard wouldn't have done any better. That's because he would have been much too busy checking which way the wind was blowing to concentrate on climate change.
Getting back to my point, Canada remains a petro-state. What's holding it back - for now - is the collapse in fossil fuel energy prices (Odin, we pray, may they never rebound). Canada remains committed to the extraction, transportation and export of the highest-carbon, most hazardous unconventional petroleum of them all, bitumen.
With the unduly lax, 2 degree Celsius warming target in mind, we know the planet's carbon budget. If we're to have a "reasonable chance" of staying within 2C there is a finite amount of CO2 we may still release to the atmosphere. In order to have any prospect of achieving that "reasonable chance" we know that it means leaving 80% of known fossil fuel reserves untouched, safely sequestered deep underground. That means shutting down collieries around the world and, for Canada, doing the same for the Athabasca and Saskatchewan's Tar Sands. Is there any reasonable chance that the political will at both federal and provincial levels will somehow manifest? No, not really. Our three western provinces won't hear of it and neither will the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill.
What then must we do? Britain's former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, might have a worthwhile solution. He envisions a broad coalition comprising elected representatives, business leaders, religious leaders and members of 'civic society' all banding together to compel government to take the hard but essential decisions and implement the appropriate measures. A non-partisan coalition constantly dogging government, snapping at its heels, exposing inaction for what it is and for what it means both today and in the future. Out of many, one very loud and powerful voice.
We have entrusted our political caste with the powers and resources to act, to defend our country and ensure the future for our grandchildren and theirs. If, having accepted those resources and powers, they abrogate their fundamental responsibility to the country and its people then what choice is there but to organize and tackle them head-on?