Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Now Is Not the Time for Crazy People to Rule

We live in dangerous times.   Like Easter Islanders we live in times of potentially existential threats of our own making.   The survival of our civilization can no longer be taken for granted.  If we are to avert the worst impacts of the way of life we have developed over the past three centuries, change on a global dimension will be required.   There is simply no getting away from that.   It is an imperative that, ignored, will wreak havoc on us.

Clear headed alertness and steely resolve will be essential to devising and implementing the measures we need to adapt to and mitigate global warming and the basket of other fundamental challenges we face - deforestation, desertification, air/water/soil contamination, species migration and extinction, disease migration, overpopulation, resource depletion and exhaustion, nuclear proliferation and spreading terrorism, and, perhaps greatest of all, the looming freshwater crisis.   These challenges, potential threats, are often powerfully linked, interconnected such that solving any of them means solving them all.  Yet, even on just one front, global warming-driven climate change, international leadership is wavering.

Today, in the Financial Times, International Energy Agency Chief Economist, Fatih Birol, and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change chair Nicholas Stern, warn that, at the World Economic Forum, policymakers seemed to have become disengaged on the climate change threat.   Now with political upheaval, economic uncertainty and soaring oil prices, the window of opportunity may be closing.

Birol and Stern call for an end to nearly $600-billion in annual, fossil fuel subsidies; a benchmarking system to maximize energy efficiency; measures such as effective carbon pricing as a disincentive to old, energy-inefficient infrastructure and a positive incentive to introduction of new, energy efficient technologies, and advanced fuels.

Of course will any heed Birol and Stern's call?   How about the nation that purports to stand as the leadership model for the rest of the world?  With Congressional Republicans firmly in the denialist camp and also in control of the House, you truly do have rule by crazy people.   They're far too busy working to dismantle the EPA to bother with these warnings.  In fact, you could easily call them today's "pro-carbon lobby."

Well then, what about our own Canada?  When we've got the two top political spots occupied by inveterate Tar Sanders, unapologetic Bitumen Boosters, enthusiastic Fossil Fuelers, we've also got crazy people at the helm.  One thing is clear, when it comes to the Conservative and the Liberal leadership, Canada needs and deserves an awful lot better.



Sixth Estate said...

I've been thinking about this myself lately. You're absolutely right about disengagement. Not that Canada was ever a leader on this, but I've noticed a major shift in the past five years or so, with climate change moving from a major issue in politics to a minor footnote. Harper was criticized for putting an incompetent rookie into the environment ministry years ago. Today I doubt most Canadians even know who the current minister is.

Something is going to have to wake us up again. I'm afraid we may have to start almost from square one in terms of building public attention, though.

LMA said...

Hope this isn't a duplicate comment - got an error message when I first tried to post.

Anyway just wanted to agree that we need a clear headed leader with steely resolve, someone to wake us up to the changes that are happening in the Arctic, and the immorality of pursuing a fossil fuel economy based on the Tar Sands.

A couple of weeks ago, covered NSIDC research indicating a PCF, permafrost carbon feedback which will turn the Arctic permafrost into a carbon source instead of a carbon sink by the mid 2020's. Irreversible, scary stuff.

If Canadians remain content to support policies that will pollute the air and water and export dirty oil globally, then we deserve the government we will get. Climate change surely must be an election issue.

The Mound of Sound said...

@6E - Andrew Nikiforuk makes a powerful case that Canada has truly been transformed into a classic petro-state thanks to the Athabasca Tar Sands. This involves the federal government almost as much as the Alberta government and, in Ottawa, the petro-pols are well represented on both sides of the aisle in the Commons.

You're completely right about the need to rebuild public awareness. Just don't count on those responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the country and our people. They're on the other side.

@LMA. The permafrost is going and, with it, the amazing volume of stored CO2. Call it "reverse carbon sequestration." This is also afflicting Russia's vast taiga.

When the CO2 is released from the permafrost it will evidence the passage of at least one "tipping point" the uncontrollable feedback mechanisms climate scientists have tried to warn us about for years.

That's the problem with tipping points and runaway global warming. The tipping points are not immediate, they're not readily observable, perfect for the "out of sight, out of mind" society. We force the tipping point to give long before we understand what we've done.

We have the knowledge and the means to safeguard our future but we won't use them in time. That is, on a global scale, our Achilles' Heel.