Monday, May 27, 2019

It's Europe Calling, Justin. You Might Want to Take This. No? Okay.

The EU elections showed that voters are abandoning old school politics and the same old, same old. Small wonder. Right wing populists appear to be the big winners but also rising is the Green Party.

People are worried. They can see what's coming. They can feel what has already arrived.

In Canada we have two "same old" parties. The Conservatives are the Party of Darkness when it comes to climate change. They're the ultimate in Petro-Pimps and they're scrambling to staunch an exodus of radical rightwing populists to Bernier. However, not far behind, is the modern shell of the once great Liberal Party who have also chosen the petro-state over the future of Canada even as they pay unconvincing lip service to the climate crisis.

Make no mistake. Today's LPC is not the party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson or the real Trudeau, Pierre, just as today's Republican Party has nothing to do with the 'party of Lincoln.'

People can sense weakness. They can smell fear. And there's plenty of both emanating from the Liberal leadership. Justin has made his bed and he's sharing it with the petro-economy. "No one would find 173 billion barrels of oil and just leave it there." Even if that was true it was an incredibly stupid thing to say and an even dumber mantra around which to forge a government.

We thought Trudeau had vision from his campaign rhetoric in 2015. He was positively inspirational coming off nearly a decade of the Harper government. Only he wasted no time in reneging on those grand promises much like a snake sheds its skin. The Liberal Party faithful have been straining to downplay that ever since but, today, the best thing they have going for themselves is Andrew Scheer and the grim prospect of another Tory government. That speaks to just how hollow the Liberals have become. "Vote for Us, We're Not Him." Well, in a lot of respects you're pretty close.

The world is changing - rapidly, dangerously and, those determined not to see it excepted, we all know it. We can see where we're headed and what that means for our young people, our grandkids and the children they will have. Greta Thunberg and her army of followers remind us that parties like Canada's Conservatives and Liberals are not on their side. You have to dig pretty deep to deny that.

The world has been given a very narrow time frame to try to avert catastrophic climate change. We have to cut carbon emissions by half by 2030. Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau will not even acknowledge that much less commit to the sort of changes we would need to meet that obligation. And, yes, it is an obligation. Any genuine progressive would understand that, Liberals not so much.

The current government has fallen further and further behind even meeting Stephen Harper's emissions cuts targets, even as climate change has worsened considerably.  That's not progress. That's a retreat, a capitulation. Please, don't give me any of that nonsense about minuscule, gestural carbon tax.

The great Liberal leaders of the past worked to make Canada a better place, a greater nation. That vision disappeared from the party well before Justin Trudeau showed up.

Donald Trump, Viktor Orban and many others show what happens when governments fail to respond to popular discontent. These people are right there in the wings just waiting to pounce. They take that discontent, the fuel, and put the match of fear and anger to it. It works. It won't last long. Climate change is worsening. It's now a climate crisis. Climate deniers like Trump and Orban can't outrun it.

You may have noticed that the American mid-west is entering its second week of continuous severe weather events - high winds, heavy flooding rains, tornadoes. In large swathes of America's bread basket this year's crop is in peril.  In the west, the wildfire season is here, perhaps fittingly hitting Alberta hardest. Meanwhile their newly minted premier dismisses climate change as the "flavour of the month." That is a man holding his province and his people hostage to a dead end ideology.  Well, they chose him, they deserve no better. Canada, however, does deserve better. 'Same old, same old' has run its course.

Two weeks ago the Washington Post reported that temperatures in the Russian Arctic had hit 84 degrees F.  while atmospheric carbon dioxide hit 415 ppm. for the first time in human history. The next four years are predicted to be unduly hot which takes on a strange context given that the past many years have been record setting. I think that means we're in for "really, really hot weather."

Climate departure, now sometimes called "climate catastrophe" is predicted to begin setting in around 2023.  Back in 2013 Camilo Mora's climate team at the University of Hawaii released a paper on this troubling phenomenon that will hammer economies in affected nations and likely trigger mass migrations.  In the ensuing three years other studies corroborated what's coming.

According to this study, the tropics, which are the near-equatorial region of this planet that’s almost 100% impoverished, and that has thus contributed virtually nothing to global warming, will begin the period of permanent catastrophe starting in approximately 2020; but the (cooler) moderate-latitude countries, such as in North America and Europe, will begin this catastrophic period in or around 2047.

This isn’t to say that things won’t continue to get worse after then; it’s only to say that this is, as the article will be titled, “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability.”
This landmark article was co-authored by a team of 14 climate-scientists. It says: “Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and among low-income countries.” It explains that the reason for this is that the countries near the equator have far less variability in their weather than do the moderate-climate countries, and so the species that constitute the ecosystems there cannot tolerate temperatures outside their narrow range, which has existed within that narrow range for thousands of years. Consequently, species-extinctions will soar there much faster and earlier than here. The existing impoverished economies, within around 2,500 miles of the equator (where average per-capita incomes are less than 10% of the average in the moderate-latitude countries such as ours), will become unlivable.

This study notes the “obvious disparity between those who benefit from the process leading to climate change and those who will have to pay for most of the environmental and social costs.” Of course, “those who benefit from the process leading to climate change” are the oil companies, and the coal companies, and the natural gas companies, and the pipeline and service companies, and ultimately their owners: especially the aristocratic families who control them. It would be false to assume that any poor people, even in countries such as the United States, will benefit from continuation of “the process leading to climate change.” However, some of the chief financial backers of the Republican Party and of other conservative political parties in the moderate-latitude countries benefit enormously from that “process.” Thus, many people who will not benefit from climate change end up voting for climate change; and, of course, their children and subsequent descendants will suffer greatly from their votes.
The Colombia-born Dr. Mora, in an interview with Yale360,  tried to make the people of the developed world, that's us, understand  what we're doing to the weakest and most vulnerable people.

I grew up in a country where there has been a long history of violence. We have been in war for 50 years, and one thing people don’t realize is what it means to be in a place where anyone can get shot at any moment, where people are starved to death, where there is not enough food to feed people. In the first world, people don’t know how rich they are, and they don’t realize what is happening in the rest of the world. And for me that’s a driving force. It’s scary to think about climate change because when we start damaging physical systems and the carrying capacity of physical systems to produce food, people will react to this in a terrible way. I’m telling you, I have seen it in my own country. It’s very negative the way in which people react to hunger. And that’s one of the things that’s most frightening to me with this large-scale analysis — the fact that I know we’re on our way to some very disturbing scenarios if we go down this pathway of damaging physical systems in the ways that we are today.
We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 for us, not for them. Those little brown people with their already precarious lives and their devastated homelands, they're hooped.  And yet Liberals and Tories alike think it's entirely reasonable to flood world markets with high-carbon, high-cost, low value bitumen. That's what it means to be a Liberal on the cusp of this next decade.

We're just a few months away from choosing our next government. It will pit Andrew Scheer, a man whose promises, odious as they are, can probably be trusted versus the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a man who has shown his solemn promises to be thoroughly unreliable. Great choice.

This year will be our last chance to make a difference. Four years from now, catastrophic climate change will be locked in.

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