It's been widely reported that the massive fires currently sweeping the Amazon rainforest will be the hot topic at this year's G7 summit. It seems that the fires have some world leaders literally soiling their dainties. Why?
We see a lot of fires these days. The less fortunate among us can spend weeks, months drawing that fine particulate matter into our lungs. Wildfires can now extend from the Rio Grande into the high Arctic, well inside the Arctic Circle.
So what has the G7 boys quaking in their boots over the Amazon? An item that appeared on the NBC News web site yesterday explains that the fires sweeping the rainforest aren't just Amazonia's problem. They're not just South America's problem. They're a threat to all of us.
"The effects of forest destruction in the Amazon don't stay in the Amazon. They affect us all," said Robin Chazdon, professor emerita at the University of Connecticut who has studied tropical forest ecology.
"There are large negative consequences for climate change globally, as the fires contribute to carbon emissions," she added. If the rainforests are "not allowed to regenerate or be reforested, they will not be able to recover their high potential for carbon storage."
The vast swaths of rainforest play an important role in the world's ecosystem because they absorb heat instead of it being reflected back into the atmosphere. They also store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, ensuring that less carbon is released, mitigating the effects of climate change, scientists say.
...Roel Brienen, a professor at the University of Leeds in England who has studied the Amazon basin for more than 15 years, said the current level of deforestation is worrying for what it means to the loss of biodiversity and the release of more carbon into the atmosphere.
"If we kill enough forest, we may be tipping the Amazon into a new, much drier state, and it may turn into a savanna," Brienen said in an email. "This would be a great loss to our planet and almost means game over for our battle against climate change."Whoa, wait, what - did you get that? 'Game over for our battle against climate change,' WTF? In fairness, the climate science types have been warning us for years that we're in the grip of a process that's not linear, not safely predictable. The global climate is not as robust as we like to imagine. We're on very thin ice and a long way from the safety of shore.
What happens in the Amazon doesn't stay in the Amazon. Sufficient damage to the rainforest could leave parts of America's breadbasket states without enough rainfall even as the farmers of that region deplete the once mighty Ogalalla aquifer. Food insecurity, we'll be talking a lot about that over the next decade.
It's one thing when you've got an angry wasp after you. It's another thing altogether when the entire nest wants you dead. We have taken the single-wasp approach when considering climate change. Impact by impact, severe weather event by severe weather event. Penny packets. By getting our nose up close enough to one tree we don't have to see the entire forest. That's the way our political leadership seem to like it.
We're just a couple of months away from the general election and you would think the recently proclaimed 'climate emergency' would be on every politician's lips, the top priority. As if.
Mulroney's successor, Canada's short-lived and first female prime minister, Kim Campbell, dropped a clanger when, in 1993, she said 'an election is no time to discuss serious issues.' She got punished pretty severely for that and other election gaffes, her party reduced to just two seats, neither of those her own.
Ms. Campbell shouldn't have been punished. She was only saying what her contemporaries understood. Election campaigns are for telling whoppers, feeding the voting public a diet rich in horse shit before returning them to the stables of irrelevance for another four years. Justin Trudeau lied his ass off in 2015 and, so eager were we to see Harper sent packing, that we went along with it or, at least, almost two out of five electors, enough to cement a strong majority, went along with it.
We'll have to live for another four years with whatever wounds we inflict on ourselves, each other and the nation this October.
With climate change impacts rolling in from all directions, four years is now a critical chunk of time, time that's running out. What is done or neglected to be done over four years can now turn catastrophic, irreparable.
Ignatieff made an ass out of himself when he proclaimed the Athabasca Tar Pits the 'beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century.' His successor won't say that but he sure subscribes to the notion. His new and improved Trans-Mountain pipeline is Canada's ticket to a high-carbon future.
Now you might find Trudeau's high-carbon energy policy incongruous with his vow to avert catastrophic climate change. It's not. He knows he can't have both but that doesn't matter. For the Liberals, like the Conservatives, only one of those goals is real, credible. The other one is a sop, fodder for the nitwits going to the polls this October. Which is which? What do you think? Ever get the sense that someone is blowing smoke up your ass?
Okay, we're in a state of climate emergency. The atmosphere is befouled, forests from the equator to the reaches of the polar Arctic are afire, heatwaves sweep our cities, the oceans continue to acidify and sea levels inexorably rise threatening our coastal cities. We've got this synergy going where one impact amplifies the others. The perils are not linear. They're coming in chunks now and they're coming on faster with each passing year. We can see it. We can feel it. We can smell it. We can draw it deep into our lungs. The only thing we can't do is have a grown up talk about it.
An election is no time to discuss serious issues.
These are not things for discussion in petro-states such as our own. Sort of like how the tobacco industry discouraged loose talk about the perils of a three-pack-a-day smoking habit.
It wasn't just Big Oil that adopted the RJ Reynolds disinformation model and applied it to the climate change debate. Our politicians did much the same and they are targeting the same people that Big Tobacco and Big Oil targeted - us. And, if they'll do that to us, how much do you imagine they really care about your young grandkids?
No, with time running out and the future so precarious, this election is time for some straight talk on serious issues. It may be our last chance to have a meaningful discussion on this national emergency, our final chance to make our will felt.
Where do the Tories see the world and Canada in ten years, twenty years? What do they foresee climate change to have done by then? How do they perceive the country's needs in terms of adaptation. What do they consider Canada's obligations in terms of mitigation, slashing greenhouse gas emissions? How do they square those things with their high-carbon energy policies?
How do the Liberals answer each of those questions? No more bullshit. This time let's have a grownup discussion with all the cards on the table.
The status quo is no longer an acceptable plan. When you proclaim a state of emergency to exist, the status quo is, by definition, no longer acceptable. You have to respond, things have to change, interests have to conform to the acknowledged perils.
We got hoodwinked last time with platitudes about 'Real Change Now' and promises about electoral reform, social licence, First Nations reconciliation, tankers and pipelines. An elaborate tissue of lies.
It's not enough to ask for our votes because you're less odious than that other jerk. You're both still jerks and the moment we're caught up in is a terrible time for electing jerks.