Growing up, I remember learning about climate change around elementary. Not from the curriculum — which in the early 1990s was more focused on saving energy and recycling — but from alarmed climate scientists saying we were running out of time and serious action was needed to prevent catastrophic damage from changing weather patterns.
Almost three decades and three international climate agreements later, we are just barely beginning on the serious action part. The catastrophic damage from changing weather patterns is well underway.
This week I’m working on stories involving climate change, including an update on the mitigation of Tuktoyaktuk’s coastline, which is literally washing away under people’s homes as longer summers allow the ocean to pound away at it. Scientists with the Aurora Research Institute are investigating a frost blister — an upthrust of the ground from the thawing of permafrost, which is depleting rapidly and taking landscapes which have stood for millennia with it.
While it’s true Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) have increased slightly, the people keeping track also point out their measures are flattening the curve, minimizing growth to 23 megatonnes over the last few years and actually keeping steady at an average of 700 megatonnes over the past two decades. Policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions take time and were implemented far later in Canada than they were in places in Europe which are now seeing results.
Experts in resource and environmental management have listed the Liberal plan going forward as the most likely to succeed in both environmental and economic fronts. Up until this last week, it also was the only plan with a budget attached to it.
But to stop these programs now gaining traction to implement a new system, like say the Conservatives’ confusing purchase reward system, would cost us and the planet valuable time, disrupt businesses already moving forward in climate mitigation, and leave Canada in the dust as the world moves to a low-carbon economy. The other major parties haven’t put out anything nearly as comprehensive as the Liberal plan, only insisting they would do it better.
In my lifetime I have watched the Kyoto and Copenhagen Protocols fall by the wayside because signature countries changed governments. The same almost happened to the Paris Agreement. Every year we waste arguing about how to reduce GHGs is a year we don’t actually reduce GHGs. Meanwhile, summers get hotter, farms dry out, Arctic ice melts, hurricanes get stronger and paradise burns.
This is a debate that has been ongoing for over half a century. In that time, the Conservative view has shifted from climate change not existing, to not being a problem, to not being -our- problem, to being too complicated to solve, then to being a hoax, and now we’re supposed to trust them to lead us through it?
‘Hitting reset’ on our national climate plan will cost us another decade of action to achieve lower emission targets. Canada can do a lot more than the Liberal plan, but we cannot afford to do any less.