During this summer of 2018, hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering from the effects of global warming. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. There is no room for doubt. We are in a climate crisis. So where is the global climate leadership we need? Where is Canada’s climate leadership?
(This post is sourced primarily from a press release issued by Cathy Orlando, Canadian Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, with added editorial comments)
Where is Canada’s Climate Leadership?
British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season ever, breaking the previous record set in 2017. It seems like the entire planet is on fire — wildfires in Europe, Scandinavia, Mediterranean countries, Siberia, California, Colorado and others. And there’s the rains causing deadly floods and there’s the heatwaves and there’s the droughts.
“Canada has spent more in the last five or six years cleaning up after wildfires and floods due to climate change than was spent in the entire previous history of the program stretching back to 1970,” said the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on August 13, 2018.
Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has just ruled against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion dealing a major blow to the Trudeau government’s plan to build the pipeline that would almost triple the amount of oil flowing to the BC coast. The federal court decision could be a real climate moment for Justin Trudeau. Instead of moving forward with the purchase of the Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion, he could exercise an opting-out clause (in the purchase agreement) to terminate the purchase for a token $10 million, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the end cost of the Trans Mountain expansion which is projected to go as high as $20 billion. However, we are hearing the same mundane rhetoric about jobs, economic security and the environment and the economy go together.
Nature Will Not Wait
The mounting climate damage in Canada is disconcerting especially when one considers that although the last four years have been hottest years on record, and 2018 is on pace to also become one of the hottest years, new research shows that the Earth’s natural cycles were actually in a global warming “hiatus” during this time. But that is about to end.
In an August 2018 Nature paper, it was reported that natural variabilities will make an already warming planet even hotter from 2018 through to 2022.
The good news is the 2015 Paris climate pledges of no more than 2C increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels are achievable but there is work to be done.
In December 2017, it was reported in Nature that with business-as-usual the planet is dangerously on track for a 4C rise in temperature. A July 2018 paper in Earth’s Future shows that at 4C of warming, the losses in income to the global economy by 2100 would be over US$23 trillion per year. This would be far more devastating than the Great Depression in 1929 because it would never end.
Emissions Are Still Rising
How many people know that humanity is not yet reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions? The International Energy Agency reports that global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes. As well, how many Canadians know that our greenhouse gas emissions targets are the woefully inadequate targets of the previous government? Canada is clearly not doing its fair share to limit global warming. If all countries had the same pledge the world would be 3-4C warmer than pre-industrial levels.
From August 23-25, 2018, Conservatives from coast to coast to coast met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to set the course to the 2019 federal election. And what are their plans for the climate? They have yet to reveal the details. Ontario Premier Doug Ford wants to cancel cap and trade and has yet to do so officially. Premier Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Moe are challenging the federal government on carbon pricing. And Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is against carbon pricing.
Scheer, Ford, and Moe should rethink their stance on carbon pricing. Most Canadians oppose the provinces taking Ottawa to court over carbon taxes and almost all economists believe that putting a price on carbon pollution is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy.
Backsliding on the Climate
Politicians are more influenced by money and jobs and some care little about climate facts. Nevertheless, 45 countries and 20% of the world’s economy is now under a carbon price (data from the World Bank Carbon Pricing Dashboard).
An August 18, 2018 article in The Economist (regarding carbon pricing) reports that “taxes raise around twice as much revenue as today’s cap-and-trade schemes, and are roughly 50% better at cutting emissions. A levy of $70 on each tonne of CO2 by 2030 would typically raise between 1% and 2.5% of GDP in the G20 club of big economies. It would also allow most to come close to, or even exceed, their pledges under the Paris climate agreement of 2015.”
Forbes magazine in early August reported that “by backsliding on climate, Ontario may have just cost businesses billions, added millions in consumer costs, eschewed thousands of jobs and muddied its investment outlook.” By replacing cap and trade with a carbon tax (slowly and not abruptly), Ontario could instead become a world leader in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy.
What about the USA some may ask? For the first time in almost a decade, a Republican representative, Congressman Carlos Curbello, has introduced a carbon pricing bill (H.R. 6463). As well, a recent Yale poll found that the majority of Americans favour a revenue neutral carbon tax.
Building Political Will
“While the planet burns, our politicians fiddle,” says Gary Mason in his Globe and Mail opinion piece. As if to prove his point, Premier Rachel Notley has just announced that Alberta is withdrawing from Canada’s climate framework in protest of the federal government’s handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
“On August 13, the Honourable Ralph Goodale said the challenge for government is having the political will to do something about it [climate change] over the medium and long terms.”
Cathy Orlando (National Director of Citizens’Climate Lobby Canada) leads a group of volunteers dedicated to build the political will Ralph Goodale speaks of. She wishes to invite people to attend the organization’s Fifth Annual Conference and Lobbying Days this October 13-16 in Ottawa. “You will be surrounded by the best volunteers on the planet. We plan to cross the political divide and build bridges as we have been doing since September 2010 in Canada. Together, we can create the political will for a livable world.”