In A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, author Seth Klein points out—in chapter 2 of his book—that what we’re up against is a new climate denialism in Canada. Excerpts are featured (with permission) in this piece.
The Evolution of Climate Denialism
The climate movement is evolving and getting more progressive. But climate denialism is also evolving to a more subtle, more sinister, and more insidious brand that is eroding our capacity to act boldly on the defining challenge of our time—the climate crisis.
“While conventional climate denialism simply refuses to accept the reality of human-induced climate change (think of Donald Trump or Maxime Bernier), this new form of denialism sees our political leaders, the fossil fuel industry, as well as leading media outlets and pundits assure us that they understand and accept the scientific warnings about climate change, but then they promote and practice a politics and policy agenda that fails to align with what the scientific consensus says we must do.” (excerpt from page 30)
Klein writes that “the impediments we face to truly bold climate action operate in three domains:
- Political barriers to change: these include the failure of our governments to “entertain transformative policies”, “the systematic refusal of our governments to recognize and respect Indigenous title and rights”, our first past the post electoral system and a brand of federalism that often blocks “forward momentum on climate.”
- Economic barriers to change: these include socio-economic inequality, “economic and job insecurity”, “regional economic differences”, our reliance on fossil fuels combined with “the insidious manner in which the economic and political power of the oil and gas industry and its corporate partners have profoundly stalled meaningful climate action.”
- Cultural barriers to change: these include “mainstream media bias”, “the status quo advantage of dominant political-cultural ideas, such as neoliberalism, individualism”, and our collective “failure of imagination.”
These barriers to transformative change and the overarching power of the new denialism lead a political disconnection—a yawning gap—between “what is scientifically/ecologically necessary and what is considered politically possible, one that breeds cynicism and despair,” according to Klein.
A Good War is a must read. Buy it here.
Manifestations of the New Climate Denialism
The manifestations of “our politics of disconnect” could fill a small library. There is a never-ending stream of examples, both old and new, of the “deep disconnection” we’re up against at a time when clarity and purpose are most essential. Some examples: (pages 31-32)
- “The Trudeau government’s failure to present a plan commensurate with its much-vaunted Paris climate agreement commitments, while doubling down and anteing-up on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and fossil fuel production.”
- “The former Rachel Notley NDP government in Alberta released a climate plan with great fanfare in November 2015, including the introduction of a carbon tax and a commitment to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, while simultaneously permitting a 40% increase in oil sands emissions and relentlessly pursuing new bitumen pipeline capacity.”
- “The B.C. NDP government of John Horgan seeks to reclaim climate leadership (and sustain its governing partnership with the B.C. Greens) with a welcome Clean BC climate plan, while simultaneously pursuing a new liquified natural gas (LNG) industry and overseeing a dramatic ramp-up in natural gas fracking — a huge new source of GHG emissions.”
- “Newfoundland and Labrador started producing offshore oil in 1997, ironically the same year the Kyoto Protocol was signed.”
- “A fixation with carbon pricing…has consumed the political and media oxygen at the expense of other more systemic and bold changes. Politicians, academic economists and many environmental organizations have placed great stock in carbon pricing, expending huge political capital and even (in the case of the Trudeau government) trading oil sands and pipeline expansion for agreement on a carbon tax.”
…and other manifestations abound like:
- The declaration of a climate emergency by the Trudeau government on June 17, 2019, followed the next day with the approval of a massive Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
- The major gaps in the Trudeau government’s (just announced) Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act which pushes legally binding 5-year targets to 2030, lacks enforcement mechanisms and overall lacks in climate ambition. This is not the robust legislation that will ensure that Canada will not again miss another climate target.
The Battle of Our Lives
We are in the battle of our lives as we face the mounting threats of a warming planet and a rapidly changing climate. Canadians will not be spared from this. “In a battle , you need to know who and what you’re up against and how they operate,” writes Klein. We are up against the fossil fuel sector but more importantly, we are also up against politicians who “continually seek to appease the oil and gas industry.”
And there is no more blatant illustration of this phenomenon than Prime Minister Trudeau’s statement before the Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award Dinner in Houston on March 9, 2017:
“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there. The resource will be developed.” — Justin Trudeau
A Good War draws countless parallels between the kind of mobilization that led to victory during World War II and the gargantuan effort that humanity must deploy to win the war on climate. Our real work on climate is just about to begin.
“Most of us know the battle of our lives must soon get underway, and most of our leaders are now talking tough on climate. But we’re not quite sure how to begin in earnest….Everyone’s waiting for some sort of starting gun to go off. Or for someone to lead.” — Seth Klein
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.