“The science on climate change is very clear. The severity and urgency of the threats may not be the same for each country, but the direction is unquestionably the same.” Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change
If you’ve been paying attention to the Federal Election this year in Canada you’ve probably realized Climate Change is a key subject in this year’s campaigns. Climate action has taken priority internationally because of the alarming pace our environment has been changing due to gas emissions. Climate change is no longer something we can ignore or put on the back burner.
Throughout their campaigns the federal candidates have challenged each other by suggesting their approach to climate change is not a plan that will prove to be effective. Some, more than others, rely on scientific facts and research to draw their conclusions and present an action plan. Climate action has become a highly political subject because of the impact it has on the global economy . Companies that extract, sell, process, deliver and transform fossil fuels, and who have an incredible amount of influence in politics, are at risk of losing money if climate policy changes.
The rate at which we’ve developed technology in the last two centuries has been incredibly rapid. The industrial revolution, which started only around 1760, was a transformative period in history. It brought us so much technological and economic advancement it redefined human kind in many ways. The industrial revolution created the perfect conditions for capitalism to evolve into what it is now, and unfortunately, it created the perfect conditions for economic inequality, climate injustice, oppression, and an imbalanced distribution of resources around the world. If we think about it, the industrial revolution didn’t happen that long ago. In less than 300 years, we have managed to selfishly harm the Earth to the point that we have erased entire species of animals and plants, and we have put ourselves, our own species, in danger of annihilation for the sake of profit.
If you, like me, live in an urban area in a western country, you’ve probably experienced climate change to a certain extent. You’ve probably heard older adults talk about the amount of snow they used to get when they were kids, or how weather conditions and seasons used to be more predictable than they are now. The extent climate change has had an impact in people living in cities in the western hemisphere is minimal compared to what other communities around the world have experienced. Climate change has altered weather patterns that have had a negative impact on people who rely on the land to make a living or to simply eat. When you live in a village in Africa and your small piece of land is all you own and all you rely on to survive, weather pattern changes will put your survival at risk. You will probably be forced to move to an urban area seeking an opportunity to make a living and will probably end up living in poverty. Climate change has forced entire communities to migrate. It has forced people to abandon the means of survival they’ve know for generations.
There is a lot more to climate change than the melting glaciers or emaciated polar bears we see in the media. The permafrost is melting in Alaska at a much faster rate than other places. When solar radiation hits ice or snow, most of it is reflected back into the space. When ice and snow melt in the arctic, the exposed land absorbs the radiation, causing more ice to melt. Indigenous people in Alaska have suffered the effects of climate change more than any other communities in North America. They have been forced to change their customs and practices to adapt to their new reality.
Most climate change deniers suffer from normalcy bias, or in other words “it has never impacted me, so it must not be real” or “it’s not affecting me, so why would I worry?”, but when you become aware of how our actions impact people on the other side of the world, how can we ignore that? How can we continue living like we are the only ones who matter?
“The urgency of responding to climate change looks very different if you are a drowning island state than if you are a huge nation that stands to find its ports unfreezing in winter, its frozen wastelands becoming fertile and its abundant fossil fuels reserves more accessible” Mike Berners-Lee
So, what can we do to change what happens to those communities miles and miles away from us? The answer is vote for someone who makes climate change a priority, not only locally but globally too. Vote for someone who understands the crisis is here and we need action now. In order to make an informed decision and understand what each candidate is promising in relation to climate change, we need to understand a few basic concepts:
The climate crisis is not just an environmental issue only. It’s a political and economic issue that roots from greed and that has resulted in social and environmental injustice. Those who are more responsible for climate change have been the ones taking the least responsibility in fighting it, while those who are least responsible for it, have suffered the most consequences.
The Paris Agreement
In December 2015 delegates from all over the world got together in Paris to daft the world’s first global deal to help prevent the worst effects of climate change. The Paris agreement focuses on a transformation of the fossil fuel economy by getting countries around the world to commit to limiting their emissions to safer levels. The commitment includes limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Participating countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to NetZero by the second half of the century.
In other words, participating countries agreed to do everything they can to reduce the gases that cause the climate temperature to rise. Scientific studies have proven that if global temperature raises more than 2 degrees Celsius, our entire ecosystem will change, putting human kind at risk. The benchmark is the average temperature before the Industrial Revolution started. By committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to NetZero, we will be able to reverse the effects of climate change, including providing aide to poorer countries, creating green technology and implementing aggressive local measures. To read more about the Paris agreement check out the United Nation’s Climate Change Portal.
By the way, the United States had originally signed the agreement under the Obama administration, but they ceased all participation as of June 2017 as directed by Donald Trump.
Canada needs to take Just Transition into consideration when creating climate policy. Just Transition is a plan that involves helping those relying on the fossil fuel industry for survival, to transition into greener industries while securing their livelihoods in a way that’s sustainable. This includes providing education (free, preferably), training and fair wages, while complying with worker and human rights.
Locally, Durham Region is suffering the consequences of lack of Just Transition. GM workers have lost their livelihoods and there’s no plan to transition those workers into other industries in a sustainable way.
“The carbon tax has been proven to be a cash grab…. Hard-working individuals and families will have to bear the 92% of the burden of the carbon” Andrew Sheer
Carbon taxing has proven to be the most effective way to incentivize industries in the energy and transport sectors to reduce the extraction and use of fossil fuels. The concept is simple: the more carbon content in the fuel you extract or use to manufacture your products, the more taxes you’ll pay. We all know the thing the fossil fuel industry hates the most is paying taxes. The Conservative party has claimed that carbon taxing is ineffective because the consumer good prices will go up as a result. The truth is: a) fossil fuel will continue to be used and abused unless it gets too expensive to extract and process; b) we are already paying higher costs for certain goods and services thanks to climate change. Insurance rates have gone up due to extreme weather risks. Food is more expensive because of floods. Our quality of life has declined, resulting in higher healthcare expenses. Governments are spending more money on fighting wild fires and flooding. Climate refugees migrating to richer nations result in social conflict and spending more money towards services. We’re paying more for services like waste management. Our utility bills have increased due to indoor climate control in response to extreme temperatures.
By implementing a carbon tax the government will be collecting money from those industries that have contributed the most to climate change. The money collected from carbon taxing will help fund research, greener energy alternatives and more services and infrastructure for communities.
“Maturity demands looking beyond our narrow interests. Contributing to the public good from our private pockets causes some adults to throw tantrums. ” Paul Fleishcman
The top 3 countries with the most carbon emissions are China, India and the United States. Canada is #10. China is home to 1.36 billion people. India’s population is 1.33 billion. The US 327 million, and Canada’s population is 35.1 million. If we think about the emissions per country based on population, it makes sense that China and India are the top 2. The more people, the more emissions, but what about Canada and the US? Why are we, Canada, #10 with a population of only 36.1 million? The answer is we produce more emissions per capita than China and India. We use more transportation per capita, we acquire more products per capita, and we consume more food per capita than those two countries. As a nation, we have to take responsibility for our contributions to the climate crisis, and we must do it in a timely and sustainable way.
This election make sure you vote for the party that acknowledges our responsibility and is willing to take immediate action. Vote for the candidate that reflects your values and is going to represent you and your values when creating local policies and participating in global strategies that benefit those more vulnerable. Vote for the candidate that is willing to hold the government and their own party accountable for Canada’s contributions to climate change. But most importantly go out and vote!
Tiny Earth Warrior
For more information on each party’s environmental platforms go to https://election2019envirosurvey.ca/