Canada’s complacency on climate change is an embarrassment

MONTREAL – Global warming is not going to go away by itself. And if our government has its way, Canada will remain part of the problem, rather than become part of the solution.

Canada continues to lead the world in obstructing progress on international climate policy. The latest evidence was presented for the world to observe during the recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Organised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the summit’s mission statement clearly spelled out the danger our civilisation faces: “Climate change is one of the most fundamental challenges ever to confront humanity. Its impacts are already showing and will intensify over time if left unchecked.”

Yet the Canadian delegation confirmed our country would not accept binding emission cuts; nor would it agree to emissions targets set under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, during Bonn negotiations.

The Harper Conservatives have consistently shown disinterest in either meeting targets or agreeing to decrease Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions that fuel global warming and climate change. For the past several years, the Canadian government has opposed any post-Kyoto agreement without the participation of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.

Canada has become an international embarrassment. According to the Global Footprint Network and World Wildlife Fund Canada, our nation has the fourth highest ecological footprint on a per-capita basis. Our per-capita greenhouse-gas emissions are also among the highest on the planet. And yet, we appear unwilling to change.

What will it take for our government to recognise that our planet is overheating because of fossil fuels? Is solid scientific evidence, uncovered by leading academics and published in renowned journals, not enough to convince members of Parliament that humanity is damaging our climate system?

What will it take for our government to heed the warnings that climate change is proceeding faster than anticipated and that its impacts can already be seen clearly in northern Canada?

How can our government reject a clear scientific understanding that every additional emission of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere leads to warmer temperatures that will persist for centuries?

Are our political leaders not concerned that human influences on planetary systems have become so widespread as to usher in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – as suggested by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen?

Our government is acting as though it is unaware that Canada is being left behind as the rest of the world is moving forward to develop renewable and clean energy. This is both a tragedy and a missed opportunity for our country.

Fossil fuels and polluting energies belong in the past. The longer our government takes to realise it, the poorer Canada will fare in the future economic order. The complacency of Canada’s political and corporate leaders in addressing climate change is dangerous for our well-being. Canadian civil society needs to bring pressure on its leaders to act responsibly. Now!

By disregarding scientific evidence of global warming, by obstructing advances at meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, our government is wilfully ignoring the writing on the wall.

Compared to the Earth’s climate history, a four-year electoral cycle is less than a blink of an eye. But for those of us waiting for our government to bring Canada into the 21st century, a four-year Conservative mandate seems like an eternity.

Let’s keep the heat on our MPs, and make sure they take the action on climate change that we not only want but also urgently need.

Damon Matthews and Paul Shrivastava.

This article was originally posted on the Montreal Gazette Website.


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5 thoughts on “Canada’s complacency on climate change is an embarrassment

  1. Excellent article. I intend to have my Sustainability 301 students at Simon Fraser University read this! Thank you.

  2. please add that other anglosaxon embarrassment to your list of embarrassment … Australia – the biggest per capita greenhouse contibutor – and especially its ‘conservative’ opposition (although the ‘governing’ Labor party can hardly be called ‘progressive’ or ‘left’ or even ‘centre’ any more!) – are as much dithering as you lot and your southern big-brother neigbour… why is it that barely 8 percent of the world population (and particularly those who rule these countries economically and politically) is/are allowed to be so arrogant and ignorant and hold the rest of the world and the globe itself at ransom…?

  3. Harper panders to his sponsors, such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). According to a quote by their representative at the SIO Conference in Victoria, BC in June, CAPP ” … takes no position on climate change science”!

  4. I think this article is missing a critical issue of costs and mechanisms that are sustainable (environmentally but also economically) in the long-run to achieve carbon reductions fairly. Everybody, including the Harper government, wants to save the planet, but without the right economic mechanisms and consensus that these mechanisms will sustain in the long-run, governments like Canada, Brazil, China, etc. will continue to be apprehensive to committing to long-term greenhouse gas reductions at the expense of their economy. With the effects of the last economic crisis still being felt worldwide, the economics of carbon management is critical for worldwide compliment. The science is there, and few contest it, but the main issue is how to reduce carbon emissions fairly throughout the world markets.

    The lack of compliance from so many important carbon emitters goes to show the lack of good economics within carbon sector. The IPCC scientists and others around the world have done their job of proving the science behind climate change, now where are the economists?

  5. This is sadly true.

    What saddens me even more is that I see this government’s actions as a mirror image of what, on average, the Canadian population thinks about environmental problems: “Yes, they exists but our country’s economy is built on exploiting our natural resources so we cannot change that without endangering our own economy.”

    Seeing the government as the only culprit is to discharge our own responsibility on it. After all, the actual government was elected by the majority of the Canadian population which tells me that the majority of the population does not considers environmental problems critical enough to deal with (unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think there are a lot of conservative environmentalist!)

    I think there is an urgent need for educating the population about the economical benefits of sustainable development at the individual level. Demonstrating pollution problems, biodiversity reduction or lost of natural heritage does not seems to be an eye-opener for the majority of the population.

    Since money discussions always reach most of the population, educating them about the job loss consequences of pollution, tax raises for health system overload and the like is, in my opinion a must.

    Spending his life to work to get money to raise children who will have a shorter longevity due to environmental problems seems a nonsense to me.

    And yes, I am also ashamed by Canada. People might always point out China and others but China is one if not THE #1 in R&D funding of clean technologies development. They understand the need for clean technologies, if not for the reduction in pollution, at least for the long-term aspect of their energy needs.

    I’ve always considered a government to be the political image of the society (especially in so-called “democratic” countries). So, as the title indicated, “complacency” is the best word to define the Canadian society of the 21st century.

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