There is a Precedent


Lawyers are usually slaves to precedents.  I don’t consider myself such a slave, but there are places for precedents.  Bill McKibben pointed out, there is a precedent we should consider.  Even though we have got ourselves into a very bad position by supporting monsters like Putin and other autocratic leaders of oil and gas states for so many years, we should be able to stop such support and take a new path even in the midst of a war in Ukraine. Wars are fought on many fronts and that includes the war in Ukraine.


One of the fronts against Russia and Putin does not require anyone to die or put their lives in danger. In fact, it involves taking one out of danger by withdrawing from supporting Putin and Russia.  It does however require us to enlist the same kind of efforts we have done in past. For example, in the year before the United States entered the Second World War Canada and the United States transformed the industrial system of North America in an all-out effort to provide the military hardware their forces would require to defeat Germany and Japan. It was an astonishing transformation. For example. Ford Motor Company converted its industrial structures from supplying automobiles to supply aircraft and other military equipment and this was a very significant part of the Allied war effort. At the height of the war, a bomber was produced in the United States every hour! The industrial might of North America became one of the most important instruments of the Allied war effort that led to victory in Europe and Japan.


Now we need to transform our economy to produce instruments to fight climate change and convert to green sources such as solar and wind power. We will need a similar effort. We did this before and we can do it again. A bomber is a hugely complicated piece of machinery. Solar panels and wind farms are much easier to produce. As McKibben said,


None of this is simple. None of this comes without cost, but add it up against the cost of allowing despots to dominate our politics and then add up the costs of allowing climate change to proceed. The latest economic projections I have seen for allowing climate change to proceed unchecked this century is $550 trillion, which is more money than currently exists on planet earth!


Now it is true that some people are undermining solidarity on issues such as this. For example, some politicians running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada are promising to do away with carbon taxes in Canada and pay rebates to Canadians paying a lot for fuel right now. As in World War II, this is a time to build solidarity and tackle a big problem. It is not a time to hand out baubles to unhappy Conservative supporters. This will require a big effort. We have done it in the past; we can do it again.


Bill McKibben said he had trouble feeling confidence right now. When he hears Canadian conservatives begging for relief he gets discouraged. He admitted he was angry with political leaders like Vladimir Putin and Jason Kenney who just want to take windfall profits at such a dangerous time. As he said, referring to leaders in the energy sector, “It is a reminder of just how irresponsible they have been for decade upon decade and that irresponsibility is killing people in Ukraine and is killing the planet and this may be our last good chance to do something about it.”


There is a precedent for getting together and tackling a tough job. We can do this. But we must not defer to vested interests.

2 thoughts on “There is a Precedent

  1. I totally agree, John. The only way I can foresee the kinds of changes occuring if we are to meet the <1.5°C limit by 2050 is if people are prepared to weather some challenging changes to their cozy lifestyles. It will take time for people to adjust lifestyles to a world that relies on electricity rather than fossil fuels, and time is one thing that is in very limited supply. Therefore, sacrifices will have to be made, and in today's overindulgent society, sacrifice is a very dirty word.

  2. you are right. I think many people would be prepared to make the sacrifices provided vested interests don’t interfere with our decision making as they have done so often in the past. We can do but I am not sure we will do it. And we don’t have a lot of time.

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