A Climate Emergency


We are about a week away from a federal election in Canada. I think I have to weigh in on this issue. The Canadian Parliament has declared that we are in a climate emergency. I don’t think that is a hysterical reaction. I think that aligns with most of the science. And it is the scientists we should be listening to at a time like this. Since this issue is so important I think we in Canada should vote primarily based on who will best deal with this crisis.

Yet it is clear that our Canadian government, led by the Liberals who mainly supported that resolution that Parliament made, is not treating it like a climate emergency. They are doing better than the Conservative opposition, but that is not saying much. It is a climate emergency, but the Canadian government has just invested $4.5 billion dollars to purchase the rights to the Trans-Mountain pipeline planned to transport bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific. To do that they have to cross numerous First Nations reserves. And  many (but not all) of  the Indigenous people on those reserves  do not want that pipeline on their land. Neither the government of B.C., nor the people of B.C.  are very receptive either. Spending so much money to invest in a pipeline that will last for decades, when we should be getting off fossil fuels, does not sound like the Liberals are treating the problem like an emergency. I know Canadians, and not just oil companies, earn a lot of money from the oil and gas industry. But we spend a lot to support (subsidize) it too. Are we being wise? I think not.

As I said, the Conservatives are even weaker. They have promised that within weeks of taking office they will rip up the Carbon Tax, even though almost all economists acknowledge that a tax on carbon is the only measure that makes economic sense.  Alternative proposals from the Conservatives seem weak at best. They have some good ideas, but on balance, they are clearly not treating this as an emergency either. The Member of Parliament who represents the riding in which I live, had a supporter deliver a pamphlet to our door which highlighted cancelling the carbon tax at the top of his list of promises. He lost my vote right there, but I know in my riding there is not a chance that he will not be re-elected. But I won’t vote for him.

The New Democratic Party policy, as far as I can see, follows the Liberal policy quite closely in this respect, but they don’t support buying the pipeline. But this is an improvement.

The Greens have the most interesting idea. They will impose a carbon tax, like the Liberals, and will increase it regularly like the Liberals, but they will not stop at $50 a tonne. Most economists agree with them that $50 is likely to be insufficient. The Greens promise to keep raising the tax until it works and we start to reduce oil and gas consumption enough to reach our targets. Another words, they will raise the tax until it hurts and we do what needs to be done. Unfortunately it is now so late that anything less is wholly inadequate. We have had more than 30 years to deal with the problem and now we are paying for that procrastination.  Partly we have been procrastinating so long because powerful interests have been spending a lot of money to persuade us that this was in our interests. Why this happened is an interesting story in its own right, but I will deal with that later. Because the election is approaching so fast I think I have to concentrate on that right now.

Next I shall report on some famous people who came to the city in the Climate First Tour.




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