Canada’s Role in the Global Climate Puzzle

Here is an Op-Ed written for one of my courses last semester. It was published in the Times Colonist on  Dec 19th. 14. Seems the link I posted doesn’t connect so here it is below :

Canada Must Help Solve the Climate Puzzle

Climate change is a global puzzle, and one of the most complicated that human history has ever had to solve. Canada needs to do its part in solving that puzzle.

Deciding where each country fits into this enormous jigsaw, what the finished product will look like, and which corner to work at first, has so far left governments turning over the table in frustration.

Countries need to unite and pick up the pieces, starting with those still most intact.

The world’s biggest economies are trying to lead by example. They want to collaborate, to build solutions and encourage other players, such as Canada, to join.

Currently, we’re the player saying the puzzle isn’t worth solving and bumping elbows with those who are diligently working and investing in a solution. Canada needs to pick up some pieces and contribute.

On Nov. 1, the world received a dire warning from the United Nations, a report signed by every country in the world with a clear message: Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 if warming is to stay below 2 degrees C, a level where human societies can still adapt.

The UN’s secretary general commented at the report release “science has spoken, and time is not on our side.”

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference offers the last opportunity to shake the foundations of global environmental policy, the last chance to piece together the climate puzzle. In September, 125 countries met at the summit conference in New York City to strategize and ensure the success of next year’s conference.

Leonardo DiCaprio even spoke, pleading to nations to stop “pretending that climate change doesn’t exist.”

As for Canada, we didn’t attend. We don’t worry about climate change up here; in fact, a couple of degrees of warmth would be appreciated.

Canada remains a pretender despite our vulnerabilities: Increased temperatures as high as several degrees have dried wetlands, melted permafrost and reduced sea ice. The mountain pine beetle has been able to spread in warmer winters, killing millions of trees while increasing the frequency and severity of forest fires.

Still, Canada is a small piece of the puzzle next to the world’s largest economies, the U.S and China. On Nov. 12, they came to a momentous agreement, not out of stewardship, but out of necessity.

Considering the health implications of China’s smog and the disastrous U.S. droughts, the two longtime heavy polluters are beginning to realize their options: Commit to a green economy or collapse.

Unfortunately, while these giants are adapting, Canada is busy pushing an outdated agenda: dirty energy. Under Conservative government, serious green energy initiatives have been abandoned, as we shift focus to extraction from oilsands and claiming of Arctic sovereignty to stake ownership of offshore oil resources.

Canada’s largest trading partner, the U.S., is pushing to reduce oil consumption by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, while Canada is busy designing the Keystone XL pipeline to push oil down their throats. It’s no wonder U.S. President Barack Obama has rejected this, twice.

It’s also no wonder Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t attend the summit conference. One can imagine it would be embarrassing to attend such a meeting representing our current policies.

“But oil is going to create a prosperous Canada,” says every government-approved advertisement.

Tax dollars have heavily subsidized the industry, yet oil development is a job-poor sector, and the few that are created are temporary or seasonal. Further, the petroleum industry is vulnerable, subject to frequent boom/bust cycles of falling and rising oil prices.

Wealth that is generated is certainly not distributed fairly among Canadians, or even the communities directly affected, often First Nations.

Today, Canada is a climate-change denier and oil producer. To the world, we are no longer a peaceful Eden of natural abundance and prosperity. We are no longer the polite northerners, relaxing with maple syrup and beer in our igloos after a long game of pond hockey.

The idealized Canada has been blanketed with a black film. We are an oil nation, a fossil-fuel giant seeking profit, and now one of the top 10 worst polluters per capita.

The perception of Canada has become that of the crudely stereotyped Albertan, a province in which 21 per cent proclaim that the climate is not warming.

Our environmental policy today is diverging from the U.S. more than ever, but not in the positive and progressive way that has come to be expected of us.

Harper is being urged by world leaders to do what he always said we would do: “Follow the U.S in climate policy.” Canada must declare serious emission-reduction targets and renewable-energy initiatives for the 2015 Paris climate conference.

We must contribute to the climate policy puzzle or fall behind.


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