Skip to main content

The world can’t say it wasn’t warned – repeatedly. But unfortunately, the dire cautions being levelled by climate scientists these days don’t seem to be precipitating the global panic and outrage that they should.

The latest report from the United Nations indicates the planet is warming at a far greater rate than previously thought. At the trajectory we’re on, the globe will be 1.5 degrees warmer than preindustrial levels by 2040 or sooner. While that doesn’t sound like much, the change that will unleash – inundating coastlines from rising sea levels, extreme heat waves, drought and famine – will affect hundreds of millions of people, the report says.

The report’s authors and editors – 91 scientists from 40 countries – estimate the worldwide damage at US$54-trillion.

There is time, they say, to reverse course and avoid the calamitous collision that lies ahead of us. But it would take unprecedented political resolve by the world’s political and business leaders. It would mean effectively turning the world economy on a dime, Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist, told The New York Times. It would likely mean having to impose a uniform carbon tax across the globe – something that seems unlikely. It would mean shutting down coal, instead of reinvigorating it, as U.S. President Donald Trump seems intent on doing. Renewable energy from wind and solar would have to be radically increased.

I’m not sure people truly understand what’s going on here. If they do, they are being willfully blind to the consequences of remaining on the same path. Say what you want about Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in Ottawa, but at least they are trying to do something about it all – even if it’s not enough in terms of the sacrifice we need to make. Catherine McKenna is probably the most engaged and serious minister of the environment this country has ever had – even though she is regularly mocked and chided by her political opponents.

That brings us to conservatives in this country.

Politicians from the right have found the fight around the environment, and the carbon tax in particular, lucrative ground for them with voters. Premier Doug Ford in Ontario has joined forces with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney in denouncing the federal government’s planned tax on carbon. Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, too. Their lazy, often misleading scare-mongering plays well on the hustings. But it is incredibly misguided and irresponsible given the code-red alarm that has been sounded around the state of the planet.

Mr. Ford has already killed the climate plan brought in by the previous Liberal government in Ontario. By doing so, the Progressive Conservatives will increase pollution equivalent to 30 new coal-fired plants, according to Ms. McKenna. This is what happens when all you care about is where your next vote comes from, not what kind of world you will leave people with when you’re long gone. Politicians such as Mr. Ford and his ilk couldn’t care less about pollution, or taking measures to radically reduce emissions. He believes the people who make up Ford Nation, the people who voted him into office, only care about their next paycheque. He may be right.

Maybe that’s what the other conservative politicians are thinking as well. Fighting climate measures such as the carbon tax makes good politics at the moment, even as the smartest people in the world, including Nobel laureate and climate researcher William Nordhaus, is saying the most efficient remedy for shrinking greenhouse-gas emissions is a worldwide carbon tax. Don’t tell that to Mr. Kenney. He apparently knows better.

Mr. Kenney, Mr. Ford and others want you to believe that a carbon tax is a job killer, even while the facts say otherwise. British Columbia has had a carbon tax for 10 years and over that time has had, on average, the strongest economy in the country. Mr. Kenney and Mr. Ford want you to believe you can tax high emitters, while ignoring the fact that these emitters will simply pass those penalty costs on to their customers.

But they are betting people are too stupid to figure that out. And they may be right about that, too.

Yes, politicians will have blood on their hands when the seas start rising. But it’s not just politicians. It’s the people who voted them in knowing these so-called leaders didn’t care about trying to solve the greatest challenge facing mankind.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles

Interact with The Globe