I watch Canadian and British Columbia politics with dismay. The news is dominated by scandals related to abuse of expense accounts, the only policy discussions are about balancing budgets at the expense of government services for ordinary people, and government at both levels seem determined to act in the interest of fossil fuel companies, regardless of the consequences. And there are consequences.
Human-created emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, CFCs, and other greenhouse gases are increasing the global temperature. This increase in temperature is leading to more extreme weather events around the world. Extreme weather threatens world supplies of both food and fresh water and ocean acidification threatens all fish and seafood stocks. There are a number of potential positive feedbacks in the weather system, such as the melting of arctic sea ice, methane release from tundra, and the die-off of phytoplankton due to acidification that may cause climate change to rapidly accelerate. It is imperative that humans rapidly reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and, if possible, withdraw some of these gases from the atmosphere.
What is the role of the BC government in climate change? At present, BC is contributing to the problem, both through direct carbon emissions in BC and through the export of coal, oil, and gas to other countries. What policies should the BC government and opposition parties be advocating? Will any of our leaders have the courage and commitment to pursue these policies?
This is not simply an environmental issue. It is an issue of human rights and social justice. A child born this year will be only 37 in 2050. Consider the climate models of what the world is likely to be like in that year; it is not a pretty picture. By failing to address the climate issue, we are sentencing the children of the world (including our own children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews) to increasing and unprecedented levels of suffering, danger, and distress. Is it fair and just for us to sacrifice the welfare of the next and later generations for our short-term economic benefit? For centuries parents have struggled so that their children’s lives can be as good or better than their own. Current government policy is going to leave our children much less well-off than we are.
While this discussion has been about British Columbia, each of us can examine the policies of our own government. Are they addressing the reality of global warming or are they hoping to continue with business-as-usual?