Immediate attention on climate change moral imperative, economic opportunity
Premier MacLauchlan took part in a First Ministers’ meeting in Vancouver on Thursday to begin a national discussion on climate change and energy strategy.
With Prime Minister Trudeau, the provincial premiers, and Aboriginal government leaders, Canada began hashing out a nation-wide energy strategy that is in line with the promises we made to the world at the international climate summit in Paris last December.
We vowed that our country will work hard to do our part in reducing carbon emissions to the point that the rise in global temperatures will not surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This is not an arbitrary commitment. We have already surpassed 1 degree Celsius of warming, and even now, we are witnessing the destabilization of global weather and precipitation patterns. This has had disastrous effects on infrastructure, as extreme weather events have become more frequent and intense, which we saw during Calgary’s historic floods in 2013.
Agriculture has also been affected, as once predictable wet and dry seasons have been transformed into erratic events of flooding and drought, which we saw during Alberta’s record-breaking heat, drought, and crop losses last summer. Climate change has caused billions upon billions of dollars of destruction in Canada and around the world. And it will cost billions, and likely even trillions more, if we choose to delay action any further.
Climate change also has an enormous impact on human lives. It has played a significant role in the unravelling of civil society in the Middle East.
Multi-year droughts in recent years have had catastrophic consequences on farmers’ crop yields in that region, causing food shortages and social unrest in already politically unstable, conflict-ridden countries, including Syria. Even these effects are hitting home. This week, Canada welcomed it’s 25,000th refugee from Syria’s violent collapse, symbolizing the end of only the very first wave of refugees, caused at least in part by climate change, that Canada will need to embrace in the decades to come.
Without a doubt, there will be many waves of climate refugees coming to Canada, regardless of our action today. However, the crucial difference between taking in hundreds of thousands of climate refugees, or millions upon millions, depends on the following choice: to act decisively and willingly now, or to act later when nature forces our hand. It is obvious that the correct course is immediate action.
Our commitment in Paris to act now is a declaration that Canadians understand the enormous amount of human suffering we can prevent, at home and abroad, by avoiding the most disastrous impacts of climate change. It also shows that Canadians and our leaders in government and industry recognize the tremendous economic opportunity climate change represents. But a commitment is nothing without the action and work to back it up.
If we act now by changing our lifestyles, our energy systems, and support progressive energy policies, provincially and federally, Canada will become a world leader in clean energy. We will help save lives and livelihoods; save ourselves billions of dollars in the long-term; create long-lasting, high-paying, high-skilled employment in sustainable industries; and revive our national reputation in the world to where it once was, as a compassionate and forward-thinking people.
If our governments come to us with an ambitious energy strategy, we need to back them up and support it. If the strategy is weak, we must push them to be bolder. We must act strongly on climate change now. It is not only a moral imperative, but an economic opportunity.
By Jordan MacPhee (guest opinion)
Jordan MacPhee is a student of political science and environmental studies at UPEI, a farmer, and a board member of the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island (ECO-PEI)