We live in strange times. All evidence shows we’re driving ourselves to a climate breakdown that threatens our survival, and what do governments do? Do they employ the many available solutions and work to educate the public and resolve the crisis? A few are trying, while some outright deny the evidence, some attack citizens who speak out about the emergency and others claim to care while planning ways to sell enough fossil fuels to cook the planet.
I just witnessed the poor outcome of the Madrid climate conference, where some countries — those most responsible for the climate emergency among them — continued to elevate the fossil fuel industry’s interests above humanity’s. When governments fail to lead, it’s up to the people, which is why climate strikes, lawsuits, constructive conversations and pressuring governments are crucial.
Canada played a positive role in Madrid, but we need to accept an important reality: We can’t burn all the bitumen in Alberta without putting our health, well-being, economy and likely survival at risk. Alberta and Canada needed a sensible plan to reduce fossil fuel reliance decades ago, including helping displaced workers. Now we’ve stalled for so long that the province and country need to lead on a global, all-out mobilization to avert catastrophe.
Instead, some Albertans — including in government — complain when schools use critical thinking exercises that illustrate varying perspectives on the oilsands. Alberta’s government launched a “war room,” ostensibly to provide a “fact-based narrative about Canadian energy” that “will reject what is false and promote what is true.” Its website offers this upside down “truth”: “expanding access to Canada’s vast fossil fuel resources will significantly lower global greenhouse gas emissions.” To add to the absurdity, the war room is partly funded by the province’s carbon tax revenue and structured so it’s not subject to freedom of information regulations!
There’s a concerted effort to silence or punish those who speak up about the impact fossil fuel development and use, including oilsands bitumen, are having on air, water, land, animals, plants and climate.
The federal government’s decision on whether or not to green-light Teck’s proposed Frontier Mine will be a good indicator of how seriously it takes the global climate emergency.
The federal government has until the end of February to decide whether it will proceed.
With global heating and its impacts accelerating faster than scientists predicted — including the Greenland ice sheet melting at a rate seven times faster than in the 1990s and Arctic warming releasing carbon dioxide and methane from melting permafrost — we absolutely must shift rapidly to a less-wasteful society that uses renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.
With every year that passes, scientists’ warnings get more urgent. We must resolve to act decisively in the coming year.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.
Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.