From The Missing Issues File: Climate Change

Did I miss something, or did the two-hour English election debate go by with only one passing reference to climate change, the most urgent issue of our time?  There seems to be an inverse relationship at play between the severity of the crisis and its place on the political radar.

The issue is receiving much less attention than it did in the last federal election (the Dion factor?).  Yet the science tells us that the situation is more urgent, not less.

Last weekend, Bill McKibben (founder of, and author most recently of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet) gave an outstanding talk in Vancouver (to a capacity crowd of 500). Twenty years ago, McKibben’s book The End of Nature was the first to introduce the coming reality of global warming to a general audience.

Today, McKibben reminds is that that future is now. Climate change is happening. In the last year alone we have seen temperature records shattered, devastating droughts and fires in Australia and New Zealand, and because warmer air holds more water vapor, disastrous flooding, most notably in Pakistan.

McKibben also highlights the cruel global irony that the poorest countries that have contributed the least to global warming are experiencing the brunt of climate change, a reality that drives home the moral imperative at play. And he sadly noted Canada’s ignominious role in scuttling meaningful progress in global negotiations.

McKibben also had little fun with the concept of “conservative”. A direct action he recently helped organize in Washington asked participants to come “in their Sunday best.” The point was to emphasize that the radicals in all this are those willing to recklessly dump ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere without consideration of the consequences (that’s crazy stuff), while the true conservatives are those who want our planetary systems to maintain some semblance of what we have hitherto known.

McKibben concluded with what should be an obvious observation: the governments we elect may get to re-write tax laws, the criminal code, or immigration laws – but they do not get to re-write the laws of nature. We need a government whose policies and global negotiating position are governed by science. Rising to the challenge of global warming is the defining issue of our generation. The climate cannot afford four more years of inaction.

Winning public support (particularly in tough economic times) also requires that our policies are structured equitably and are seen to be fair. That’s what the CCPA’s BC office is modeling in our Climate Justice Project (for more on that, see here).

Seth Klein is the CCPA’s British Columbia Director.


  1. The NDP and Green platforms are ok, but certainly not much heard in the debates or on the campaign trail so far.

  2. Climate change is the kiss of death, no politician anywhere wants to talk about it. At the G8 last year the topic was not even broached. The public is fatigued on the issue now and rightly so. In 2008 -2009, there was a climate change scare story almost every night on the CBC with Mansbridge, it was in every newpaprer almost dayly adn it was all over the radio. Its a dead issue now and good riddence. By the way, Layton brought it up at the debate only once, it went over like a lead balloon.

    Climate change is dead. Its over, go home. Cheers.

  3. Given you are well aware of the quality of knaves, rogues and fools running for office, it should be no surprise that some of us smell a rat in the hypocrisy of the Chinese / U.S. ‘climate change/ carbon credits’ where Europe has hobbled itself to charge higher energy costs to its industry.
    But,but,but…AGW ! Emergency.
    What, it this a rerun of ‘Lost in Space’ by the robot convinced all is lost ?

    For starters, carbon credits are a lovely chance to engage in lucrative fraud revolving around an outrageous presumption : an international tax on the use of fire. Secondly, if the proposers of this emergency don’t take it seriously…maybe they know something you don’t.

    As for myself, when somebody tells me they can foretell the future because they can foretell the past… really is long past time one had a good grip on one’s wallet.
    Part of this should be from an awareness that deployment of unproven technology is at least as iffy as if one were buying a vehicle from designs that were not backed by experience nor field tests. Solar designs were benchmarked a year or so ago by a 12 year old lad who showed inefficiencies riddled current designs by whole orders of magnitude.
    Wind power is haunted by bugaboos of wildlife kills, subsonic vibration, and catastrophic gearbox failure from wind gusts.

    Don’t bother telling me we need to take the medicine when the proposition of ‘scientific inerrancy’ is no more than an oxymoron flaunted as sound doctrine.

    I’ve been sold a Bill of Goods and am trying to forward it without due cause and responsible consideration ? That is the Poisoning the Well logical fallacy propagandizing disagreement with the models of the situation as they are presented.

    I’ll give you inquiry. Hold on to your hat.

    You will note that I haven’t neatly diagrammed a case which I propose as Divine Revelation. Life is a bit more messy than that, which is why I included a diversity of ideas for consideration.

  4. It’s a curious thing in an “advanced” and nominally educated society that opportunism, competition and a single-minded quest for economic growth and success make glaring evidence of ecological crisis – invisible. And empirical science calling for restraint – “flawed.”

    Jared Diamond in his book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” tells the stories of Easter Islanders who used up all their wood rolling big status-bearing statues to their shores, of European colonists in Greenland who starved rather than adapt to a fish diet like the natives – but also of the natives of tiny Pacific island Tikopia who realized that they needed to get rid of their pigs if they wished to continue to preserve their ecology and themselves. In the flow of human history, the Tiokpians seem to be the exception rather than the rule. They decided to give up something they liked a great deal in order to exercise wisdom and foresight. The story suggests that they also had a wise chief who led them in this prudent decision-making.

    In our civilized world, we choose not to educate about the essential nature of ecological integrity. In North America, we have preferred to elect politicians who offer no risk of asking us to reduce our consumption, carbon emissions or illusions of perpetual growth. Apparently selective intelligence allows us to make (and crave) ever-more-sexy and highly disposable electronic gadgets, but not to sensibly assess the combined trajectories of economic speculation, resource depletion, climate instability, biodiversity decline* and planetary biocapacity to support us all in our busy cravings.

    We might pause and ask if our wilful ecological blindness is an ecological corrective factor in a species in the process of overstepping its planetary carrying capacity. We are perfectly entitled to do nothing when told that record population levels, fossil-fuelled globalism and consumerism are unsustainable. Nature always correct s ecological excesses, one way or another. So we only have two choices: smarten up and figure out how to plan for a less obsessively consumptive future, or watch how Nature enforces her laws. (If you pay attention, you may notice that she’s already begun her work.)

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