By JAN SLAKOV
Years ago, it seemed the biggest hurdle to serious climate action was technological: human society seemed inescapably dependent on fossil fuels.
Now experts have shown that the technologies necessary to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and even to sequester greenhouse gases already released, are viable. What’s missing is political will.
There are encouraging signs that this situation may be shifting. The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason describes how “the entire planet is on fire, literally and figuratively” and calls for us “to do our part.” A team of international researchers called for coordinated climate action to avoid creating a “Hothouse Earth” where much and perhaps most of the planet would become uninhabitable. One of the “hothouse earth” researchers took pains to insist that “Hothouse Earth is not our destiny and [. . .] social system feedbacks are starting to move us to the Stable Earth.”
Where can we find such “social system feedbacks?” A key indicator of shift is when people step out of role limitations to embrace climate action in whatever capacity they can. I believe this was a key message of Dr. Warren Bell’s open letter to Justice Affleck, who has been presiding over the trials of Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline arrestees. Bell wrote: “We cannot act as if the harms visited on people in other parts of the world are irrelevant to our professional role, because [ultimately] those harms will also affect us and those around us.”
This appeal to expand our understanding of our roles resonates with the key finding of the Nuremberg war crimes trials, that we cannot escape responsibility for our actions because we were “following orders.” Our professional roles cannot be used to excuse us from taking effective climate action.
The Canadian Medical Association has divested its organizational funds from fossil fuels. It invited Dr. James Orbinski (who accepted the Nobel prize on behalf of Doctors Without Borders) to provide guidance for other steps. Examples include a coal phase-out within 10 years, concerns regarding fracking, encouraging plant-based diets and leaving at least 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
Citizens Climate Lobby is an international non-partisan group dedicated to creating the political will for a livable planet. It recently reports that Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo introduced a carbon pricing bill and a recent Yale poll shows that a majority of U.S. citizens support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Friends and I have been doing our best to counter the misinformation and foot-dragging around climate action for decades. Please excuse us if we sound tired. Please remember what that pall of wildfire smoke represents and ask yourself how you can contribute to the concerted mobilization for survival we need.
A great opportunity to come together for next steps is coming up on Sept. 11, when former Liberal leader of the official opposition in Alberta, Kevin Taft, will be speaking at Meaden Hall, starting at 7 p.m. Taft helped design and build an award-winning near-net-zero home where he lives, in Edmonton, and his most recent book focuses on how the petroleum industry has undermined democracy and prevented effective climate action. He’s honoured that author Ronald Wright and Chilliwack’s Bill Henderson will be part of the evening too.
Tickets are available at Salt Spring Books or by contacting me. We need to cover expenses but we want to make sure all those interested are able to attend, regardless of ability to pay. More info is at kevintafttour.ca.
The writer is a Salt Spring resident who is active with Citizens Climate Lobby and other groups working to make the shift towards sustainability.