evening falls on planet earth

If you don’t happen to live on part of the planet that’s currently baked by drought, battered by hurricanes, or disappearing under the…

If you don’t happen to live on part of the planet that’s currently baked by drought, battered by hurricanes, or disappearing under the rising ocean, it’s still possible to pretend the onrushing planetary crisis is somebody else’s worry.

It’s not.

Planet Earth is currently slated for destruction, and it’s going to take enormous effort to change that.

Writing in last Friday’s Tyee, journalist Bryan Zandberg interviewed several of BC’s top scientists. They spoke, not about mitigation or amelioration of the effects of climate change, but on how they cope from day to day with the depressing knowledge that the world is on its way to hell in a handcart, and no one’s applying the brakes.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, told Reuters that, “If global warming trends continue at the moment, and the models suggest that they are and maybe doing so more rapidly, they will have significant impact on where people can live, grow food and whether people will have to leave.”

According to Steiner, very soon the effects of climate change will begin to produce millions of refugees in “densely populated, low-lying, developing countries such as Bangladesh and parts of China, Indonesia and Vietnam.”

These will not be the kind of refugees we commonly see today, most of whom can be housed in hunger camps within a few hundred miles of where they once lived, and forgotten about until they die.

The land in question is about to become ocean bottom.

This will cause an unprecedented migration of humans, accompanied without doubt by pestilence, war, famine and death.

At the same time, in what are now the prosperous parts of the planet, we can expect to see more drought in food producing areas, more and fiercer storms, and serious flooding of the coastlines.

There is now no real debate about whether an environmental meltdown is on the way, though each year science upgrades its estimate on how close Armageddon looms.

No matter what we do, climate change is already here, and its effects are going to get worse.

We now have the choice to pull the blankets over our heads and pretend it will all go away, or to get up and get to work to limit the damage and mitigate its effects.

We didn’t start yesterday, or last year, or in 1972, so the best we can do is to start now.

Guess which option the government of Canada chose?

Last week, Canada’s Environment Minister Rona Ambrose unveiled her new ‘clean air’ legislation.

In it, climate change takes a back seat to smog reduction.

This is allegedly because Steve Harper is asthmatic, and surely has nothing to do with the fact that it will be cheaper for industry to focus on scrubbers and filters rather than on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It may be futile anyway to worry who’s in the back seat, since the bus is going nowhere.

This bill would stall all action on the environment until 2010, when smog standards will be imposed.

Cuts to greenhouse gasses are to begin in 2020, with targets for reductions set for 2050.

Most significant of all, this legislation redefines the word ‘reductions’ so that it can actually mean ‘increases.’

The bill calls for reductions in emissions relative to production, rather than the absolute reductions required by our Kyoto commitments.

The pressure to increase output from the oil sands may mean that in 2050, even with the proposed 45-65 per cent ‘reduction,’ we’d be cranking out more carbons than we do today.

This is insanity.

As the scientific community grows ever more alarmed at the possible consequences of failure to act, the government releases a plan to do nothing for four years, and then to do very little.

One comfort, there is not sufficient support in Parliament to pass the bill into law.

On the other hand, there is no hero waiting in the wings to save us with better legislation.

The only party that can get rid of Harper is one that totally ignored its Kyoto commitment for years, and whose plans for the environment are hardly more inspiring than Ambrose and Harper’s.

Canada has to change course.

We need regulations today, not in 2010, or 2020, or 2050.

We can’t go on subsidizing big oil companies who do nothing to reduce emissions, squandering our natural gas to extract heavy oil, building gas-guzzling cars and inefficient buildings, and being among the biggest consumers and the weakest regulators on the planet.

Pete Seeger once sang, “If we but heed these early warnings, the time is still quite early morning.”

We didn’t, and night is coming fast. What do you think, should we act now, or put it off?