Letter to the Editor

Harper failed us in Bali I am moved to write in reaction to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s infuriatingly weak performance at the recent Bali…

Harper failed us in Bali

I am moved to write in reaction to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s infuriatingly weak performance at the recent Bali conference on climate change.

I cannot say where Canadian public opinion as a whole stands on the matter of climate change and what we should do about it, but conversations in the Yukon reveal a predictable divide.

On the one hand, there are quite a few people who are very concerned and feel that we each have a personal responsibility to play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand, a similar (or larger — I cannot tell) number seem to agree with one or more of the following positions:

The Yukon is such a small jurisdiction, whatever we do won’t make any difference to the final outcome.

The Yukon’s emissions are nothing compared with those of the great economies, yet it is thought that we will be disproportionately affected by climate change, so responsibility to act lies with other jurisdictions.

It is uncertain that climate change has anything to do with our economic activity anyway.

No matter what the future consequences of climate change, we cannot afford economically to make the changes called for by the environmentalists.

Even if the environmentalists are right, we will find technological fixes to both adapt to climate change and to begin to take carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere and redress the balance.

All this talk of climate change is speculation, fuelled by people with an interest in exaggerating its seriousness.

All I know for sure is that I have to heat my house, run my truck and take the family on holiday to somewhere warm once a year, or my life won’t be worth living anyhow.

Space prohibits me from debunking each of these statements here, though I believe that even those who agree to some extent with any of the above statements feel pretty queasy about it — if they think about it at all.

And it is true, many of us prefer not to think about it at all — it’s all too remote, unpleasant and speculative.

Many, though, just assume that if all this stuff about climate change is real and as serious as the environmentalists say it is, then surely our leaders would be doing something about it.

In any era of historic challenge, there are bound to be leaders, followers and naysayers.

I know where the followers and the naysayers are, but where are our leaders?

In the face of the increasingly strong scientific consensus on climate change, the debate is effectively over, and there’s no point in further quibbling.

We must keep global warming below two Celsius from pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic impacts.

These likely impacts are not restricted to isolated extreme weather events and crop failures. They extend to include war, social and economic breakdown and threatened governance. Everywhere.

To keep under that temperature increase, we must cut global carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050. And in order to stand a chance of hitting that fundamental target, we must hit a reduction of 40 per cent cut by 2020.

We have proven technologies available already, which will enable us to achieve that first 40 per cent target, but we have only about six years to start actually implementing sweeping economic policy changes.

Again, the debate over whether we must act is over.

Bali was the time to move on to exactly who will do what to hit these targets. In a miserable display of lack of vision and leadership, Harper blew that opportunity, wasting the world’s time with prevarications and naysaying.

Of course, reaching the above reduction targets will involve a complete retooling of how we run our economy — and even our society.

Whole industries will have to die and others must be created. There will be winners and losers, considerable inconvenience and great uncertainties.

Under such conditions, individuals recycling their plastic bags and car-pooling won’t cut it.

We’ll need strong government leadership to create the legal and policy framework of the new order, to bring support to the temporary losers, such as re-training programs for those unemployed from the traditional unsustainable industries, and incentives for job creation in new sectors.

We’ll need strong government vision and leadership to inspire and underpin the social unity we will need if what we value in our society is to survive the strains of the necessary fundamental economic change.

This is no time for our leaders to take their cues from the oil and gas interests and other allied elites within our traditional, high emission industries and the banks that support them.

If Harper doesn’t wise up, he’ll go down in history as having betrayed not only Canada’s international reputation as a progressive and sensible nation, but the very lives and livelihoods of future generations of people within and beyond our borders, condemned to suffer the consequences of an unraveling economic system, accompanied by conflict, hunger and insecurity.

We Canadians, wherever we live, must make it clear that we will turf out of office any political leader that does not take greenhouse gas emission reduction targets seriously and does not take on the responsibility of rallying Canadians and guide us through what is bound to be a difficult and challenging era, as the old paradigm of ever-expanding, oil-based material wealth falls away and we seek a new future together.

Martin Crill

Whitehorse

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read