Climate change top priority

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

We can now envision the end, or at least the control, of the COVID crisis, which allows for consideration of some long-term public issues requiring attention and resolution: proper care of senior citizens, control of federal and provincial debt, Canada’s dependence on foreign vaccine manufacturers, and federal-provincial coordination in emergencies, among others. Beyond this are issues that have been with us for much longer than the COVID crisis, but were put aside during the pandemic: child daycare, dental and expanded health care, electoral reform, environmental and climate change issues, high costs of post-secondary education, and exorbitant costs for housing, especially as interest rates are expected to rise.
This list will certainly keep our politicians busy with pronouncements if not actions. Of special concern are issues related to climate change and the environment. Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, Canada is to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. Further, Canada will have net-zero emissions by 2050. (Net-zero emissions means no GHG or that such emissions are completely offset by other actions that remove climate-warming gasses from the atmosphere.)
However, there’s a major problem with these commitments. Canada emits 1.7% of global greenhouse gases, but only has 0.47% of the world’s population. Thus, on a per capita basis, Canadians emit more than three and a half times the global average. If Canada is to have a net-zero record, it must reduce its GHG emissions at a rate three times that of most other nations.  Without a miracle, the possibility of this happening is exceedingly small.
Climate change is not the only environmental issue Canada must address. The federal government has reduced the allowable salmon catch from the Pacific Ocean by 60% to compensate for reduced stock due primarily to overfishing. UNESCO – a United Nations agency aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture – has warned that our heritage nature reserve, Wood Buffalo Park, is in a seriously deteriorated state, failing in 15 of 17 environmental measurements. Add to this list, increasing loss of endangered species, problems with mining tailings (Canada holds the second worst record in this category), loss of wetlands, and a plethora of other signs of environmental deterioration; we face a major crises.
The most significant problem in addressing climate change and environmental concerns is that there are many other issues that are more direct and easier to address in the political sphere. While climate change is global and Canada is expected to address GHG emissions with a workable solution, most other pressing issues are specific to Canada and thus more likely to attract greater interest. However, putting off climate change and environmental issues burdens future generations with an ever-increasing problem whose solution may come too late.