Canada is Still Part of the Climate Change Problem

Michael Nabert

Nov 27, 2017 - Arguably the most important thing to your future that's happened lately is the international effort to confront climate change, but much of the public is unaware and uninterested, and news coverage is puny or nonexistent.

Before US President Donald Trump came along, Canada was the worst international player for years, working to undermine agreement and make the problem worse harder than any other nation.

Seriously, Canadians don't like to hear it, but we were the biggest jerks at the table.

Although the new federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned heavily on showing real climate leadership, the token efforts they have made to address the problem are window dressing that hides policy decisions guaranteed to make the problem much worse.

After promising to significantly reduce emissions, they have chosen to massively increase them instead. When you are at the bottom of a hole, you have to stop digging.

Provincial Inaction

The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular have bet so heavily on fossil fuel production that Canada is now more committed to a higher carbon economy than any other industrialized country on Earth.

Chart: CO2 extracted per capita among the 12 largest national economies (Image Credi: National Observer)
Chart: CO2 extracted per capita among the 12 largest national economies (Image Credi: National Observer)

British Columbia's newly announced climate change plan is a promise to do nothing useful for more than a decade before beginning even token efforts.

Even more irresponsible, Alberta's climate plan is to increase its emissions to half of Canada's entire carbon budget by 2030, forcing the rest of Canada to cut their emissions by 50 percent in the next fifteen years so Albertans don't have to make any cuts. Does that sound fair to you?

Alberta could choose to be a leader as Canada, and the world, faces the challenge of climate change, but so far, they are choosing to be a millstone around the neck of the country, and the planet.

Alberta's growth in emissions was more than the reductions from Quebec, BC, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador all added together, so even though many in the nation are showing leadership on climate change, Alberta erases all of that good, all by itself.

Governments Must Take Action

Signing a climate agreement in itself means nothing. What's important is whether governments take actions to fulfil the obligations within it. One of the obligations is that the wealthier industrialized nations, who created the problem in the first place, need to help developing nations to be able to raise their quality of life in a lower carbon way than we did.

hundred billion dollars a year just might be enough to make that happen. As usual, there are people on the internet expressing outrage that Canada would be making billions available to developing nations to help them deal with climate change.

Canada has the tenth-largest economy on the planet (by nominal GDP). Our pledge to provide $2.65 billion over five years is pretty much sticking our tongue out at the idea that we should take responsibility for a mess we helped create.

Canada just can't pretend that it's not our problem. Out of 195 countries on the Earth, we rank number eight in top current emitters of CO2, and in terms of total historical contribution to the climate problem, we rank number nine as a country and number eight as individuals. Out of 195.

We can own that and act on it, clean up our own act and the mess we helped make, and provide a shining example to the world that we can be proud of. Or we can keep racing to make worse a looming catastrophe that is going to hurt us along with everyone else.

Which one of those things sounds like a better idea to you?

What does it mean that we are spending more than 64 times as much money making the problem worsethan we are dedicating to trying to make it better?

Don't let Trump distract Canada from holding our own leadership to account for failure to act meaningfully on climate change.

Writer Michael Nabert has been a dedicated environmentalist for three decades, won an environmentalist of the year award for it, and reached an audience of millions online. He has recently brought his expertise to Environment Hamilton's new Climate Change team.