House Call with Carol Hughes

It’s time to get down to work on the nuts and bolts of addressing climate change

Think of the technological advances that define our times. One example is how we can send spacecraft to Mars and operate remote control vehicles to explore the planet. This is based on the hard work of scientists. When it comes time to monetize science, the support is usually robust, but when the message from scientists challenges how we go about our lives, small but vocal dissenting opinions are given extraordinary weight. The burden of proof is flipped on its head and there are many who benefit from this status quo that further muddy the waters. This is, of course, how the climate change debate is taking place, especially in social media. The question we can reasonably ask now is whether this is how the debate will continue as the clock winds down on our window of opportunity to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change.

This week, as the global elite met in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, young activists Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg participated in one of the event’s panel discussions and further challenged those with the most influence. Autumn has addressed Canada’s water crisis in her role as the chief water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation. In Davos, she told her audience that Canada’s federal politicians are not focused enough on climate change. Thunberg’s message was equally strong, saying that virtually nothing has been done to address the causes of climate change as we face dire warnings about the short timeline we have.

Despite the serious attention these teens are receiving, they are also mocked, especially online, and subject to extreme criticism merely because they deliver a message that many don’t want to hear—if we are going to address climate change, some things will have to change. This is especially true for Greta Thunberg. The online bullying she faces has even included Twitter tirades from the President of the United States. It is clear there are vested interests who want to quash her message and maintain the status quo. Some support that tactic out of self-interest and many more out of fear that change will take their comfortable lives away.

Perhaps this is happening because many climate deniers seem to believe capitalism will collapse if we band together to minimize the effects of climate change. They cling to arguments such as Canada’s contribution to the global problem is minuscule. That, even if we did everything we can, it would amount to a drop in the bucket. It’s an argument that seems to run counter to how we like to view ourselves as international good guys and a nation that over-achieves.

It’s hard to argue that Canada isn’t blessed with stability and wealth, but we are well served if we recognize that most of us inherited our good fortune based on where we were lucky enough to be born. How we use our advantage is how we will be judged.

That can start by recognizing we are uniquely positioned to take the lead in developing clean energy solutions which could benefit the entire world in the process. This has the potential to be a unifying idea as well. Politically, the Conservatives have shown a preference to look to technology to address climate change. New Democrats believe we can address climate change and create good, sustainable, jobs in the process. The differences in approach might be marginal and the similarities are worth exploring. We understand that this parliament has been given the green light from a majority of voters to address climate change. If we are paralyzed by inaction based on partisan beefs and a lack of imagination, parliamentarians will have to reconsider whose interests they are truly serving.