LETTERS: ‘This is not a time for partisanship, we are facing a crisis’

Dear Editor:

The article, ‘Climate change update shows how steep the challenge is,’ by our MP Carol Hughes (May 10) was an eye-opener. I was shocked by the lack of progress that Canada has made toward greenhouse gas reductions, and the revelation that in 2017 our greenhouse gas emissions actually increased.

This disturbing information is buried in the 2019 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. Compared to 2005, Canada has decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by only two percent! Greta Thunberg’s words are so true. She said, “You cannot solve a crisis by not treating it as a crisis.”

The Canadian government’s target for 2020 was a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels, a target set in 2009. We don’t hear about that any more; it is slipping by like a bygone dream.

The target for 2030 is a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels. If we don’t treat greenhouse gas pollution as a crisis, that target will slip by too. But 2030 is a crucial year. The United Nations has determined we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 for the planet to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as opposed to higher levels. Last year they tried to wake the world up with this statement: “Why is it necessary and even vital to maintain the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius versus higher levels? Adaptation will be less difficult. Our world will suffer fewer negative impacts of intensity and frequency of extreme events, on resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism and carbon removal.”

Extreme events—floods and fires, does that sound familiar? Flooding this spring caused enormous damage, including here in Ontario, and the fire season in Alberta has begun already.

My friend MP Hughes has drawn attention to Canada’s failure to reduce greenhouse gases but the NDP solutions, like voluntary retrofit programs, encouraging renewable energy and even reducing the subsidies to the oil industry, fall far short. To really tackle this crisis, the NDP should be championing carbon pricing programs, specifically the carbon tax and rebate (carbon T and R), that the federal government introduced in provinces that refuse to put a price on carbon pollution. Carbon pricing is an effective tool to reduce emissions; in fact the carbon T and R has the potential to be the single most effective tool for tackling this crisis, but the NDP are evidently shying away from it.

Why? Are they afraid to stand up with the Liberals against the alt-right Conservatives? The NDP in BC introduced a similar carbon T and R a few years ago, so why isn‘t the federal NDP championing what clearly works?
Meanwhile, Conservative leaders like Doug Ford, Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer, in lock step with Big Oil, are doing their best to trash meaningful greenhouse gas reduction measures. They are especially fighting tooth and nail to scuttle the carbon T and R. In Ontario, Ford is using millions of taxpayers’ dollars to mount propaganda campaigns on social media that pretend to be news, to convince people that greenhouse gas pollutants don’t matter and the carbon T and R is only a carbon tax, conveniently ignoring the rebate which Ontario taxpayers can claim. When it comes to the carbon T and R, Ford’s half-truth is a lie. He doesn’t stop there. He’s forcing gas stations to post his lie as a sticker on gas pumps. And he’s mounting a court challenge against the carbon T and R. They think they can turn people against programs to reduce greenhouse gases and take control of the government in the upcoming federal election. With the NDP keeping silent on the carbon T and R, the alt-right may well sway public opinion, and if they do, we will all lose. This is not a time for partisanship, we are facing a crisis.

The heart-breaking truth is that we are nowhere near reaching the greenhouse gas reductions that are needed, and time is desperately short. To do that, by 2030 we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent. If we fail, at some point global warming will become runaway global warming because of natural feedback loops. For example, the permafrost contains methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that will escape its icy grip when the permafrost melts and accelerates global warming. Then it will be too late.

Jan McQuay