It’s time to own the truth about cli­mate change

The value of a liv­able cli­mate is far greater than the cost of achiev­ing it.


Are we go­ing to live up to our Paris com­mit­ments and act de­ci­sively to stop cli­mate change? If the re­cent meet­ing of en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ters is any in­di­ca­tion, it de­pends on whom you ask.

Fed­eral min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna clearly un­der­stands that ur­gency and op­por­tu­nity have con­verged to cre­ate a po­tent mo­ment for re­duc­ing carbon emis­sions, while her Nova Sco­tia coun­ter­part Mar­garet Miller car­ries a less en­cour­ag­ing mes­sage. Ac­tu­ally two: 1. We are do­ing enough al­ready. 2. We can’t af­ford strong emis­sions tar­gets. With due re­spect to min­is­ter Miller, who is new, in 2016 it is mes­sages like these that we can’t af­ford.

It’s time we owned the truth about cli­mate change.

Truth num­ber one: Old rules don’t ap­ply. We have a tried-and-true method of solv­ing shared prob­lems. We gather around a ta­ble, share per­spec­tives and find a com­pro­mise. While this works with most is­sues, cli­mate change is dif­fer­ent. It is physics—and physics doesn’t com­pro­mise. Ei­ther we use the science to make the nec­es­sary emis­sions re­duc­tions or we dance around it and reap the con­se­quences.

Truth num­ber two: There’s a new bot­tom line. We al­ready have the tools. One of them, carbon pric­ing, may well be the key to a sus­tain­able fu­ture. It works within a mar­ket economy, us­ing a ris­ing price on high-carbon en­ergy sources to re­place them with low-carbon al­ter­na­tives. And, con­trary to what you’ve heard, it’s not just an­other tax. Carbon pric­ing can gen­er­ate rev­enues to re­duce ex­ist­ing taxes, help lo­cal busi­nesses tran­si­tion, sup­port the less well off and fuel cre­ation of new tech­nolo­gies, in­dus­tries and jobs.

There will be chal­lenges aplenty—progress comes with costs. But here’s the bot­tom line: The value of a liv­able cli­mate is far greater than the cost of achiev­ing it. Min­is­ter McKenna and our fed­eral gov­ern­ment get this and will in­tro­duce a Canada-wide carbon price this fall.

Sadly, our provin­cial gov­ern­ment re­sists join­ing them. Min­is­ter Miller and her col­leagues still see en­vi­ron­ment and economy as ad­ver­saries. Their think­ing, like the economy they seek to pro­tect, re­flects a past that is long gone. In its place a sus­tain­able fu­ture, both eco­nom­i­cally and en­vi­ron­men­tally, is tak­ing shape. Vi­sion­ary think­ing and smart carbon pric­ing can help Nova Sco­tia thrive in it.

Truth num­ber three: It’s for our chil­dren. There is a deeper rea­son to act. Whether we’re par­ents, grand­par­ents, aunts, un­cles or neigh­bours, we love our chil­dren. We show it in 1,000 ways—pro­vid­ing sun­screen in sum­mer and warm coats in win­ter, help­ing with home­work and cheer­ing achieve­ments, of­fer­ing guid­ance and ready­ing for adult­hood. It’s what grown-ups do.

Some acts of love re­quire join­ing to­gether in com­mon cause. Our fore­bears stood up against ag­gres­sors abroad, wove an in­clu­sive so­cial safety net and gave us the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. Now it’s our turn. We can give our chil­dren some­thing even more pre­cious: A sta­ble, nur­tur­ing cli­mate.

Truth num­ber four: We can do it. As ben­e­fi­cia­ries of mod­ern life we’ve helped cre­ate this mas­sive chal­lenge. Putting things right will re­quire the best in us—the Canada that seeks to model peace and jus­tice in the world and the Nova Sco­tia that cher­ishes its nat­u­ral heritage. It won’t be easy. But if we own the truth, de­mand more from our lead­ers and re­mem­ber whose fu­ture we hold in our hands, we can suc­ceed. Let’s get go­ing. It’s time.

David Henry is an ama­teur bee­keeper and a vol­un­teer with the Cit­i­zens Cli­mate Lobby.

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