Monthly heat records are becoming routine (July was the hottest month on record), and people are finally waking up to the reality that climate change is occurring at a much faster pace than most thought.
Yes, denial continues in some quarters, but they’re increasingly seen as crudely self- serving, science-illiterate and therefore indefensible.
Recent polling underscores that concerned citizens are getting the scientific message about the climate crisis worldwide. So, we all should ask, what will our governments do about it?
And here we face another dilemma, as the global political scene is increasingly bifurcating between sputtering democracies and what really rank as no more than oligarchic kakistocracies. Think of Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin; Donald Trump and Xi Jinping; Jair Bolsonaro and Kim Jong-un; Rodrigo Duterte and Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; Narendra Modi and Bashar al-Assad.
Is anyone really convinced that existing national governments are up to the task of wrestling a rogue climate monster to the ground?
And if collective action isn’t possible or feasible, whom do we throw our lot in with – the Brexiteers, the MAGA hatters, the Amazon forest burners, or the one-party oligarchic demagogues, Tiananmen Square ideologues and religious zealots of oil? Who really has global best interests at heart?
At present, we’re placing most of our hopes in the 2016 Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse gas emissions abatement, adaptation and finance. Since its signature, however, greenhouse gas emissions and the Mauna Loa CO2 index have increased every year.
As if contemplating this reality isn’t frightening enough, what organs of society other than government exist at a scale necessary to radically decarbonize a heating world?
Many climate scientists say that must occur in two to four decades – basically a generation.
Can businesses, non-governmental and faith-based organizations muster enough combined will to accomplish the task? Or can they convince governments to act in time, in a real, concerted fashion?
If we think that civil society, faith and free enterprise are up to the task, where’s the evidence of their coming together in concerted leadership? To whom do citizens turn in the absence of responsible government?
In the previous global experience of world wars, we may find some reasons for hope that collective action for good is possible in the face of disaster. But those experiences are at least 70 years old. Very few of us are left who remember when citizens were willing to give their lives for a nation’s cause.
How can contemporary politicians rally the citizenry with stories of an era that only exists in the minds of 90-year-olds? The rest of us largely rely on movies and books to learn of the courage that smashed despotic behaviour to pieces.
I think the climate crisis should dominate our discourse as the Oct. 21 federal election approaches. Candidates from all parties should govern their campaigns accordingly. This is not the time to contest again Western alienation, the rationale for provincial equalization payments and SNC-Lavalin.
It’s time to set out clear approaches for ensuring our Paris Agreement commitments are met. It’s time for raising the public awareness of cutting-edge climate science on local, territorial and provincial, and national scales. It’s time for establishing a public forum for citizens of all ages to put their best ideas forward on climate calming.
We should also ask our prospective new members of Parliament to speak about their ideas for broadening this Canadian discourse in a global context. What roles can Canadians play in building international responses to the climate crisis?
It’s time for Canadians to once again show others our famed kind and co-operative spirit at work. Think of it as medicare for a fevered planet.
Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.