Opinion: Declaring climate emergency doesn’t mean much if action doesn’t follow

Canadian politics are often rife with our very own brand of hypocritical nonsense, but the circumstances surrounding Canada’s declaration of a climate emergency raises the bar for empty, vacuous platitudes.

This declaration follows a scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, literally the people in charge of keeping track of this sort of thing. The report, a collaboration of over 40 scientists, found that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this warming is effectively “irreversible.”

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My question: What’s the use of declaring an emergency? An emergency is clearly implied when scientists use the word “irreversible” in a similar fashion as doctors use the word “incurable.”

Yes, recognition is the first step towards dealing with a problem. Unfortunately, at this point anyone who hasn’t realized changes to our environment pose a potentially existential threat appears woefully misinformed, or at the very least painfully unobservant. Declaring a climate emergency without committing to significant, decisive action is too little, too late.

To add insult to injury, the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic parties did not even attend the vote. Instead, the leaders of the three largest parties in Canadian politics attended the Toronto Raptors’ victory parade and rally because that’s where their priorities were that day.

Thankfully, Maxime Bernier was present to represent the People’s Party of Canada in denying there is any problem whatsoever. To its credit, the NDP, after recognizing how pointless the exercise was, supported the motion.

Not that they were at risk of actually getting something done. The declaration of climate emergency was made via a non-binding motion that “does not require any action to be taken.” This was made painfully obvious when the Liberals approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion the very next day.

This was only the first of a series of contradictions put out by the Canadian government. From Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying that a pipeline will help us reach our environmental goals to the passing of the anti-pipeline bill C-69, the federal government has transcended mere hypocrisy into something entirely new. Whatever this new aspect of political double-talk is, it allows our prime minister to sell us government handouts (electric car rebates) and a new carbon tax as though he were our climate hero.

Whether you believe the experts or not, there are changes happening in the world that are undeniable and obviously man made. Whales wash ashore filled to the brim with plastic; a garbage island three times the size of France is floating in the Pacific; and can we stop calling the blazing inferno that used to be our forests “forest fire season.” It isn’t normal and it isn’t a season; it’s a bloody catastrophe. I still remember a time when none of those things were true.

Our society cries out for principles and virtue, but is met with bread and circuses. The world needs real climate leadership, not empty words and hypocrisy. We have enough of that.

Community advocate Nicholas Wong ran as an independent candidate in Delta South in the 2017 provincial election. He finished second with more than 6,400 votes. He can be reached at mrnicholaswong@gmail.com.


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