High on the icy, windswept plateau of East Antarctica an international team of scientists is about to assemble a time machine. First stop: back to the era when Christ was born. Most importantly, scientists hope that by revealing the past we will get a better grasp on how global warming will affect the climate of the future.
It's been a strange year. From the never-ending carnival of calamity at Toronto City Hall to the scandalous subterfuge on Parliament Hill, from horrific attacks by the Syrian government on its own citizenry to disasters inflicted by extreme weather on the people of the Philippines, 2013 recalls Queen Elizabeth's description of 1992 as an annus horribilis. On top of it all, those of us who have taken on the often thankless task of trying to encourage people to care for the air, water, soil and diversity of plants and animals that keep us alive came under increasingly vituperative attacks from the media and even our own government.
If human-induced climate change is the cause of death and destruction, is not Canada's failure to reduce its CO2 emissions at least morally negligent? Does not the conscious pursuit of economic policies that actually exacerbate climate change display "wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons," particularly so if alternative paths are available?
As people in the Philippines struggle with the devastation and death from the worst storm to hit land in recorded history, world leaders are meeting in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss the climate crisis. Given the slow progress at the 18 meetings held since 1992 -- when countries from around the world joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -- it's hard not to be pessimistic. Canada, in particular, has been repeatedly singled out among the close to 200 member countries for obstructing progress and not doing enough to address climate change at home.
Whatever you think of the causes -- man-made (through CO2 levels created by the burning of fossil fuels), natural (as part of a solar cycle) or divine (as part of a plan to destroy the world -- Canada's climate is changing. Even recently, people have said they "don't believe" in climate change, as if it is akin to Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. But chemistry and physics are not beliefs; they are ways of measuring the physical world. They don't negotiate, and they don't hand out second chances.
In response to the IPCC's massive and comprehensive report which cites incontrovertible evidence that climate change is real, man-made, and it will have a significant impact on Canada, the Government puts out a press release blaming the Liberal Party for its alleged past environmental failures. Apparently it must be Sir Wilfrid Laurier's fault because, after all, he was the Liberal Prime Minister when the Industrial Age began.
Sometimes I wish I could be a climate skeptic. It would be such a relief to remain optimistic about the future of the world -- despite all the evidence to the contrary. On Friday the world's top scientists released their latest gloomy assessment of global warming and the message was clear: we need to find a way to stop burning fossil fuels or risk imperilling the planet.
We know that a just and sustainable future is about more than clean energy and bike lanes. It means recognizing, acknowledging and working with Indigenous communities to challenge a continuing legacy of colonization and injustice. Stopping climate change may be the means that we come together, but justice is the goal.
Foreign markets are buying up our resources, corporations are getting rich, and average Canadians are taking on all the risk. Unfortunately, Canada has a poor record of enforcement against oil companies, and prosecutes less than one per cent of environmental violations in the oil sands. Because of changes to the NEB Act last year, Canadians must do tremendous paperwork to have their voices heard, but some are fighting back.
The 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk taking place in Fort McMurray, Alberta this July 5-6, is an important opportunity for Canadians, and people from all over the world, to get a sense of the land at the heart of the largest unsustainable development project on the planet. Now it's time for Minister Oliver and Premier Redford to recognize their own responsibility, and meet some the people most directly impacted by the decisions made in Ottawa and Edmonton. It is time for them to get out of their cars and walk like regular folks through an area they aren't shy about selling on a global stage.
President Obama's Climate Action Plan, amounts to a strong signal that Canada's "business as usual" days are numbered. It looks like the United States is taking serious action on all these fronts, as promised. Our own government has said it would "wait and see" before following suit. The waiting is now over. Game on.
We're seeing the rise of one of the largest and fastest growing student-led environmental movements in decades. As students and youth, we know what's at stake if we don't act swiftly to move away from fossil fuels and build a sustainable world today -- after all we will inherit the mistakes being made today.
Does this wacky weather have you concerned? Record high temperatures, floods, superstorms, and drought -- climate change has landed squarely on our front doorstep. I'm concerned. I think most of us know that we have to take action, but unfortunately the political establishment has its head buried in the sand.
I'm worried that the experience of a white Christmas is slowly disappearing for most Canadians. According to Environment Canada, the probability of a white Christmas has decreased by 15 per cent for most of the country since the 1960s. Perhaps it's time we start to think about ways to preserve these pastimes. Doing so will help maintain the Canadian experience, and fight the dangerous impacts of climate change at the same time.
If we want to see change from negotiations, we need to see fundamental changes in the way decisions are actually made. Politicians and bureaucrats with connections to oil and gas profiteers are not going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it is in their bank accounts' best interest to pollute. This holiday season give the gift of climate justice. Give the gifts of solidarity, resistance, and community power.