01/31/2013 08:15 EST | Updated 04/02/2013 05:12 EDT

We Can't Ignore Climate Change When It's Right Outside Our Door

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 disheartened that none of the six Ontario Liberal leadership contenders mentioned climate change in their campaigns to become Premier. At a time when the Harper Conservatives have abandoned Canada's Kyoto commitments, we desperately need leadership from Canada's largest province.

Climate change threatens our economy, environment, and quality of life. I admit that the critical need to address our warming planet can be a tough sell to Canadians in the middle of winter, but we need to take a look at how dire this issue really is.


Worst Countries For Climate Change Policy

In Copenhagen in 2009, international targets were set to reduce carbon emissions with a goal of preventing a global temperature rise of two degrees Celsius. Scientists have warned us that two degrees warmer is not a safety zone. It's a tipping point.

Unfortunately, we are now certain to chug past that tipping point. According to a recent study in Nature, a two-degree rise is now inevitable. We are already experiencing the negative effects on our environment and quality of life.

The financial bills are also piling up. Climate change will cost Canada's economy $5 billion by 2020 and up to $43 billion by 2050 according to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. Environment Commissioner Gord Miller says that climate change could cost the Ontario forestry industry $75 billion by 2080.

So is there any hope? Well, the good news is that reducing carbon emissions is still on the table as the only way to dodge some of the most catastrophic climatic effects. And taking action will boost our economy to create jobs.

World leaders last week at the World Economic Forum called for a $14 trillion investment in greening the world's economy. Whether politicians and business leaders heed the call, there is no doubt that new job growth will be in clean tech and low carbon infrastructure.

The big question is whether or not Ontario will be a leader in creating jobs to green the world's economy.

The first step is having a Premier that will talk about the issue. It would help if the opposition parties at Queen's Park were not missing in action. Instead of taking action on climate change, the NDP is focused on lowering taxes on carbon pollution, specifically gasoline and heating fuels, and the Conservatives seem to want to kill green energy.

Ontario desperately needs political leadership to reduce carbon pollution and to create jobs and prosperity in the emerging low carbon economy. Our leaders to date have emulated Nero, the Roman emperor accused of playing his fiddle as Rome burned.

Our Earth is heating up. It's time to stop fiddling around.