Well-known U.S. environmental activist Bill McKibben has caused a stir by describing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “stunning hypocrite” on climate change. “Trudeau says all the right things, over and over, “McKibben wrote in The Guardian. “But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing.” Continue reading “Hypocrite” vs “celebrity environmentalists”, words fly in climate change debate
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers have appointed several task forces to propose ways in which Canada can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This action follows last December’s Paris climate conference where leaders of 195 nations reached an accord committing them to lowering those although they did not say by exactly how much. Continue reading Climate change deniers sow doubt, muddy the waters
Prime Minister Trudeau called the first ministers together in Vancouver recently to begin mapping out a plan for Canada to meet commitments made at December’s Paris Climate Conference. The Paris meeting was a last ditch attempt to prevent the most dramatic impacts of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels whose emissions remain trapped in the atmosphere. At that gathering 195 nations reached an accord committing them to lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) although they did not say by exactly how much. Continue reading Canada’s first ministers and climate change, no room for cynicism
The UN Climate Conference in Paris (COP21) will not produce a magic fix to curb the emission of greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels. Given the number of countries and competing interests involved, that is not a surprise. The world’s political leaders have been negotiating since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero in 1992 yet carbon emissions have continued to rise.
On the other hand, the Paris talks have shown an improvement over previous negotiating sessions. The question is whether human societies can find ways to cooperate fully and quickly enough to stave off a disaster which is already being felt in droughts, wild fires, increasingly violent storms, melting ice caps and rising sea levels. The world’s climate scientists have been telling us with growing urgency that we are on track for temperature increases of four or more degrees Celsius by the end of this century, and that would produce catastrophic results.
Leaders accept science
One promising sign is that most political leaders now accept climate science and know they have to act. For example, China was previously determined to grow its economy on the basis of carbon consumption no matter what the environmental costs. However, choking smog caused by emissions and the startling rise of coastal sea levels have sobered the Chinese. In just a few years they have become the world’s leader in a various green energy technologies, including wind and solar.
Barack Obama also understands climate change and wants to do something about it. For years, the Americans were stuck with leaders such as George W. Bush who showed little or no interest in the issue. For the most part, Republicans said either that climate change did not exist, or if it did that it was not caused by human activity. The subsidies to big coal and big oil continued unabated in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Republicans are now warning that Congress may negate any promises that Obama makes in Paris. The American people must not allow that to happen.
Canada has been a leader both in pledging to lower greenhouse gas emissions and in breaking those promises. This began with Jean Chretien’s government blithely promising at Kyoto in 1997 that it would reduce emissions but then putting no plan in place to do so. The Liberals were replaced by Stephen Harper who was at first a climate change denier. Later he switched to promising environmental regulations that never materialized.
Canada’s new federal government says that has all changed now. Rhetorically, that is promising but a vigilant citizenry must hold political leaders to their word. Tens of thousands of Canadians did just that by marching on Sunday, November 29 to call for a carbon free future.
Another hopeful sign is that the cadre of climate change deniers has been discredited and is shrinking. Be vigilant, however. The state of New York is investigating Exxon Mobil for allegedly funding groups that deny climate change even as the company’s in house scientists warn executives about the consequences of those changes.
Moral and ethical sphere
A final sign of hope has the debate moving beyond the technical to the moral and ethical sphere. Much of the credit must go to Pope Francis who produced a climate change encyclical called Laudato Si in June 2015 in which he accepts climate science and thus further inhibits the deniers.
The pop says that climate change affects the world’s poor disproportionately and much of the problem rests with the consumerism of the affluent. He says also that changes can and must occur at both personal and political levels. There is at least a chance that religious faith may influence behaviour in a way that cold, hard facts have failed to do.
A shorter version of this piece appeared as a United Church Observer blog on December 9, 2015.
Early in August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper set in motion a 78-day election campaign, the longest since 1872 when candidates traveled on steam-driven trains and horse-drawn buggies. Despite the early call, a number of faith-based groups have already published election kits. For example, the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) has prepared a 15-page summary of issues, which includes questions that people can ask of political candidates. The kit also contains information on how to organize and conduct all candidates’ meetings, and a guide for writing letters to the editor and using social media to talk about the issues. Continue reading Election 2015: Faith groups have lots of questions for candidates
In his recent encyclical, Pope Francis may succeed in ways that the earnest scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have not. The world’s foremost climate experts have issued a series of ever more urgent reports about looming ecological catastrophe if we don’t mitigate human-induced climate change. Those reports are factual and credible, yet astute political observers tell us that most people act — and vote — on the basis of deeply held values rather than facts. Continue reading Pontiff’s ‘grand message’: Pope Francis calls for spiritual and environmental revolution
Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq wrote recently to the provinces, criticizing them for not providing enough information about how they will combat climate change. She says Ottawa needs that data in order to submit Canada’s emission reduction plans to the United Nations. This is politics at its crudest. Aglukkaq is a minister in a government that has earned a well-deserved international reputation as deadbeat, laggard and obstructionist when it comes to taking action on climate change – yet she chooses to criticize those who are trying to accomplish something.
Aglukkaq’s letter arrived just prior to a scheduled announcement by the premiers of Ontario and Quebec on April 13 that they would sign a cap and trade accord which will attempt to have industry in their provinces reduce carbon emissions. The ink was barely dry on that agreement when federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver opposed it as “negative for the economy . . . negative for consumers and taxpayers.”
Aglukkaq’s epistle also preceded a meeting of provincial and territorial premiers in Quebec City on April 14. They gathered to pool their various climate change initiatives into something resembling a unified plan. The premiers are doing this in the absence of federal leadership from the Conservatives, who oppose pretty well anything that would reduce Canada’s carbon emissions. Continue reading PM Harper a deadbeat on climate change
There has been much to write about in my Pulpit and Politics blog during the past year. Please see a sampling below. If you would like to read any of these posts in full, just scroll down to the Archives section at the bottom of the screen and click on the appropriate month. In reviewing these many posts, I see that the predominant themes revolve around Environment, First Nations, Refugees, Peace and Democracy. If we could get those things right, we would live in a much healthier and more harmonious way with one another. I plan to continue Pulpit and Politics in 2015 with perhaps an increased number of posts. I retired from my day job recently but certainly not from writing and I look forward to remaining engaged in this way. I am pleased that you read the blog and I always appreciate the feedback posted to the Comments section.
Best wishes to you and yours in the New Year.