Climate change can't be ignored - Keith Roulston editorial
The big 27th United Nations Climate Change conference wrapped up on the weekend, but, for many people, it’s already old news and not worth worrying about – or at least changing the way we do things to head off the problem.
Canadians are worried, instead, about how to pay the bills today, let alone the bill for our plentitude that might come due tomorrow. There are people who are worried about how to pay the rent, which has shot up because of high interest rates. Some people can’t afford to buy groceries that have gone up more than 10 per cent in the last year. Meanwhile, others worry that higher food costs will hamper their hopes to travel on vacation.
Besides, is it all as bad as the doomsayers say? Former U.S. President Donald Trump likely found a welcome audience for his assertion that climate experts are predicting a one-eighth-inch sea level change over 200-300 years. (Although fact-checking shows they’re really suggesting we could be looking at an average rise of four to eight inches along the Pacific, 10 to 14 inches along the Atlantic, and 14 to 18 inches along the Gulf of Mexico by 2050.)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has complained about the federal government’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas production with things like the carbon tax and has done his best to offset it by reducing provincial gas taxes.
The Premier is also planning to expand new suburban developments north of Toronto, which millions of people will move into, driving on new highways to get to work. Of course those new homes are needed because the federal government is planning to accept a half-million immigrants a year for the foreseeable future; people who are needed to meet the employment demands of growing industries and businesses, many of them choosing to live in southern Ontario.
The very land unto which urban areas are exploding in southern Ontario also tends to be our most-productive farmland. Every year we need to feed more people on less food-growing land.
Of course, the people need to live somewhere. Human population recently topped eight billion, up from a mere two billion in less than 100 years. Canadians still, at this point, live in a land of plenty, far better than the plight of people in parts of Africa who are already suffering drought, heat and destitution.
People here worry that high costs might cramp their travel plans. Each year, it seems, North Americans and Europeans take more trips than ever before. When I was in elementary school, the people who went south could be counted on one hand. Today, it’s almost impossible to name someone who hasn’t contributed to global warming by jetting off to some exotic destination – and those of my generation are the worst culprits.
The late, great cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of the wise cartoon Pogo, once sagely had his character say: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
As attractive as global warming might seem with snow on the ground in mid-November, life in general is likely to become harsher, in doses, even as we live better in the short run. I live in so much more comfort than my parents did. Struggling on the farm, my parents worried each year if they’d be able to find enough cash to pay the third year installment of their property tax, to keep the place from being sold to pay the accumulated taxes. We grew a huge garden and my
mother pickled and preserved much of it to feed us during the winter. We didn’t even have a working refrigerator to help preserve food.
When I was young, before he finally gave in and got an off-farm job to pay the bills, my dad cut wood to feed a wood stove in the middle of the house. We either baked or (in the morning) shivered.
Today, we enjoy day-round heating through a heat-pump and in-ground warmth-collector system, expensive to install, but much cheaper than oil a dozen years later. The car we drive was bought new and I’m sure is less polluting than the old beater my parents drove, in which you could see the road through holes in the floor boards.
There are improvements that are bringing us closer to reducing the strain on our climate, but it’s going to take some effort to meet the target. We consumers will need to make some sacrifices to reduce the environmental load on our climate. As it stands, my generation has enjoyed most of the benefits of our increasing wealth but it’s going to be our grandchildren and their children who have to live with the consequences of climate change.
If the experts who attended the climate conference are right, my generation will be long gone before the worst effects of climate degeneration affect the world. What a terrible legacy for today’s adults to bestow!