Trudeau:  Climate Leadership Failure


Human caused global warming increasingly threatens all we love and care about.  Climate change from this warming caused (mostly) by greenhouse gases (GHGs) from our use of fossil fuels is a potent growing risk to our families, our kids and their kids, our communities and country. This radical change threatens most of the species and ecosystems with which we share creation, civilization, and even the very future of humanity.

Climate change threatens our jobs and economy, it threatens peace and our evolving global culture, and it threatens each of our myriad and diverse personal obsessions: arts and sports, music or business or outdoor or digital tech, whatever activities we love to do.

I’m a jock who loves team sports so I’m going to use baseball as my example: it is not going to get too warm any time soon to throw a ball around, hold an infield practice, or play a game in Canada. But baseball, like the other great team sports: soccer, hockey, football, basketball, etc. is less than two centuries old and the product of a very particular socio-economy and vulnerable.

Our brains have developed over eons to focus upon local and temporal danger and warming in Canada is too slow and moderate to threaten even playing baseball outside, but extraordinary warming in the Arctic today threatens to profoundly change weather and climate around the globe so as to cause severe disruption and dislocation in more vulnerable sections of our global economy. This potential for extreme weather and climate change causing ‘threat multiplier’ dislocation is increasing with the global temperature increase caused by ever more GHGs in our atmosphere. Climate science (and global governance in our saner moments) has quantified and understands the possible suite of dangers that we risk as the temperature warms, now at a 1C rise over pre-industrial norms and heading for 3,4C or far warmer if/when latent feedbacks kick in.

If we continue to do nothing, by mid-century and a 2-3C increase, our global economy will have collapsed. There won’t be a Blue Jays game at the Skydome, there won’t be a Major League Baseball, there may not be a Toronto. Maybe, for only one possible example of what dislocation is possible and how it would effect us all globally, the monsoon will fail repeatedly and there will be famine as never before witnessed, maybe a resulting nuclear war between Pakistan and India leading to increasing global tension if not global war. For a short time there will be lots of time to play baseball cause our economy will be in tatters and then there won’t be people playing sports anymore, not like we know today.

Climate change disruption crashing our global and national economies will not just effect baseball: all you love and care about is at risk.

Do you take climate change seriously? Seriously, like having a disease that if not properly treated will kill you. Seriously like a building mortal danger to all you love and care about? Now you probably won’t agree but this long time climate activist thinks that very few Canadians take climate change seriously.

For example, you are no doubt much more concerned with the cash for access or how our PM will deal with Trump than with the woefully inadequate action on climate by Prime Minister Trudeau and his government.

It probably hasn’t occurred to you that the PM must have known at COP in Paris or at least soon after that there was not a hope in hell of reducing emissions at a scale needed to meet our commitment to holding warming to as far below 2C as possible. Not a hope in hell of negotiating even very minimal emission reduction, not a hope of even achieving the old Harper target of 30% of 2005 levels by 2030 within the existing Federal framework and present neoliberal politics?

But if you know the dire climate budget science and are concerned about the very worrying intense warming in the Arctic given the potent albedo feedback and the increasing possibility of methane from permafrost and hydrates feedback, then 100% by 2030 must now be the target if you do recognize the civilization or even humanity threatening suite of climate dangers.

Considering the climate danger you would expect that a national leader that thrust himself forward in a leadership role at Paris would not settle for the same failure as the Harper, Martin, Chretien and Mulroney governments before him, each recognizing the danger, each promising to reduce emissions, then refusing to develop effective policy and action, all failing miserably and on the global stage. All the while each of these governments was doing their damnedest to ratchet up Canadian fossil fuel production which is now the fifth highest national production globally.

Trudeau must have known in early 2016 that the only way to achieve our Paris commitment was to get parliamentary wide consensus that climate was now an emergency requiring wartime-style coalition government and society wide mobilization.

Of course, he couldn’t do that. Trudeau could have, should have modeled leadership in focusing the world’s attention on the seriousness of the danger and the necessity of clearing the decks for emergency action. He should have been the leader to point out that emission reduction of a scale now needed was no longer possible within political and economic business as usual. But this would have ignited a firestorm pushback from the relentlessly economic, from the biz kids and all those in denial: the climate has always been changing and no commie government is going to tell me what I can do or what I should drive, take away my job, ETC!!!

Faced with REALITY, the Trudeau and co rationale was  no doubt something like ‘ There is only a marginal difference that my government and Canada can make to effective global climate mitigation whereas my platform, our agenda, what we can do for Canadians with smart growth and a balance of the environment and the economy, First Nations too, is needed and achievable’.

But governing Canada today – the world’s fifth largest fossil fuel producer and a country where fossil fuels account for more than half of export earnings – meant expanding LNG and oilsands production. It meant OKing pipelines and a projected huge increase in upstream, production, GHG emissions without consideration of responsibility for the downstream emissions. Trudeau and co must know that fossil fuels are now a toxic substance that requires a regulated wind down of all production and use, but governing requires money and so Canada was to remain a major dealer with no mention of the consequences for future generations.

Is this taking climate change seriously? Last January, a year ago, Jan 2016, realizing what was going to happen and that Canadians were mis-educated and did not as yet take climate seriously and would not hold the Trudeau government to needed action, I sought out a journalist to try and make our climate mitigation reality undeniable:

The real story is the disconnect between the Trudeau government’s promise of climate action and the constraining reality of Canadian politics – like Chretien, Martin and Harper before him Trudeau had to fail:

I’m looking for a journalist, most probably a woman journalist, for a special opportunity:

Our (Canada’s) new Trudeau Liberal government has been a breath of fresh air. They are young and care: First Nations, Syrian refugees, reforming gov’t, etc, etc. Promising to actually take climate seriously the Libs sent a big delegation to COP in Paris with an idealistic Enviro and Climate minister. They led in signing on to 1.5C and they promised a climate action plan negotiated with the provinces within 90 days of Paris. Trudeau and co are knowledgeable and do care and want to do the right thing.

Trouble is, big trouble is – as you and I know – the new gov’t can’t possibly negotiate and implement a climate plan with emission reductions even a quarter of what is needed now. I think this could be / should be a major, major story:

Think of Rolling Stone or The Guardian or a big Aussie paper writing up Trudeau’s acute problem: he must know the math and the impossibility; he will know how to spin it – but not if he is serious and wants to do the right thing. Such a story could really inform about what level of mitigation is needed and what is possible. Plus it could really put the spotlight on the negotiations to have the world looking on, informed. Right now the fix seems to be in with a emission reduction plan that is most-that-is-possible-in-BAU and sold as a solid beginning on needed action when it really is not anywhere the emission reduction needed and just wastes very precious time.

Trudeau and gov’t – Trudeau and family, ministers – are really celebs, photogenic and darlings of social and mainstream media. And the agonizing decisions that they must make – thinking about climate and their kids and doing the right thing – are so gripping it could be a play or a hit new Net series even. The article needs to be empathetic, to really make the reader understand both how important and how impossible is the Trudeau (and co) predicament. Lots of pics of the Trudeau family; lots of social media detail; I hate to be so sexist but a ‘woman’s point of view’ maybe.

Here’s the closest article I’ve found to this approach that you might not have seen:

Balancing the Carbon Budget in Trudeau’s Canada
Dru Oja Jay
The Prime Minister is (without realizing it) calling for economic transformation; we must heed the call..

Unfortunately I had no success finding a journalist to write it up proper and, a time-wasting year of fake news and fake mitigation later, Canadians and their government are still not serious about real climate mitigation action. We still have one of the world’s highest per capita annual emissions and we are still a major dealer of a product as deadly as fentanyl. Worse, we have added new layers of denial by pretending that we have a new Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change that will meet our Paris commitment which is as delusional as every past Canadian government (non)action on climate change.

Which brings us to the new Trump presidency. If you only pretend to take climate change seriously – say you live in Alberta and your economy is totally dependent upon the production of fossil fuels – then Trump is an excuse to forget about climate mitigation and our Paris commitment as now impossible so we should just give up and focus on our economy because America First is such a danger.

But as GHG emissions relentlessly push warming past what almost every nation has agreed are very dangerous thresholds to dislocating, abrupt or even runaway climate change – if you take climate change seriously, Trump must mean that effective mitigation action and especially leadership from other world leaders is now even more necessary, is now needed more than ever. The Trump government is composed of climate deniers and fossil fuel fossils; their goal is to expand fossil fuel production and use to stimulate economic growth. Their common problem is a biz mindset and they don’t know what they don’t know – especially concerning climate change and how urgently we need regulation of these now toxic substances (regulation being anathema to these economic ideologues).

Trudeau standing up after Paris and actually being the climate leader he pretended to be might have raised the bar and we might not be now facing a denier Trump government.

And so, do you take climate change seriously? Are you mad as hell at our PM and his government showboating at Paris, pretending climate leadership, and then cynically ignoring building catastrophe? Are you serious about climate change: reasonable and responsible, you’ve made yourself informed about the climate science and the increasing risk to all you love and care about? What are you going to do about it?

Wouldn’t forcing the resignation of the prime minister and those in his cabinet responsible for their lack of leadership and time-wasting inaction on climate be a first important step in learning and demanding the real, effective action we should now expect from government? Wouldn’t that be a big step in learning and impetus for leadership and action globally?

Bill Henderson writes on Climate Change for

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