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BC Needs a ‘Wartime Approach’ to the Climate Emergency. And Now

BC Needs a ‘Wartime Approach’ to the Climate Emergency. And Now

The urgent response to the pandemic has shown us we can do it. We can’t dither another minute.

All of us who heed the warnings of climate scientists are increasingly alarmed as we stare at the harrowing gap between what the science says is necessary and what our politics seems prepared to entertain. Despite decades of calls to action, our greenhouse gas emissions are not on a path to stave off a horrific future for our children and future generations.

Case in point: The accompanying chart tracks British Columbia’s emissions going back to the year 2000. What is evident is that, in the face of the defining challenge of our time, our politicians are not rising to the task at hand.

582px version of GHG_Chart.jpg
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada: Tables IPCC Sector Canada.

Let this deeply disturbing chart sink in. And then let us all agree — political leaders, civil servants, environmental organizations, academics and policy wonks, labour leaders, socially responsible business leaders — that what we have been doing is simply not working. We have run out the clock with distracting debates about incremental changes.

But where it matters most — actual GHG emissions — we have accomplished precious little and have frequently slipped backwards. The most recent GHG data is from 2018, and B.C.’s new Clean BC climate plan was only introduced late that year, so it may yet show some progress. But our track record leaves much to be desired.

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The Positive Power of Emergencies

The Positive Power of Emergencies

Seth Klein discusses his new book on tackling the climate crisis like we’ve fought wars — and now the pandemic.

Seth Klein spends a lot of time thinking about emergencies. Earlier this spring, the former director of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had just finished writing a book drawing lessons for fighting climate change from the country’s Second World War experience when the coronavirus hit. “Talk about awkward timing,” Klein recalls in A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, which will be published on Sept. 1.

But Klein quickly realized that the global pandemic made his book’s central argument more relevant than ever. Whether it’s a war against Nazi aggression, a deadly and infectious virus or a climate emergency irreversibly changing our country, collective dangers require swift and transformative action. They are opportunities to overhaul conventional wisdom.

“Once emergencies are truly recognized,” Klein writes, “what seemed politically impossible and economically off-limits can be quickly embraced.”

In a recent interview with The Tyee about his forthcoming book, which is currently available for pre-order, Klein expands on that argument, explaining how Canada’s $250-billion response to COVID-19 has shattered mainstream conceptions about what’s feasible for climate action. He discusses what the Second World War can teach us about reducing social inequality in the face of a crisis, and the crucial role Indigenous people have played in both our wartime efforts and our current battles on climate change.

Geoff Dembicki: Where does the interest in WWII come from? Because it doesn’t seem like you’re that much of a war person.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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