Editor: When do we start having a serious conversation about climate change at the community level?
The recent phenomenon of rapid, human-induced change and its impacts is not new. What is new is that the conversation has moved from arguments that doing something about climate change will be too costly to the economy to recognizing that doing nothing may be even more costly.
A recent report by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy stated that climate change will cost Canada and its people about $5 billion a year by 2020. Costs will continue to climb steeply, to between $21 billion and $43 billion a year by the 2050s, and eventually as much as $91 billion — depending on how much action is taken on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
The typical response from the local politician is that it belongs in the realm of provincial and federal authorities. We all know how well that’s going. The conversation needs to start at the grass roots level because that is where the impact is going to be felt the most.
The individual cannot be expected to solve the problem, and we’ve already picked the low hanging fruit, such as recycling programs. Now comes the heavy lifting. It is going to require a community effort, with community sacrifice. I can already hear the arguments as to why we can’t do it.
There is still denial out there about the existence of climate change and that is understandable. When people are afraid, they switch off. They push away the thing that scares them and they go into denial.
Politicians also show a lack of generosity of spirit. An example on the local level is where politicians have argued against the two cents a litre gas tax on the grounds that another community benefits more.
If that argument flies, childless couples should not have to pay school taxes.
There will be those who will argue that we can’t move the politician to set aside parochial interests. The real answer is that they can, if we make them. If they have not acted, it is because we did not lobby them strongly enough.
We may deny climate change out of fear, confusion or not knowing what to do, or because it conflicts with our self-interests.
I’m not the only elector who is concerned about climate change. And a groundswell of action at the municipal level, where the real work of building and supporting community gets done, is soon noticed at the provincial and federal levels.
The conversation needs to start now, during this upcoming municipal election period. As voters, we are the ones that should be setting the election agenda and not buy into platitudes.
We need to demand that all mayoralty and council candidates tell you what initiatives they will propose and champion.
If they want our support, they need to step up and take a leadership role in our community on this critical issue. Waiting for someone else to solve this challenge is just not good enough, and 2050 is within many of our and our children’s lifetimes.