A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 on May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Painful Truth: Give politicians fiddles as they watch the world burn

Could we do something? Yes. Will we do anything? Not with these leaders

It turns out all it takes to get conservative politicians to talk about climate change is to send thousands fleeing for their lives, destroy hundreds of homes, kill a dozen or so people, and burn a few million acres of land.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison deflected attempts to talk about climate change back in October when the bushfires began spreading in southeastern Australia.

After a two-year drought, conditions were already bad. When temperatures soared to around 40 Celsius during the peak of Australia’s summer, right around Christmas, the fires grew worse and worse.

He finally admitted that, perhaps, human-caused climate change was impacting the country.

But take drastic action as thousands of people were evacuated or forced to huddle on beaches as coastal downs burned to ash? Heaven forbid!

“What we will do is make sure our policies remain sensible, that they don’t move towards either extreme, and stay focused on what Australians need for a vibrant and viable economy, as well as a vibrant and sustainable environment,” Morrison said.

Ah yes, balance. The balance between the most densely populated part of the country facing an apocalyptic threat, and the need to make sure coal mining companies can hit this year’s profit targets. Very important to find the right balance there!

The general rule in politics, whether in Australia or elsewhere, seems to be that you are allowed to do anything you want to combat climate change – except raise taxes or imply that even one person will lose their jobs.

I think we need to finally admit that we are not going to beat climate change without some major economic disruption.

You know what happens when the economy is disrupted? People lose their jobs. Yes, coal miners and oil industry workers and even natural gas workers will lose their employment.

That is sad.

It’s also sad when people burn to death in their cars fleeing a fire, or when entire towns are reduced to ash, or when species start going extinct so fast we can’t keep track any more, leaving future generations to inherit a diminished, half-empty world.

It’s also sad when some tech genius invents a new app or algorithm or robot that wipes out an entire industry and thousands lose their jobs, but I believe that’s called “innovation,” and it’s widely celebrated by the same politicians who like getting their photos taken with “real” people who work blue collar jobs.

Right now, there is plenty of money in the world, and plenty of work that needs to be done, that we can take care of every family that might suffer from losing a job in carbon extraction. Perhaps all that money and energy spent on building yacht fleets for billionaires, or adding yet another mansion to their collection of properties strung between Dubai, London, Vancouver and Paris, could be repurposed for some retraining or a basic income support program.

I doubt it will happen, though.

We didn’t do much when Fort McMurray almost burned down. We didn’t do much when California burned. B.C. saw record fires and we still support pipelines.

Frankly, unless the fires reach the homes of politicians and the rich and powerful, I doubt very much we’ll see anything more than a “sensible,” balanced approach.

On the one side, steady economic growth. On the other, endless fire.

Balance is truly a wonderful thing.

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