Regional governments in North America have been counting their dead. Reuters headlined, “Deaths surge in U.S. and Canada from worst heatwave on record.”
While a paramedic told CBC news that BC’s emergency response system had collapsed, BC Premier John Horgan said “Fatalities are a part of life.” He did not say his government would rethink policies that exacerbate global heating.
U.S. President Biden acknowledged that climate change was driving “a dangerous confluence of extreme heat and prolonged drought.”
Premier Jason Kenney was accused of burying a 2019 report by climate scientists that said:
Projected changes will profoundly impact Alberta’s natural environment, and have the potential to affect the province’s agriculture, infrastructure and natural resources, as well as the health and welfare of its inhabitants.
Some believe climate change is not real, or that dealing with it diligently would inhibit essential wealth creation. Skeptics think other nations should address the issue while Western Canada continues driving up greenhouse gas emissions.
I don’t fully understand climate change deniers and skeptics who disregard the precautionary principle but an article in the Harvard Business Review offers insights:
First, acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits, which is the hardest trade-off for people to make. Decades of work on temporal discounting point out that we overvalue benefits in the short term relative to benefits in the long term.
People don’t save enough money for retirement, preferring to spend money now rather than having it in their old age. People overeat in the present, despite the problems that obesity can cause in the future.
Ignoring climate change in the short term has benefits both to individuals and to organizations. Individuals do not have to make changes in the cars they drive, the products they buy, or the homes they live in if they ignore the influence their carbon footprint has on the world.
Companies can keep manufacturing cheaper if they don’t have to develop new processes to limit carbon emissions. Governments can save money today by relying on methods for generating power that involve combustion rather than developing and improving sources of green energy, even those that are more cost-effective in the long run.
In 1900, plague arrived in California. The race to identify and inhibit spread of the disease was “set against a rich background of official complacency, financial malfeasance, political intrigues and scientific disputes.”
Because the disease threatened to damage his state’s economy, Republican Governor Henry Gage denied there was a plague outbreak.
John Horgan and Jason Kenney are not unlike Governor Gage. The short term gain from pretending a climate emergency does not exist is attractive to politicians who won’t be around in the long term. In western Canada, denialism allows:
- Export of massive quantities of coal;
- Expansion of the world’s most destructive oil operation;
- Turning land into fracked wastelands;
- Flooding premium farmland while BC’s primary produce supplier is crippled by fire and drought arising from climate change;
- Razing ancient forests even though deforestation is proven to exacerbate environmental destruction.
Canada’s Trudeau government says the right things about the rising climate crisis but it follows the methodology favoured by politicians and corporate leaders, which is to maintain the status quo but invest heavily in public relations. This involves celebration of symbolic improvements that may be tiny but repeated often, create false but helpful images. In some cases, agents are employed for Dark PR, using dirty tactics and smear campaigns to discredit individuals and organizations viewed as problematic to those who purport the delusion of infinite economic growth.
2021 has shown we must act on climate change. With fire danger rating of more than 75% of British Columbia at high or extreme with summer just beginning, the need is urgent. We cannot expect other regions to do regenerative acts while we continue to debilitate this part of the world.
Governing politicians in Canada and its provinces have proven unresponsive to the existential threat that is increasingly clear. Yet Canadian voters tolerate this response. Perhaps the oblivious are waiting for Eric Idle’s voice.