Inaction on climate change comes at a price

It’s interesting to see the reaction to a report just released by our foundation and the Pembina Institute. The Globe and Mail called our analysis of the costs of fighting climate change “unsaleable and dangerous.”

It’s interesting to see the reaction to a report just released by our foundation and the Pembina Institute. The Globe and Mail called our analysis of the costs of fighting climate change “unsaleable and dangerous.”

But the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson wrote that “The Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have had the courage to uncover and to tell us the truth. Now Canadians must decide what to do.”

Yes, it is up to Canadians to decide what to do. Do we plug our ears and close our eyes and go about business as usual while the world strains under the damage we are inflicting? Do we leave our children and grandchildren a world of misery? Or do we pull together to confront this challenge, as we have with other major threats the world has faced?

Keep in mind that the report, Climate Leadership, Economic Prosperity, while pointing out that reducing the impact of climate change will come with some costs, also concludes that our economy will remain healthy. In fact, the analysis, conducted by M.K. Jaccard and Associates, says that Canada’s gross domestic product would continue to grow even if we adopted the stronger measures that environmental organizations are calling for rather than the weak measures the federal government has proposed.

Still, comments in the news, and from people who post their reaction to news sites, show that many people aren’t willing to make tough decisions for the sake of our collective future – for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Let’s be clear. Resolving a global problem like climate change will cost money. But doing nothing will cost much more. The very survival of people, not to mention many other plants and animals that we share this small planet with, may well be at stake.

Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern has estimated that to keep heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions below levels that would cause catastrophic climate change would cost up to two per cent of global GDP, but failure to act could cost from five to 20 per cent of global GDP.

And those are just numbers. In the real world, runaway climate change could have devastating impacts on our water and food supplies, could lead to waves of refugees escaping uninhabitable drought-stricken areas or vanishing islands, and could wreak havoc on the world’s oceans and cause major extinctions of plants and animals. Some of this is already happening.

And consider what will become of our economy if we continue to fuel it with nonrenewable resources like oil and coal while the rest of the world switches to renewable energy. The demand for fossil fuels will dry up as the reserves become depleted. Where will that lead us?

And yet, we still have people saying it would cause too much hardship to act, or that it would be dangerous or divisive. Are we really that selfish? Well, not everyone is. It’s been heartening to see so many people, especially young people, taking to the streets and Parliament Hill, writing to MPs and prime ministers, and joining campaigns to urge governments to be part of the solution to global warming.

Millions of people turned out recently for more than 5,000 International Day of Climate Change events in 180 countries. The message was loud and clear: We expect our political leaders to work for the benefit and security of all of the world’s people when they meet in Copenhagen in December to work on a climate change agreement to continue and strengthen the Kyoto Protocol.

What these people realize is that the price we will pay to fight climate change is a good investment in a healthy and prosperous future.

Some of the costs include investments in public transit and renewable energy, in programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world, and in helping people cope with higher transportation and home-heating costs during the time of transition.

The Globe and Mail, and others, may think all of this is “unsaleable and dangerous,” but it’s only dangerous to those who insist on staking their future on polluting, unsustainable non-renewable resources, and it’s only unsaleable to those who don’t care about the future.

We can’t afford not to take action. We can’t afford to let our leaders let us down. We must continue to tell them that we expect them to work for us in Copenhagen.

This column is co-written by scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki and Faisal Moola, a scientist.

Just Posted

Nature trail unveiled at RDC

Trail unveiling and tree planting honours Nova Chemicals $2 million donation

Culprits smash truck into store in failed attempt to steal ATM

Suspects reversed truck through doors of Eastview IGA early Sunday morning

Flu immunization now available in Red Deer

Free vaccine to Albertans six months and older

Windows smashed at three Red Deer businesses

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vandalism spree

Schizophrenia a misunderstood illness, an Alberta expert says

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta campaign kickoff features TSN’s Michael Landsberg in Central Alberta

WATCH: Blackfalds Fire teaches families about fire safety

An open house was held Saturday in support of Fire Prevention Week

Canada gets into Women’s World Cup with 7-0 win over Panama

FRISCO, Texas — Christine Sinclair isn’t concerned about chasing records. She’s set… Continue reading

Baldwin urges ‘overthrow’ of Trump government via voting

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Actor Alec Baldwin followed up his latest parody portrayal… Continue reading

Prince Harry and Meghan expecting their 1st child in spring

CANBERRA, Australia — Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex,… Continue reading

Sears files for Chapter 11 amid plunging sales, massive debt

NEW YORK — Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling… Continue reading

Doctors to debate medical pot as more patients expected to ask for prescriptions

VANCOUVER — Doctors with opposing views on whether medical marijuana should be… Continue reading

Halifax smoking ban begins today; city announces several new smoking areas

Halifax’s sweeping smoking ban begins today, two days before recreational cannabis is… Continue reading

Canadians widely unaware of accomplishments of famous women, poll suggests

TORONTO — The organization behind Canada’s Heritage Minutes says provincial education systems… Continue reading

Five things about what’s legal and what’s not in Canada’s new pot law

OTTAWA — Canada’s new law legalizing recreational cannabis goes into force on… Continue reading

Most Read