Too Much at Every Level

I think that action to mitigate climate change has been so slow (in many cases, nonexistent) partly because the problem is just so massive. At every single level – individual, politician, government, country – people think that they can’t possibly solve it on their own, so there’s no point in trying at all.

It’s not the same kind of problem as something like world poverty, or disease in developing countries. In a way, I wish it was. It’s not really possible for a single person to solve these problems either, but at least they can solve it for someone. They can pay for a child’s education in Africa. They can build a well with clean water for an entire community. These types of problems are measured in increments, rather than gradients – just like the corpuscular theory of light. The problem comes in small packages of one person each, and even if you can’t eliminate the problem for everyone, you can chip away.

Conversely, climate change is a gradient, and one that is very resistant to reversal. Even if a family manages to completely eliminate all sources of carbon emissions in their life, they’re only preventing a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a degree of warming. 2.999997 C warming isn’t very different to 3 C. And that difference of 0.000003 C isn’t changing the life of a child. (These are just arbitrary numbers, don’t quote me on them!) Really, it isn’t having any impact at all. So most people don’t even bother. They feel so powerless – after all, this problem is far too big for them to solve.

I believe that individual action on climate change is definitely worth it, but in a more symbolic manner. No, composting your kitchen waste isn’t going to eliminate enough methane to make a difference in the global radiative forcing of greenhouse gases. But it gets you in the right mindset. It makes you stop and think about the planet and the future. And the chance that you might inspire all your friends and neighbours to compost as well, who would then inspire all of their friends, and eventually start a chain reaction that could, conceivably, start to make a difference, is just too good to pass up. (Besides, composting is fun to watch. We get some very cool slugs hanging out around ours this time of year.)

Regardless, the feeling of powerlessness becomes the norm, to the point where even politicians don’t think they can make any difference. I have a friend who asked his MP, a Liberal, what she was going to do about climate change. Her response was, “What can I do? I’m only one person.” I find it absolutely astounding that a politician who represents tens of thousands of people, and who helps to govern the entire country, could have this attitude. It’s kind of sad when even our Members of Parliament feel powerless.

Of course, Canada’s national position on climate change action is “whatever the States decides, and we won’t do anything at all unless and until they do”. The federal government feels powerless too, because (as they constantly remind us) Canada produces only 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. What’s the point of reducing them if the U.S. isn’t going to do the same?

We all know that the U.S. isn’t going to pass cap-and-trade any time soon. It looks like the Republicans are keeping their promise of preventing Obama from passing any more sweeping legislation, after the health care bill. And a big reason (or at least a common excuse) for this lack of initiative is that India and China will soon produce most of the world’s carbon emissions. What’s the point of the U.S. making any mitigating effort if the soon-to-be-major-players won’t?

What federal governments fail to realize is that they have far more power than they give themselves credit for. If the U.S. decides that they want a global economy of clean energy, they have enough influence over the market to make that happen. If Canada decides that tar sands actually aren’t such a good idea after all, all the countries that import from us will have to find alternatives. But this hasn’t happened, because governments are far more concerned about the next election.

At times like these, I just want to look politicians in the eyes and tell them to wake up. Stop playing games, pointing fingers, and sabotaging your enemies. Remember that your job is to look out for us, and start getting serious on a crisis that is unprecedented in all of human history – one that we could all avoid, even now, if you just got your acts together.

I am now a voting member of the public, a legal adult. And I don’t have a clue who to vote for, because nearly every politician has lost my support. If they cared at all about the kind of world I will live in after they are gone, and the kind of world the children I hope to have will live in after I am gone, they would start doing their jobs. I think I will find myself voting against politicians, rather than for politicians. I will vote for those who are the least bad, so that the worst don’t get into office.

I am not optimistic about climate change, but I know that we have a chance to prevent the worst of it. I am not optimistic, but I do not feel powerless. I believe in the power of knowledge and inspiration and culture. I believe in the potential of accomplishing a great deal in a short period of time. At some point in this chain of people who are overwhelmed or apathetic, something needs to give.

How We Should Communicate

I really enjoyed this post by Andrew Freedman on the Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang. I think it is written at the perfect level – basic enough for new readers to catch up on current events, while including enough creative insights to keep the interest of climate science enthusiasts.

The article covers the attempts of Dr Andrew Weaver, a top Canadian climate modeler, to fight back at the misinformation that has been willingly spread by top media outlets throughout the past few months. Here is an excerpt:

In late April Weaver filed suit against the National Post, a Canadian newspaper that has run numerous articles extremely critical of Weaver’s work and those of his colleagues. For example, according to Wihbey, the Post has called Weaver “Canada’s warmist spinner in chief,” and “generally impute[ed] to Weaver various views that he claims he doesn’t have.” (Weaver’s requests that the newspaper correct the record by issuing retractions/corrections were unsuccessful).

In the lawsuit, Weaver, who was a lead author of one of the IPCC’s working groups for its 2007 report, claims the articles include “grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet.” Among those claims is that Weaver has turned against the IPCC and its conclusions, as trumpeted in this story in late January.

“If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the Internet forever,” Weaver stated. “They’ll poison the factual record, misleading people who are looking for reliable scientific information about global warming.”

I am impressed at Dr Weaver’s courage and persistence to improve the accuracy of science journalism. For an issue that has potential consequences of an unprecedented scale in human history, we should be able to trust what the media tells us.

Something else I enjoyed was a sketch by Mitchell and Webb, a British comedy duo, making fun of how politicians pretend to promise action on climate change. Enjoy.

Something Unexpected

The differences between the Canadian and American political systems amaze me.

Whenever anyone mentions greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the States, people argue, journalists rant about dire economic costs, and Senators stand up and say that cap-and-trade is completely unnecessary because CO2 is plant food.

But here in Canada, the government will be voting on greenhouse gas targets next Wednesday, and I didn’t know a thing about it until DeSmogBlog mentioned it. None of the mainstream media outlets or other Canadian climate blogs I follow said a word about it. Maybe they didn’t know either.

Which is really quite strange, seeing as the federal government likes to call a 3% reduction from 1990 levels “aggressive action” and make a whole website about it, featuring a picture of Stephen Harper planting a tree. You’d imagine that, now that they’re considering a cut of 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% by 2050, they would make sure that every citizen in the country knew how responsible they were being.

The bill is known as C-311, or the Climate Change Accountability Act, and I encourage you to all read it here, it’s not very long. It’s been around for a few years, and even passed through the House once, but it had to restart several times due to various prorogations. Now it’s finally ready to be voted on by the House, and they’re doing that vote on Wednesday.

I’m not sure how much support this bill has from the MPs, but I sure hope it passes, because it would actually put us in line with the EU. Yes, no more number games of shifting around the baseline years – the proposed targets actually fall within the UN’s recommendations to avoid 2 C of warming.

Something even better about these targets, though, is this:

The Minister shall, within six months after this Act receives royal assent, prepare and lay before both Houses of Parliament an interim Canadian greenhouse gas emissions target plan for the years 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045. The target plan shall

(a) establish a Canadian greenhouse gas emissions target for each of those years;

(b) specify the scientific, economic and technological evidence and analysis used to establish each target, including consideration of the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the most stringent greenhouse gas emissions targets adopted by other national governments; and

(c) show that each target is consistent with a responsible contribution by Canada to the UNFCCC’s ultimate objective of preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and with Parliament’s strong commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Bill C-311 isn’t just an empty promise. It makes the targets that we need attainable. If we could actually pass this, it would be the first time in my short life that I was impressed with the government and felt that politics was doing its job of protecting the interests of its citizens, rather than squabbling and trying to sabotage the other parties.

Update: It passed! Now on to the third reading. If it passes that, it moves to the Senate.

Why Canada Is the Way it Is

The Canadian government has decided that their meager 20% emission cut from 2006 levels by 2020 (equivalent to 3% cut from the standard base year of 1990) is tenuous – it all depends on what the US decides to do. (Why even bother having a separate Canadian government if they’re just going to follow all US decisions?)

Wondering why they’re still wasting time? This is why (courtesy of the  Globe and Mail):

Luckily, Canada now has its hands tied, as Obama just announced a target that’s slightly stronger – a 28% cut from 2005 levels by 2020, up from the previous target of 17%.

Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?

Climate Cover-Up

I’m fairly new to the issue of climate change, and even newer to the politics surrounding it. I’ve spent the past two years reading about climate change causes, impacts, projections, myths, media blunders, and public misconceptions.

I knew that vested interests, such as the fossil fuel industry and political lobby groups, had played a part in the widespread public confusion. However, I naively assumed that they had simply taken advantage of said confusion – that the public was already unsure, so the vested interests decided to jump in and prolong it.

How wrong I was. How very, very wrong I was, as Jim Hoggan and Richard Littlemore proved to me in their new book, Climate Cover-Up.

Example after example, and story after story, showed that vested interests didn’t just take advantage of public confusion surrounding climate change. They created it. They deliberately constructed the so-called “debate” in an effort to – what? Earn more money? Fight socialism?

Take the Information Council on the Environment, one of the first climate change lobby groups. They were established in 1991, right after governments first started to respond to climate change – Thatcher, Bush Sr, and Mulroney all made promises to reduce emissions. The ICE flat-out stated that their objective was “to reposition global warming as a theory (not fact)” and “to supply alternative facts to support the suggestion that global warming will be good”.

The American Petroleum Institute was even more blatant. A leaked email contains a list of objectives for their PR campaigns:

Victory Will Be Achieved When

-Average citizens “understand” (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom”

-Media “understands” (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science

-Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current “conventional wisdom”

-Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy

-Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.

Everything that we’ve been bemoaning for years now. Misplaced public doubt, artificial balance in the media, Bush and Harper’s ties to the oil industry. It didn’t just happen by accident.

The email goes on to discuss strategies to achieve these objectives, including plans to produce and distribute “a steady stream of op-ed columns and letters to the editor” doubting climate change. So all those skeptical editorials in the popular press might not be written by journalists that have been taken for a ride. They might actually be by people with ties to lobby groups like the American Petroleum Institute.

You could look at Frank Luntz’s plans to capitalize on uncertainty. Or the American Enterprise Institute’s offer of $10 000 to any scientist who wrote a critique of the IPCC. Or how The Great Global Warming Swindle, a documentary oft-cited by YouTubers, creatively took statements from its interviewees out of context.

Climate Cover-Up made me so angry. I remember not being able to fall asleep the night I finished it. Then telling everyone I could about it. I had been immersed in the issue of climate change for two years, and yet I had failed to grasp the scope of vested interests’ influence on the public.

Many of our readers, who have been following this issue for years, are probably familiar with the stories and examples in the book. There isn’t anything in it that will be new to everyone.

But that wasn’t the book’s purpose, and climate scientists aren’t the book’s audience. Rather, Climate Cover-Up is aimed at those just becoming interested in climate change politics. It’s aimed at people who are unaware of the near-constant misinformation thrown at them, who are new to the immense power of money and industry over science and truth, who wouldn’t think to check the citations of editorials. It’s aimed at people like I was, two years ago.

I must also note that Climate Cover-Up is substantially easier to read than most books about climate change. The prose is witty and easy to follow. It doesn’t talk about science. It feels nothing like a textbook.

I’d like everyone in the world to read this book. But truthfully, I’d rather that it hadn’t needed to be written at all.

The Worst in the World

Stephen Harper is coming to Copenhagen. It really surprised me when the Canadian media started patting him on the back for announcing this, as if he was finally cleaning up his act and showing some leadership. Coming to a conference – and most likely only for a day or two, for a photo op – doesn’t show leadership. As I’ll explain in this post, it’s the latest in a chain of attempts by the Canadian government to look like they’re doing something about climate change, without actually doing anything at all.

Obama is only coming to Copenhagen for one day. Almost certainly a photo op. But I find this somewhat more excusable because the US is already working on their own climate change legislation, independent of Copenhagen. The US has something against international agreements, but they’re being proactive and finding ways to achieve the same ends regardless. Canada hasn’t done any such thing.

And it’s not just the Conservatives that are being difficult. Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the opposition, says that Canada has wasted four years on climate change action. Actually, we’ve wasted twenty. But Ignatieff will only say four years, because beyond that, it was his party that was the problem. The Liberals were the ones to sign Kyoto and agree to an emissions cut of 6% below 1990 levels. Instead, as of 2006, they were 22% above.

The recommended emissions target for developed nations is a 25-40% cut from 1990 levels by 2020. Most developed nations have stepped up to the plate. Norway has pledged a 40% reduction. Japan has pledged 25%. Australia has agreed to 5-24%, depending on whether there is an agreement at Copenhagen. The EU will cut 20% no matter what, and will increase this to 30% with an international agreement. Britain has increased this even further, with a 34% pledge.

The US is a little trickier. Waxman-Markey will cut 14-20%, but from 2005 levels, not 1990. Does anyone know how to convert this so we can properly compare it to other countries?

Then there’s Canada. Canada has pledged 3% from 1990 levels. Absolutely pitiful. Depending on what the US conversion turns out to be, there’s a good chance that our humble country is the worst in the world for climate change action and leadership.

The government knows this, and they’re spending a great deal of time and energy trying to cover it up. For example, they won’t say “3% by 1990”, because it’s so obviously pitiful. Instead, they say that they’ve pledged “a 20% cut by 2020″…..from 2006 levels. What is the point of deviating from the standard baseline among countries who signed Kyoto, unless you’re deliberately trying to keep your citizens happy with you?

And that’s not all. In the summer, I wrote about how Canada was still advertising its Turning the Corner plan, even though it appeared to have abandoned it. When I went to PowerShift in October, I had the chance to talk to a lot of people who knew a lot about Canada’s climate change policies. And yes, our government has definitely abandoned Turning the Corner. But it’s still one of the first links in their sidebar. And when you click on that link, you discover that it hasn’t been updated since August 2o08, and the legislation is supposed to come into effect in January 2010. Yet another example of keeping the citizens happy without having to do anything.

Stephen Harper’s climate change website is full of talk about emissions intensity and CSS. There are pictures of him shaking hands with Obama and planting trees. But trying to get any real information out of it is next to impossible.

The government is spending so much time trying to convince Canadians that they’re taking bold action on climate change. They’re devoting so much energy to putting on sustainable masks that contradict all their talk of a transparent government. All without having to take any action at all.

What I ask is, why not spend all that time and energy actually doing something? Why not cooperate with other nations and realize that this is the way the world economy is going? Why not be proactive and prepared instead of hoping that the whole issue will just go away?

It actually makes me ashamed to be Canadian. Ashamed to be part of this country that tosses around the future of our civilization, the future of my generation, so lightly. And for what?

Two Great Canadians

It’s a rare day when you find a book about climate change written by a Canadian. The authors are American, mostly. Some are British or Australian. And that’s a real shame, because there’s a lot going on in Canadian politics about climate change – but you can’t read about it anywhere. The newspapers don’t report it (I hadn’t even heard of Bill C311 until I went to PowerShift). The government website certainly doesn’t report it. Currently, my only source of Canada-specific climate news is the One Blue Marble blog. We’re going into Copenhagen as the least committed and least cooperative developed nation in the world. And most Canadians don’t even know it.

That’s why it was so refreshing to read Keeping Our Cool by Andrew Weaver, a top Canadian climate modeler. He is a professor at the University of Victoria, the chief editor for the Journal of Climate, a lead author for the IPCC, and the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis. Certainly some impressive credentials. I sort of dream of doing my Master’s under him.

The book was very well-rounded for climate literature. It covered basic scientific processes (with lots of fancy graphs), the history of climate science, and policy alternatives. But my favourite chapters had to do with the media and politics – purely because they were Canada-specific.

I know all about George Bush’s inaction on climate change. But until I read Andrew Weaver’s book, I didn’t see just how blatantly Stephen Harper was carrying on the torch. I’ve read Boykoff and Boykoff’s study, which surveys American newspaper articles. But I was less aware of how the Canadian media reported climate change, apart from my local newspaper and news channel (and Rick Mercer, of course).

It was so refreshing to have a sense of what was going on at home for once, after wasting so much time trying to figure it out for myself.

My only complaint was that the book was poorly organized. It constantly switched back and forth from scientific explanations, to Canadian news, to examples of vested skeptical interests, to Canadian politics. This was probably deliberate, so that the chapters wouldn’t get monotonous, but it makes it a lot harder to find what you’re looking for later (like while writing a book review!)

Another great Canadian, military expert and geopolitical analyst  Gwynne Dyer, wrote a very different book. It was probably  different to anything else I’ve read about climate change. It was  definitely a lot scarier.

Every alternate chapter of Climate Wars described a different  future scenario, exploring how climate change would affect  international relations. United States, 2029, where masses of  starving immigrants from the drought-stricken Mexico lead the  American government to close the southern border and arm it with barbed wire, machine guns, and land mines. Northern India, 2036, when water disputes with Pakistan lead to a nuclear conflict that destroys the Taj Mahal. China, 2042, when geoengineering gone wrong corresponds with a massive volcano, leading to a sudden (albeit temporary) drop in temperature. The Arctic, 2175, when the oceans begin to smell like rotten eggs – anyone familiar with previous mass extinctions will know why that’s not as trivial as it may sound.

Scary, scary stuff. And most of it within my lifetime. Military “scenarios” are not predictions or even projections. But they’re based on such projections, so they hold a frightening grain of plausibility.

When people claim that the consequences of turning away from fossil fuels will be worse than just letting climate change happen, tell them to read Climate Wars. It shows us just what’s at stake here.

Activists and Scientists

I’m back from PowerShift, and I had a fantastic time. I attended many workshops – including one on paleoclimatology from Dr Michael Pisaric, in which I had the joys of learning about pack rat middens – but also had time to do a lot of touring and walking. Ontario in the autumn is absolutely beautiful; the bright colours of the oaks and maples are a real novelty to someone like me from the aspen parkland. I visited Parliament Hill several times, took a tour of the central block, and visited the parliamentary cats. I played Irish flute on the U of Ottawa campus.

My one complaint about the conference was that there was too much activism and too little science for my liking. The three science-based workshops that I had starred in my program were all at the same time, so I had to choose only one. And far too many workshops were about learning how to lobby, rather than learning about climate change.

Don’t get me wrong – I am adamant that the Canadian government needs to do more about climate change. However, I feel that I can create more intelligent, respectful, and effective arguments through writing letters or talking to politicians (that is, if they answer my requests for meetings…..) rather than marching around with signs. Dressing up like a polar bear and singing the national anthems of low-lying nations in front of Parliament just isn’t my style. I watched from a distance and petted the cats instead.

I understand that a lot of people immediately realize that climate change is a problem, that it needs to be dealt with, and that our government is not dealing with it (as much as they’d like us to believe that they are). They’re immediately content to start lobbying based on what they know. I prefer to continue to analyse the issue as I urge for action in a more logical and intellectual way.

I think I would enjoy science conferences, rather than activism conferences, regarding climate change. How do you get into those if you’re not a scientist?

Luckily, the reason I came to PowerShift – to give a presentation – was just what I’d hoped for. All the people who liked to lobby went to the “how to protest” workshops, while the people who were more interested in credibility, education, and analysis came to mine. (There were a few people there with green face paint and “Shut Down the Tar Sands” hard hats, but they slunk out partway through.)

Infinite thanks to the regular ClimateSight readers who came to my workshop, and to everyone else in the audience of ~15. The audience was fantastic; everybody there was deeply interested in the issues I covered, and we had a great discussion at the end. And deep thanks to the gentleman who came in at the very end to compliment me on my blog and apologize for having to miss the presentation.

Even if it wasn’t perfectly suited to my interests, PowerShift certainly has inspired a lot of future blog posts, and now that my presentation is over, I’ll have a lot more time on my hands to write. Keep your eyes open for these topics in the coming weeks:

-finding an appropriate name for conservative think tanks

-Canadian climate change politics

-choosing the right course of study

Nobody Knows What’s Happening

About a year ago, the Canadian Conservative government announced that it had a plan to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 2006 levels by 2020. The new regulations were scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2010. I was pretty happy – skeptical of Stephen Harper’s ability to carry this out, and wishing it was an even greater reduction – but still happy that progress was being made.

A few months ago, there was one article buried deep in my local newspaper that announced that the Harper government was giving up on this plan. They didn’t want to hurt the economy, or trade with the States, or something like that, so they were going to wait until the Waxman-Markey legislation was fully implemented. That meant they wouldn’t do anything on the issue until 2012, and even then it would take until 2016 for the laws they’d agreed on to come into force. I recall one interviewee in the newspaper saying that it was pretty ridiculous for a prime minister these days to expect to take no action on climate change for his first 6 years in office – and expect to get away with it.

These sort of political decisions usually make their way through the Globe and Mail, CBC, Rick Mercer, and Maclean’s pretty quickly. But this time, I only read the one, half-hidden article, and despite an extensive search, couldn’t find any other mention of it. I was amazed.

As I mention Canada’s (in)action on climate change in a (hopefully soon to come) video I’m working on, I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight. So I went through the Environment Canada website, which, believe me, is not an easy task. Every time I clicked on a link that said “action” or “Canada’s action plan” it lead me to a page that said “Copenhagen is coming!”

Eventually I found the page that described the 20% by 2020 plan – “Turning the Corner”. It hadn’t been updated in over a year – the last announcement was from August 9, 2008. There was no mention if the plan had been abandoned or postponed. And yet it still said,

“Proposed greenhouse gas regulations are expected to be published in the Canada Gazette later this year, and the regulations finalized in 2009 to come into force as planned on January 1, 2010.”

So they hadn’t done anything on this plan for a year, but were still claiming that it would come into force in four months, all the while making no admission of its abandonment and hoping nobody would notice.

I asked a coworker, who had been just as confused as I was. We called the help number at the bottom of  the page, which, unfortunately, was the central information line for all of the Government of Canada. The employee who answered seemed to know even less than we did regarding Canada’s climate change plans.

“I can’t find anything,” he said. “What’s the name of the report?”

“Turning the Corner,” we replied.

“Okay. Just hang on while I type that into Google.”

Eventually we were sent to another federal website (which is so hidden that I can’t even find it again) which apparently dealt with greenhouse gases. It turns out that all they did was measure Canada’s emissions, and require any industrial plants that surpassed a certain amount to report this to the government – but not have to reduce them. Nowhere was there mention of Turning the Corner or any other kinds of regulations.

The environment section of Harper’s website was even worse. Words like “emissions intensity”, “clean air”, “home energy efficiency”, and “environmental leadership” were tossed around, assuming that nobody would read between the lines to discover how little Harper was actually doing about climate change.

The government employee on the line also gave us the number of the Environment Canada deparment. We called them and were given the number of the secretariat for greenhouse gas management. We called that number and got the answering machine. It was 2:00 PM on a Monday. We’ve never heard back.

Does anybody in Canada actually know what’s going on with climate change? Why isn’t anyone demanding answers? Is our country really so apathetic one way or the other?

At least in the States there’s a major opposition to cap-and-trade, so the government can’t pull the wool over your eyes too easily. At least it’s a controversy which is visible to the public

If any Canadian readers actually know what’s happening, or have any more information, please leave comments – this is far too important to ignore.

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It’s Everyone’s World

A nation’s policies usually only affect its citizens. Take health care, crime, or taxes. These policies could affect the rest of the world indirectly – through the economy, for example – but the benefits and consequences of the policies’ effectiveness, or lack thereof, will be present first and foremost in the nation in which they were created.

Climate change legislation doesn’t work the same way.

Firstly, the mechanism of climate change is just not fair. If it was, the countries which had caused the problem would suffer the greatest consequences, and those which had had no hand in causing the problem would go on as normal. Unfortunately, the areas which will suffer the most from a warming climate are affected due to their physical geography – such as latitude, ocean and wind currents, and topography – not due to the amount they contributed to the problem. This means that a lot of developing nations, whose per capita carbon emissions are virtually nil, will suffer greatly from climate change.

Additionally, developed nations are undoubtedly the best equipped to deal with the consequences they do suffer. Here in Canada, for example, we have floodways, free health care, food reserves, and insurance. But look at somewhere like sub-Saharan Africa. What backup plans do they have for natural disasters?

I am not suggesting that I want the developed nations to experience the drastic consequences of their actions. Conversely, I am suggesting that the developed nations have a global responsibility to repair their actions, as the consequences will affect many who are innocent and unequipped.

We should stop looking at climate change legislation, or lack thereof, as “How will this help or hurt me?” and start looking at it as “How will this affect the rest of the world?”

An interlude of Canadian politics

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, head of our minority government (for our American friends – read up on Canada’s governmental system here if you’re lost) hasn’t done a lot about climate change. When he came into power several years ago, he got rid of the previous government’s emission plan and got rid of our Kyoto agreement. Then he created a “20% emission reduction by 2020” plan which looked pretty decent. But then the economy went downhill and he got rid of that plan as well. Now he’s pledged to not take any action against climate change until the US plan is fully underway – 2016 or so.

Luckily, here in Canada, we can call elections whenever we want (not just every four years), so he may be out as early as September, depending on how angry the opposition gets with him.

Regardless, it’s pretty obvious that Canada isn’t going to take any action until the United States does.

Why I care about US policy

I am not a citizen of the United States. I’ve only ever travelled there, I believe, three times. I assume that the US culture is quite similar to Canada’s, but I don’t know for sure. I’m perplexed at the lack of recycling in the States.

But I care a lot about what the US does in terms of climate change policy. I care what American citizens think about climate change. I believe that when the US takes significant action, the rest of the world will follow. As an economic superpower, the US has the biggest potential to be a leader in climate change action. As the largest per-capita emitter in the world, it also has the biggest potential to make climate change worse if it doesn’t take action.

“Why do you care about US policy?” you may ask me. “It’s not even your country.”

No, it’s not my country.

But it is my world. It’s everyone’s world. And what the United States does about climate change will affect everyone.