JIM EMBERGER COMMENTARY   Telegraph Journal, 2018-11-05

Amidst the excitement over New Brunswick’s political situation and the hubbub surrounding cannabis, Brunswick News columnist Chris Morris provided a sober shot of reality in a commentary advising our new MLAs to pay attention to the latest, vitally important report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Her column,“New Brunswick position unclear as clock ticks down on carbon plan” (Oct. 20, A17), says, in no uncertain terms, that we have roughly 12 years to make sweeping changes to the way we live, or we and our children will face a world with climate conditions never experienced by our species.

The report’s language is uncompromising. Forestalling this civilization-wide disaster requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society …  land, energy, industry, buildings, transport  and cities.”

New Brunswick has had two years of record level flooding. Image © 2018 copyright Liane Thibodeau

Some politicians and media reacted appropriately to these dire, science-based statements, acknowledging the next 12 years as “the most important in human history.”  Others, however, saved their hysteria and alarm for the government’s imposition of an extremely modest carbon tax – as if it is the tax, and not climate change, that threatens our survival.

Our election provides one indicator that voters, perhaps, understand climate change with increasing clarity.  A solid majority chose parties that had distinct plans to address climate change. (Liberal, Green and NDP together earned 55 per cent of the vote).

Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs has also acknowledged that climate change needed to be addressed after witnessing the epic floods in his riding, and the PC platform pledged to promote clean energy.

Four parties, then, constituting nearly 90 per cent of the votes, promised to address climate change.  Thus, climate change is the perfect issue to illustrate that co-operation can accomplish the ultimate goal of government – protecting the welfare of the people.

Promises must be quickly changed into policy, as every delay will increase the costs and severity of the changes required. This urgency must be understood by citizens and government.

For instance, recent worldwide disasters via storms, floods, wildfires, heat waves, droughts and more, brought warnings that this will be the “new normal.”  This is incorrect.

“Normal”  implies that what we experienced this year is what we can expect from now on. In fact, there will be no “new normal.”

The effects of climate change will continually worsen until we cease pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere  and learn how to eliminate those already there. Until then, adapting to constant changes will be a never-ending and increasingly expensive proposition.

That is the heart of the IPCC’s 2030 deadline for reducing emissions by 45 per cent, and 2050 deadline for ending them completely (about the time our babies will be starting their families.)

This report, though scary, is actually a conservative document.  It required agreement from 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries, based on more than 6,000 scientific references, and the contributions of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide.

Such massive agreement gives the report great authority, but the compromises necessary to reach a middle-ground agreement result in omitting the “worst case” predictions of some prominent scientists, which, unfortunately, have often been the most accurate.

The urgency is undeniable, but what actions are necessary?

Obviously, the first imperative is to immediately stop developing any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

This inescapable truth means halting politically favoured projects like the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines, and prohibiting the exploration for new fossil fuels anywhere, whether in the Arctic Ocean or in New Brunswick.

Politicians who support these projects (or want to subsidize fossil fuels), while professing to address climate change, must understand these positions are contradictory and border on delusional.

Secondly, our lawmakers must devise methods to steadily decrease usage of fossil fuels, and this is the challenge to our new MLAs. We contend to be a people who believe in science, and base policies on “expert” analyses – except in the case of climate change, where we ignore the experts, because they prescribe solutions demanding real change.

Sweden’s recent elections, like ours, produced unexpected results.  Asked about the effects on climate policy, a young activist Greta Thunberg noted,

“I think the election didn’t matter. The climate is not going to collapse because some party got the most votes. The politics that’s needed to prevent the climate catastrophe – it doesn’t exist today. We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today …  as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on.”

Our new MLAs must take this message to heart.  They have a rare opportunity to transcend politics-as-usual rules, and accomplish something both necessary and historic.

The IPCC report noted:  “Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”  But those changes will “provide clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems …  ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”

Ms. Morris put our new MLAs on notice. But as NBC news host Phillip Mena concluded on his Oct.  8 newscast,  “A hundred years from now, they’ll be asking why every news cast, every day, wasn’t focused on climate change.”

Jim Emberger is a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.