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May. 28, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
We’re at war, and time is running out
Greta Thunberg strikes outside the Swedish parliament building in August 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hermine Steinberg/Special

We’re at war. It's the most insidious and life-threatening war in human history, yet many people want to bury their heads in the sand. I’m talking about the climate crisis.

Those of us who remember studying World War Two will recall that once nations recognized the threat, they mobilized. Factories were refitted and repurposed, people trained, resources distributed, and technology advanced in relatively short order. It was a monumental effort that required vision, sacrifice, and determination. We spent a tremendous amount of money. The loss of life was staggering. However, not only did we win the war and secure our future but the investment in science, technology and education launched one of our most prosperous eras.

Today, despite experts warning us and obvious signs all around us, we have been seduced and brainwashed into becoming the frog in the boiling water. It may be warm and comfy now but the steam is rising and we’re about to be cooked.

The worst consequences of global warming are increasing in frequency, severity and scale. Many people around the world have already paid a very personal and profound cost as a result, including conflict and war over resources, rising sea levels, financial loss, displacement, drought, food shortages, and loss of safe drinking water.

Many scientists believe we are on the verge of the 6thmass extinction event which is estimated to be 50-75 years away. However, it is predicted that things will start getting really bad for many of us within the next 20 years.

A concerted and rational effort doesn’t seem possible in what seems like a fractured, politically divided society. In fact, most of us admit that we are not willing to voluntarily change our lives if that would create any inconvenience or loss of enjoyment. What we don’t realize is that we have been duped, brainwashed, made dependent and blind to the tremendous opportunities that stand before us, once our enemy has been contained and controlled.

We know that the fossil fuel industry is fighting to preserve a $28 trillion per year market segment, one-third of the world's total gross domestic product (GDP). They see this as a life and death struggle and they are an incredibly powerful foe.

We have always known growth can’t be limitless on a finite planet. Free market principles of unfettered growth have long been recognized as a dangerous delusion that will lead to global collapse.

But here is the good news. Once we understand that we have been sold a bill of goods that has created huge economic disparity, environmental disaster, and political instability, we will realize that the transformation that is needed will bring tremendous progress.

It has been estimated that a billion or more jobs could be created worldwide to address climate destabilization caused by global warming. This would lead to what is being called the Third Industrial Revolution by Jeremy Rifkin. Creating an economy built upon a new sustainable prosperity model will also build a foundation of effective governance that is more equitable, just, and efficient.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stop subsidizing fossil fuels in Canada. Both the federal and provincial governments continue to provide these subsidies. This has been going on for decades.

Now with the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion, and a commitment to as much as $7.4 billion more for a planned expansion, Canadians are on the hook for $7.7 to $15 billion in new support for an industry already receiving more than $3.3 billion a year . In addition, Export Development Canada finances oil production in other countries, spending almost $12 billion in 2016 and $10 billion in 2017. Canada spent the most per capita of any G7 country. This means that every Canadian citizen pays about $100 annually to subsidize very profitable and often foreign-owned oil and gas companies. This is not only a questionable investment but totally contrary to our official environmental agenda.

Blue Green Canada’s recent research demonstrated that $1.3 billion in federal subsidies in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transit rather than jobs in oil and gas, would result in six to eight times more jobs: 18,000-20,000 jobs in clean energy sectors vs. 2,300 jobs in oil and gas.

Exxon Mobile Corp. which is an American company, is the largest owner in Canada’s fossil fuel industry. In fact, the oil industry is largely foreign-funded. It spends millions every year in lobbying and PR to influence our government and public opinion. The financial benefits from fossil-fuel production go to a relatively small number of corporations, investment funds, and wealthy families – many outside our nation. So not only are our economic strings being pulled by an economic elite, but by largely foreign players.

In addition, many economists are now warning that countries such as Canada that continue to prop up their fossil fuel industries while neglecting to build a green economy could experience a severe financial crisis in the future. Jorge Vinuales, the Chair of Law and Environmental Policy at Cambridge University, stated that global transition away from fossil fuels is seen as inevitable. There is a significant risk in continuing to make heavy investments in potentially ‘stranded assets’ as the world is moving away from fossil-fuel. And at the first signs of this happening, we can be assured that the very people who have created our dependence on our oil sector will be the first to abandon it, leaving us to suffer the consequences of a failed economy.

It’s time to divest from the fossil fuel industry; declare that their era is over. They appeared to be our friend and ally. We didn’t know better. But we do now. We must use our power as consumers, investors, educators, citizens, parents, and friends to build a nation based upon a sustainable and inclusive green economy. We must join the battle and fight for our lives. Time is running out.