Ideological blinkers must be removed in climate debate

It was encouraging to read the answers to last week’s question to the candidates in the upcoming election on a topic that dealt with their parties’ commitments to climate change initiatives.

Specifically, the question asked candidates that, should their particular party be elected to form the next government of Canada, what commitments would it bring to an upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scheduled for Paris, France in late November.

Interestingly, the only candidate to actually reference this meeting in a response was NDP incumbent Carol Hughes, who said her party in government could go to Paris “to get on track with the world.”

All the candidates referencing their parties’ platforms stated generally what they would do and the government candidate, Andre Robichaud of the Conservatives, was of course able to reference his party’s actions in government.

As expected in an election campaign, each answer was different from all the others and, of course, domestic changes designed to mitigate the effects of global warming were without fail linked to jobs, one way or another.

But as we witness this much warmer than usual fall season, we see a Little Current crabapple tree suddenly back in bloom this week and as a local fisherman catches a female bass (which usually spawns in May and June) laden with eggs, these very ordinary signs are clear indications that we have managed to confuse Mother Nature.

So what about those rival political notions concerning climate change?

The point is that, on this topic, after the election is over and the government is formed, there is no room for political bickering and this is one topic, especially if we are presented with a minority government, that all political players must agree on a common and progressive course of action that will set the course in our country to deal with climate change and to, as much as possible, contain its effects for Canadians as we look ahead two or three generations.

We can’t, of course, do this alone and that was why this newspaper posed the question last week that indicated a reference to an upcoming international climate change conference and what each party, in government, could bring to that intergovernmental table.

This part of the question was not answered by any of the candidates except by extrapolation from their parties’ platforms. In fairness, this was sufficient.

But the fact remains that the subtle changes which we’re seeing more and more, coupled with epic weather events (the dramatic increase in number and ferocity of hurricanes along the Atlantic coast of our continent in recent years) is more and more an indication that something is happening, that something is much larger than we mere humans and that, internationally, we have to cooperate on mitigating forces.

In this case, cooperation begins at home and most certainly trumps political one-upmanship.

When the dust settles and we have whatever we get on the government benches, a vigorous all-party committee on climate change, with teeth, would be a positive indicator that the government is sincere in its statements.

The reality of the impacts that climate change will have on our society are too important to allow our reactions to be steered by ideological blinkers and both sides of the debate have been guilty on this front.

For the climate change deniers, those blinkers are clear. That ideology says that the changes are not man made, that they are not happening and the whole climate change debate is a left-wing conspiracy. For the champions of climate change, any discussions of mitigation and ways of dealing with the inevitable changes that are coming are anathema because mitigation is perceived by them to be a barrier to reducing carbon emissions.

With each passing season, it is becoming clear that climate change is upon us and that its impact has the potential to be dire. We need political leaders who will gaze beyond the blinkers of ideological posturing and begin the debate on how we will deal with that inevitable impact and so in concert with those of their peers on the international stage who are also prepared to take the measures that are not simply necessary but imminently so.