By Charles Dickson
When most of what you hear about climate change has to do with melting
Arctic sea ice, floods in Europe, droughts in Africa, and violent storms from
the Caribbean, it would be easy to conclude that climate change is something
that happens somewhere else, not here.
But in a place like the Pontiac – not that there are many places quite like
the Pontiac – we live close enough to nature to know that things are
happening that should concern us. When the world’s climate scientists tell
us that the predicted effects of climate change are happening now, decades
ahead of schedule, it confirms what we can see with our own eyes.
We saw it two weeks ago, when 90 km/h winds pulled the tarps off our hay
piles. We saw it last year when a month-long drought wreaked havoc with
crops and weakened trees to the point of susceptibility to challenges they’d
normally withstand. And we saw it 15 years ago when the ice storm turned our
world into a glass menagerie.
Some might suggest it’s impossible to prove that any of these sorts of
weather events can be attributed to climate change. That’s a bit like saying
that no single cough can be attributed to smoking cigarettes, an argument
which big tobacco has parlayed into billions of dollars in profits. Now it’s
big oil’s turn to profit by keeping us in doubt of a connection between
cause and consequence. But our daily weather is determined by the condition
of the global climate just as surely as coughing is a function of the health
of our lungs. Pump excessive amounts of carbon into either, and you will get
In the case of greenhouse gas emissions, that, too, can seem to be happening
anywhere but here, what with all the stories about tropical deforestation in
Indonesia, massive beef operations in Brazil, and pollution spewing from
smokestacks and tailpipes in heavily industrialized and populated parts of
Meanwhile, here in the Pontiac, we know we’re also part of the problem.
We’re driving cars, trucks, and tractors, heating our homes and businesses,
raising livestock and cutting trees every bit as much as the next guy. The
recent publication by the MRC Pontiac of a preliminary inventory of
greenhouse gas-producing activities in our area will help us track our
contribution to this global problem. If you can measure it, you can manage
it, as they say.
But that’s easier said than done. If you’re a small business, it’s pretty
tough to go to the extra trouble and expense of reducing your carbon
footprint if your competitors are not also getting with the program. And
what’s true for a small enterprise is also true for the country. In reality,
how can Canada be party to an agreement that puts its industries at a
competitive disadvantage compared to companies in countries not constrained by the same requirements? An uneven playing field is usually enough for one team to
pack up its gear and go home. To the shock of many around the world, this is
exactly what good old honest broker, solid citizen Canada did with respect
to the Kyoto Protocol.
So it has been from distant cities such as Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban
that, year after year, we hear that yet another round of climate talks has
failed to find a solution and that the biggest success negotiators can claim
is agreement to meet again next year. Against this backdrop, as climate
delegations from around the world gather this week in Warsaw, we can only
hope that those representing Canada will press hard for an agreement that
levels the global playing field so that all countries can comply without
disadvantage and that compels all countries to do so.
Because right now there is a human catastrophe unfolding on the other side
of our planet, where upwards of 10,000 people are believed to have died at
the hands of Typhoon Haiyan as it ravaged the Philippine city of Tacloban.
Right here in the Pontiac there is much we can do. We can find ways in our
daily lives to reduce the carbon we produce. We can make purchasing choices
that help create a competitive advantage for businesses that strive to
reduce their carbon footprint.
And we can let our elected representatives at every level, now and into the
future, know that here we are not leaving this issue for others to address,
that we expect courageous leadership on climate change, and that like the
excellent soldiers that we Canadians are, we will follow.
Ed. Note: Charles Dickson is the publisher for the Shawville Equity newspaper. This article first appeared in the Equity as an editorial. It has been reprinted with permission.