• The Low Down

Candidates need to respond to planetary Code Red

Two of my grandchildren are the only kids in their respective families. One lives here in this beautiful, tranquil rural community, the other in a big bustling city, but close to parks and water. Both are happy, healthy young children. But their mothers have told me how much they fear for their future if they have no siblings to turn to when the ravages of climate change are upon them and their parents are old or have passed on. What a terrible prospect for any parent or grandparent to have to contemplate. Yet this is the world we live in today.


Our failure to heed the warnings of scientists over decades has brought us to this frightening place. On Aug. 9, a stark report from the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change was released showing that the crisis is “unequivocally” caused by human activities and is “unequivocally” rapidly affecting every corner of Earth’s land, air, and sea.


The climate is warming at a rate not seen in at least 2,000 years. Rising temperatures are locking us into worse floods, hotter wildfires, and searing droughts. This year, we have seen startling evidence of these effects around the world. The IPCC reports that Canada is warming at nearly twice the global rate. Parts of western and northern Canada are warming at three times the global average. Melting glaciers are adding to rising sea levels, causing coastal erosion and more frequent and intense storms.

Produced by more than 200 of world’s top scientists and signed off by all the world’s governments, the report concludes that the crisis is set to worsen if, as noted by The Guardian, “the slim chance remaining to avert heating above 1.5 C is not immediately grasped.”


It should go without saying that our political leaders need to start acting as if this is an unprecedented emergency and that we are rapidly running out of time to avoid the very worst. As we approach the second federal election in Canada since the IPCC first warned that we must keep temperatures below 1.5 C, there has been some halting progress towards reducing GHG emissions (our only hope for reaching the necessary net zero by 2050). But aside from a blip in 2020 due to COVID-19, emissions are on the rise.


This clearly has to stop.


The upcoming Federal election is providing voters in Pontiac with a crucial opportunity to hold contenders’ feet to the fire (pun intended) and demand urgent action (a broken record by now). Candidates will have to account for their parties’ climate plan – or lack thereof – if they want to win. Voters must demand bold, urgent, and uncompromising climate action throughout the various sections of government. No more party-political wrangling, no more rewarding polluters, and no more promises and plans that skirt the fundamental issue or move too slowly or not at all.

Justin Trudeau recently said this crisis needs “thought.” No, prime minister, it needs action.


Specifically, Federal Election candidates must commit to the following:

  • Immediately halting all fossil fuel expansion projects;

  • Investing massively in a green economy and renewable energy; training oil and gas workers for sustainable, clean jobs;

  • Giving frontline and Indigenous communities decision-making power over how they will transition to a green economy.

We grandparents are losing sleep over the kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Some of us have joined the young activists who have courageously taken to the streets to passionately demand climate justice and a sustainable future. We’ve let them down badly; we need to make amends before it’s too late. This election, let us try and change the narrative from dire to cautiously hopeful.


Paula Halpin lives in Masham, Quebec.