We can’t afford to delay climate action

(March 12, 2019)

“Climate delayers are the new climate deniers.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rookie member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is popularizing this phrase as she promotes a Green New Deal in Congress.

It’s not a new idea, nor is it a new tactic. Delay what you can’t stop — and when the delaying isn’t working, then distract. AOC (as she is known) has already forced Republicans (and old-guard Democrats) into “distract” mode — a young woman of colour who understands the social media that her elders only fumble with and who posts video of herself dancing into her congressional office, where she pays her staffers a fair wage.

Given that Congress these days reminds me of British men’s clubs of the 1930s, with old, white, cigar-smoking men wheezing into glasses of port as the world descends into chaos, AOC is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Fresh air is what Washington needs, like all of us, especially when it comes to creating the necessary common-sense responses to climate change and ecological justice. Doing nothing has been the response of governments for too long, which means climate action will be an important issue in political campaigns to come.

Or so we hope. Provincially, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s many green pronouncements have done little to address global warming. Given the scale, urgency and complexity of the sustainability problem, Manitoba has done nothing substantive toward creating a greener world since the Progressive Conservatives formed government in 2016. If anything, we have gone backwards, despite myriad consultations with a broad spectrum of Manitobans.

We need to go from doing less than nothing to doing more than a lot if we expect our children and grandchildren to inherit anything that looks like a sustainable future. In fact, the bluntly accurate message that young people are (finally) bringing to the table is that we are stealing their future because of our inaction.

So, if climate delayers are the new climate deniers, then Pallister leads the Manitoba list. By dithering for three years on the climate file, he has made our province less secure and less sustainable for all Manitobans, present and future.

Instead of mobilizing Manitobans of all parties (or none) to work together for our own Green New Deal, he has polarized the province, alienated the federal government and squabbled with the City of Winnipeg. His posturing on a made-in-Manitoba carbon tax also left us out in the cold.

We could have had a revenue stream that offered incentives for people to make lifestyle changes of their own, providing greener alternatives than the provincial budget could otherwise afford.

Two years ago, that’s what business, industry and environmental organizations agreed was the best idea, as long as low-income families were protected by rebates from the increased costs to basic services from a carbon tax.

Instead, we are stuck with the Trudeau government’s revolving-door carbon tax (where the left hand takes money for burning fossil fuels and the right hand returns it). Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservative Party’s proposals on carbon emissions are even worse.

Stop, stall or sabotage — whatever works. That’s what the climate deniers and delayers do at every chance to undermine those people who are trying to do something instead of nothing.

Down south, AOC has been getting this kind of malignant opposition to her Green New Deal. I fear things will only get worse toward the next U.S. presidential election.

One of the tactics the antagonists use is to make it seem like there is a debate among climate experts about what to do or how to do it — and how soon. So, until we have better information, they say we should wait, in order to do the right thing.

Yet, there really isn’t much of a debate. We need to listen to the science, but it’s not rocket science.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Summary for Policy Makers of the Global Environmental Outlook 6 will be approved at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi. It is a public document, as is the whole report. Read it for yourself. You may not be a rocket scientist, but you don’t need to be.

After all, AOC isn’t. She got mad and got elected — without being funded by the special-interest groups that try to undermine American democracy. A year ago, AOC made her living as a waitress and as a bartender — two professions that require common sense and wisdom. Today, she is in Congress where she belongs, fighting for her future and for ours.

I’ll drink to that. I just wish Pallister would join me.

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