Opinion » Maxed Out

But really, the sky is falling

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"The sky is falling! The sky is falling." - Chicken Little

Of course, the sky wasn't falling. It was an acorn that bonked Chicken Little on the noggin and set off her course of hysterics.

A morality folk take along the vein of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Chicken Little taught generations of children not to panic and not to cause panic lest you not be believed. It was a lesson learned so well we can no longer panic, or it seems even be very interested in, the sky really falling. Or, in this case, becoming toxic to the habitat conditions necessary to support human life on Earth.

And so, over the course of the past few weeks, we've witnessed the Chicken Littles of the world telling us time is running out and we're rapidly reaching the point of no return; naturally, we've largely ignored them. In reality, we've already reached that point but even they are too polite to try and make that case.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its most dire warning of what's to come when the sky falls at its 48th Session early in October in Incheon, South Korea.

While not quite as dramatic as Klaatu's warning that Gort, the robot policeman, would reduce the Earth to "a burned-out cinder" in 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still, if the various governments of the planet didn't learn how to get along without nuclear aggression, the IPCC's warning of global disaster if we continue to increase the Earth's average temperature another degree Celsius is nonetheless dramatic.

It's a sign of the times. In 1951, there was a high probability humanity would end with a bang, not a whimper. In 2018, it appears the whimper may win out... or lead to such devastation someone will push the button and bring on the bang. Whatever. Obliteration is obliteration.

But assuming the science reported by the IPCC is correct—and there's no reason to believe it's not—the inescapable conclusion to be drawn is this: There is a probability approaching one (1), in other words an almost certainty, the devastation they describe in their report will come to pass.

I'll give you a moment to take that in.

The actions necessary to limit global warming outlined in the report require, "...rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities."

Also required would be a means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. That "means" doesn't currently exist by the way.

There is zero chance the world's governments will take the actions necessary to avoid the inevitable increase in global temperatures past the tipping point.

Exhibit A: Canada. With much fanfare, Prime Minister Trudeau announced early in his term Canada would soon have a carbon tax from coast to coast to coast. So how's that going? Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario have all opted out, Alberta in a fit of pique after its pipeline defeat. New Brunswick and PEI plan to use existing programs that will likely not meet the criteria. Newfoundland doesn't have a plan and Nova Scotia's cap-and-trade plan is probably not sufficient.

So the Prime Minister announced his own plan... sort of. With more loopholes than a pair of thigh-high lace-up boots.

And, of course, reiterated his support for going full speed ahead on Alberta's tarsands expansion and the Trans Mountain Pipeline project.

BC has a carbon tax, thank you. And is hitching its economic wagon to massive LNG infrastructure.

Let's not even bother discussing what's happening south of the border with Old King Coal leading the charge to oblivion and full-size pickups and massive SUVs still dominating the automobile market. At this point, the only contribution the U.S. is making to reducing its carbon footprint is the national sport of mass murder and the alarming increase in suicide.

And then, there's the walking the walk vs. talking the talk problem. The IPCC report was the work of 91 authors and an un-numbered army of staffers. Fifty-four of those authors were present in Incheon for the 48th session along with their armies of staffers. Attendance numbered well over 500.

One, IPCC chair Hoesung Lee, travelled to Incheon from his home in South Korea. The remainder punched yet more holes in the ozone by flying from around the world to attend the conference to underscore the importance of taking drastic action to avoid climate change.

Were this a one-off event, the irony may be forgiven. But week in and week out, there are international conferences on the myriad environmental problems facing humanity. They're well attended by academics, politicians, NGOs and others who all share a deep concern about climate change and an equally deep sense of denial regarding their own actions.

In Incheon, Greenpeace International sent a delegation of observers and a team of "...experts available for comments." Jennifer Morgan, executive director, said, "From the Hambach forest to those seeking climate justice against fossil fuel polluters, the global community is fed up with inaction on climate change." (Italics mine.)

I'm pretty sure it was Pogo who said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Yet, I continue to recycle, to compost, to turn the heat down, to.... But I can't get over the sobering information contained in last year's report from the Ontario environmental commissioner about the effectiveness of recycling.

Examining the decades-long effort to drill the mantra of recycling into peoples' heads, to get us to dutifully sort, separate and recycle everything recyclable, it turns out that upwards of two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadian waste still ends up in landfills.

Why? Partly due to contaminated streams of recyclable material. But to a much greater extent because there is simply no market for the bales and bales of recyclable material we create year in and year out. Recycling is a market-driven system and the supply of recyclable material far outstrips the demand. The excess heads to landfills.

It is not for no reason recycle anchors the lowest order of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

But it makes us feel good, doesn't it? Of course it does.

And that's why there is virtually no chance we will change our lifestyles enough to meet the target of the IPCC. We live in denial. We have to live in denial; it's what makes us human. Without denial, we'd have nothing to live for. That, at least, is the hypothesis of Ajit Varki and Danny Brower in their book, Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind.

And nowhere is that denial on better display than Whistler. We exist so hundreds of thousands of people can board jets, fly here, drive up the highway, ride lifts to the top of the mountains, ski down, and enjoy a refreshing après under the warm glow of outdoor propane heaters.

You wanna talk about denial?

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