Canada’s climate debate is turning into a snooze party

At the end of last year’s UN climate summit, we saw a historic agreement to “transition” away from fossil fuels. For those who watched our skies fill with smoke last year, the agreement offers a glimmer of hope that we can still avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. More importantly, it offers the opportunity to get to work on solutions. But in 2024, the question remains whether we will be serious about transitioning away from fossil fuels.

We have entered a critical moment for the climate, but the public debate in Canada on climate policy lacks the depth, engagement and factuality necessary to help formulate real solutions. It seems like every time I listen to the news I hear commentators emphasizing that Canadians have lost their passion for climate action. Tuning in is like watching endless reruns of a TV show called “Environment vs. Economy.”

We are supposed to believe that the difficult economic times we face have turned our desires for climate action to dust because Canadians may not want to do staff sacrifices taking measurements individually. A point that, by omission, prevents an honest discussion about real climate solutions that can benefit individual people immediately and the planet for generations to come. It reduces all climate action to matters of individual cost, even when the focus of that action is aimed at making a highly profitable industry do your fair share.

The framing of Canadian views on “individual cost” has also left out the high cost of not taking action and calls from Canadians for corporations and governments to do more. That for every dollar of inflation over the last two years in Canada, 25 cents of that It went to oil and gas and the profits from mining are conveniently left out of the debate.

It’s a somewhat persuasive framework when repeated over and over again, but it’s not new. It’s a repeat of the same stale rhetoric that fossil fuel advocates have spewed every time their economic interests are affected. threatened by systemic policy changes that could shift the blame from individuals to the responsible industry. It is a climate dialogue framework designed to divide, silence and convince us all that we are alone in our concerns about the future of our planet.

The basis of this framework is based on redefining what is considered “practical” and making climate action seem impractical by comparison. But like a house built on melting permafrost, over time the foundation crumbles precisely because you underestimate people.

When East Coast LNG was proposed as a solution to Europe’s energy security crisis, industry advocates framed it as the practical path to energy security. Of course, even a basic understanding of the proposed projects, which would not have been launched for years, would have shown that this “solution” was completely unworkable, but that did not matter.

It also seemed practical to assume that the oil and gas industry, with all its money and power, would have no problem convincing Canadians that East Coast LNG was the right way to go.

But even with all its might, the oil and gas industry couldn’t convince Canadians to support East Coast LNG. On the contrary, the climate remained its main decisive concern. Fast forward to 2024 and Repsol, the company with the most promising of the proposed projects, has canceled its East East LNG plans. It turns out that the project was neither practical nor economically viable, at least not without huge sums of taxpayers’ money.

Canada’s public debate on climate policy lacks the depth, engagement and factuality needed to help shape real solutions, writes Conor Curtis @CiaranCurtis1 @SierraClubCan #ChangingClimate #CDNpoli #Canpoli #EmissionsCap #COP28

When the Canadian government approved Bay du Nord in April 2022, many assumed the project would move forward, which was inevitable from that point on. Once again, time told a different story.

Fast forward to 2023: Bay du Nord has been on hold for up to three years and people’s desire for alternatives is growing. Hundreds of people took to the streets in St. John’s of real solutions that move the province beyond oil dependence, breaking the too easily accepted rule that people in oil and gas dependent provinces support oil and gas expansion.

Despite repeated evidence that the expansion of fossil fuels does not present us with real solutionsThe rhetoric of practicality and individual cost remains central to our climate debates.

The emissions cap issue right now is often raised as a debate between Alberta and the rest of Canada. The voices that appear first in emissions cap coverage are those that fit the assumed narrative that there is a dichotomy between Albertans and everyone else. This despite the fact that two surveys show cap holder in Alberta.

That commentators have believed that Canadians don’t care about climate change, after a summer of forest fires devastating the community many Canadians fear it is due to being repeated, says more about his gullibility than that of the Canadian public. The prominence of commentators from political strategists and former advisers rather than scientists and people actually affected by climate change in Canada is, more than anything, disappointing.

It’s also getting pretty boring.

Because there is a need to have real dialogues about the substance of climate policies that transcend the appearance of what we assume those policies and their supporters are. Debates between politicians all Stingrays and real climate scientists, like those who study the toll climate impacts are having on Canadians, would offer the public much more value than debates between random columnist A and random columnist B.

The news would do well to feature constructive debates about carbon pricing among people who earn less than the average political strategist or think tank lobbyist. Instead of endless coverage from those who claim to know what the public thinks, we can build a healthy dialogue on climate policy directly among those who are really fighting right now, one that is based on policy facts. Real discussions about the responsibility of corporations to influence climate change could get to the truth of why Canadians feel the playing field is unfair.

The hard, practical questions are the ones we don’t ask often enough, and not asking them underestimates those watching and leads them to tune out. These are questions that require genuine engagement with the general public with solutions, not scandals, in mind.

Those real arguments, discussions and conversations are vital to our climate and the future of every child in Canada. But even if you disagree, you have to admit it would make for much better television.

Conor Curtis, a social and environmental researcher and writer from Corner Brook, the Netherlands, is head of communications for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

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