I didn’t want to have to write this. I started and left this piece several times, struggling with how to articulate the sense of urgency, anger, and pain I feel about the climate crisis without sounding too alarmist.
But then the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published his latest reportand Justin Trudeau called federal elections. For those who have yet to receive the memo, despite deadly heat waves, wildfires and floods, the report made it painfully clear that climate change is not in the future. Is here.
For people of my generation and younger (I am 32 years old), most of our adult lives will be involved in cycles of catastrophic climate change. We will suffer the consequences of modern conveniences that our parents and grandparents took for granted. And some of us are beginning to wonder: What does it mean to have a child in the midst of the climate crisis? What kind of future U.S have, much less that of our future children?
The IPCC report emphasized that we have a window of opportunity to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will already trigger widespread change over the next 30 years, but it may prevent the decades after 2050 from looking even worse.
Faced with such news, one would think that federal leaders would make climate change an electoral issue. Now is the time to do it. The issues that dominate the electoral discourse so far are all important, but none of them address the climate crisis in a real and substantial way. The Green Party could be the exception. But as I write this, there are no green candidates in my career, nor many others in the entire country.
This is disappointing. It is also scary.
The fear that many people my age have for the future became apparent to me earlier this month. Speaking to a friend in Northern California, a region that has experienced record heat waves, we wondered how it was possible that people our age could feel secure enough about the future to have not one, not two, but Three kids.
“I thought we agreed that two was the maximum!” joked.
Later that night, the topic came up with my 23-year-old cousin, who has always wanted children. He told me that he was now seriously considering not having children. Meanwhile, a friend who had her first baby in December said that having a child right now was an “act of hope.” Hope is good, we agreed, but it must be increased with action.
This is what I fear our political leaders will overlook. When things are so bad and so scary that young people begin to reconsider whether or not to have children, the old rules no longer apply.
In April, when Ontario entered a strict lockdown, there was palpable frustration. For months, scientists had been predicting that cases would increase, causing strains in the health care system unless the government acted quickly. They did not. There was another stricter blockade; many people got sick and died unnecessarily. It was around this time my friend Shira Lurie tweeted an important reminder: “There will be no vaccines for the climate crisis.”
This moment of despair was when I finally realized the extent of the climate crisis. It wasn’t that I didn’t take the weather seriously before. Rather, the pandemic taught me the power of scientific projections and how ignoring them can lead to disaster.
He was not alone. “It made me realize how real everything scientists have been warning us is,” my cousin wrote me about the relationship between the pandemic and climate change. “The pandemic feels like the Earth is shining a yellow light on us that is about to turn red, and instead of slowing people down, it either continues normally or accelerates.”
I said earlier that I didn’t want to write about climate change in a way that sounded alarmist. But I don’t know how else to write about it. Nothing else seems the truth.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to put this issue to the polls before our prime minister, whoever he may be, goes to Glasgow in November for critical UN talks on the climate crisis. There is no shortage of problems facing the country. But when it comes to climate change, time is ticking. We may not want an election right now, but we have been given the opportunity to make the climate crisis an electoral issue. Hope we use it.
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