I was sitting at the counter enjoying brunch at my local haunt when I noticed a copy of the Toronto Sunday Star. The Star is running a series by Irene Gentle called Undeniable: Canada’s Changing Climate. It covers stories from across the country, including weird storms in Toronto, the fatal heatwave in Montreal, the bizarre “river of rain” in B.C. and unprecedented wildfires in Alberta. Any one of these stories makes a case for climate change, but taken together, they are beyond question.
That got me thinking that, at long last, we seem to have hit a tipping point on this issue. The mainstream media used to think they needed to be “fair and balanced” on the climate crisis. By that, I mean there was a tendency to invite in “both sides” on the issue to provide a range of views. That usually meant pitting a recognized climate science expert against some crank who denied the blatantly obvious in the name of equal time. That’s not the trend in the legacy media anymore.
Like the Star, the vast majority of today’s press accepts the universal expert consensus on the climate crisis. That goes for politicians as well. For example, the Star also reported that Toronto City Council voted to declare a Climate Emergency and to become carbon neutral by 2050. They’re even calling on staff to look at ways to get there by 2040. The proposal came from Mayor John Tory, who is a staunch conservative and Councillor Mike Layton, who is a progressive. The unwieldy, 26-member council, who rarely agree on anything, passed it unanimously.
David Rider at the Star also reports that the private sector is jumping on board with Mayor Tory’s plan. Landlords and institutions that collectively manage over 300 million square feet of floor space in the city have agreed to set targets to reduce energy use. They will commit to a series of 5-year plans to lower their energy consumption, starting in 2025. Participants include developers, educational institutions and hospitals.
On Monday, traffic all over the world ground to a halt as protesters rallied together for some non-violent intervention. They shut down bridges in cities from Halifax to Vancouver in Canada and in communities around the world, including the iconic Westminster Bridge in London along with New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand, among many others. It was all part of the #BridgeOut campaign, which includes 652 events in 56 countries throughout October.
It’s not just a bunch of fanatical, naïve extremists, either. In a recent Washington Post-Kaiser poll, 80% of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by human activity. A survey by CBS News showed that 64% of Americans view climate change as a “serious problem/crisis.” U.S. citizens used to be the most stubborn climate deniers in the global community, but, except for their president, that’s no longer true.
Here in Canada, an Ipsos poll shows that climate change is one of the top issues in our ongoing election. Ipsos vice president Sean Simpson is quoted as saying he’s “never seen climate change quite so high.” Pew Research surveyed 26 countries for Earth Day. They found that climate change is seen as the top threat in 13 of those countries. That’s more than any other issue mentioned in the survey.
Traditionally, there have been three points to get across when talking about climate change. They are that climate change is real, caused by humans and an emergency. It used to be that most people were stuck on the first point. They weren’t convinced that climate change was even happening to begin with. We’re way past that now. Very few people need to hear any more arguments about any of the three points today. Nowadays, the discussion is around what to do about it and “nothing” is no longer seen as an option.
That’s where we need to focus our energies now. What is the best policy for dealing with climate change? How do we reduce carbon emissions? Is it through carbon pricing, a cap and trade system, tightening direct regulations or something else? We’ve squandered what little time we had to fix this by arguing over the expert consensus.
Thankfully, that phase seems to be over. Now we all need to educate ourselves on the best alternative solutions to keep the temperature rise below the agreed-upon 1.5˚ Celsius. That’s what we need to know at this point, and there is no time to lose.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
Undeniable: Canada’s Changing Climate
Mayor John Tory enlists major institutions in emissions plan as Toronto declares ‘climate emergency’
75% of Americans now believe humans fuel climate change
A look at how people around the world view climate change