To The Honourable John Baird, M.P.
Minister of the Environment
Mr. Baird, I write this personal letter to you as part of a desperate plea – a plea for you to take a new approach on carbon emissions and climate change.
As a citizen of Canada, I am responsible and complicit in the unacceptably high per capita CO2 emissions produced in this country. Ranked within the top ten per capita emitter countries, each Canadian is playing a significant role in causing rising global temperatures - These rising temperatures in turn will see the great North ice caps melt, various small island states submerged (not to mention low lying areas such as the city of Manhattan - gone), the belt of the tropical planet dried up by desertification, and an increase in devastating storms on par with Hurricane Katrina (if not stronger - Katrina had weakened to a class 3 hurricane by the time it struck New Orleans), and lets not forget the hundreds of millions of people who will become "environmental refugees" as a result. There is a list of predicted devastations in the IPCC's latest report, which I have posted for viewing here, (in case you haven't had a chance to read it).
As a citizen of Canada, I do not want to be accountable for these impending human disasters. Do you? This is why I have tried to reduce my personal emissions: I have given up on cars and I now ride my bike year round (this was not an easy trade off given Edmonton’s cold winters!), I carefully insulated my house and keep the household temperature to a minimum level, and I try to only buy locally produced goods. But try as I might, I am quite powerless to curb the emissions of the real polluters – the massive companies in the industrial sector and, particularly, the tar sands companies here in Alberta. These companies (including Suncor, Syncrude and Shell Canada, among others) are continually pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere on behalf of all Canadians, and they clearly are more interested in profiting from petroleum than making the world livable for future generations. You, on the other hand, are in a position of power, and as the old adage goes – with power comes responsibility. For this reason I plead with you to put through new, tougher legislation that will a) cause a swift shift to an economy based on sustainable energy resources, and b) drastically enforce the reduction of carbon emissions, effective immediately!
We don’t have time to waste, and this is easily proven by reviewing the facts that we continue to hear from highly regarded environmentalists and organizations:
- Bill McKibben, distinguished environmentalist, explained in December how the world reached a level of atmospheric homeostasis before the industrial revolution with carbon dioxide levels sitting at 275 parts per million. For the last few years we thought the upper limit was 450 parts per million before the damage becomes irreversible, but new studies show that 350 parts per million is a limit we would be wise not to surpass. TODAY WE’RE AT 383 PARTS PER MILLION!!!
- Bruce Cox, Executive Director at Greenpeace Canada, argued today that carbon sequestration won't work, that we need to focus on renewable energies, and that "the international consensus is that to avoid the worst excesses of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015, then start falling".
- Matthew Bramley, Director of the Pembina Institute's climate change program, announced in May 2007 that "the government's national targets come up short against the science, leading countries' commitments, and our legal obligations under Kyoto," and further that your Turning the Corner Plan has "little chance of meeting the government's target of stopping the growth in Canada's greenhouse gas pollution by 2010-12," AND FURTHER, that your plan has "numerous loopholes and gaps that undermine the credibility of the government's target for 2020, which is to limit Canada's emissions to about 2% above the 1990 level."
- Recent studies by scientists show that the deadline for when we must reduce emissions is much sooner than previously anticipated, and that we must bring our emissions to ZERO in order to avert the devastation of climate change.
Unfortunately, Turning the Corner, DOES WASTE TIME. It calls for 20% in reductions by 2020! This is too late Mr. Baird - and you know it! First off, there is no way that market mechanisms will see the reduction of 60 to 70% of emissions by 2050. You know this. Secondly, by 2050 - as you've seen above, every environmental organization out there says this is way too late! We need to turn the corner now, not 40 years from now!
If murder is the most serious of crimes, why do we allow the tar sands corporations to continually wreak havoc on the environment and increasingly pump carbon into our atmosphere? We know that these emissions will end up causing the deaths of millions of people - and YOU - Mr. Baird, will be held accountable. Do you want to end up as a defendant on the International Criminal Court twenty years from now, when the global consensus on carbon emissions finds that anyone in a position of power who serves to further enable climate change is criminally responsible (as suggested by David Suzuki)? I doubt you do, so act now to stop emissions (and protect yourself from future incarceration!)!
What ultimately bothers me most, Mr. Baird, is that since "Canada's New Government" has come to power, the amount of carbon we Canadians are pumping into the atmosphere has increased, and it is projected to continue to increase, as admitted by Stephen Harper himself! The IPCC predicts that because of totally lax laws on climate change (like those here in Canada), global CO2 emissions from energy use between 2000 and 2030 are projected to grow 40 to 110% over that period! This gives me and fellow citizens a feeling of shame for being Canadian. I was so ashamed when Canada was awarded the Fossil Award at the UN Climate Summit. Please act now to bring back Canada's international reputation!
Here's a direct quote from the International Panel on Climate Change's latest report: "Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1300 years." Are you going to remember this in August, when the sweltering heat causes people to lock themselves in their damp basements or crank up their air conditioners (thereby wreaking havoc on the grid)?
The IPCC also provides a map of the world showing the most drastic increases in average temperature over the last 35 years. There is only one part of the Earth that has seen an average temperature increase as high as 3.5 degrees... guess where? It's a massive area that covers Canada's North West and most of Alaska. YES, we are experiencing harmful temperature increases here in Canada already!
I know that as the Minister of the Environment in a country which holds the second largest proven oil reserves in the world, your job is not easy: You have the difficult task of making sure the environment is a priority when all the others are blinded by the dollar signs that mar their vision of the tar sands. But by virtue of your position, this must be your fight.
If I may ask you to engage in this thought exercise – How do you want Canadians to remember your work as a member of Parliament, fifty years from now? Do you want to be remembered as a Minister who was tough on climate change? Do you want to be remembered as the first politician who stood up to the corporations which continued to pour carbon dioxide into our atmosphere without concern? Do you want to be remembered as the famed politician who turned the tide on carbon emissions – the one who was directly responsible for enacting strong legislation which actually saw the amount of carbon emissions decrease nation-wide? Do you want to be remembered as the first politician to truly comprehend that economic growth is meaningless unless there is a sustainable world to live in! I ask you this because at this rate, Mr. Baird, you will not be remembered this way! At this rate you will be remembered as the Minister who wasted billions of dollars and years of precious time trying to sequester carbon, as the one who found every possible way to appease big oil while forgetting to invest in renewable energies, as the environment minister who forgot to implement a carbon tax when the budget was passed, like the province of British Colombia smartly did earlier this year.
Fifty years from now, I want to look back to the year 2008 and think of Mr. Baird as the one who actually made it happen. And that's my plea, Mr. Baird.... please, make it happen.