On Saturday, we lost power here for nine hours. There was an explosion and fire at an Ontario Hydro station up the road on a very hot day. There will be more such incidents in our future. Michael Harris writes:
While politicians obsess about inflation and the next electoral cycle, the planet is stewing in its own juices. Triple-digit temperatures in the United States and Europe are killing people because they don’t have air-conditioning, or they can’t reach a “cooling centre.”
Just one per cent of Europeans have air conditioning. And even though the U.S. is what author Henry Miller once called “the air-conditioned nightmare,” American authorities are predicting massive power outages across the U.S. this summer due to increased demand.
The power outages are reminders that we don't have the infrastructure we need to deal with climate change:
The so-called advanced societies don’t have the infrastructure to deal with deadly heat waves. With London surrounded by a ring of grass fires, the government has ordered people to shelter in place—a nice trick if the house is on fire. British firefighters say that this is the busiest they have been since the bombing of London in World War II. An apt observation. Unchecked, climate change will be World War II to the power of 10.
The situation is almost unforgivable when it comes to how political leaders have been caught with their pants down on climate change.
That’s because there has been no shortage of scientific Cassandras raising the alarm about what will happen to the dear, dirty planet if we dither on reducing CO2 emissions. The UN climate panel has repeatedly warned that the point of no return for the planet is a heartbeat away in historical time: less than 10 years. Even the U.S. military has defined global warming as the highest threat of all. China, they say, may be the geopolitical threat of this century, assuming we’re still around to deal with it. But the existential threat is climate change. Take it from the generals.
In politics, though, science gets only a tip of the hat when it gets in the way of the economy. Political leaders around the world have been tipping their hats to science for years, then ignoring it in everything but their speeches.
The Liberals claim they're tuned into the problem. But they refuse to act:
How could they believe in climate action and then green light the gigantic Bay du Nord oil project? Nor have they yet been able to meet any of the aspirational emission targets they have set.
The Conservatives don't see the problem:
When in power, the Harper government wouldn’t even agree to regulate the energy sector, let alone take proactive steps to reduce carbon emissions. Their position on carbon tax has turned them into a political flat-Earth society, with more of the same on the way if Pierre “Stephen” Poilievre becomes the new leader.
The story is the same in the U.S. President Joe Biden talked a good climate action plan, but then slinked off to Saudi Arabia to beg for more gas from a tyrannical state he once vowed to turn into a pariah. But the president didn’t get any gas, he just gave Saudi Prince Mohamed bin Salman a chance to publicly wipe a little of Jamal Khasoggi’s blood off his hands in a fist pump with the U.S. president; so much for U.S. moral authority in the world. A world-class disgrace by the president who is sitting at 31 per cent approval rating in the United States.
And we the people have been asleep:
Climate change has been pushed to the back of the agenda as though it were just another pain-in-the-ass issue in a world suddenly filled with unpleasant truths. Enter the ostrich reflex. Instead of holding politicians’ feet to the fire on real climate action, most of the public obsesses about the price of gas, the first pick in the NHL draft, the quality of the Governor General’s French, or who’s on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Harris writes that Nero fiddled while Rome burned: "It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now."
There are more last Saturdays in our future.
Image: UCLA Newsroom