Our carbon budget

Good Sunday Morning,

carbon_countdown.jpgIt's been a great week! A new cabinet was sworn in while the Green Vision of making the BC legislature the house of the people manifested itself in an unprecedented level of attendance. Free ice cream helped of course but it does represent a huge paradigm shift after 16 years of corporate rule. Donna Sanford was appointed executive director of a special secretariat that will be established in the Premier’s office to oversee the confidence and supply agreement with the Greens. On Friday Elizabeth and Adam spoke at the unveiling of the WSÁNEĆ Welcome Pole in Beacon Park and our new MLA is setting up his constituency office as a people place as well. This coming Thursday the provincial Green Riding Association of Saanich North and the Islands is having its organizing meeting.

Meanwhile on the federal side, the Committee on Motion Development (CMD) sent out a survey to all the CEOs of Green Electoral District Associations (EDAs) across the country as part of their initiative to seek input on how we can improve our internal processes. The Saanich-Gulf Islands (SGI) EDA has partnered with the Vancouver East EDA to host a meet-up of BC EDAs as an adjunct to the BC Greens Convention which will be held here in Sidney next month. Elizabeth will be hosting a webinar on the 30th of July to reach out to EDAs across Canada to hear first hand about their challenges and opportunities. Our EDA is gearing up for a whole new level of activity this fall as we prepare to work with Sonia Theroux, our new National Director of Mobilization, and her staff to support other keen EDAs across the country.

There is much to celebrate, including a slightly less hectic schedule for Elizabeth. I bumped into her the other day, meandering through the Sidney market, wicker basket firmly hooked in the crook of her elbow, selecting locally grown organic produce on her way to a dinner with friends. There was however one disturbing moment for me in an otherwise exhilarating week. On Friday I received a call from what turned out to be a fervent climate change denier. At first the conversation was engaging enough but within a few minutes it morphed into a frontal challenge, no an accusation, that everything we are striving to accomplish is based on falsehoods and that the real facts, those proposed by US president Donald Trump, are ignored by us in our closed-minded ideology.

It reminded me of the power of cognitive dissonance and offered a real life example of the case studies and behavioral research offered by James Hoggan, in a book I'm currently reading. It's entitled "I'm Right and You're an Idiot." Here is an excerpt: "There are reasons why people allow themselves to be mislead and are predisposed to being misinformed; confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. Confirmation bias is a type of selective thinking in which a person tends to notice and look for what confirms their beliefs, and motivated reasoning makes people resist information that threatens their identity." It's a good reminder to remember to check our blind spot.

ice_age_temperatures1.jpgMuch has changed in the last few years and as Al Gore summarized in this recent interview, there are two main differences now that were not the case when he first produced "An Inconvenient Truth" One, is that we are seeing real life evidence of the devastating consequences of climate change and two is that we now have the tools, the technology, to actually stop it. And yet as Trump has both personified and legitimized the "climate change is a hoax" narrative, polarity is intensifying. Many of us are bumping into that and sometimes, as it was for me on Friday, it's totally unexpected.

It was Ronald Wright who first pointed out to me that humans, having been around for about 200,000 years, were just as smart 20,000 or 30,000 years ago as we were 10,000 years ago. And yet we didn't invent agriculture until then. That wasn't a fluke. Ice core samples have documented that about 10,000 years ago our climate entered an unusually stable period that has continued until recently. Some say that we couldn't have invented agriculture before then because the climate simply wouldn't let us. This notion is supported by the findings that humans invented agriculture interdependently in at least 8 separate centers around the globe at that time.

Climate stability results in predictable ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, which moderate temperatures in Europe and Western Canada. A spin of a globe makes the point. Follow the 49th parallel east from Ladysmith in BC and you will find yourself north of lake Superior in Ontario, cutting through the center of Newfoundland and barely skimming the southern tip of England. We've also learned how permanent polar icecaps create a polar vortex that regulates the jet stream and moderates extreme weather fluctuations.

400_000.jpgGlobal temperatures have been rising and that rise correlates directly to the rising carbon concentration in our atmosphere. The evidence seems indisputable and so many of us take for granted that climate change is our biggest challenge. But even we don't often stop and recognize the urgency of the matter. As of the end of 2016 we have just 5.2 years left to halt all global contribution to our carbon budget if we want to maintain a 66% chance at limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Clearly it's a little late to start debating the broad scientific consensus that underpins these models. And yet, people as powerful as President Trump have firmly denied this reality. Even our own Prime Minister has caved to the pressure to interpret the science selectively.

While Elizabeth continues to champion a deeper understanding of climate change, she is leading the Green Party of Canada, and representing our values, on so much more than the environment. This week Elizabeth stood up to defend a basic respect for constitutional rights by slamming the ‘horrific’ Conservative response to Omar Khadr’s settlement: “If you’re prepared to pull Canada into the kind of cesspool politics of the U.S., sure, it’s fair game. But if we want to have a country where the people who hold elected office have a minimum standard of respect for the rule of law, then it’s not,” she said in an interview with the Hill Times. Elizabeth also made a submission to the NAFTA consultations this week, stressing the need to remove the ISDS provisions so toxic to our democracy.

From electoral reform to a guaranteed minimum income, from trade to human rights, it's about building an inclusive society that closes the income disparity gap, incentivizes innovation, promotes civility and mutual respect, embraces evidence-based decision-making and empowers Canadians to take charge of their collective destiny. It's perhaps the biggest paradox of our time. Dedicating ourselves to achieving the 1.5 degree target of the Paris accord, we are "protecting our middle class" (along with everyone else) by conserving our civilization for future generations. Elizabeth once said that it's about wresting power from those who are dangerous when they hold it. We can do that by actively participating in the democratic processes of our time. Together we can build a prosperous and sustainable future.

Until next week, take care of each other.

"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015


This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues.


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