If you’ve been anywhere near a public school or a university campus this week, you know that the recent climate doomsday report published under U.N. auspices has managed to terrify young people en masse. If this was an unintended consequence of the IPCC’s mission to achieve what it calls “far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” before 2030, they are not reading widely enough in the literature on collapse anxiety. If it was deliberate, they and their many boosters should be ashamed of themselves.
True to form, the Canadian parliament signaled its moral leadership on the climate issue by holding an emergency debate on the IPCC report last night, the transcription of which, if you’re wondering, capped out at almost 60,000 words—roughly the same verbiage as a drugstore thriller. By the time MPs shut down the five-and-a-half-hour debate, needless to say, the House of Commons was awash in anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Toronto Liberal, got the ball rolling by quoting JFK (“We choose to go to the moon”) and attacking Canadians’ favourite bête noire Donald Trump. “It is incredibly important that we are having this debate tonight so that Canadians can see that some political leaders care,” said Erskine-Smith solemnly.
Partisan jousting followed—over the proposed carbon tax, rampant consumerism, beef-eating, and the IPCC’s suggestion that we jack up the cost of gasoline to $12 a litre. Environment minister Catherine McKenna took credit for Canada having stepped up. “Action on climate change should not be a partisan issue,” she averred. “The challenge is that we have one party, the Conservative Party, that does not want any action.” Green party leader Elizabeth May invoked decades’ worth of IPCC-inspired extinction scenarios. “We have one chance,” said May, “and it is expiring in about 10 to 12 years, to hold global average temperature increases to no more than 1.5°C, and if we miss that, we can go to 2°C and to 3°C and end up in a situation where the worst case scenario is not bad weather, but the collapse of our civilization.” New Democrat Pierre Nantel offered this colourful metaphor: “We are at war against a monster created by every country. The entire planet is at war against the monster that is global warming, which we created ourselves.” There was posturing and heckling, followed by full-throated criticism of posturing and heckling. The words kids and children were spoken 84 times, apparently without irony, as in, “I am struck as I think about how important this debate is. I think about my children….”
All in all, it was a bracing display of climate virtuosity spoken entirely in superlatives, imparting to anxious Canadians the reassuring message that every major party has the situation of imminent climate catastrophe in hand.
Now we can return to our regularly scheduled programming, in which those self-same Canadians resume their roles as citizens of a vast, cold country sitting atop boundless energy resources that we cannot sell into insatiable world markets except at a loss. Perhaps some special parliamentary grandstanding on that problem is in order, too.