I understand that when the economy is in a downturn it becomes the number one election issue – humans need to focus on fulfilling their basic needs first. Food, clothing and housing are all easier to obtain when the economy is doing well. But what I don’t understand is why fixing the economy is not intertwined with the biggest economic threat to Canadians: climate change.
Consider how many Canadians have been affected by the changing climate this year and the effects it has had on our economy.
B.C. is experiencing twice the number of fires as usual and they are twice as intense due to the unusual dry conditions; the Maritimes had record and paralyzing snowfalls this past winter; and the prairies are experiencing drought conditions that threaten not only crops but the ability to feed cattle. It is no longer an issue that will be addressed in the future. Climate change is affecting Canadians and having a detrimental effect on our economy today.
The cost of the fires raging across BC is currently estimated at $140 million and could reach as high as $300 million. This does not include property and business losses. The fire fighting estimate also does not include the health costs of those nearest the fires whose health suffers due to the smoke or the stress of being evacuated.
Storms are becoming more intense as the climate changes. Nova Scotia alone spent $17million over budget to dig out of the record snow that fell this past winter. This does not include the business losses (and lost tax income) due to closures caused by the storms. Where do the funds come from to pay for this additional expense? The taxpayer.
With each drought, food becomes more scarce which drives prices up across the nation. People begin to choose what they can afford buy and what they can access from food banks to supplement their meals. Others choose less expensive foods which are generally less healthy. A population that eats less healthy alternatives tends to be less healthy. These actions lead to increased government funding of food banks and health services.
Climate change is not just an inconvenient truth, it is an expensive truth. We must demand our next government make the environment a top priority. Not only will this eventually ease some of the effects of climate change, but we could actually become a world leader in green energy – boosting Canada’s economy in the process. What Canada currently lacks is the political will to make it happen and a population that is demanding change.
Social media can be a great tool to demand change. I have been a part of Facebook groups organized by parents to voice concerns over school board policies and organize protests. I watched Egyptians use social media to organize Arab Spring protests. And I have seen attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community change as social media stars George Takai and Caitlyn Jenner told their stories. I just don’t see it being used for this critical issue.
I wonder what will be the catalyst to provoke serious action for climate change. I hope it comes before the next election so Canadians make this a priority and elect a government that takes the issue seriously. Right now I have heard little about the environment from the three main parties. They are taking their lead from the public. And I think we Canadians are all becoming a bit too acclimatized to the ever changing weather. Like the proverbial frog in the frypan, we may becoming so accustomed to the slowly changing environment that we might not take action until it is too late.