Adriana’s Climate Chaos speech

[This is the speech Adriana delivered at the Stop Climate Chaos rally at Nathan Phillips Square yesterday.]

Hi, I’m standing in today for somebody called Elizabeth May: famous environmental crusader, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, Order of Canada recipient, Leader of the Green Party of Canada. No sweat.

Elizabeth is in London, Ontario, campaigning to be our first Green Party MP in the House of Commons.

When I was a teenager at Humberside Collegiate Institute in the High Park area, we knew about climate change. But we were told it would happen so gradually that no one would notice in a single lifetime. So I thought we had plenty of time.

On a hot summer weekend in 1988, when I was pregnant with my first child, 300 of the best climate scientists from around the world gathered here in Toronto. At the end of the conference, they arrived at the stark conclusion that:

Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment, whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war.

They recommended a 20% reduction by 2005 in the global emissions of greenhouse gases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is recommending far greater reductions. 80% reductions by 2050 have been adopted by Britain, California, and 7 other states. And that may not be high enough.

We cannot achieve these reductions by changing a few lightbulbs. We need to change lightbulbs, but we’ll have to go well beyond tweaking our lifestyle around the edges. We’ll need courageous and visionary leaders who can guide us into a future that is very different from our present. With bold planning, that future could be a wonderful improvement, with walkable communities, with homes so well designed and insulated that they require almost no heating or cooling. We could return to swimable rivers, drinkable lakes, air we can breathe freely and no smog days. We could decrease our cancer rates. We could live longer.

Instead we have myopic leaders from all parties who measure the quality of our lives by our GDP, and trade our children’s future for a buck today. So instead of that 20% reduction in emissions, in Canada we’ve seen an increase of 27%.

To today’s youth who are standing here before me, all I can say is I’m sorry. We have failed you.

With the stark warning that we were given almost 2 decades ago, it was our moral duty then to stop destroying your future, and to deliver to you a world that you could live in, and maybe even thrive in. I waited most of my adult life, counting on the leaders of our country and the world to do the right thing.

In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed in Antarctica. In 2003, 35,000 people died in heat waves across Europe. In 2004, the Gulf Stream stopped for 10 days. Our hurricanes are getting stronger, our deserts are expanding, our glaciers are retreating faster than anyone imagined — open water is encroaching on Santa’s workshop in the summer now. The effects of global warming are evident in my lifetime, which wasn’t supposed to happen. Now our permafrost is melting. And guess what’s locked in the permafrost: methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The consequences could be both sudden and apocalyptic.

So just last year, I finally gave up hoping that any of our leaders would address the enormity of the problem, and threw myself into the work of the only party that really gets it, the Green Party. Just after I joined, Canada elected a Prime Minister that has his head so deep in the tar sands he can’t even imagine meeting Canada’s Kyoto obligations, a paltry 6% reduction over 1990 levels.

While Prime Minister Harper delayed the release of his Green Plan, the Green Party released theirs. We can meet our Kyoto obligations, and we can do it without raising taxes. We can begin by withdrawing perverse subsidies to the oil and gas industries, like eliminating the loophole that allows tar-sand companies to write off their equipment — a $1.4 billion tax giveaway. As Elizabeth May asks,

Why are we subsidizing the wealthiest companies on earth to make the world’s most profitable product?

We can introduce the tax shift the Green Party has advocated for years, and that is now promoted by Michael Ignatieff, the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race. Under the green tax shift, payroll and income taxes would be decreased, and instead we would introduce a tax on fossil fuels. We can introduce regulations to improve vehicle emissions standards, building standards, and appliance efficiency. And we can expand renewable energy programs and make them economical by taking the external costs of energy, like healthcare and environmental remediation, off our income taxes, and adding them to the energy bill where they belong.

Some people say that the Green Party is a one-issue party. It’s true. Our issue is the future of Canada. We think in terms of generations instead of election cycles. We will always put a priority on leaving a liveable world for our grandchildren above the goal of profits or even re-election. Basic decency requires us to clean up our mess. Anything else is unacceptable. It’s time to demand a future for our children from the leaders of today.

One response to “Adriana’s Climate Chaos speech”

  1. Nick Capra writes:

    Brilliant Adriana!
    I’m sorry I wasn’t there to hear it first hand and see the reaction from the oil and gas company lobbyists in the crowd or on the panel. Keep up the great work.

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