Thank you to the Winnipeg Free Press for speaking out in its Aug. 10 editorial "IPCC report signals code red for planet Earth." The editorial board correctly charges the government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro with dereliction of duty; they have failed to prepare Manitoba for the coming climate emergency.
We still have no plan to phase out natural-gas heating in buildings, and have not built adequate infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Sadly, most candidates in the federal election campaign, the contenders wishing to replace Premier Brian Pallister, Winnipeg’s city hall and most of the business community also have little to say about this.
As we careen toward climate apocalypse, the corridors of power are filled with a deafening silence.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) removes any shred of doubt that human activity is the root cause of the environmental disasters already underway and those yet to come. The IPCC is very direct: "Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 C or even 2.0 C will be beyond reach."
The report continues, "Climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5 C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2 C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health."
As Gwynne Dyer identified in his column published Aug. 13, the IPCC report is a consensus document prepared by thousands of specialist scientists from around the world. He suggests that the report is erring on the side of "least drama" and focuses on the "likeliest case, rather than the worst-case."
Despite this, the latest report leaves polite language behind, and states that "climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying."
These new alerts from the IPCC resonate with our first-hand experience in Canada this summer — unprecedented heat waves, raging forest fires, ominous smoke blanketing cities, drought and related crop failures, pestilence of grasshoppers, dry rivers and water shortages. The evidence is not only in dense scientific reports, but right in front of our faces.
Where are Manitoba’s leaders? The City of Winnipeg adopted "Winnipeg’s Climate Action Plan" in 2018; why has it never produced updated data about its mandated carbon reductions? And why hasn’t the provincial government shown us the reduction in greenhouse gases it achieved from its "Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan"?
The answer is that there have been no reductions. Instead, we continue to use more energy and increase our carbon emissions, with no sign of stopping.
Climate change is not going away. Who will look at the transition to a cleaner future as an opportunity, rather than a problem? Who will take on the mantle of leadership and reject short-term thinking to embrace a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future for Manitoba and the world? Who will challenge business leaders to ensure that Manitoba isn’t left behind in the transformation to net-zero?
We need to act quickly. We need a change of heart. We need to elect politicians and support business leaders who have vision and who are prepared to lead, rather than be popular.
Where are the champions who can look beyond convention, conformity and tradition? We need leaders who will truly confront the climate emergency and accept the challenge to create a resilient society that achieves net-zero for both energy and carbon. Instead of resisting the limits of nature, we need to embrace the beauty and simplicity of living in balance with creation.
Think of a future in which every human action replenishes the natural world — one where we build ecological equity for our grandchildren. Imagine an economy that creates tens of thousands of permanent and creative green jobs in the transformation to resilience.
We already know how to achieve resilience. Manitoba’s Road to Resilience (climateaction.ca), produced by Manitoba’s not-for-profit Climate Action Team, illustrates an achievable and concrete pathway to a climate-resilient future. It lays out what is needed for us to feed, shelter, transport ourselves and produce electricity without the use of fossil fuels, and includes foundational chapters on nature, green jobs and the human impacts of climate change.
As we prepare to select new leaders at all levels of government, let us invite them to become serious champions of climate resiliency. After experiencing the tastes of climate change this summer and hearing the chilling warnings in the latest IPCC report, surely candidates for election will be compelled to speak out.
All serious candidates for office must show a commitment to real leadership on climate change and demonstrate willingness to undertake the necessary transformation of our society and economy.
This is not a fire drill. This is the fire. If not now, when?
Dudley Thompson is chair of the advocacy committee of Sustainable Building Manitoba, a cross-sector building industry-based organization with a commitment to working with government and business to achieve the vision of a sustainable environment in Manitoba.