The Climate Barometer: Our election extravaganza

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September 13, 2021

Our planet is heating up, causing tremendous upheaval for life as we know it.
Every Monday, The Climate Barometer from delves into
climate science and looks at what life on a changing planet will mean


During the last federal election, climate change loomed large. Public-opinion polling showed it to be a top-of-mind issue for many voters. Most major party leaders adjusted their campaign itineraries in order to attend large, youth-led climate rallies. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau even accepted a tongue-lashing from Greta Thunberg; such was the value he placed on a photo op with the young activist.

Two years later, environmental issues have not entirely been absent from the current federal campaign, but nor have they been anywhere near as prominent as they were in 2019.

That much was evident in last week's leaders' debates, which both devoted significant time to climate-related issues but left viewers without any clear takeaways on how the parties' platforms differ.

One of the few significant takeaways for voters was the claim repeated during both debates that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have increased under Trudeau's watch. That's true, as journalist Meredith MacLeod explains in this Truth Tracker piece. Also true is the claim from Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that Canada has missed its emissions-reduction targets during the Trudeau era. In fact, no federal government has ever lived up to its goals on that front.

Sara Hastings-Simon, director of the Sustainable Energy Development Program at the University of Calgary, offered one of the many critiques on this point. She helped me with's live analysis and fact-checking of the English-language debate. As the debate moved away from climate issues, Hastings-Simon sighed that it had been "disappointing in terms of lack of a real debate on the differences in between plans, things like details around pricing, measures to address buildings, transportation, and others."

The debate may not have highlighted those differences, but there are plenty of resources out there for voters who want to compare and contrast the parties' climate plans. Two of the most in-depth we've come across come from Mark Jaccard in Policy Options -- the apparent source of Trudeau's claim that his party's plan was given an "A" grade while the NDP's received an "F" -- and Cameron Roberts in The Conversation.

We'll give the last word to Hastings-Simon, who emphasizes the importance of selecting the best solution: "If your house is on fire, what you do about it matters. Picking up a bucket of water, building a fire station for the future, or calling 911 makes a difference."


Taking a look at stories about the environment that caught our attention this week
  • The COP26 climate conference is greatly anticipated by those interested in the intersection of climate change and geopolitics. It's scheduled to take place in the United Kingdom this fall. Now, though, there's an appeal to postpone it on grounds of fairness. With COVID-19 rampaging through countries that were not wealthy enough to be at the front of the line for vaccines, there are fears that some nations facing the greatest danger from climate change won't be able to attend. Separately, COP26's nearness on the calendar has prompted an unprecedented appeal from the world's top Christian authorities, who are urging world leaders to do more to shield the poor from the effects of climate change.
  • Sticking with the topic of climate discrimination, evidence is mounting that lower-income and non-white populations suffer the effects of extreme heat more severely, including in Canada. Researchers are also reporting new signs of a racial disparity in exposure to air pollution, as was made clear during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A first-of-its kind report has found that 30 per cent of the world's 60,000 tree species are at risk of extinction, including 440 species that have 50 or fewer trees remaining in the wild. The report from Botanic Gardens Conservation International states that the greatest threats to trees include agriculture and logging activity.

An in-depth look at an important climate issue

As the top-ranking climate official at the United Nations, Patricia Espinosa is used to making dire pronouncements. Her latest alert seemed to be borne of desperation, as she warned that no country will be safe from the effects of climate change -- meaning every country should be preparing for those consequences and doing what they can to limit them.

Espinosa's words certainly ring true for Canada. Sure, our large landmass and relatively cold climate mean we'll likely be an attractive home for some of the more than 1.2 billion people who could become climate refugees over the next 30 years. But as we've discussed many times in this space, we'll also face our own environmental upheaval, including warmer temperatures, more extreme weather, the melting Arctic sea ice that will cause rising water levels far away from the Far North, and our individual-level health. Not even professional sports are safe.

Those possible outcomes look a lot more like probable outcomes than they used to -- and while they're not inevitable outcomes just yet, they're closer to being that than ever before.

Big business, long resistant to accepting the seriousness of climate change, is starting to plan for it in unprecedented ways. The insurance industry is looking at getting out of the game when it comes to major emitters. Just last week, the International Chamber of Shipping announced a proposal by which large ships would face additional levies based on their greenhouse gas emissions.

All of this helps explain why every major Canadian political party is acknowledging climate change as a reality and a serious problem, and suggesting actions to limit its effects on Canada, which wasn't the case during past elections.

Of course, identifying a problem and proposing a solution is only one small step on the journey to effectively halting climate change. As we said earlier, every party has different ideas about which actions to take, when to take them, and how to deal with the inevitable consequences.

We've tried to show you some of those distinctions. Now it's your turn. If you believe there's a best path forward, vote for the party that comes closest to providing it.



CTV News Science and Technology Specialist Dan Riskin shares his exclusive insights

Is there any correlation between the environmental policies of a country and the attitudes its citizens have toward helping each other?

New research from a global team of psychology experts suggests there is. Specifically, they say that countries with stronger environmental protection tend to contain people who are more likely than the norm to help out a stranger.

How was this conclusion reached? Find out, and try the experiment that led to it for yourself, in this week's Riskin Report with CTV News Science and Technology Specialist Dan Riskin.



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