Have We Done Enough To Fight Climate Change?

A look into Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” to understand of our efforts towards Climate Change issues

By: Viviane Fairbank, Staff Writer

When first told about the burden my generation will inherit, I was about 10. It was a playful comment made by the adults at the dinner table, mentioned on the fly to include young children in the conversation.

But after that, I began to hear the same remark at increasingly shorter intervals; I heard less and less humour in the announcers’ voices and more serious concern as years went by.

It was explained to me that I would find myself paying for the previous generation’s retirement, while my own was lost to a lack of funding. And the horror stories continued to grow: overpopulation, an inevitable loss of resources and even a third world war.

But the climate change crisis that would ultimately take effect in my lifetime has been steadily avoided in those conversations, perhaps because, unlike other problems, there is no direction to point one’s finger.

Climate change can easily be blamed on both everyone and at the same time, no one. A single person’s action — whether in the name of good or bad — is negligible in the grand scheme of things; climate change is a collective responsibility.

Or maybe it was also because those adults didn’t want to lose face in front of their children at the dinner table.

But regardless, the answer might just lie in an age-old theory by an ecologist who long preceded the current climate change debate.

The Situation

Struggles in Canadian politics are not always between politicians of rival parties, but also between what the government thinks is best and what the people want – an inevitable problem in a large democracy. This results in another gap: the one between what politicians say they want and what politicians do.

In the case of climate change, according to a poll that was released in April, 60 per cent of Canadians support protecting the environment, even at the risk of hampering economic growth. The majority of Canadians acknowledges that global warming is real and caused by man-made emissions.

The Canadian government, however, is more focused on the country’s economy, whether centered on money or on oil.

Canada dropped out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011. Peter Kent, environment minister, said that the decision would save the government approximately $14 billion.

But according to NDP environment critic Megan Leslie, quoted in CBC News, the government relinquished its involvement not just because of a budget, which she found to be inaccurate, but instead because Canada is “the kid who’s failing the class” when it comes to climate change responsibility.

Indeed, Canada has been unable to meet its targets when it comes to pollution reduction in the past decades.

In August of 2012, Kent released an Environment Canada report stating that Canada was halfway to its Copenhagen emission targets for 2020. The Copenhagen Accord, adopted after Harper rejected the Kyoto emission targets in 2006, committed Canada to reducing its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005.

Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, remarks in her blog, however, that certain aspects of the Copenhagen Target, such as its start in 2005, as opposed to 2006, and its politically binding – as opposed to legally binding – nature, made it “little, weak and inadequate.”

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