In My Opinion: Immediate action needed to tackle climate change, writes Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith


Climate change is a serious and urgent threat, and we are running out of time to avoid real catastrophe.

That is the dire warning from thousands of climate scientists, including the authors of a recent special report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One of the lead authors called this special report “the largest clarion bell from the science community” noting that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

The report warns us that if we fail to limit global warming to 1.5°C, on a timeline as early as 2030, we will face more heat and ozone-related deaths and disease, more heat waves, forest fires, storms, floods, and droughts, rising sea levels which threaten island and coastal nations, more food and water shortages, and major loss to our ecosystems including species loss and extinction.

The costs of inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action.

In the wake of this dire warning from scientists around the world, I called an emergency debate in the House of Commons to respond to the report, and to ensure that our country takes immediate action to meet our international, intergenerational, and moral obligation to do our part in tackling climate change.

With sufficient political will, we can fulfill this critical responsibility. After all, just as there is an overwhelming consensus among scientific experts that climate change is an urgent and pressing problem, there is an overwhelming consensus among economic experts that putting a price on pollution is a proven solution.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to William Nordhaus for his lifetime of work in support of pricing pollution.
Without a price on pollution, the cost that a polluter imposes on our environment is paid by all of us, including our kids and future generations. With a price on pollution, the polluter pays.

As the price increases the cost of pollution, people will pollute less. Clean alternatives will become more competitive.

The CD Howe Institute has called pricing pollution “the most cost-effective option for achieving emissions reductions” and the Business Council of Canada has called it “an important step toward ensuring that Canada makes a responsible contribution to this challenge.”

Of course, we should rightly be concerned about the impact of any increased price on lower and middle class Canadians.

To eliminate this concern, all revenues will be returned to households directly, and lower and middle class Canadians will receive a rebate cheque bigger than their increased costs. In the words of Stephen Harper’s former policy director, Mark Cameron, “this will ensure that Canada has a price on all fossil fuel emissions, which will encourage lower emissions, while also ensuring that Canadian families will not be negatively affected.”

For the sake of our kids, we need to take the evidence seriously, and work to change minds in pursuit of the public good. We should reject any argument that dismisses experts, embraces populism, and attacks evidence-based solutions.

In politics, we can do what is easy for electoral gain, or we can do what is difficult because it is right.

We need to act now and with urgency, as we face the most pressing issue of our time, and potential solutions are still within our reach.

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