Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to an extremely important motion brought forward by my superb colleague, the member of Parliament for Halifax, our NDP opposition critic on the environment.
The motion in the House asks that three things be done: first, that this House agree with many Canadians and with the International Energy Agency that there is a grave concern with the impact of the 2°C rise in global average temperatures; second, that this House condemn the lack of effective action by successive federal governments since 1998 to address emissions and meet our Kyoto commitments; and third, to call on the government to immediately table its climate change adaptation plan.
It is almost trite to observe that climate change is the single most important environmental issue of our time. Canadians know that; people in Victoria know that. Personally, I have dedicated my professional life to environmental protection, because I understand that if we do not ensure an ecologically sustainable future for the next generation, we are condemning it to no future at all.
Unfortunately, members in this House of the Conservative government are locked in a dangerous pattern of climate change denial. They have embarrassed Canadians on the world stage, doing incredible damage to our international reputation, pulling Canada out of major treaties like the Kyoto protocol and, most recently and shamefully, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.
I am immensely proud to be part of a New Democratic opposition that has fought and will keep fighting for urgent, international, science-based action on greenhouse gases to avert catastrophic climate change and to advocate for national plans to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts. I am also proud to be part of an official opposition, because the NDP has a real chance to come to power and actually take real action on these crucial issues.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand the urgency of this issue. It is just this Conservative government that is out of step. It is out of step with Canadians and with our closest allies internationally. It refuses to take meaningful action. The climate change crisis is now. There is no time for Conservative stalling. Canadians understand the need to wake up.
I am calling on all members of this House who seem stuck in some kind of uninformed stupor of climate change denial. They must wake up and support this motion. Climate change is real. Denying it will not make it go away. The time to act is now.
The science is undeniable. The effects of climate change are already being felt all over the world. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. Between 2001 and 2010, global temperatures averaged almost .5°C above the average from 1961 to 1990 and were the highest ever recorded for a 10-year period since the beginning of instrumental climate records.
Here in Canada, temperatures have increased by 1.3°C since 1948. We know that ocean acidification is picking up pace, threatening entire marine ecosystems such as those in my part of the world in the Pacific Ocean. Disastrous weather events are increasing in frequency around the globe. The obvious economic impacts are devastating.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy suggested that the economic impact on Canada alone could reach $5 billion a year by 2020 and between $21 billion and $43 billion a year by 2050. Sadly, the government simply abolished the round table. The round table took climate change seriously. It tried to find real solutions. It was not part of the Conservative agenda, so I guess it had to go.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, in a 2012 report entitled “Too Late for Two Degrees?”, stated that business leaders have been asking for clarity and political action on climate change. It warned that one thing is clear: Businesses, governments and communities across the world have to start planning for a warming world, not just by 2°C, but 4°C or even 6°C.
Yet in an interview in La Presse with the editorial board, the Minister of Natural Resources actually said, “people aren't as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees...scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated”.
He also said that he was unaware of a recent International Energy Agency warning that two-thirds of the existing known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to prevent average global warming of more than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This is coming from the Minister of Natural Resources. It is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, it is what we have come to expect from the Conservative government, which is intent on ignorance in the face of a problem, while governments around the world are preparing for the reality of climate change.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy after New York City experienced its worst storm surges in reported history, the Governor of New York state and Mayor Bloomberg of New York City said that they needed to prepare for and respond to the reality of climate change-related disasters. By contrast, the Minister of Natural Resources would say, “Don't worry. Be happy”. That is just not acceptable. Canadians get that this is a crisis. Every day I get asked why the Conservatives castigate our job-killing $20 billion tax on climate or whatever. Shallow and false rhetoric will not help us have the adult conversations we need to address this crisis.
Climate change experts said Hurricane Sandy provided a first glimpse of the kind of challenges our coastal communities would face as sea levels rose and extreme weather events became more frequent. In Canada, a one metre sea level rise would inundate more than 15,000 hectares of industrial and residential land, more than 4,600 hectares of farmland and the Vancouver International Airport could be affected. The bill to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is estimated to be over $42 billion and Hurricane Katrina over $100 billion. Contrary to what the Minister of Natural Resources would have us believe, the 2° Celsius threshold is a dangerous tipping point for irreversible damage to our planet's ecosystem.