The letter I’m sending to MPs aims to remind them that 1) climate change is an existential threat; 2) they have the power to act while the people they are charged with representing do not and 3) Canada’s current policy on this issue is an abysmal failure.

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Dear [MP name goes here],

In the fall of 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on the differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming.  They found that declines in crop yields would nearly double at 2 degrees and that coral reefs would be 98% wiped out.  But we are not on pace for 2 degrees of warming.  We are on pace for greater than 3 degrees of warming.  That much warming will collapse nations, our global food system and perhaps civilization itself.  How resilient will our international trade system be to a massive rise in famine and war?

What happens in Canada and around the world in the coming years will impact human history for thousands of years to come and you are in a position to determine what that impact will be.  You have the power to save or abandon future generations in a way that I do not.  I have no interest in hearing about the weak policies you or your party are peddling.  This is not like other political problems which can be covered over with pleasant window dressing – you can’t fool physics with slick communications.  Emissions must come down rapidly.

The UN now says emissions must fall by 7.6% EVERY YEAR to keep us close to 1.5 degrees.  And that is every country, not just Canada.  If countries like the US and Australia fall behind, we must cut faster or pressure them to do better.  In Canada, this means getting conventional vehicles off the roads, it means increasing fuel standards, it means changing building codes and retrofitting buildings, it means changing what we eat and reducing the number of flights we take.  We must do all of those things and more.  According to our own government data, Canadian emissions have basically held steady since 1999 when the science and our own promises to the international community say they should be declining.  We say they will come down, but we have no policies to ensure that.  We have a carbon tax, but MunichRE (one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, not an environmental NGO) is calling for a carbon tax of 8X our current level.  The United Nations Emissions Gap report finds a terrifying gap between countries stated emissions goals and their sum total plans for fossil fuel production.  We are part of this problem.  There is no way our Paris pledges and the National Energy Board’s projections can both be fulfilled.  As our elected representative, it is your job to at least tell us the truth.  If you support the National Energy Board’s plans, then be honest and tell Canadians that we cannot meet our international obligations on emissions reductions.  A report by the group Climate Transparency says Canada is among those countries least likely to meet our own weak Paris targets.  Keep in mind that even if we do meet our Paris targets we are looking at greater than 3 degrees of warming.  I am not citing sources in this letter, because you should already know all this.  This is publicly available information about the most important issue of our time and it is your job to guide us safely into the future.

I have sent this same letter to members of parliament in every political party because this issue should transcend party affiliation.  It also transcends nations and ideologies.  It is a historical fact on a scale that makes most of our present cultural institutions irrelevant.  Either we overcome this challenge and build new institutions or we do not and all our present institutions will either collapse or cling to power with increasing desperation in a dangerous and hostile world.

The changes we need are immense.  And they will be shocking to some people.  But in many cases they will make things better.  Reducing air pollution and increasing walking and cycling will make Canadians happier and healthier and bring down health care costs.  Shifting our diets towards plant-based proteins will do the same.  Protecting our environment will be a meaningful step towards reconciliation with the Indigenous people whose land we have seized control of.  Reducing travel abroad will benefit local hospitality industries.

The first thing you can and should do is tell the truth about our climate crisis.  For the most part, the general public does not know how much danger we are in or how little success we have had in reducing emissions.  Being honest with them will help build support for policies which might seem extreme otherwise.  During World War 2, Canadians pulled together to meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge – we grew victory gardens and invested our savings in war bonds.  We could do that again, but we won’t if our government doesn’t tell us the truth.  News and government announcements about the war dominated all media streams.  We will need a communications effort on that level if we are to meet this challenge.  I beg of you, if you do nothing else, please stop crowing about trivial successes on the environment and tell us the truth about our collective failure to act.

Sincerely,

Matthew Lie-Paehlke

A frightened father and despondent Phd Candidate

P.S.  I assume that letters like these are read by staffers not MPs.  In that case, you do not have as much power to make things right as your boss does – but you have more power than I do.  Your responsibility to future generations is greater than your responsibility to your boss or your political party.  Research this issue for yourself.  Be careful to avoid fossil fuel industry propaganda.  Then do whatever you think is right.  I for one would have a long emotional talk with my Member of Parliament about the climate crisis and what we can do about it.

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