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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Imagine my surprise...

…as I get message on my BlackBerry yesterday afternoon from a friend of mine: “Tonight. 7:15pm. Cumberland Theatre. Bob wants to take us to a movie.”

By “Bob” she meant, of course, Bob Rae. By “us” she meant the core group of seven or eight summer interns who’ve decided to support him for the federal leadership. By “movie” she meant Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. (I note that last night was Bob’s first night off in four weeks. He chose to spend it with youth volunteers. Talk about character.)

The movie was fantastic. For years, I’ve accepted the scientific rationale behind global warming and I understand the need for us to change our collective behaviour to deal with it. However, until I saw this film, I never truly appreciated the severity of the problem.
The evidence Gore presents is compelling. He uses hard scientific data to show that global warming has become substantially worse in the last thirty years and will continue to intensify. His scenarios are even more dramatic. Massive flooding in some areas, severe drought in others and enormous storms everywhere. Humanitarian crises, new diseases, lost species. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Calcutta and Beijing essentially wiped off the map. And all this will happen within our lifetime if we do nothing.

After the movie, we spent a few minutes outside the theatre discussing what we had just seen. Bob reiterated Gore’s point that climate change will be the defining issue of our generation. He said it’s up to young people to demand change now, because we will be the generation having to deal with the disasters in the future.

I agree with Bob Rae. We need to challenge our leaders and politicians on this issue. As a Liberal, I feel obliged to start with my own party and its record, particularly in light of the upcoming leadership race. I'd like to think we have a lot to be proud of (and I'm sure we do), but, as Steel City Grit notes, we've got to stop patting ourselves on the back. Here are some important facts worth mentioning:
  • We promised in our 1993 Red Book to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2005. We failed. By 2005, our emissions levels had increased by that amount.
  • We signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. It took us until 2002 to ratify the treaty. It took us another 2.5 years to come up with a plan for its implementation. That's nearly 8 years to go from start to....well, start. And there's no finish line in sight.
  • While we, as Liberals, have a history of launching ambitious plans on the environment, we just can't seem to follow through. A 2005 statement by Canada's Environment Commissioner claims that the federal government's performance on sustainable development was "uneven" and "unfortunate," and that our Liberal government displayed "a chronic see its initiatives through to completion"
  • In that same statement, the Commissioner noted, with reference to the Liberal government, that "[b]old announcements are made, and then seem to be forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground."

Not a pretty picture, indeed. Liberals - particularly the leadership candidates and even more particularly, those who were part of the former government's environmental team - have a lot to answer for.