What is something that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has over Justin Trudeau? According to Naomi Klein, “at least he didn’t pretend to care” about climate change.
On Friday, the prolific writer and environmentalist spoke to the danger of a government that did not take climate change seriously at an event hosted at the Vogue Theater by the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series in partnership with SFU Department of Philosophy. The sold out show drew environmentalists, students from SFU’s semester in dialogue, as well as SFU President Andrew Petter himself.
“Is what happened in Paris a [. . .] breakthrough or an ecological disaster?” asked Klein, referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place in the French capital last year. At the end of the conference, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement, which set the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.
However, there are many criticisms against the agreement, including that it is non-binding, and may not be ambitious enough to prevent sea level rise that would wipe out some coastal nations. Klein argued that “these people [. . .] have a right to exist,” and that the lack of real effort to act in the Paris Agreement is not only disingenuous, but is “genocidal.”
This idea of social justice beyond borders is part of what brought Klein to Vancouver. Dr. Sam Black, professor of philosophy at SFU, organized a President’s Dream Colloquium course in spring 2013 that explored the idea of global social justice, and Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, links social justice and climate change. In it, Klein explores the link between the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s with the dramatic increase in carbon emissions and emphasized the need to take immediate action on climate change.
The complexity of addressing climate change, Black explained in an interview with The Peak, is partially because of how far removed the issue may seem. While Vancouverites may be moved to address homelessness because they see human suffering first hand, “in the case of global climate change, we’re talking about enduring sacrifices now for the sake of people who don’t even exist yet.”
On Friday, Klein criticized a recent statement by Trudeau that pipeline projects will pay for the transition to a low carbon economy. Klein said that the emissions resulting from projects like the proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on Lelu island or the TransMountain pipeline expansion would break Canada’s carbon budget. Said Klein, “The science is clear and the numbers do not add up.” Recently, a group of 130 scientists have submitted a letter to the federal government criticizing the environmental draft report on the LNG terminal.
However, Klein ended her talk by offering some good news for those hoping for climate action.
She spoke to the gathering speed of divestment movements across North America, taking a moment to comment that so far, no major Canadian universities have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Other movements have been gaining steam however, including the extremely rapid conversion of Germany’s energy grid to renewable energy.
By tackling the multi faceted causes of excessive emissions, Klein argued that countries have an opportunity for dramatic social and economic change by promoting social programs and creating sustainable jobs.
She explained that that future is “not just better than the world if we don’t act [on climate change]; it’s better than the world right now.”