Opinion Piece: For the love of the Planet

For the Love of the Planet

Cathy Orlando – February 12, 2024

It is the week of Saint Valentine’s Day, a day traditionally dedicated to love. It seems fitting to extend that sentiment beyond our personal relationships to encompass a love for our planet and all life on earth as we are now in uncharted territory, and the impact of greenhouse gas pollution on Earth’s atmosphere is undeniable.

From February 2023 to January 2024, the Earth endured 12 months of temperatures 1.5C hotter than the pre-industrial era for the first time on record and making it likely the hottest year in 100,000 years.  As well, last week, global sea temperatures reached alarming new all-time highs, underscoring the urgent need for attention and action (see graph below).

The consequences of our warming atmosphere manifest in the increased capacity of the atmosphere to hold water, resulting in droughts, atmospheric rivers, and record snowfall. As well, the energy behind storms is fueled by the warming atmosphere, leading to the emergence of a need for a new and concerning Category 6 in hurricane rankings which would apply to storms with 193 mph winds or more. In case you missed it, wildfires are burning and producing smoke in Canada right now and over 100 Chileans were killed in wildfires last week. We have been here before, specifically with tobacco: also a deadly product.

Drawing a parallel between cigarette smoking and fossil fuels reveals both are shrouded in decades of disinformation, despite evidence of their detrimental effects. The fossil fuel industry first began researching global warming 70 years ago in 1954. Akin to its tobacco counterpart, Exxon (later ExxonMobil) became a leader in funding  campaigns of confusion questioning the science of climate change by 1989.

Fossil fuels and cigarettes both are also deadly to human health. Happily, we have all the tools to quit smoking and fossil fuels. The only thing standing in the way is our psychological barrier.  To overcome this obstacle we need to arm ourselves with facts,  and love ourselves and each other enough to stop killing ourselves.  It is that simple.

As an active member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby since 2010, I advocate for Canada’s price on fossil fuel pollution, with the revenue returned to the people. With over 14 years of research and advocacy behind us, we know this approach is economically efficient and fair, providing a viable pathway to transition our economy away from fossil fuels without burdening the taxpayer – in fact most receive more from the government in our climate action incentive rebates than what we paid.

Our government must also play a proactive role, utilizing mainstream media to educate and inform the public. The success of such efforts for anti-smoking campaigns demonstrates the efficacy of this approach, which can similarly be applied to the climate emergency. In fact it is our government’s responsibility to protect its citizens, and disseminating accurate information is crucial to achieving this.

I also encourage everyone to learn about and support Bill C372, a private member’s bill from Charlie Angus, which seeks to regulate the promotion of fossil fuels as was done for cigarettes. This is a step in the right direction to address the environmental challenges we face.

Supporting our mainstream media is also imperative, as Canadians deserve the truth, which can only come from them. Social media has unfortunately become a breeding ground for misinformation, with massive disinformation campaigns thriving without consequences. This perpetuates disinformation and puts our planet at further risk. Unlike social media, where accountability is almost completely absent, mainstream media must adhere to national standards and regulations, providing a more reliable source of information. The current challenges faced by our mainstream media, under the pressures of an international media landscape, also pose a threat to our democracy, sovereignty, and Canadian identity.

In the spirit of Saint Valentine, for the love of the planet, and future generations, it is time for us to love ourselves and each other, demand the truth, and get on a path to quit fossil fuels that is fast, fair, funded, and forever.