Tackling climate change means purging privilege from politics

Image: Global Climate Strike
Image: Global Climate Strike

Our national political arena often seems dominated by unproductive partisan potshots and misplaced accountability, with corporate interests prioritized over people’s.

Behind the noisy partisan sniping, a quiet majority — 70 to 75 per cent of Canadians — is largely disengaged from politics, according to McAllister Opinion Research. It’s not that people don’t care about climate change, affordability, equity and creating a healthier, more just and secure future for their children and grandchildren. Polls show they do — as do this month’s climate strikes and actions. They just don’t see politicians as relevant.

How can politicians earn back our trust and act on issues that matter?

With climate disruption, Simon Fraser University resource professor Mark Jaccard says we must distinguish between climate-sincere and climate-insincere politicians.

Three-quarters of Canadians say they’re worried about climate change. With floods, wildfires, heat waves and health threats like Lyme disease increasing, anxiety among Canadians is also rising.

Polls show that fairness matters to Canadians. We want to support action that takes that into account. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that climate change will disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable, who have contributed least to the problem.

Technical and policy solutions to climate change are known. All that’s lacking is political will — not only to implement solutions but to address the power imbalances in our political system that obstruct them.

One of the most glaring examples of the privileged few wielding disproportionate influence comes from the U.S. With funding from the Koch brothers and their allies, Americans for Prosperity has worked to hobble progressive groups and ensure the corporate agenda is prioritized. This, according to the Guardian, has curtailed Medicaid expansion to poor, uninsured adults, rolled back state efforts to address climate change, and given massive tax cuts to wealthy people and companies. Koch-related foundations have invested millions in Canadian think tanks and organizations that sow doubt about climate science and the most effective climate solutions.

In his upcoming book Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy, University of Victoria professor William Carroll explains that fossil fuel corporations and their allies have a long reach into civil and political society that allows them to undertake organized, well-funded campaigns to block necessary climate action.

Our democratic systems need strengthening. Justice, equity and inclusion matter. Stifling these important values impedes our ability to act on societal challenges like climate disruption. Unequal privilege keeps the door open to those with influence who continue to manufacture distrust of climate science and meaningful solutions. MORE