More than 60 Canadian scientists, from every province, have assembled a report that points to a realistic, clean, sustainable future for our country, one that won't destroy the economy.  

In the report, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, experts from engineering, science, economics and other social sciences propose ten actions that "could be immediately adopted to kick-start Canada’s necessary transition towards a low carbon economy and sustainable society."

In the past, the role of the scientific community has been to report evidence of climate change and issue warnings about its future impacts. Those warnings have been largely ignored by the federal government, even to the point of not allowing some of their scientists to speak about it publicly.

On the international scene, Canada has earned a reputation for being in the backwoods when it comes to action on climate change, beginning with our withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord in 2011 and our cultivation of the fossil fuel industry, rather than developing alternatives.

Now, rather than just pointing to the problem, the scientists are proposing realistic steps that can be taken immediately to achieve a truly sustainable future. Among their suggestions:

  • put a price on carbon (through either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade),
  • stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and use that funding to support the development of alternative clean energy sources, and
  • low carbon policies that  incorporate climate change into urban development, including new building codes, smart grids, lower energy consumption, and more public transit.

Ending the argument

This report places itself in the centre of what has become a polarized argument between climate scientists on one side, who say something needs to be done immediately, and business people, along with politicians, on the other side, who have argued that switching from fossil fuels will cripple the economy.

The authors of the report want to place a realistic plan on the table for political and public discussion. And they want this plan discussed before the next election and before the next climate summit in Paris later this fall.

Syncrude oilsands extraction facility

If Canada implements the plan the scientists propose, it will reduce its vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices, which workers in Alberta, including in Fort McMurray, are feeling at the moment. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

These transitional steps have the potential, the report says, to create a low carbon economy by 2035, and reducing carbon emissions by 21-28 per cent below 2005 levels, just ten years from now.

If Canada can implement a plan like this, it will reduce its vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices, which workers in Alberta are feeling  at the moment. Rather than placing all of our energy eggs in one fossil fuel basket, we will have a diversity of energy sources that are home-based and reliable in the long term.

It also puts us in a position to demonstrate to the world how a developed country can successfully morph into a low carbon economy, and how those clean alternative technologies developed here will become marketable commodities that pay off the investment.

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Several European countries have managed to reduce their carbon emissions without hurting their economies. The Amareleja Photovoltaic Power Plant in Portugal is one of the largest solar power stations in the world. (Nancy Durham/CBC)

Of course, the transition to a low carbon economy will not be overnight, and fossil fuels will not be completely eliminated. They still have a role in meeting our rising energy needs.

What the scientists are proposing is to stop arguing about climate change, break the stalemate between environmentalists and politicians, and take the first positive steps in the right direction..

Several European countries have managed to reduce their carbon emissions without hurting their economies, and this week, U.S. President Barack Obama demanded that federal buildings adopt alternative energy technologies, as the U.S. continues on its path to lower emissions.

It’s time for Canada to catch up with the rest of the world.