What should the new rules be regarding climate change?

“Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today..”(1)

This is a quote from the 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, during an unexpectedly large climate march in Helsinki. Thunberg is hailed as a youth leader of the climate movement, and has brought new energy to it. And youth have the most credibility in any climate debate, because they have the most invested in it: their lives.

Thunberg started a student strike in September, ahead of a Swedish election, encouraging students to skip school in protest of their government’s lack of action. That protest was taken to the lawn of the Swedish Parliament. She said in Helsinki,

The climate is not going to collapse because some party got the most votes. The politics that’s needed to prevent the climate catastrophe—it doesn’t exist today. We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on.(2)

The point, that our current system as it is cannot solve the climate crisis – is a good one. If it could we wouldn’t be galloping towards the precipice of societal collapse, as the UN recently highlighted (3).

In a more recent speech in London Thunberg said, regarding being encouraged to get back to school:

Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ”solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts within the school system when the most important facts given by the finest science of that same school system clearly means nothing to our politicians and our society?

Indeed, what options have clear-eyed youth been left with? Thunberg’s statements beg some questions:

  1. How do we give youth more power to determine their own fate?
  2. What should the new rules be regarding the climate?

What are the current rules? Frankly, there aren’t a lot. I’m not slagging the Paris Accord, I understand that it was the best people could do in light of the recalcitrance at the highest levels of some governments. But it is not binding.

Nationally, regionally, and locally some governments have introduced carbon pricing or cap and trade programs. Some have been relatively effective. I say relatively because they have been effective relative to the status quo, but they have not been effective relative to where we need to go.

Canada is in the process of enacting a carbon pricing scheme nationally, to fill in the gaps where provinces haven’t already. At the same time the new Ontario provincial government is cancelling their two year old cap-and-trade program, the new Premier claiming that it was “killing jobs,” and vowing to fight the new federal scheme in court (4, 5).

Thunberg correctly points out that even if we adhered to the system under the Paris Accord it would not likely be enough to save us from runaway climate change. This is what we’ve got. It’s not enough, it’s not nearly enough.

All of this begs another question: can we hear it yet?

Hear what, you may ask. That rumble in the distance is the sound of what young people are going to do if we don’t listen, if we don’t change course. I don’t know what that is, and I’d rather not find out.

Which takes us back to the second question: what should the new rules be?

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