Psychology 101 tells us that there are two ways to motivate modifications in the behaviour of others; positive and negative reinforcement, the carrot and the stick. Up to this point, governments seem to be approaching the fight against climate change with the stick. Cap-and-trade, limits on emissions, carbon taxes, and just about every other major tool used by officials to protect the environment is coercive and punitive. Any progress being made towards curbing emissions is coming slowly and painfully, with debates raging across the globe that pit the benefits of environmentalism against the economic pains of these measures. This presents Canada with a chance to set itself apart. It gives the nation an opportunity to step back and look at the issue of climate change not so much as a problem, but as a prospect. While other nations struggle to find the right balance between the economy and the environment with negative-reinforcement style policies, Canada should instead bring out the carrot. We should make the environment a centerpiece of our economy.
Our planet simply cannot survive indefinitely within the framework of the current technologies that create pollution in our day-to-day lives. The only long-term solution then is better technology. To truly solve climate change, radical innovation is needed, such that people can continue to live their current lifestyles without the harmful side effects to the environment. This is likely the only viable long-term solution as, realistically, few people will significantly compromise their current quality of living for an obscure notion that does not seem to have any direct effect on their daily lives, as is the case with climate change.
Furthermore, the Canadian economy will be hurt in the long-run if the country does not adapt rapidly enough to a new “green economy” that will eventually arrive, an economy to which Europe is currently leading the charge. From the oilfields in Alberta to the swaths of manufacturing in southern Ontario, entire industries will be threatened over the coming decades as more environmentally-friendly technologies emerge. To ensure the highest quality of living for its citizens and ensure the longevity of its economic prosperity, Canada must get ahead of the curve.
Canada’s current stance in fighting climate change, while in congruence globally as demonstrated by the Paris Accord, hurts people and businesses in the short-run, without actually solving the issue of climate change. The national carbon tax plan announced by Justin Trudeau will take money out of the pockets of Canadians, while only negligibly reducing emissions and doing nothing to get closer to a long-term solution for global warming. We will still be killing our planet; we will just be doing it slightly slower.
Picture titled, "Glacial Retreat," taken by Ian D. Keating on June 8, 2016, obtained through Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/RU98NY)