Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is Shortsightedness Our Tragic Flaw?

Rubber dinghies rescuing flooded train passengers. Cars submerged to their roofs. Raging river torrents. This could easily be a snapshot from India during monsoon season, but no, that was the situation in Toronto last evening as the city received more rain in a short period of time than had been experienced over 50 years ago during Hurricane Hazel.

Even the most obdurate, assuming they haven't completely surrendered their cognitive abilities to ideology, must realize we are in deep climatological trouble. Whether we look to this year's weather events or the increasingly volatile weather over the last decade, an obvious pattern supporting the climate-change models clearly emerges. But our public response remains muted.

Nary a word from any level of government about climate change. Nary a word from any level of government about amelioration and adaptation. Nary a word from the usual suspects on how we are going to pay for these increasingly common and incredibly expensive disasters.

We need definite measures that will force us to pull our collective heads out of the sand. My wife offered me an interesting suggestion. Since tax increases per se are verboten, no matter the party, perhaps it is time to have what could be termed an 'infrastructure renewal levy' that we pay after our income taxes have been calculated. Such a levy, while it would doubtless be decried by the right as 'just another tax grab,' would be designated only for its stated purpose and could very well serve to awaken people to the reality that we all have to pay for our collective folly in ignoring all of the warnings; the resulting anger might very well force government to start confronting the reason for the levy and we can finally get on to the massive job of reducing our emission as the first but absolutely necessary step in ameliorating the even worse consequences of climate change to come.

And of course, it goes without saying, that corporations will also have to pay this levy, since sound infrastructure is crucial both to the economy and their own profits. The threat of relocation will grow increasingly hollow. No part of the world escapes this self-inflicted curse of unscathed, especially those low-tax and low-pay jurisdictions the corporations always hold over our heads.

The hour is late. We are out of options. Concrete action must begin immediately. Taking the long view is long-past due.

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