Environment: It is time we started protecting our children

Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament fo Saanich—Gulf Islands:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a question that I asked on April 19. I have to say that the information that has come in since then is even more sobering, and potentially tragic. On April 19 I asked about climate change and how incompatible contemplating buying and building another pipeline would be with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

However, I want to read what I said on April 19:

…the warnings of climate scientists are becoming increasingly urgent and worrying. The most recent, days ago, was that the world was watching the weakening of the Gulf Stream ocean currents, with potentially catastrophic impacts. The scientists are warning that we must reduce greenhouse gases far more rapidly than our current commitments.

Just yesterday came another report about what is happening with the Gulf Stream and what that means for Atlantic Canada.

I see my friend, now the hon. parliamentary secretary. I commend him for his recent promotion to parliamentary secretary for environment. He represents a riding where I used to live with the impacts of what I am going to now say are devastating for Central Nova.

This is from a recent study published in Nature Climate Change magazine. It is peer reviewed, top-quality science. I never expected to see this: “Rapid coastal de-oxygenation due to ocean circulation shift in the northwest Atlantic”, the study indicates, is threatening the survival of all marine life in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, one of the richest and most biodiverse marine areas on the planet, is now anticipated to be one of the most endangered ecosystems as a result of climate change. Just to paraphrase the study, because I think it is important for parliamentarians to know this, as carbon dioxide levels have risen over the past century due to human emissions, the Gulf Stream has shifted northward and the Labrador Current has weakened. This new study finds that this causes more of the Gulf Stream’s warm, salty and oxygen-poor water to enter the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The evidence of science is continually becoming stronger, more urgent and, in fact, clearly saying to policy-makers around the globe that we are in a climate emergency.

We are not dealing with an environmental issue; we are dealing with a security threat. The Gulf of Saint Lawrence is the home of endangered whales. It is also the home of billions of dollars in fisheries’ resources that are still successfully and sustainably fished.

If the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is the canary in the coal mine for the collapse of oxygen in the world’s oceans, then this parliament should do nothing but debate how we respond to climate change in a meaningful way. We should do nothing but talk about what is needed way beyond the minimal approach to carbon taxes or applying a price to carbon. We should be talking about what is necessary, not what is politically possible, because we are in a climate emergency. All this summer British Columbians know we had 500 wildfires. The people of my constituency and I had trouble breathing because our air quality was worse than Beijing’s.

Climate change is a health threat. Climate change is an urgent security issue and, unfortunately, the government continues to pretend that the old Harper target is the Paris target. It is not. We need to be serious as parliamentarians. As grown-ups, it is time we started protecting our children.