The environment, a hot conversational topic, has become of great importance to millennials. This is largely a result of their perception that they have inherited a planet that previous generations have neglected while in pursuit of an extra dollar. Politicians and corporations alike are now looking for ways to mitigate the damage already done and move the world forward into an era of harmonious existence between earth and its inhabitants. This goal is certainly worth pursuing. However, after examining the steps being taken to achieve this goal in Canada, maybe Canadians are simply going about this process the wrong way.
Prime Minister Trudeau recently decided to commit to carbon taxes and other measures in an effort to reduce our net impact on world pollution levels. Despite sounding encouraging, it may be nothing more than a figurative gesture that will cost Canadians billions of tax dollars. Over the long run, such policies may do more harm than good to Canadians as they will be the ones that have to pay for this spending. In 2015, Canada accounted for just 1.6% of total world carbon emitted, a negligible amount, when China, the United States and the EU combined account for nearly 50%. Canada could cut its emissions by 100% and still have less of an impact than any of the three regions mentioned above lowering their emissions by 10-20%. While sending less green house gases into the environment is certainly a worthwhile cause, carbon emissions is not just Canada’s battle to fight, as even if we were completely victorious, the planet’s climate would likely not notice.
Let’s take a moment to talk about carbon dioxide itself. Carbon dioxide is a molecule essential to the growth of plants, which in turn produces oxygen essential for life. The earth’s atmosphere comprises of many gases, with carbon dioxide placing at the very bottom of this list. Nitrogen makes up 78% of the atmosphere, Oxygen 21%, leaving only 1% for all other gasses. Carbon dioxide accounts for only a tiny fraction, at 0.04% of this total, 10% of which has been created by industrial emissions. While earth has certainly warmed and humans have treated the planet less than ideally, maybe there is a better way to help the environment than what Canada has recently pledged to do.
Trudeau and other politicians rightly believe that climate change is important to Canadians, the world, and the millennial generation in particular, and are taking steps to act in accordance with this belief.
Unfortunately, the steps being taken are more symbolic than anything else, since they will not be making material improvements to the environment. Instead of focusing solely on the reduction of fossil fuels, perhaps it would make more sense to focus on a new approach for longer term results: the education and research of new technologies that would achieve this goal.
Lowering Canada’s relatively very small fossil fuel footprint would not be as effective as funding the next generation of science that could place Canadians at the forefront of new technological efficiencies that could reduce fossil fuel consumption on a global scale. This is especially true as we move deeper into the era of information and technology where science and mathematics dictate almost every area of our lives.
Developed countries, Canada included, naturally go through a transition from a manufacturing based economy to a more service based economy. While Canada’s natural resources will continue to be relied upon and exported, the majority of Canadians who live in urban areas cannot make their living working in industries such as fishing, mining and lumber. Therefore, a need for alternative employment opportunities achieved through education is required and these alternatives need to be well positioned for the future. An interesting area of the future is of course, dealing with climate change and cleaner environments.
Universities need to adapt as many universities still promote their business programs as the pinnacle of achievement and success. This is a mindset from past generations where top students aspired to work on Wall Street. Today, tech companies are the place to work as they are focusing on the world of the future.
With this in mind, Canada should be placing enormous emphasis on promoting the education of science, engineering and mathematics. These focus areas will have a material impact on shaping the future of our environment. Likewise Trade Schools could also be more heavily invested in, in the future by investing in knowledge of how to create “smart-homes,” which are on the rise and will disrupt the trade profession quite significantly.
Enhanced educational funding in these programs would allow Canadians to be directly involved in shaping the technologies of the future. Creating alternative green energy sources that are cost efficient and effective or technologies that can reduce pollution would allow Canada to make its mark in the battle against a changing climate, while creating quality jobs in the process.
Pledging $2.65 billion to a climate change fund which helps developing countries tackle climate change may make Canada’s Prime Minister popular abroad, but these are funds that the millennial generation will have to pay back. Perhaps Trudeau’s main focus should be helping and ensuring the millennials and the generations behind them have quality jobs in the future . If this $2.65 billion had gone towards better education in pursuit of these goals, this would have been a really good start.
Millennials want a future full of opportunity and to live on a healthy sustainable thriving planet. Investing in science and education could make this a reality. Current policies are a big problem for younger generations, as Canada becomes less competitive against other nations who have chosen to focus on research, development and innovation in finding solutions to this global problem.
Global warming is a world issue. Canadian leaders must understand where we have the best opportunity to make a positive and material impact and move in this direction. Blindly following political rhetoric in order to be popular abroad in the short-term will cost Canadians billions of dollars without an adequate return for future generations.
The Summerhill Team