Rivers: Today the Salmon - Tomorrow the Rest of Us?

“Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River are dying from exhaustion and…cardiac collapse as they struggle to deal with water temperatures that are steadily rising because of climate change.” (Death on the Frazer)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 9th, 2018



We first learned of global warming back when we believed it could still be mostly avoided, well over a quarter century ago. Today the emerging consensus is that we waited too long. It is too late to stop global climate change and the best we can do is try to slow it down, even as global emissions continue their upwards spiral.

Canada is a relatively small contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the big scheme of things given our relatively small population, though we are one of the greatest contributors on a per capita basis. The truth is that even if we stopped driving our pickup trucks and SUVs and phased out all fossil fuel energy production, the effect would be almost inconsequential.


It was a great idea – but not very many country’s signed on.

But we share this planet with the big league polluters like China and the USA. So Canadians also share responsibility for its stewardship even if we tend to lead more by words than action. For example, we were one of the early subscribers to the failed Kyoto protocol, the first global initiative bent on curbing rising emissions. But when it appeared that we couldn’t meet our Kyoto targets and simultaneously continue with oil sands development, Mr. Harper took us out.

Mulroney Caroline Carbon tax

Stop the tax – what do you replace it with?

And it probably wouldn’t have mattered much anyway as far as Kyoto went. GW Bush took the largest greenhouse gas emitter at the time out of Kyoto right at the starting gate. And now, as if in a deja vu moment, Trump has ended US involvement in Kyoto’s successor, the Paris climate agreement. That gives the US the distinct honour of being the only nation of any size not in the agreement.

And Paris, with the goal of holding the earth’s thermometer at 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels is also destined to fail. It is estimated that this 1.5 degrees will be history before Trump finishes his term in office in 2020. And the next challenge is avoiding two degrees, the so-called tipping point.

The emerging consensus, however, among climate scientists is that we’re heading for three or even four degrees, which will result in a so-called hothouse state. And that means that, short of a nuclear winter or the sun running out of its own energy, nothing we do will get us back to anything even closely resembling today’s climate.

Polar ice caps will be history as will the cooling ocean currents that moderate the planet. Floods and forest fires will be never ending and we’ll finally get real population control, through higher mortality rates.

So is that the scenario which Ontario voters were seeking when they elected Doug Ford? Ford has cancelled virtually every single initiative the Liberals had initiated to help mitigate Ontario’s contribution to global warming.

Ford on climate change TabunsFord claims, in his own defence, that he is not a climate denier and is coming up with his own climate change plan. Seriously? What could a Ford plan possibly look like anyway? Having rejected market tools – pricing, subsidies and taxes, that just leaves regulations. Is he planning to restrict our use of automobiles, home heating/cooling or industrial activity?

Mr. Ford is cancelling over seven hundred renewable energy contracts, making Ontario dependent on purchased power from the US or more fossil fuel burning just to avoid the inevitable brown-outs, especially when one of the nukes shut down – which they will. That will give us a stark reminder of how well the Tories mis-managed the electricity file under Harris and Eves.

Ford and Mulroney

Doug Ford made Caroline Mulroney his Attorney General. Now the daughter of a Prime Minister who was a strong environmentalist is suing the federal government to kill a tax that was designed to help fund environmental solutions.

Ford’s attorney general is taking the federal government to court over the carbon taxes we’ll be getting after Ford cancelled the carbon cap and trade system. If Ms. Mulroney wins that might limit, or could even end the federal government’s historical role in pan-national environmental regulation. Given that Brian Mulroney is generally considered one of Canada’s most environmental PMs, what would that make his daughter?

In last June’s election Ford was unequivocal about his intent to reverse everything the Liberals did on climate change. And over 40% of voters supposed Mr. Ford. So does that mean they all support what he is doing on this file? Do they look at the environment, climate change, as just another partisan issue? If the liberals did it – it had to be so bad that it required white-out – erasing.

What could be more conservative than conserving the life support systems on this planet? And what is the climate but perhaps the most critical of those? And what about that perennial core Tory support group, the religious right – the near puritanical movement which likes to parade as God’s army? Didn’t the bible say something about stewardship?

salmon sick

Rising water temperatures in the Fraser River are killing the salmon.

Those Frazer salmon are dying because somebody has turned up the temperature on the river where they have spawned ever since creation? And if they don’t spawn, what happens to the species?

We may not be the only ones controlling the global thermometer, but if we’re not part of the solution we own the problem. We should understand that, and that once the fishes are gone the loaves will not be far behind.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Dying Fish –    More Salmon Stories –    Two Degrees

Emissions Data –    Hothouse State –    Ford Cancels Renewable Contracts

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6 comments to Rivers: Today the Salmon – Tomorrow the Rest of Us?

  • Larry

    Sad but true ….

  • KJ

    I started reading this with an open mind to give Ray a chance because I’m as worried about the topic as anyone but of course he had to make it political. Subsidies for buying a Tesla and GEA contracts to friendly insiders that are proven to emit more green house gas than traditional sources weren’t doing a thing Ray except cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. The real solution was in our hands that quarter century ago you mentioned: expanded nuclear power and hydroelectric production but the do-gooders of the day killed that for us forever. We are trapped in the carbon economy at this point like the rest of the world until a real solution emerges. Blaming Doug Ford for global warming is borderline criminally insane.

  • Hans

    Re: “Given that Brian Mulroney is generally considered one of Canada’s most environmental PMs, what would that make his daughter?”.

    Good one :-). My guess is that it makes her a politician, since anyone who wants to keep their cabinet position will do what the premier (or PM) tells them to do.

  • Excellent. Of course, the people who most need to heed this won’t. In thinking about climate deniers I sometimes recall the words of a Vietnamese physician colleague addressing patients who would not come forward when he called them: “Ret dem die. Ret dem aww die.”

    Unfortunately, while the deniers kill themselves from their utter, frank stupidity, they will take the rest of us with them.

  • Bill Carlton

    Maybe someone should stop B.C. from being the largest exporter of coal to Asian markets to fuel their ever expanding coal fired power plant infrastructure. Oh wait Rob Ford has nothing to do with that so we won’t discuss it.

  • V. Muller

    Excellent summary of our doomed environment under the Ford Nation. Any way you can get Donald, er I mean Doug to have someone read this to him, or even explain it?? Or better still, the 40 % plus voters that put him in office??

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