I am driven by the truth
“When money speaks, the truth keeps silent.” – Russian Proverb
I used to think that science was all that mattered; after all, it shows us the truth. I was very strong in this conviction, and I thoroughly believed that scientific fact was the only legitimate factor in any and all decisions. Even still, I think science determines everything from the tiniest synapse of a fleeting memory to our understanding of the entire universe. There’s a lot that we don’t know, and that is why I’m such a critical person.
Two years ago when I attended for the first time the UN climate talks, in Cancun, I was shocked to discover that science wasn’t the be all and end all, and that scientific fact didn’t guide the decision-making process. It became very clear to me, at this time, that a strong understanding of climate policy was necessary if science were to have any legitimate chance of being included in the resulting text. In other words, it isn’t the science that drives the concluding text, it is the policy (and buy-in from global negotiators) that drives the inclusion of scientific fact. And all too often, the science is completely disregarded. These factors lead me to believe that, if science wasn’t the most important variable, policy had to be. After all, it seemed to determine the fate of our planet.
Over the last year, however, I have been reminded as to why science is so powerful in its truth. This awareness arose when Canada systematically muzzled scientists, eliminated federal impact assessments funding, cut the funds needed to run research centres, and downsized Environment Canada by $13 million and counting. It became clear to me that the political right is threatened by the truth—by science. I was reminded why I so strongly believed in the power of science, and I was reminded of its important role within the climate crisis.
Not only is Canada threatened by science, but at these UN climate talks Canada’s agenda is over-run by the wants and needs of the fossil fuel industry, and by the flawed understanding that our economy will only flourish if we continue to exploit the land and our people. The truth is that climate change is happening, the tar sands are set to break the planet, and that none of this is okay. The truth is scary, and instead of facing it – the Canadian government ignores it.
This leads me to my current belief – the belief that the intersection of science and policy has never been more important, and that it is time for Canada to back down from their obstructionist role within the negotiating process at the UN climate talks. It’s time for Canada to accept moral and historical responsibility and to negotiate on behalf of Canadians, not the fossil fuel industry.
It has also become increasingly clear to me since this year’s negotiations began that climate science is climate justice’s closest ally. Perhaps climate science sterilizes the emotion behind the climate injustices we face globally every day, but science also agrees (almost unanimously) that climate change is the reason we are experiencing extreme weather– typhoons, hurricanes, flooding, drought– and therefore, science agrees that this is why people are dying. The science says these events are going to happen more often and with more intensity, and science says that these are the realities of today and the realities of tomorrow unless obstructionist negotiators, such as those from Canada, develop meaningful text that legally binds countries around the world to strict emissions reductions targets. The science determines the targets and the policy determines the legalities. Without science, the policy will be flawed. Without science, Canada will continue to work blindly. And without science, people will continue to die. Policy isn’t the most important variable, the truth is.
The text from Doha has failed us; policy has failed us. But science, justice, and truth never will.
I am driven by fact; I am driven by emotion. In other words, I am driven by truth.
by Megan Van Buskirk