An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau and other world leaders

Each time I read an article about climate change, I feel a violent, visceral fear, almost as though I just realized I was trapped inside a room that was slowly filling up with water. I sweat and tremble and fight the urge to vomit.  It takes hours to get my body under control again.  The thing is, I don’t think I have a psychological problem — I think that other people haven’t realized that we are trapped inside a room that is slowly filling up with water.

Climate change is real and if we don’t take drastic action it will be a catastrophe — not a short catastrophe like a hurricane or an earthquake that will give us a chance to rebuild — an unending catastrophe that just gets worse and worse.  There is no ‘end’ to global warming.  The planet will just get hotter and hotter and hotter year after year, until the few surviving humans are confined to little air-conditioned boxes clustered in the north and south of our planet.  We don’t know exactly how fast this will happen, or if we will find a way to fix it — perhaps by blocking out the sun with dust which is a nightmare in itself — but this is the path we are on right now.  The political response to this slow-motion apocalypse, a disaster worse than anything we have yet imagined including global nuclear war, have been less than window dressing.   I can barely stand to look at my two-year-old daughter sometimes because I know she will be inheriting a broken planet.  Because I can see as plain as day that she, or her children, or her children’s children will likely choose not to procreate because the coming centuries will only get worse and worse.

There are two types of people preventing political leaders from taking action at this point.  The first group doesn’t believe in climate change, or doesn’t think it could really be as bad as people say it will be, because they have been fooled by an extensive and expensive disinformation campaign.  Letting these people dictate global policy is about as wise as letting a toddler walk into traffic because they think they will be fine.  Yes, they might be mad at you, yes they might kick and scream and say they hate you, yes, you might not be re-elected — but they don’t deserve to be locked inside a room that is slowly filling up with water.  If you take action and lose the next election, you will be remembered as a hero.  If you listen to them, you will have it on your conscience for the rest of your life, even after they realize how much you actually cared about them and tried to keep them safe.  The second group is those who understand climate change, but deny it, because they want to continue to profit of fossil fuels and the industries that surround them.  A pedophile destroys the lives of a handful children because of an unconscious compulsion — and this behavior is rightfully abhorred and reviled — people who would profit off the death of the entire planet are consciously choosing to destroy the lives of billions, so how should we feel about them?  Taking political advice from such people is immoral, repulsive and, frankly, psychotic.

The ONLY people who should be designing global climate policy are climate scientists.  Not backroom policy analysts, not your cabinet, not your MPs, not the handful of undecided voters who modern politicians put so much effort into pandering to.  You ask the climate scientists how to fix it, and you do what they say, you build public transit and renewables, you tax carbon and ban new fossil fuel projects, you require companies to allow telecommuting, you do whatever it takes.  Crash the economy if you have to, we crashed it five years ago and we all survived.  Yes, there might be some short term pain but we are talking about the future of humanity.   Our grandparents fought World War II, we can suck it up and and find new ways to make ends meet.  I know there are many important issues on your plate, but this is the only issue that could end us as a species, and you have many other people working under you and around to make sure the other things keep moving forward in the mean time.  Please, please, please take action now, because those of us who have thought about this with a long-term perspective are standing knee-deep in water, looking around for sturdy shelves to balance our children on before we drown.



  1. My comment about crashing the economy if you have to, wasn’t to imply that we ought to crash the economy, it may be that new public transit and research actually improves the economy by shifting investment to things that are less purely profitable, but more labour intensive than oil. However, the idea that we can’t implement policies because they ‘might’ crash the economy is like telling the fire department you don’t want them to spray water on your flaming home because it ‘might’ flood the basement.
  2. 2) My comment about not listening to uninformed people is not to say that we should disregard them, but that they shouldn’t be setting the details of climate policy, just as we should be asking average people if a certain chemical should or shouldn’t be banned in food or whether or not we should return to the gold standard.  We should be asking them what kind of world they want to live in, what their priorities are, how they envision the future and the technical details of creating that world should be worked out by experts in the relevant fields.  Governments can and constantly do institute policies that are against the will of the people or outside the understanding of the people, look at TPP it is wildly unpopular as far as I know and it was negotiated IN SECRET. The fact that they are willing to make policies this way to benefit transnational corporations, but not in the name of the planet earth shows who they are really listening to.



About Matthew Lie - Paehlke

Matthew Lie-Paehlke is a PhD student in Urban Planning at the University of Toronto.
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