19 March 2015

Cluster bombs and climate change—the good news

The media infamously saturate us with bad news. If it bleeds, it leads ... and all that. Nonetheless, good news does surface from time to time. This week saw two good news stories that particularly caught my attention.

The first was that Canada ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the 90th state party to do so. Cluster munitions are bombs that open up in mid-air and release dozens or hundreds of bomblets. Often many of these little bombs fail to explode and remain active for years after hostilities have ended. They are then picked up by civilians, often children who perceive them as toys, and are killed or maimed. A third of the victims of cluster munitions are children.

The convention forbids signatories from the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of these weapons, and requires that current stockpiles be destroyed within eight years. It further requires the clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years and assistance be provided to victims.

Canada's legislation is among the world's weakest with loopholes that allow Canadian soldiers to assist allied armies with use of the weapons. This, however, is not allowed under the convention and one must hope the prospect of embarrassment in front of the international community would keep us from exploiting the loopholes.

The second story concerned a report by 59 Canadian scientists, economists, engineers, sociologists, architects and philosophers from all 10 provinces who collaborated on a study to determine how we can wean the country off fossil fuels. They concluded we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a very low level within 30 years. And it would be economical. It would cost us about one per cent of GDP but would pay off four or five times over in reduced health and environmental costs.

The group recommended a range of measures from a carbon tax and electrifying public vehicles to linking major cities with high-speed rail and promoting urban density. It all sounds a bit Pollyannaish to me, but we can hope. The International Energy Agency recently announced that while the global economy continued to grow in 2014, the amount of carbon dioxide produced didn't, the first time emissions have declined without an economic downturn in 40 years, so who knows?

Protecting children from bombs and reducing global warming—Pollyannaish or not, it's enough to put a smile on your face.

No comments:

Post a Comment