Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment President Courtney Howard speaks yesterday in Fredericton (Photo: @danielstlouis).

FREDERICTON, N.B. – Whatever will Jason Kenney’s $30-million “war room” do about people like the nurses and physicians around the world growing increasingly troubled by the health impacts of climate change?

They are, after all, members of two professions most trusted by the Canadians according to survey after survey going back almost to the beginning of public opinion polling.

Dr. Howard (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

What’s more, they’re not just theoretically concerned any more, they’re actually doing stuff – which is the kind of thing that really gets up the new Alberta premier’s nose, with his strategy of not exactly denying climate change, just throwing roadblocks in the way of effective action to do anything about it.

Where something’s already been done, of course, such as the carbon tax implemented by Alberta’s former NDP government, Mr. Kenney can be counted on to eliminate it.

So, presumably, it can’t be considered a positive development from the premier’s perspective that divesting investments in pollution-creating fossil-fuel corporations is increasingly sounding to medical professionals worried about the health impacts of global climate change like an idea whose time has come.

Dr. Martin (Photo:@danielstlouis).

Isn’t this just the kind of thing Mr. Kenney’s planned Calgary war room is supposed to bully and sue into silence and submission?

Alas for the current Alberta government, it sounds as if that could turn out to be an uphill fight. This morning in New Brunswick’s capital, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions released a discussion paper on climate change that urges nurses to get ready for an onslaught of health impacts as well as to do what they can to turn back the tide of rising global temperatures.

About 1,000 nurses from across Canada in town for the CFNU’s biennial convention heard from one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Wanda Martin of the University of Saskatchewan, and from Dr. Courtney Howard, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. Both noted a need to promote the divestment of shares in high-emissions sectors from investment plans.

Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions President Linda Silas (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Indeed, Dr. Howard was a leader of the successful campaign in 2015 to get the Canadian Medical Association to divest fossil-fuel holdings. In 2016, the CMA announced it had completed divestment of its own organizational fund from fossil fuels. It set up a fossil-fuel-free investment fund that physicians are also encouraged to use for their own savings.

From food security to the impact for wildfire smoke, medical professionals are starting to treat the global climate crisis as a global health crisis – in the words of Dr. Martin, a registered nurse with a PhD, “the biggest health crisis of the 21st Century.”

Dr. Howard, an Emergency Room physician in Yellowknife, described climate change as “an urgent new frontier for humanitarianism.”

Worse, from the perspective of Mr. Kenney and his United Conservative Party, the paper released by CFNU this morning calls on nurses to help educate their patients and the public about climate science, urge federal and provincial action to reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, and demand Canada meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

To critics who advise such medical professionals to stay in their lane, they have an easy answer: the health impacts of extreme weather events, drought, famine and refugee migration are right in their lane.

The paper – Climate Change and Health: It’s time for nurses to act – connects the dots between the emerging climate crisis and health care, said CFNU President Linda Silas.

“Canada’s nurses can prepare their health care communities to help patients during the coming climate crisis,” she said in a public statement. “But this paper also provides nurses with a blueprint on how to become strong advocates for a sustainable and healthy future for our planet.”

“As the paper says, it’s our duty as nurses, citizens and parents to move quickly in response to this catastrophic threat,” Silas explained.

A “catastrophic threat.” Jason Kenney’s going to hate that. But, really, what can he or his war room do about it? Like climate change, nurses and doctors worrying about the health impacts of the planet’s rising temperatures is a global phenomenon.

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  1. It is an interesting term – “war room”. As the old saying goes, the first casualty of war is the truth. Not surprisingly, the words war and propaganda seem to go together often. If there is indeed a war or at least one created in Mr. Kenney’s mind, it is something like Alberta vs. the rest of the country or the world.

    Perhaps in Mr. Kenney’s mind his war room is something like Radio America broadcasting across enemy lines. I don’t think that was generally particularly effective, but it made the people back home feel good, like something was being done, even when not much could really be done to persuade the citizens of the enemy to change their minds. Therefore, like most propaganda, it is mostly aimed at the home front, even if it seems not to be.

    In any event I doubt Mr. Kenney will retreat, even if it is not effective – that would be an admission of defeat. I suspect he will continue spending money on the war room as long as he is in power, even if it becomes clear it is a waste of money.

  2. It’s a cliche but I have an image of Nero and a fiddle right now. His “war room” will be hard pressed to be relevant as more and more people suffer from the effects of climate change. Perhaps dissonance will carry them a ways but it won’t be too far before people rebel.

    1. While you think of Nero, I think of a line from the movie ‘Titanic’. We have been watching Rose and the ship’s captain walking around the boat, an aide hands the captain an ice burg warning, then a few minutes later the captain orders a speed increase. At that point the movie switches from 1912 to the 1990 salvage crew and a crew member says, “I can’t believe it! He has the ice burg warning in his hand and he still orders a speed increase!”

  3. What will make this even more galling is that most of these people are out of reach, effectively – they can’t be subject to the sort of strong-arm tactics the Alberta PCs used on David Swann when he got out of line on climate change.

  4. Well Dave, I am glad that King Jason can’t do more than create a War Room. Yes, we have to stand up to these academics who are destroying the right of companies to rape and pillage the environment. How dare they use logic and facts to tell people that fossil fuels produce bad things like climate change and pollution.

  5. Jason and his 30-million dollar “war room” friends could do something useful by donning their firefighting togs and making war on the fires raging in Northern Alberta.

  6. I sent money to the Suzuki people and to Lead Now . Come and get me Jason .I’m not even a foreigner so it will be easy for you.

  7. “…the paper released by CFNU this morning calls on nurses to help educate their patients and the public about climate science…”

    What will happen when Alberta nurses start doing that? Will the government muzzle their nurses? Given what has already happened with David Swann (thanks for the reminder, Lars), and how Kenney’s mentor muzzled scientists, perhaps the better question is how overt will they be when they do the muzzling?

    On another line of thought, perhaps the CFNU can convince our new health minister to get on board too. I am sure he will get back to them in due course.

  8. A carbon tax of $5, $10 or even $20 a tonne is not sufficient. Divestment is not sufficient.
    ” …are starting to treat the global climate crisis as a global health crisis – in the words of Dr. Martin, a registered nurse with a PhD, “the biggest health crisis of the 21st Century.” She’s 30 or 40 years too late; half the global carbon in the atmosphere today was put there in our generation. It’s not sufficient.

    All these actions are necessary and would be sufficient to start on a campaign that we had 100 years to achieve. We don’t!
    12 years to reduce by half – the above doesn’t cut it. It barely changes the arc of growth, let alone flatlines growth, let alone actually reduces emissions.
    That carbon we’ve put in, it starts to make measurable difference after 2050. I’m afraid to imagine what “an urgent new frontier for humanitarianism.” will look like then.

    It doesn’t matter what any of these people are doing. We are still in Dr. David Suzuki’s car racing towards the wall. Well, maybe not racing anymore (whew! thanks gawd for that!) just driving very fast.
    Unless we a) stop, b) change direction or c) bail out, we are going to crash!

    Nurses, progressive gov’ts or green investments are not going to be of any use afterwards.

    You wanna do something good? Try imagining your kids future. Start talking about what a sane, democratic livable future would look like. Start investing in the services and industries that will support that future, start educating the kids who will live and work in that future and for the sake of everything holy and sacred start electing MLA’s and gov’ts who will support that future.

    1. Well put. The changed climate we have already seen is going to be with us for a long time. Going forward, the degree to which we are able to reduce our emissions will determine how much worse things are going to get.

      1. Thanks Bob.
        But let’s be real clear here; the changed climate we’ve already seen is a result of GHG emissions up to perhaps 1980. The change in global temps is about 0.8 Celsius.
        If we stopped producing GHG’s today the effect after 2050 up to 2100 is somewhere between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius. Obviously we’re not going to stop; we can’t even slow down.
        So, the world we live in going forward from today is one that no human has ever lived in before. Not least because of the amazing new tech that becomes available almost day. But also the atmosphere has magnitudes of additional energy locked up in it. Storms of wind, rain, heat and cold, floods, drought and pestilence will rage across the landscape like humans have never contemplated outside biblical predictions. Every year and every year worse than the one before – forever.

        The idea that we can influence this baked-in outcome by tossing some pennies around, by fiddling with some graphs and talking points is ludicrous. It’s childish. It is irresponsible.
        The idea that we can preserve the status quo and maintain BAU is deranged. It is a psychological disorder. And it’s criminal. A crime against anyone who is alive in 20 years and beyond.

  9. Given that we live in a society in which people have used their allegedly precious democratic franchise to elect the likes of Doug Ford and Jason Kenney, is it likely that most folks hold the combined traits of caring about the distant future and the capacity to understand what their personal responsibity would be to change it? As pathetically hilarious as it is, huge swathes of the populace believe that Jesus is due back any time. Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of the Interior stated forty years ago that there was no reason to get worked up about the environment for that very reason. Things have not improved in the interim.

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