Addressing the Climate Emergency

TO350 member Natasha Bartels and her father, Dennis Bartels, were among the first to start talking about and researching the concept of a war level effort applied to climate change, including taxing the ultra-rich. They were quoted in an article by Sarah Berman in Vice, a way back now, in November 2019 called "We Need to Tax the Super-Rich to Save the World." It is just as pertinent, if not more so now, to consider tackling climate change as a war-level threat, as we enter 2021 with the knowledge that 2020 tied for the hottest year on record. To quote the article....

(Image by Dave Hoefler via

"Now that scientific consensus says Canada is facing another terrifying global emergency, ie. climate change, there are experts who say we need more than a carbon tax to bring down emissions on an urgent schedule. Dennis Bartels, one of the first-ever researchers to look at the WWII model for climate change mobilization, believes a wealth tax absolutely needs to be part of Canada’s plan to decarbonize its economy.

Bartels and his daughter Natasha, who teaches high school history, reached out to me earlier this month with more lessons from Canada’s most radical economic experiment. They reminded me that the war effort also included providing housing and childcare for workers in new industries, and a focus on local food production.

But the biggest takeaway was that turning an economy on its head required the rich to pitch in more than the rest of us. This is how the country launched 28 new Crown corporations, including resource and energy companies, and remade our education and food systems to fit a new reality.

In the United States, where climate change and wealth taxation are more readily linked by mainstream politicians, multiple candidates are talking about a tax on billionaires. But here in Canada, where we’ve already got a carbon tax on the go, the climate discussion has mostly shied away from bold progressive income tax.

“What’s going on here is a carbon tax discussion,” Natasha said by phone. “I’m not hearing about just straight-up making the wealthy pay the money.”....

To be fair, the Bartels don’t seem to be interested in writing cheques for white middle class homeowners, either. The main thrust of ambitious plans like the U.S. Green New Deal is to redirect resources to historically underserved front-line communities—to invest in people who need it first.

Climate change disproportionately affects Indigenous people and people of colour, especially in Canada’s north. One of the examples Bartels gives for projects to reproduce across the country is the Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek/Gull Bay First Nation’s solar-powered electricity micro-grid, which replaced the community’s carbon-intensive diesel generators this year."

Read the article for the full story! Here is the link to it again: "We Need to Tax the Super-Rich to Save the World."

In a second article published in the National Observer on January 12th, 2020, WWII tactics could be key to combating today’s climate crisis, Natasha and her father share a list of components from the Second World War mobilization that they think should be "updated and adapted to meet the climate crisis." They are:

"1. Planned resource management and development, created in partnership with Indigenous communities, aimed at reducing carbon emissions and repairing environmental damage.

2. Taxation of wealth to fund the restructuring of the economy.

3. Reorienting education and training toward development of green industry and technology.

4. Creation of new Crown corporations to meet industrial production needs and protect access to necessaries of life.

5. Building co-operative international relations to reduce carbon emissions and protect shared environmental resources."

Take a look at the article for a more detailed and informative look at each of those suggestions!

The article ends with a reminder that fossil fuel corporations denied climate science long beyond the point we needed to act on the climate emergency. These corporations also deny the possibility we can change, making a shift to a more sustainable and equitable future.

Ending on an optimistic note, the Bartels assure us "Second World War mobilization in Canada demonstrates these fossil-fuel companies are wrong. Canada is capable of making the massive, effective and rapid economic transformation we now need. Second World War mobilization has given us the blueprint from which we can meet the crisis we now face and build a new and better way of living."

P.S. - Seth Klein, in his book "A Good War," references the Bartels earlier work. Check that book out too, when you get the chance!