Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A sense of urgency

On Thanksgiving Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is made up of a group of the world's top climate scientists, released their 6th report since 1974. It's scary, but hopeful.

And today, one year to the day before our next federal election, I finally sat down with a green highlighter pen to read a 34-page summary of it, which I then packaged up and took to the office of my member of parliament. I added a letter requesting that she do everything she possibly can to encourage the alignment of Canada's climate policies with what the scientists tell us we must do before 2030 in order to avoid more climate and human catastrophes. The document I dropped off had a lot of green text. I was just going to highlight the important parts, but it's all important!

The report came out on October 6th (click here to read it for yourself), but was shuffled to the bottom of the news cycle by most media outlets, something that makes no sense to me. We're talking about our future here, and hundreds of scientists from all over the world are in agreement, telling us that we need to make changes now or

  • we will see a lot more intense climate and weather extremes, and an increase in droughts, floods, wildfires and weather events that will make travel to our favourite places less possible (the Skyline Trail in Jasper is no longer recommended for hikers because of fire danger, a friend's trip to Mexico has been cancelled because of Hurricane Willa, many friends' summer vacations were spoiled by smoke that stretched from the coast to Ontario this summer... see the pattern?)
  • we will lose many more ecosystems (our coral reefs and marine ice are disappearing already)
  • more species loss and extinction will result in further loss of biodiversity, which has already impoverished our planet and us as a species in many ways
  • climate zones will continue to change, bringing desert regions to higher latitudes
  • oceans will continue to acidify, currents will continue to change, and invasive species will get around more than they already have (if you think zebra mussels in the Great Lakes are bad enough, just wait...)
  • there will be more risks to human health, livelihoods, food security, water supplies, human security and economy
  • disadvantaged, vulnerable and often indigenous populations, especially those in the tropics and southern hemisphere, will suffer the most
  • urban heat islands, already in the news this summer where people were dying from extreme temperatures in large cities, will only increase as temperatures climb
  • food production in extreme weather will be more difficult, and water stress is already a concern in many countries
There are things we can do, and that's why this report is so important. It reminds us that it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions by lowering energy use, increasing energy efficiency, and working to implement the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals because action on them can create synergies between countries in the areas of health, clean energy, responsible consumption and production, the health of our oceans -- and get cities and communities working together for the benefit of all.

None of this will be easy, because governments like to talk more than act. So we have to push...

All of it will require a willingness to make sacrifices and change our ways. It might start with accepting that we need to tighten our belts and pay a carbon tax to kick start an economy that relies less on fossil fuels. That we might have to drive less and walk or carpool more get by with fewer pipelines and more solar and wind energy. That we give up on those tropical vacations altogether for the sake of our grand kids' futures. And eat less meat. And waste less of the earth's resources, using what we already have until it wears out. And remember that we are not entitled to waste things, but that we are to share them, especially with those in the developing world...

Whatever we do, we only have until 2030 to do it. Less than 12 years. So let's start now.

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