Can we rely on world leaders to solve this?
With an issue as truly global as climate change, it’s natural to look to our world leaders to solve it. However, despite many years of meeting on the subject, international conferences have yet to produce an adequate plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Yes, in Paris in 2015, world leaders signed on to attempt to limit global average warming to 1.5°C, a level somewhat arbitrarily deemed “safe.” Really, there is no safe level of climate change, but 2018’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has since shown that impacts would be worse, significantly so, if we let the planet warm a full 2°C.
The world has already warmed by about 1.0°C; in order to stand a decent chance of keeping within 1.5°C, we must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by about 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, and be carbon neutral by 2050. Perhaps a more accurate way to think about it is that we have a carbon budget—a certain amount of fossil fuels etc. that we could likely “afford” to burn without pushing past a certain temperature threshold. 2030 is not some magic deadline, where if we cut emissions in half by midnight New Year’s Eve, we’ll be okay; rather our emissions need to sharply decrease now and continue decreasing as we approach 2030, in order to keep within our dwindling carbon budget. This is because carbon dioxide lasts quite a while once it’s up in the atmosphere; the amount that has accumulated year after year can’t even start to decrease until we’re effectively not emitting anything—emitting only as much as the Earth can absorb.
Unfortunately, the action plans put forth by many federal governments fall short of what would actually achieve a 45 percent reduction. While these plans absolutely need to be improved, we also need action to come from other levels. These include provincial and municipal governments, as well as leadership from individuals and workplaces.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that in Canada, municipalities have some degree of influence over about half of our country’s emissions. Through improvements in areas such as building efficiency, transportation, land use, and waste management, municipal governments and the communities they serve can play an important role in saving our future.
Taking action goes deeper, though than reducing our carbon footprints and embracing green technology. Climate change has in part come about as a result of certain flawed ideas—that the Earth’s “resources” are endlessly replaceable, that humans are separate from nature and can dominate it, that our economy can grow forever. In order to create real and lasting change, those of us steeped in these ideas may need to listen to people who view the world in a different way. Respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples as well as other oft-marginalized communities could go a long way to rebalancing the way we live—and of course is something that should be done regardless. Both in terms of social issues and ecological, the sooner we transform society the better. Read next week’s query to consider the timelines that we have to deal with regarding climate change.
To get involved with local climate action, please attend a Climate Action Open House on December 2 at the Mindemoya Community Hall or December 4 at the Park Centre in Kagawong, both drop-ins from 7 to 9 pm. If you are unable to attend either event, please contact Kristin at
email@example.com or 705-377-5726.