Editors' Blog

Green Living editors dish on the latest trends and happenings in sustainability.

Climate Change

by Tanya Roberts

“We are upsetting the atmosphere upon which all life depends. In the late 80s when I began to take climate change seriously, we referred to global warming as a "slow-motion catastrophe" one we expected to kick in perhaps generations later. Instead, the signs of change have accelerated alarmingly.”

David Suzuki

Climate change defined

“Climate Change” refers to changes in long-term weather patterns caused by natural phenomena and human activities that alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the build-up of greenhouse gases which trap heat and reflect it back to the earth’s surface.

Environment Canada: http://ec.gc.ca/ges-ghg/default.asp?lang=En&n=B710AE51-1

It is estimated that around 97% of climate experts agree that humans are causing global warming. Then there is John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel who claims Climate Change is the greatest scam in history, attributing it to environmental radicals driving their own agenda forecasting catastrophic temperatures based on faulty proofs.

So, is the climate passive or reactive to all this change and what should we as Canadians be doing about it?

Climate change & Canada

According to the 1 Tonne Challenge, every Canadian produces about 5 tonnes or more of greenhouse-gas emissions every year, which totals more than a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Impacts of Climate Change not only effect the environment but human health as well through pollution. The impacts are systemic. According to a Global Business Network report on the systemic impacts of Climate Change, the steady escalation of climate pressure stretches the resiliency of natural and human systems, making individual reagions and their systems more vulnerable and in short pushing systems everywhere to their tipping point.

According to the Government of Canada, climate change is a global problem that requires real solutions. Canada has developed a domestic, continental & international action plan to address Climate Change and is committed to building a low-carbon economy. 

As part of Canada’s Action on Climate Change, a target has been set to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 through a sector-by-sector approach aligned with the United States.  So far Canada is ¼ of the way towards this 2020 target through GHG regulations for the transportation and electricity sectors and has contributed $400 million in new and additional climate change financing between 2010-2011.

So why not Kyoto?  Canada vs. the International platform on Climate Change

Everything was going well (sort of) until Canada pulled out of Kyoto! becoming the first country to formally withdraw from the International protocol. Canadian Ministers argued that Canada could not meet targets on the basis that the process failed to include the US and China-two of the world’s biggest emitters. Canada’s Environment Minister, Peter Kent claimed that meeting the 2012 targets would have cost the equivalent of $1600 from every Canadian family and was critical of its impact on emissions or the environment.

Source:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/13/canada-withdrawal-kyoto-protocol

And we can’t forget that Canada was named a “Colossal Fossil” and awarded the Fossil of the Year award for the third time in a row during the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Solutions-based approach to the challenges of Climate Change

Developing a win-win situation for the economy & environment is possible because as humans we are so dependent on both for survival even though it may sometimes appear that we can sacrifice one for the other, we really can’t for too long without noticing the negative impacts.   

  • Climate Change mitigation & adaptation: reducing GHG emissions through appropriate policy instruments and policy design, environmental laws and taxes, as well as sustainable technologies. Lowering risks associated with the consequences of these changes through strong adaptation and development policy and development assistance through international support to help build and strengthen existing coping strategies is essential.
  • Improved Agricultural practices, paper recycling and forest management:  Forests help regulate air quality by reducing CO2 levels by storing carbon and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, unsustainable use of forests causes about 17 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and also degrades ecosystems, causes biodiversity loss, threatens local livelihoods and has a detrimental impact on some of the world’s poorest people.
  • Cleaner transportation:  According to the United Nations Environment Programme, estimates are that road vehicles consume more than a third of the world’s supply of petroleum and contribute nearly one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions.  More fuel efficient vehicles are critical along with safe public transit and according to Zipcar, a car sharing company, 10% of the population is expected to adopt car sharing as their primary mode of transportation.
  • Clean energy: Tom Rand is right that we need to kick the Fossil Fuel Habit.  In order to do this, reliable supplies of clean energy will need to be accessible to everyone. This includes; incentive programs such as FIT, accelerated depreciation and tax credits; government grants such as the Community Energy Partnership Program (CEPP), as well as the commercialization of technologies & storage options that will help advance the switch to more sustainable fuel sources.
  • Land-use planning & sustainable livelihood: Canada needs strong land-use planning initiatives & incentive programs that incorporate walk-ability & alternative forms of transportation, green roofs and urban gardening/agriculture to help increase affordable, sustainable livelihoods. 

Think globally, act locally:  Communicating Climate Change

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water” 

Benjamin Franklin

There is an ongoing need for more environmentally sensitive choices as consumers. Where lowering your carbon footprint use to be more associated with a radical lifestyle, it is slowly becoming more feasible to mainstream society due to ongoing market transformation. 

The speed of growth has propelled us to take for granted the very environmental mechanisms that support life & that we depend on for health and vitality. Regardless of your opinions about Climate Change, it has become one of the biggest challenges our generation currently faces in that to ignore it all together would be to deny the human potential for positive, intentional and harmonized/smart growth.

Climate Change & YOU!

One thing we cannot deny is that Climate Change challenges us to act more consciously, with environmental sensitivity in mind.    

A few simple steps you can take to reduce your impact on the environment:

  ✓   Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
  ✓   Shop for food with local and/or organic as a preference & consider cutting back on meat
  ✓   Walk, cycle or use public transportation when possible
  ✓   When buying products for your home, look for the Energy Star label
  ✓   When purchasing a new car, consider a fuel efficient, low GHG vehicle such as a hybrid model
  ✓   Make the switch to green power
  ✓   Check out the Green Living Marketplace online for amazing green deals up for bids on everything from organic mattresses to a Whole Foods gift basket & more.
  ✓   Visit the Green Living Show 2013 for tips, ideas, as well as innovative products and services that make living more sustainably a breath of fresh air.
  ✓   Spread the word and share this blog post!

 

Tanya Roberts is a graduate of the Bachelor of Environmental Studies program (BES) at York University.

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Drbouz