Decisive climate solutions needed now

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

When our children and grandchildren and those of us still here in 20 years look back to this time, will we say it was when the world finally got serious about the climate crisis? Or will we mark a tragic time when political and business leaders prioritized short-term economic gain over the future of humanity?

Listening to Canada’s minister of environment and climate change respond on the radio to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, didn’t raise my hopes… [as] the government representative who should know the most about climate issues repeated numerous debunked and false talking points.

She floated the excuse for inaction I’ve been hearing for at least 30 years: “We aren’t going to get off fossil fuels overnight.” She skirted around a question about the climate impacts of burning the increasing amounts of bitumen government plans to ship to foreign markets. She touted Canada’s biggest fossil fuel venture – a $40-billion, foreign-owned liquefied natural gas project – as a “climate solution” because it could replace coal power. That’s despite research and advice from scientists about how the project impedes meeting our climate targets, the substantial and underreported release of the potent greenhouse gas methane from LNG and fracking, and the fact that LNG is as likely to slow renewable energy development as to replace coal-fired power.

She also repeated the tired refrain of politicians from across the spectrum, that economic considerations are as important as environmental ones…

It could be worse [as shown by] the US president’s response to the IPCC report: “I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”

The IPCC special report, prepared by 91 researchers from 40 countries and based on more than 6,000 scientific resources, is clear: “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Temperatures have already risen close to 1 C.

The report warns we have about 12 years to act decisively if we are to avoid a dramatic increase in impacts we’re already experiencing: extreme weather events, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice and subsequent feedback loops that accelerate warming, and ecosystem collapse among them.

The IPCC report lays out numerous solutions, including “shifting to low-or zero-emission power generation, such as renewables; changing food systems, such as diet changes away from land-intensive animal products; electrifying transport and developing ‘green infrastructure’ such as building green roofs or improving energy efficiency by smart urban planning, which will change the layout of many cities.”

Will we and our elected leaders heed these dire warnings and start facilitating and implementing solutions at the pace required to forestall disaster? Or will we continue to abuse this small planet that gives us life until it’s too late? It’s time to decide and to hold all politicians to account.

Excerpted from the original article. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

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