Peace and Environment News, November–December 2008
by Mike Buckthought
On December 7, 2008, Canadians from coast to coast will take to the streets to urge governments to stop climate chaos. The national day of action is part of a global movement, with protests planned in many countries. Last December, thousands of Canadians joined the demonstrations, in solidarity with people marching in 80 countries around the world.
The climate crisis is the central challenge of our time. Unless we take immediate action, our planet faces a catastrophic decline in biodiversity. Climate change could lead to the loss of many of the Earth’s plant and animal species.
Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talk about some of the consequences of dangerous climate change. If the global mean annual temperature increases by 2.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, an estimated 21–52 per cent of plant and animal species could become extinct.
Climate change will also have devastating economic and health impacts, if we do not take action now. Economic losses could total trillions of dollars, and people around the world could be threatened by extreme weather events, droughts and disease. A billion people in Asia could face water shortages. Hundreds of millions of people could be threatened by famine.
During the recent election campaign, there was a focus on recent economic difficulties, and we were warned about the economic consequences of putting a price on carbon. A carbon tax would lead to economic devastation, we were told — though countries such as Sweden have thrived, with carbon taxes in place.
Not everyone has been fooled by the election rhetoric. Climate change is acknowledged to be one of the most critical challenges facing our country. According to a recent poll conducted by Strategic Communications, 71 per cent of Canadians would like all political parties to put climate change at the top of the political agenda — even with a weakening economy.
The IPCC has talked about what is needed to find a way out of the climate crisis. In order to avoid the most dangerous climate change, developed countries need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25–40 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2020. By the year 2050, emissions must be reduced 80–95 per cent below 1990 levels.
By contrast, Canada plans to reduce emissions by 3 per cent from 1990 levels, by the year 2020.
During the upcoming climate talks in Poznan, Poland, will the Canadian government show leadership, or will it continue to be a laggard, obstructing international negotiations, as it did in Bali?
Join us on December 7, to call for action on climate change. Canada needs to show leadership by committing to targets for reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, in line with the recommendations of the IPCC. Canadians must do our fair share to stop climate chaos now.
For information about protests planned during the December 7 Day of Action, contact the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition http://www.climatechaos.net.
Mike Buckthought is Sierra Club Canada’s National Climate Change Campaigner.
Published in the Peace and Environment News, Volume 23, Number 6, November–December 2008, page 8.