Tackling climate change: If not now, when? If not us, who?
By David Rapaport
I don’t like writing or talking about climate change. I feel like such a “gloom and doomer,” a “David Downer,” a party pooper. But how I feel is not the issue. The issue is how we produce and consume. And how these actions contribute to more carbon emission, more greenhouse gas effect, a warming of the atmosphere and more catastrophic climate events.
We have witnessed and experienced catastrophic climatic events increasingly in the past few years: record temperatures (almost 50 degrees Celsius in Lytton, B.C. in 2021), droughts, floods, more widespread and longer heat waves, the melting of the polar ice caps resulting in higher sea levels and coastal and island flooding. This threat is truly existential. And it gets worse every year. Annual average temperatures have steadily increased in Canada in the past 70 years: 1.7 degrees since 1946. According to several studies, temperature increase is much higher in Canada than the global average, concentrated in the northern regions.
It is no great secret that as we emit more carbon into the atmosphere a resulting greenhouse gas effect causes air temperatures to rise. Climate scientists estimate that a rise of two degrees will result in a doomsday scenario that cannot easily be undone.
Climate change also has local ramifications. According to a 2020 report by the Kawartha Lake Stewards Association there is high probability that in the not-distant future lake water temperature and air will rise, ice free days will increase between 42 and 90 days annually, precipitation will increase by 20 per cent along with more extreme rain events and more mid-winter thaws. Things have gotten worse since their research.
Sadly, we are conscripts to this catastrophe. As we extract and process and consume more carbon-based fuels, we contribute to the greenhouse effect. If we continue at the same or similar rates the chances that we escape catastrophe unscathed is greatly reduced. We simply kick the ball further into the future when our children and their children will have far fewer options. Conservatives frequently point out how public debt in the present becomes a burden on future generations. Delaying our action on climate change has far greater consequences for the future.
I despair as I read over the earlier paragraphs. It all seems so boring and scientific and remote. And it is so pessimistic. Yet, it is all an “inconvenient truth.” Fortunately, it is not too late to act. Think about your children and your grandchildren and the very possible predicaments in their lives. Question politicians who oppose simple measures like the carbon tax and those who reduce gasoline taxes and make it cheaper to consume carbon. It might be buying votes now but they are risking the health and safety and lives of future generations. Responsible politicians lead. They do not make false promises and denials to their constituents about real threats to our health and our safety.
Also, challenge those politicians who set carbon reduction targets that they continuously fail to meet. None of us want to be inconvenienced but what choice do we really have? Our Paris and Glasgow commitments must be met. We might have to seriously examine how we produce and how we consume. Not much fun — but what is the alternative?
–David Rapaport is a member of SCAN — Seniors for Climate Action Now.