Monday, September 16, 2019

Canada Votes: Why the War against Climate Change is the Key Issue in the 2019 Federal Election

There are a host of important issues confronting Canadians in the 2019 federal elections but none have more far reaching consequences than the existential threat posed by climate crisis.

Man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are warming the Earth and breaking heat records.  Scientists warn that unchecked emissions have catastrophic implications for human health and the economy. Climate impacts include food insecurity, flooding, storms, heat waves and wildfires. The UN has warned that climate-fueled disasters are now a weekly phenomenon and this will continue to augur unprecedented biodiversity loss as the climate continues to warm.

According to the most recent science we are running out of time to act. We have less than a decade to reign-in emissions or risk the prospect of triggering tipping points and runaway climate change. Some estimates suggest that we have as little as four years before it is too late.

As a top ten emitter of GHGs and one of the largest per capita emitters in the world Canada has a responsibility to act. However, Canada is currently not doing anywhere near enough to keep temperatures from surpassing the upper threshold limit (1.5 - 2 C) agreed upon in the Paris Climate deal.

According to the IPCC to stay within the prescribed temperature limits Canada must significantly reduce its GHG emissions. As compared to a 2005 baseline Canada must reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030, 80 percent by 2050 and zero out in the second half of the century.

Canada has pledged to reduce its emissions 30 percent by 2030.  Although there are viable pathways to achieve the required emission reductions a recent report reveals that Canada is not on track to achieve its own substandard goal.

Another recent report made it clear that climate change is a Canadian problem.  According to research commissioned by the federal Treasury Board climate change is a serious threat to infrastructure, coastal communities and people of the north. The Council of Canadian Academies conducted the research. Other climate impacts cited by this research are human health, ecosystems (fisheries), agriculture (food), forestry, geopolitical unrest, governance, Indigenous traditions and water. 

Canada is already witnessing its share of climate impacts. In 2019 alone we have seen record breaking heat including high ocean temperatures and unprecedented Arctic warming.  As illustrated by yet another recent report much of the warming is already locked in. Even if we see more serious emissions reductions efforts the Arctic will be mostly free of ice by the summer of 2050.

Former Canadian UN ambassador Stephen Lewis and esteemed environmentalist David Suzuki are encouraging people to get out and vote. They said we need to motivate people to tackle climate change and declare war on greenhouse gas emissions.

"It becomes an issue that is no longer a partisan issue of whether the right or left have the right policy," said Suzuki. "It's now something we have to embrace as a nation. We have to address it as if it's war."

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