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Climate crisis requires courage, not optimism

Climate crisis requires courage, not optimism

Heavy machinery moves dirt and debris near a snow covered forest.

The No. The No. 1 Netflix movie in recent weeks was Don’t Look UpThe fictionalized story of scientists trying to sound the alarm about a comet about to destroy Earth. The film uses the comet to remind viewers of the urgency for climate change.

Canadians don’t need to look up. The destruction caused by climate change is all around.

In 2021, we experienced a “heat dome” that At least 600 people were killed in Western Canada. There were hundreds of wildfires that followed, including one that killed a woman. The town of Lytton in British Columbia was razed to the ground.Right after the area had broken Canadian heat records, was. The British Columbian government then experienced extreme rainfall in November. Flooding widespreadThese storms destroyed homes and businesses, as well as infrastructure damage that severed all ties between coastal B.C. Canada.

This is frightening stuff. As climate researchers, we get it!

Not the first wake up call

We know that the Canadians are experiencing significant impacts. Scientists have known this since the beginning. We’re mindful that while the scale of destruction may be new for Canadians, deadly heat, flooding and wildfires fuelled by climate change have been It has been happening all over the world for some period.

As climate researchers, we’re also keenly aware that it’s going to get worse. There is no “new normal,” a phrase we’d desperately love to retire. Instead, the planet will continue warming as long we continue adding greenhouse gases to it. What is unusual today will become normal tomorrow, and so on — until we reduce emissions to net zero globally. The planet’s temperature will depend on how long it takes to get there.

Heavy machinery moves dirt and debris near a snow covered forest.
Workers are restoring the southbound lanes on the Coquihalla Highway, which were washed away in November near Hope, B.C.

Against this backdrop, we’re regularly asked in media interviews, “Is there hope?” or “Are you optimistic?” We typically offer Positive responses. After all, the flip side of the conclusion put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that it is “unequivocal” that humans are causing climate change — is that we have the power to fix it. We have so much more to do.

However, we are concerned about the fearful listeners who may take such statements as a reassurance to their fears that everything will be fine, that they can live normal lives and that someone else will fix climate change.

The necessary changes to our lives and economy won’t happen automatically by manufacturers saving money through improvements in energy efficiency. Nor will it be achieved solely through individuals voluntarily changing their diets, driving less or opting to buy “green” products. To drive safely, we need to have public policies fundamental transformationIt is about how we move, how we heat, cool, and how our consumer products are manufactured.

The political challenge

Politically, it has been difficult to adopt effective climate policies. Our failure to date is clear. decades of industry’s obfuscationClimate science and opposition to policies that increase its operating cost.

But the fault is not industry’s alone. Many Canadians have not been able to trust that climate policies such as carbon pricing, vehicle mandates, and clean energy regulations will succeed. Encouraged by carbon-intensive businesses and their Allies in politicsSome have opposed even small increases in gas and other fossil fuel energy costs.

Others are encouraged by Activists partisans to focus blame on “big polluters” (and no doubt that blame is well deserved), have resisted policies that also require change from small polluters — including households — that contribute roughly half of Canada’s emissions.

Here is our modest proposal: let’s stop asking the optimism question and instead focus on what we, as citizens, are going to do about climate change.

Cyclists riding along a bike path next to traffic in Vienna.
Canada’s emissions can be reduced with policies that target ‘big polluters,’ but also through individual actions, such as choosing to bike instead of drive to work, and encouraging politicians to make cities more bike-friendly.

Time for courage

The former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, has coined the term “stubborn optimist” to underscore that what we need is not luck but rather conscious and active commitment.

We agree, but we view the issue differently. As climate scientists have said, the issue is not one of optimism or pessimism. Kate MarvelIt is not about what the outcome will be, but whether or not we have the courage and the will to act.

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A sign for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Resource Centre is seen in front of a chemical plant.

It’s not the first time Canadians have faced such a call. Seth Klein observes this with great insight in his book. A Good WarCanada entered the Second World War without any assurance that we would win. What’s being asked of us in the climate fight today is so much less.

Continue reading:
7 lessons Canada can learn from WW2 to combat climate emergency

The benefits of taking action are also obvious. Research consistently shows that A net winner is slowing climate changeNot only in terms of human health, the environment, but also in terms jobs and the economy. To reap these benefits and ensure a fair transition, we must now make the big decisions and big upfront investments.

Engaged citizenship is required for this to happen. The good news? Engaged citizenship feels good too. People are patiently waiting at the polling stations on election day exuding a quiet sense if purpose. At climate marches, it’s remarkable how many people are smiling. It can be a great relief to move from worrying to doing something.

Believe us, we feel the anxiety and grief many feel, not just young people like our students. Climate change is here, and it’s going to get worse. It is up to us to decide how much worse. It’s time to move past seeking reassurance from others, to instead ask ourselves what we, as citizens, are going to do about it.

In uncertain times, we’ve all earned a couple hours enjoying an entertaining movie. But after that, we hope you’ll Take five minutes to write to your member or provincial member of the legislative assembly to tell them what you are doing about the climate crisis, what you are willing to do — and what you need from them.

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