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Lette: We are facing a climate crisis

Lette: We are facing a climate crisis

The peak levels for carbon dioxide emissions will return in 2019

To the Expositor

The climate crisis is upon us. The pandemic caused a drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. However, they quickly recovered this year and will soon reach the peak of 2019, if not, then the highest level ever.

Antonio Guterres was the Secretary General of the United Nations. He warned us back in January 2020.

“If we are going to limit global heating to 1.5°C, we need to demonstrate, starting this year, how we will achieve emissions reductions of 45 percent from 2010 levels this decade, and how we will reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Let’s be clear.  We are in an unfolding climate emergency.”

We are heading for a massive temperature rise by the middle of the century. However, the crisis is real and we must act now. Strange as it sounds, global heating can cause more global heating, through “positive feedback loops”, otherwise known as vicious cycles, that can start rolling. In the Arctic, melting permafrost is causing one positive feedback loop, known as “arctic amplification”. Permafrost has methane in it. It melts, and the methane is released to the atmosphere, where it triggers further global heating. Another example is melting sea-ice. Sea ice is white and reflects sunlight back into space. However, when it melts, more of the sun’s rays are absorbed into the ocean, which causes more global warming. Forest fires, which also release carbon from trees, cause more global warming. These positive feedback heat loops become unstoppable once they get going.

To reduce the likelihood of these positive feedback loops and the destruction they cause, the United Nations is calling for nations to collaborate to reach “net-zero” emissions within 30 years. This means no more fossil fuels investments, which are the most human-caused contributors worldwide to global warming. It also means no more current usage reductions.

We all know about the resistance. Fossil fuel multinationals and related industries, car manufacturers, big investment firms, governments in fossil-fuel-rich regions like Alberta, families who make their living in these businesses, right down to businesses and homeowners who use fossil fuels for heating and transportation—these are aligned to prevent or delay the needed infrastructure changes. The furor in Canada over the carbon-tax-and-rebate, otherwise known as cash-back carbon pricing, is just one example of the resistance to the necessary changes in our infrastructure. Cash-back carbon pricing rebates to taxpayers amount to 90 percent of the “tax” revenue, and people who use less oil and gas actually benefit. Wealthy people tend to use more oil than lower-income people. They pay higher carbon taxes, but get the same amount as everyone else. So if you’re “for the people”, please get behind cash-back carbon pricing.

The conference on the climate crisis in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 will test the ability of the nations on this planet to collaborate to avoid the worst—the collapse of life on earth as we know it. Is the conference just another exercise in niceties, with countries playing sleight-of-hand to look good? Or will this be the turning-point that sparks a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions?

Jan McQuay


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