Doing Nothing Isn’t an Option: How to Avoid the Worst of Climate Change
It’s fitting that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released during Earth Month. After all, the third chapter of its Fifth Assessment focuses on ways to keep our planet healthy and livable by warding off extreme climatic shifts and weather events caused by escalating atmospheric carbon.
Doing so will require substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions–40 to 70 percent by 2050 and to near-zero by the end of the century. We must also protect carbon “sinks” such as forests and wetlands and find ways to store or bury carbon. The good news is that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, conserving energy and shifting to cleaner sources comes with economic and quality-of-life benefits.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said economist Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working Group III, which produced the chapter.
Doing nothing isn’t an option. That would lead to a significant increase in global average temperatures and extreme weather-related events such as storms, droughts and floods, wreaking havoc on our food systems, communities and the natural environment we depend on for our health and survival. Technological measures and behavioral change could limit global mean temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, but only with “major institutional and technological change.”
Because we’ve stalled so long, thanks largely to deceptive campaigns run by a small but powerful group of entrenched fossil fuel industry interests and the intransigence of some short-sighted governments, we must also consider ways to adapt to climate change that’s already occurring and that we can’t stop.
Although carbon emissions are rising faster than efforts to curtail them, there are glimmers of hope. A growing number of networks–including cities, states, regions and even markets–are working together to implement climate plans. And costs of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, are falling so quickly that large-scale deployment is practical. Putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions through carbon taxes or other methods is one critical way to shift investment from fossil fuels to renewables.
Carbon-intensive fossil fuel economies will suffer as renewable energy technologies mature–especially those relying heavily on coal and unconventional oil such as bitumen from tar sands. Canada’s choice: take advantage of the growing worldwide demand for clean energy technology, transit infrastructure and sustainable building techniques or continue to focus on selling our non-renewable resources at bargain-basement prices until climate and food-system destabilization swamps global markets and the world rejects Canada’s high-carbon fuels.
The IPCC found responsibly addressing climate change by pricing carbon and making needed investments is affordable: ambitious mitigation would reduce economic growth by just .06 percent a year. That’s not taking into account the many economic benefits of reducing climate change–from less spending on health and disease to reduced traffic congestion and increased activity in the clean-energy sector. Considering the costs and losses climate change and extreme weather impose on our cities, communities and food systems, we can’t afford not to act.
A clean energy revolution is already underway and, as the world comes to grips with the need to change, it will inevitably spread. As Canadians, we can choose to join or remain stuck in the past. Tackling global warming will require all nations to get on board. That’s because greenhouse gases accumulate and spill over national boundaries. And, according to the IPCC, “International cooperation can play a constructive role in the development, diffusion and transfer of knowledge and environmentally sound technologies.”
As a policy-neutral scientific and socioeconomic organization, the IPCC doesn’t make specific recommendations, but it reviews the available science and spells out in clear, albeit technical, terms that if we fail to act, the costs and losses to our homes, food systems and human security will only get worse.
It’s been seven years since the fourth assessment report in 2007. We can’t wait another seven to resolve this crisis. As nations gear up to for the twenty-first climate summit in Paris in late 2015, where the world’s governments have pledged to reach a universal legal climate agreement, international co-operation is needed more than ever. Let’s urge our government to play a constructive role in this critical process.
With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.