Tackling Climate Change Requires Healing the Divide
Canadian climate change opinion is polarized, and research shows the divide is widening. The greatest predictor of people's outlook is political affiliation. This means people's climate change perceptions are being increasingly driven by divisive political agendas rather than science and concern for our collective welfare.
Over the past year, the Alberta Narratives Project gathered input from a broad range of Albertans (teachers, faith groups, health professionals, farmers, artists, industry, environmentalists, etc.) to better understand how they feel about public discourse on global warming. Participants said they want less blame and a more open, balanced and respectful conversation. Many don't see themselves in the conversation at all. No one is speaking to them, using language that reflects their values and identity.
Albertans are deeply divided in their climate change perceptions. In 2017, just over half the population was doubtful or dismissive. When an issue is highly polarized, people find it difficult to discuss. The Alberta Narratives Project found people rarely, if ever, speak to others about climate change.
Climate disruption is a collective threat, not just an environmental issue. We must all see ourselves as part of the effort to prevent extreme impacts and ensure sustainable, resilient communities. But how can we take shared action when we can't even talk to each other about the problem?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent report calls for action to limit warming to 1.5 C to reduce the risk of increasing extreme weather events, prevent catastrophic species loss, decrease numbers of climate refugees and protect human health and resilience.
It's an urgent warning. After examining more than 6,000 scientific studies, the IPCC was clear: We must cut harmful carbon emissions by at least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reduce them to net zero by 2050 by cutting emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Rising populist politics are weaponizing climate action as a wedge issue for political advantage—with tragic implications.
How can we reverse this?
Recently, Regina's council unanimously passed a motion to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, a meaningful target in line with the international Paris Agreement and the most recent IPCC report. Victoria has adopted the same target.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wrote that "to solve the climate challenge, we have to weave a strong social fabric, to build on the gifts, assets and talents of our friends, neighbors and colleagues. It means we have to shift our thinking from me to we, from now to the long term."
In March, Edmonton partnered with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for the Change for Climate Global Mayors Summit. They developed the Edmonton Declaration, asking signatories to recognize the urgent need for action that will limit global warming to 1.5 C.
The city's video says, "Let's come together and lead the charge against climate change. Let's show the world how much we love our city and our planet. Let's change our neighbors' minds. Change our habits. Change the world. Each of us needs to do whatever we can. Whatever we do, we have to do it now. Because if we don't change anything, climate will change everything."
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is also crucial.
Dene elder François Paulette said, "First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action."
To tackle climate change, we must heal the divide and act—as individuals, families, neighbors, communities and societies.
Wherever you see yourself on the political spectrum, whether you identify as rural or urban, youth or elder, the time for foot-dragging is over. Each of us must join together with others to address climate change, and demand meaningful action from political representatives. All parties must commit. We must call out those who stall or prevent solutions to serve their own self-interest and political agendas.
We can't afford to wait.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.