Devastating climate change on our doorstep
driving into downtown Montreal during tuesday’s evening rush hour was sobering.
the sun was setting on a gorgeous day that shattered a 60-year temperature record as cars inched along. this typical gridlock was an ominous reminder, both of the catastrophe facing our planet and the vast effort it will take to alter our fate.
a day before, a United Nations climate scientist group’s report warned the devastating impact of human-caused climate change will hit us sooner — and at a lower threshold — than previously known.
earlier that day, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante urged premierdesignate François legault to make fighting global warming Quebec’s top priority.
by 2040, the world could see rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, scarcer food and water, increased poverty, extinction of many species and a mass die-off of coral, according to the intergovernmental Panel on climate change report. all this will occur if emissions continue at their present pace with a 1.5 c rise in global temperatures over preindustrial levels.
that’s well within my lifetime, and my daughters will be 25 and 30 when that doomsday arrives. how old will you, your kid or grandkids be?
climate change scientists believe disaster can be averted. but it will require rapid, radical change in the world economy, global energy consumption and human activity for which there are “no documented precedents,” the iPcc warned.
Obviously, saving the planet and sparing humanity much suffering must be a massive, co-ordinated, global effort. the prospects for this seem dire. the U.s., the world’s second-biggest polluter, is quitting the Paris agreement, loosening vehicle emissions standards and ramping up coal power again — the opposite of what needs to happen. as revealed in the Guardian, the carbon Majors report found 100 corporations responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions. in canada, too, most provinces are pushing back against Ottawa’s carbon pricing plan, leaving few with an actual emissioncurbing strategy.
but the sisyphean task ahead must not deter us.
the good news for Quebec is we already have renewable energy in our abundant hydro power. Montreal has a soon-to-be unveiled strategy to become carbon neutral by 2050. Quebec is part of a cap-and-trade carbon market with california.
as Plante noted, one of Quebec’s biggest climate change battles will be transportation.
Nationally, transportation accounts for a quarter of total emissions, with passenger vehicles — cars, light trucks and motorcycles — responsible for about half of that. With census data showing migration to exurbs farther from city centres, more people are driving. For Quebec to do its part, it must get people out of cars.
as citizens, we can try to drive less, take transit when possible or buy electric vehicles. those efforts may seem tiny next to industrial emissions, but “demand-side mitigation and behavioural changes” are part of the solution, the iPcc said. Our choices as consumers, investors and voters are needed to help tame corporate behemoths.
but the big changes will have to be made as a society. Government must reign in development, invest massively in transit and speed electrification of transportation. legault vowed to widen highways to suburbs that elected him, but he should include reserved bus and carpool lanes, long-distance bike corridors and light rail.
We can’t keep whistling through the graveyard when it comes to climate change. the longer we dither, the more dire our future becomes.
as Plante said tuesday: “We have to act now.”