Acting locally can help fight climate change
Personal actions take more than a call to your councillor — here’s how you can help
NASA just released the 2016 data; average global temperature was the hottest on record in 2016 and 16 of the last 17 years have been the highest in recorded history.
Greenhouse gas emissions have sent atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 405 parts per million, 45 per cent higher than the preindustrial levels.
How we can do more to combat climate change?
While federal and provincial governments are developing large-scale programs, what can we do closer to home?
At Environment Hamilton we are often asked that question and have two responses — community action and personal action.
Our community actions have focused on advocating for four campaigns in the past year. You can help by urging your councillor to support them.
Protect the Greenbelt from urban sprawl: more compact urban form reduces transport emissions and protects agricultural land. We’ve campaigned locally to keep lands in the Greenbelt and recent provincial announcements have agreed.
Help home energy conservation: we conceived our HERO program — Home Energy Retrofit Opportunity — in which we have asked city council to provide low-interest loans to allow homeowners to borrow cash from the city to pay the upfront retrofitting costs and attach the loan to the property so it can be repaid over time through extra property tax. Meanwhile the energy savings for the homeowner would cover the extra payment. City staff is currently examining this program, which has been successful in other municipalities.
Charge fair fees for storm water management: Hamilton’s storm water management costs have doubled in 10 years. We’ve seen large floods in recent years with severe consequences for some homeowners. We are the only municipality in Ontario that pays for storm water through household water bills. Large impervious surface properties like parking lots and malls contribute significantly to flooding, but pay little or nothing. Should homeowners keep footing the bill or should it be spread across all property owners based on their contribution to run-off ? We think council should revisit their decisions to do nothing on this; we are campaigning for fair fees for storm water.
Fix the HSR: Transportation is one of the largest causes of emissions and quality transit is an investment in the well-being of a community. Because it is underfunded, transit usage has declined in Hamilton, unlike most other communities in the GTHA. Hamilton’s investment in the HSR budget relative to inflation has been steadily shrinking. City council needs to properly fund HSR. One ready source of funds is federal and municipal gas taxes, but council spends most of this on road building rather than transit.
Personal actions take more than a phone call to your councillor. They take effort and may hurt a little, but they represent how lifestyles need to change if we are to have any effect on climate change.
Shop less, live more: 60 to 80 per cent of our impact on the planet comes from household consumption. We need to buy fewer non-essentials and focus on the personal relationships that bring us life satisfaction. Plus, simplification reduces our debt load and stress level.
Think local: When we do buy, supporting the local economy reduces impact on the planet and grows local jobs and security. Buying local grows more skills, resources and opportunity close to home. Local food is fresher and healthier too!
Eat lower on the food chain: Food systems (including transportations and processing) represent a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. If we were all vegetarian, we would cut those emissions by 63 per cent. Just restricting our meat intake to the Canada Food Guide would drop food system emissions by 29 per cent. And lower-impact diets are healthier as well.
Drive less: Public transit, walking and cycling are the best choices for us and the planet. Car sharing and carpooling make more efficient use of resources when 85 per cent of car trips are still single occupancy. Hamilton’s car-share program can get you access to wheels when you need them without the big expense of owning your own.
Rethink air travel: The average Canadian creates 2.2 tons of carbon emissions driving for a year and 3 tons eating our typical diet. One return trip from Canada to Europe creates 5.5 tons of emissions. Consider local vacations and staycations — save your money and spend the rest locally to benefit the community and the planet.
Engage with your city: Individual action is not enough. Cities hold the key to meaningful action on climate change with power to both reduce emissions causing the problem and help neighbourhoods be resilient in the face of change.
So climate change isn’t a reason to despair, it’s a reason to take action and an opportunity to make things better.
Contact us via Facebook or at environmenthamilton.org to learn more about what you can do and be part of making Hamilton a better place to live.
An aerial photo from NASA shows sea ice, melt ponds and areas of open water in the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists reported that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016. The heat extremes were especially pervasive in the Arctic.