Act­ing lo­cally can help fight cli­mate change

Per­sonal ac­tions take more than a call to your coun­cil­lor — here’s how you can help

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - DAVE CAR­SON Dave Car­son lives in Dun­das and is a board mem­ber with En­vi­ron­ment Hamil­ton.

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 en­vi­ron­men­thamil­ 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.

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