How do we change our behaviour to address climate change?

2018 MSE Graphic

At past Summits we looked at some of the science that will be required to change how we can interact with the natural world in a more sustainable manner. John Smol, a Summit speaker, states that “When the research has helped us see where we’ve come from, we are able to better answer the question ‘Where are we going?’” At the 2018 Summit we want to be guided by the science and explore how we need to live on the earth differently.

The 2016 Summit looked at Climate Change. Climate has been changing for many decades, because humans have been emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases, increasing the extent to which heat is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Smol has watched the Arctic change, and change fast, and has gathered ample evidence to show that human greenhouse gas emissions are a major culprit.

Much of the High Arctic’s freshwater bodies are shallow ponds, and because ice is off so much longer now, there’s more time for evaporation,” Smol says. “Some ecosystems are totally disappearing. It’s hard to watch.

The many consequences of our carbon-based society are now becoming obvious, and urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of warming. Transitioning to a low-emissions world is a significant challenge, but it also offers excellent opportunities for investment, innovation, job creation, and enhanced quality of life for Canadians. One example would be, how do we change the transportation sector and how do we move goods and commute as we move away from carbon-based fuels?

In the communiqué from the 2016 Summit, there was a call for Canada to take a three-pronged approach:
   1. Put a nation-wide price on carbon,
   2. Improve energy efficiency and use of clean energy in our economy, and
   3. Protect the vast carbon sinks in our forests and wetlands.

Carbon Pricing – The Federal Government has worked with the Provincial governments to put a price on carbon. Some provinces have moved forward and have a cap and trade or defined price program in place. However, there is not national implementation of a carbon pricing scheme and business and industry are balking at what they perceive as additional costs to production.

How do we restore our relationship with the natural world in the manufacturing and business world? Can we keep producing goods at the same rate? We live in a finite world with finite resources and we need to rethink our economic structure. This is a challenge we will face in the coming decades.

Energy Efficiency – We are starting to see the building of major infrastructure with increased efficiency and this is a good thing. This will continue where governments make the clean infrastructure investments needed to facilitate active transport, public transit, and energy efficient buildings. As individuals we also need to more fully embrace conservation and reject our consumer-based society.

Well-designed feed-in tariff programs are incentives that encourage individuals or businesses to install small-scale solar or wind generation units and feed production into the grid. Canada’s electricity supply, dominated by hydroelectric and nuclear generation, is already largely emissions-free, and a combination of feed-in tariff programs and targeted clean infrastructure investments in power generation could eliminate use of fossil fuel in electricity generation in Canada by 2025.

In general, we are working toward the use of more clean energy sources and more energy efficient construction. Continued advancement in energy efficiency will be a key part of how we restore our relationship with the natural world.

Protected Areas – The changing climate is already causing landscape changes that risk destroying substantial natural carbon sinks in Canada. Rising temperatures and reduced precipitation are increasing the risk of wildfire across Canada, and past land management has left forests more vulnerable to fire. An increase in the annual forest area burned risks turning our vast boreal forest into a major carbon emissions source instead of a carbon sink. As well, warming in the Arctic risks turning our peatlands into another potent source of carbon emissions as methane is liberated.

Our current government is committed to meeting its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. By 2020, it is proposed that at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas, will be conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

How do we move from where we are now to become a nation aggressively, yet optimistically, tackling the problem of carbon emissions reduction? This will not happen by half measures, and it will fail dismally unless the vast majority of our people and all our communities are on board.

Canada needs continued political will at all levels to see real gain on the climate front. James Gordon, a Summit speaker, states that we should “use local political engagement as a way to make global change from a grassroots community level.

The strongest action taken by any citizen is to engage in public debate, understand the position of each political party, and vote accordingly.

Join us at MSE 2018 Restoring our Relationship with the Natural World on May 24-25 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge.

What are your thoughts on how we can change our behaviour to address climate change?
Join the conversation by sharing your ideas in the comments below or on the MSE Event Page on Facebook.

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