Tough Questions

Since the beginning of this class, I have been hoping to come across ideas, through my research, that I could promote to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Luckily, my classmates and I have found many such articles.

There are a great number of ideas to combat climate change, however, each of these ideas appear to be missing something fundamental: how to implement these ideas on a scale that would be meaningful to the whole world.

A few times during the course of this semester I have asked myself:

Given climate change is happening at an accelerated (exponential) rate due to human activity, what would I do if granted the ability to make changes?

After seriously imagining that I was given this ability (to make changes, for what I believe is, the good of mankind), I felt worried, although not initially.

Initially, I thought we needed to look back in time to see how things were done, and could then adopt these practices.

In no particular order:

We would need to produce locally. By producing goods locally we ensure that the emissions produced by the manufacture of these goods are at a minimum. These emissions would not add to those emissions normally required to ship goods across country or globally. We would have to strive to make nearly everything – from food to clothes, tools to toys – local. This would mean we would need new factories to produce any and all goods a local community requires. We would also need to have home gardens or farms in order to ensure that the food on our dinner tables is also free from the additional emissions.

In Canada, as shown in this GHG Pie Chart ,

80 percent of total national greenhouse gases are predominantly associated with the production or consumption of fossil fuels for energy purposes.

According to Stats Canada current 2007, emissions from the transport sector accounts for 27% of the total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Of that statistic, 69% of the GHG emissions are from personal vehicles

As well, according to the Government of Canada power generation is our largest contributor to GHG emissions directly responsible for 44% of the GHG emissions annually.

Not only would all of our goods be local, but we would have to be willing to reduce the amount of travel we do in order to limit the amount of GHG emissions we produce. Unless we are able to travel in an environmentally friendly way.

As well, we will have to reduce our dependence on electricity, unless it is coming from sustainable green technologies, due to the amount of GHG related emissions are caused from the way we generate electricity.

The pie chart below shows the breakdown of the uses of petroleum. Fuel makes up 81% of how we use petroleum. By reducing the amount of fossil fuel dependant activities we engage in, we will drastically reduce the amount of GHGs emitted. However, reducing our fossil fuel use will also reduce the number of petroleum based products that we use – such as PLASTICS, paraffin wax, lip chap, most lubricants for example.

Enacting these changes would face strong criticism. These changes will reduce the standard of living while increasing the cost of living. People will be unwilling to give up their everyday comforts such as personal vehicles, anytime electricity, and saran wrap in order to meet these requirements for reducing GHG emissions.

While doing research for my UN negotiations, I believe the world’s policy is that it is easier to force other countries that are developing to follow these green economic growth options than it is for Canada (or other nations) to step “backward” in order to meet these suggestions.

How can we deny these growing nations?

Science is showing that if we continue to pollute unchecked climate change will affect us all more negatively then it is right now. And this is why it is important for growing nations to develop the right way, without providing additional emissions to our current level.

We should lead by example. Making the changes ourselves and living in a carbon neutral way would show developing nations that life is possible in a carbon neutral society. We may be able to convince them to follow our lead.

This is when I began to feel worried.

From my research I have learnt that to be 100% confident that the temperature and GHG emission ceiling is reached, the world needs a forced recession.

Changes like this would mean an increase in the cost of living, which would translate into an increase in poverty. An increase in poverty could lead to an increase in starvation, and an increase illness, and ultimately an increase in deaths.

A government’s purpose is to serve and protect the people it governs. If the government taxes its citizens in order to support schools, highways, or other social welfare programs, there is both a moral an economic responsibility to one another in a society. Therefore it is the responsibility of government to ensure that their people are not poor, starving, and dying.

A lot of people, including myself, are asking – why are our governments appearing to do nothing to fix or mitigate the climate change issue? Why is Canada continuing to emit GHGs when science is telling us the dangers in doing so?

The governments of the world are aware about the threat climate change will bring. Science points to the expansion of deserts due to soil warming which reduces soil moisture, the suppressed rainfall in the subtropics due to Hadley circulation, the damage to marine life due to acidification and rising temperatures, the loss of coastal areas,  and ultimately the loss of human life ALL due to climate change.

However, there is not one government that will force its people into depression. Because it is the governments job to prevent the depression and starvation of its people.

Everyone has a right to life…

Even if we do not agree with how the government is working they are doing what we are asking them to do. Provide jobs, so that we can afford to eat, get medical help and survive.

Which government is going to sign the document, making the changes I suggested laws? Creating laws such as those could figuratively sentence a portion of the population to death.

However, continuing the way we are does not make sense to me either, unless our goal is ecocide. Climate change will affect us in ways we are aware of – expanding deserts, reduction in available freshwater, damaged oceans – on top of the ways we cannot predict.

For me the questions are,

  • Sentence a portion of our population to die now? (Because of poverty and starvation)
  • Continue the way we are now and kill nearly everyone later? (Because of the irreversible effects of climate change)
  • Who wants to be the first person to sign that document?
But we do not need to ask these questions if we have a fundamental shift in culture. If we learn to live with and want less, for example. If we want to make changes, or at least changes like these, we can avert irreversible environmental damage.
It will not be easy. We will need to be re-educated in things like farming and tool manufacture.
It is possible.
We can do this!

Let’s work together!

-Shalackma

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About shalackma

University of Guelph Bio-Med Undergrad
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