by LAURA KEIL
Canada’s Environment Minister has endorsed a call from small island nations to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Some are shocked, since 2 degrees has typically been the goal for climate negotiations.
Why would we up the ante? Are we trying to make a point or something?
Actually, from a practical perspective, it makes perfect sense. Every climate change summit fails to meet its stated goal. So if our goal is the absolute-maximum-can’t-go-over target – where do you think that will lead us?
Canada and small islands aren’t the only ones calling for stricter targets – the European Union is calling for the same.
After all, even scientists can’t perfectly predict what will happen if global temperatures rise to two degrees or higher. Some things are certain – rain, fire and drought will increase in different areas. It will outpace many ecosystems’ ability to adapt, causing mass extinctions. Food scarcity will become a problem in many areas that dry out or suffer recurring heat waves. 2015 was already the warmest year on record.
The only shocking part of Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna call is that Canada is one of the worst offenders for carbon emissions and it would seem we need to take a greater part of the responsibility.
Based on 2014 data, we ranked #13 out of 210 countries for per capita carbon use.
That doesn’t include the carbon embedded in the products we buy from places like China.
While China produces a lot of carbon, when divided by the number of people there, it consumes four times less than Canada. In other words, Canadians consume four times as much carbon as the Chinese, and that doesn’t take into account all the emissions from products we buy from them.
In order to be fair, it means Canadians need to double down in their efforts to curb their emissions. This isn’t such a bad thing.
Fewer emissions means a healthier environment; it means healthier people due to better air quality, more walking and a more vegan diet (animal agriculture not only requires more energy per calorie, it also pollutes water and leads to deforestation for pasture).
You can bet that the cost of allowing the globe to heat up beyond 2 degrees will cost more than tackling it now.
I’m proud Canada is taking a stance. Now, are Canadians up for the challenge?