Futile to ignore manmade climate change

With the Copenhagen climate negotiations commencing in December, it is important that Canada does not repeat past performances as a laggard on the issue of climate change mitigation.

As political leaders make their way north to emphasize Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, the North would be better used as an example of why Canada should care more about climate change.

The science of climate change is rarely debated anymore. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international Nobel Peace Prize winning organization, has stated that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. An interim goal for most nations is a reduction of 25 to 40 per cent by 2020.

Our leaders obviously do not see the severity of the situation, as Canada’s current goal is a cut of three per cent by 2020.

For the general public, it’s understandable that number campaigns such as 350.org (the reasonable amount of carbon dioxide that should be in the atmosphere, as opposed to the current 386 parts per million) or 2 degrees (if the planet warms more than 2 degrees, the effects will be catastrophic) might be difficult to comprehend; politicians should be enlightened enough as to understand the magnitude of these problems.

As residents of southern Ontario, we might already be experiencing climate change, mostly in the form of extreme weather events which could’ve been a factor in the unexpected tornado that hit Durham on August 21.

Canada’s North has more difficultly in such escapism: energy is harder to procure and living costs are already expensive.

I began to fully comprehend this imbalance when I visited Inuvik, Northwest Territories, for the Young Leaders’ Summit on Northern Climate Change this August.

Across the globe it is those who have the least control over climate change that will feel the greatest effects. Canadians who depend on the land directly will be most affected by these changes, Northerners especially so.

Much research is being done with scientific evidence that sea ice is receding and that the thawing of permafrost could affect carbon levels, but the personal hardships and experiences from both elders and youth that I was able to hear were much more compelling.

It was difficult for me to sit and listen to my new friends speak about close community members falling to their death through the ice. The ice was once sturdy and safe, but is no longer predictable.

Or, to hear elders like Charlie Snowshoe discuss how species from the south are moving north and those from the north are moving south; this makes for new difficulties and challenges in hunting, which has been the way of life in many communities for centuries.

Furthermore, more than one elder community member commented that “the meat tastes funny,” which could mean troublesome changes with certain species.

This signals a future problem with the already many health implications from a shift in reliance on hunting to processed food.

Sometimes the severity of these issues is extremely difficult to comprehend, as the Earth goes through natural cycles and ecosystems change over time; Charlie Snowshoe understood this, yet commented, “I don’t call it climate change. I call it man-made change.”

There is no doubt that man-made climate change is occurring, and it is up to our government to join with other world leaders to implement strong regulations that will cut greenhouse gas emissions.

If these policies are not put in place, the North as we know it will be devastated.

Perhaps instead of focusing on military strategy when Stephen Harper and other politicians visit the North, stories of community members should be heard and discussed.

The facts are there, and these personal tales of change and death prove that climate change is happening now.

As citizens of southern Canada, we should use all our resources to reduce our emissions on personal and industrial levels.

If we don’t, it’s not just the polar bears that will suffer; it’s the people, too.