• James Armstrong

Climate crisis presentation rings the global warming alarm in Hudson


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Earth Scientist Dr. Heather A. Short emphasized the need for a rapid change in human behaviours to reduce the dangers of climate change.

Climate Crisis 101 came to Hudson on Monday, August 12 with an alarming message regarding the need to act now to deal with the disastrous effects of global warming.

It was a presentation of the basic scientific facts of the climate crisis by Dr. Heather A. Short, Earth Scientist and Educator from John Abbott College, and sponsored by the Hudson Food Collective. Short also included ideas and commentary on the psychology of inaction, what to expect in our lifetime, and what to do about the climate crisis. The event that drew an audience of approximately 100 took place at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre.

Need for a stable climate

“Everything depends on a stable climate,” said Short at the beginning of her presentation. The culprit at the heart of the climate crisis is the release of carbon (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. The release of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere has caused a dramatic increase in Earth’s surface temperature according to the presentation. It’s the single most powerful control of Earth’s climate. Everything we know and take for granted including the economy, social systems, food, and access to potable water all depend on a stable climate.

“Things are more serious than you think,” said Short pointing out that July, 2019 was the hottest recorded month in human history on the planet. Given the current carbon emissions including present efforts to comply with global CO2 reductions, the average surface air temperature will increase by four degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is urging the world to stay below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This means reducing carbon emissions by 45 per cent within 11 years or by 2030.

“Canada has already warmed by two degrees,” said Short emphasizing the IPCC is a very conservative group of scientists from around the globe and their statement regarding a 1.5 degree increase is also conservative.

Predicted warming not linear

The IPCC temperature estimate does not include the addition of possible warming feedbacks that would increase the warming effect. A positive feedback, for example, is a cycle that happens when the surface air temperature rises, permafrost melts, methane gas is released, and the air temperature increases. The impact of a warmer climate worldwide will produce food shortages, increases in the spread of disease, political upheaval, and violence.

“This is an emergency,” said Short. “We have 18 months to make laws to reduce carbon emissions.” The problem is having the political will to make the systemic changes required and to do it in time. Short made the point that we are headed for serious economic problems. Transportation is one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis. Unfortunately, Canada’s vehicles are ranked as the worst for fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the world. Canadians produce three times more greenhouse gas emissions than the G20 average. Suburban sprawl where residents drive everywhere tends to cancel out the carbon footprint savings of dense urban cores where people walk or use public transportation.

Window of opportunity

Short encouraged her audience to speak with their friends, family and wider social circles about the situation in a compassionate, non-judgmental way. Denial is a normal human reaction to a global problem. The psychological climate paradox, according to Short, is the more information we have about climate change, the less we do about it especially in wealthy, English-speaking countries. There is a need to be innocent about recognizing a troubling situation. Self-interest, status, social imitation and risk vividness tend to lead us to ignore global warming and climate change. Risk vividness refers to how we perceive risk. Terrorist attacks, gun crime, and bird flu cause public outrage and are perceived to be high risk possibilities as opposed to climate change which is an actual hazard. Attitudes and behaviours are not changed by information alone. What is required are simple actions (meaning everything counts), positive framing of the situation and support for changing social norms.

Natural climate solutions

Restoring natural ecosystems and forest restoration are the top climate change solutions, according to the presentation. One third of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that need to be withdrawn from the atmosphere between now and 2030 can be provided through natural climate solutions. Maintaining existing wetlands and restoring damaged wetlands is important. Halting the destruction of forests, peat lands and wetlands, that store huge amounts of carbon and can absorb more if left undisturbed, have to happen.

Regenerative agriculture

This type of agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring carbon content, which improves productivity. Regenerative agriculture also focuses on no tillage, diverse cover crops, in-farm fertility, no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations.

Change behaviours

Short strongly encouraged everyone to change everyday behaviours to carbon-zero behaviours. At the same time, act collectively to lower carbon emissions by consuming less of everything. The goal is to build a culture and community of climate awareness and stewardship because the world is changing.

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