Current global crisis throwing shadows over humanity’s peril

The only answer is drastic reduction in our fossil fuel use

To the Expositor:

The world is now facing multiple crises, one piled upon the other. With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine causing oil shortages and rising energy prices, it’s easy to forget other perils which still demand urgent action. Many of these are related to the climate crisis, which is caused by our greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, the planet is only 1.1 ºC warmer than it was 150 years ago when fossil fuels transformed civilization. 1.1 ºC seems like a such a small number it’s hard to grasp the disastrous consequences that are occurring and will occur for both wildlife and humanity. Records are being broken. Hurricanes are stronger, a wobbling Arctic jet stream gives us extreme temperatures, sea levels are rising about an inch every eight years contributing to coastal flooding, glaciers are melting, Arctic sea ice is disappearing, and the list goes on.

Fires and drought alone have been devastating in recent years. In British Columbia, no one can forget the fires that burned 8,700 square kilometres including the town of Lytton last summer. That is three-and-a-half times the land mass of Manitoulin. Meanwhile, in Siberia unprecedented wildfires burned across 150,000 square kilometres. Fires destroyed 6,000 square kilometres in Argentina this winter. In Australia massive bushfires have destroyed 180,000 square kilometres since 2019, killing or severely harming three billion animals by July 2020. In Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, three consecutive failed rainy seasons are causing a humanitarian crisis.

On Manitoulin we are fortunate to be surrounded by Lake Huron, which moderates our temperatures. Unlike people living in many cities along sea coasts, we are not impacted by the double whammy of rising oceans and sinking land. Warmer water temperatures do affect our cold-water fish by squeezing them into smaller areas at the bottom of lakes where oxygen levels are poor, especially in late summer. Less ice cover also affects deep water oxygen levels by lengthening the time between spring and fall overturns. But we’ve been largely spared.

Our good fortune locally is no reason to ignore the perils of climate change already impacting other parts of the world. The United Nations’ Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), Hoesung Lee, issued this warning after their latest report, “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our well-being and a healthy planet.”

The answer is clear: drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels now! We all know what is required: reduce energy use and switch to clean alternatives, like solar panels, and hybrid and electric vehicles. Check out subsidy programs for home retrofits. Renovate instead of building new. Reuse. Waste less. Buy local.

Demands for more government subsidies for oil and gas, and GST holidays on fossil fuel products are, in the end, destructive because they encourage people to burn more oil and gas, producing more greenhouse gas emissions. One litre of gasoline produces 2.3 kilograms of greenhouse gases. One return trip to Sudbury from Mindemoya in a car that consumes 10 litres per 100 km produces about 77 kilograms of greenhouse gases. That’s just one trip!

When our government representatives introduce and stick to policies and programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are showing courage by putting the longer term interests of humanity first, even at risk of a backlash from a few of their constituents who don’t take the climate crisis seriously.

Jan McQuay