UN report comes amid B.C.’s ‘summer of reckoning’ with climate change: advocate


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With a heatwave that killed hundreds, followed by raging wildfires that have destroyed communities and forced thousands to flee their homes — people in British Columbia are experiencing what one advocate describes as a “summer of reckoning” with the climate emergency.

Amid these extreme weather events locally, UN chief Antonio Guterres says a landmark study released Monday amounts to a global “‘code red’ for humanity.”

Seth Klein, a Vancouver-based author and team lead with the Climate Emergency Unit, describes the report as “pretty terrifying,” and an undeniable indictment of the status quo.

“It’s another reminder that we’re on borrowed time. All of the most serious warnings you can find were in that report. We are closing in on tipping points at which point you get these runaway effects. Scientists were unequivocal in a call to arms,” he explains.

“What the scientists said is, there is no part of the world that will be spared. Those of us in British Columbia, we all know that now because we are having our summer of reckoning with the climate emergency. What the scientists are saying is — this isn’t the new normal, this is just a taste of what’s to come if we don’t we’ll get serious about this.”

The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which calls climate change clearly human-caused and “unequivocal,” says Earth is heating up so quickly due to human activity that temperatures in about a decade will blow past a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent. The 3,000-plus-page report from 234 scientists said warming is already accelerating sea-level rise and worsening extremes such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and storms.

Related video: 

While individuals can and should “decarbonize” their lives by changing how they get around and what they consume, Klein says the issues raised in the report should be top of mind for every single Canadian when they next go to the polls because government action remains imperative.

“In the end, this is a collective problem requiring collective solutions, and that means it’s political. This report should be the dominant issue in the forthcoming federal election, he says.

“The most important thing that we can do as individuals is to reflect this report and the urgency of its message back to our political leaders provincially and federally and say, ‘Show us that you get it, that you understand that this is an emergency.'”

Gutteres also described the report as one that “must sound the death knell for coal and fossil fuels” internationally.

Klein says the message to Canada is clear.

“What this means is that we can’t have new fossil fuel projects, and yet we have a federal government, and a provincial government that is continuing to approve new fossil fuel infrastructure. Every time they do that now, they are doing so in defiance of the world’s top scientists and the UN.”

RELATED: ‘Nowhere to run’: UN report says global warming nears limits

Klein says the argument that projects like the Trans Mountain Expansion generate revenue that can be used to invest in fighting climate change is “ridiculous, and the time where it was acceptable to have a long-term plan to transition away from fossil fuels has passed.

“The timeline to continue to expand fossil fuels in order to finance getting off of them sometime down the road, those days are over — it’s the 11th hour now,” he says.

In British Columbia, Klein says there are a few things the government can and should do immediately to show they are heeding the dire warnings in the report.

An immediate halt to subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, prohibiting new buildings that rely on gas or other fossil fuels, and moving up the timeline for a transition to electric vehicles to 2025 from 2040. A ban on fossil fuel advertising is another thing Klein thinks could go a long way to changing consumer behaviour, while sending a message that profiting off of fossil fuels is no longer tolerable.

“These are the sorts of things that would signal that our governments get that it’s an emergency,” Klein says, noting that the amount of emergency aid approved during just one week of the COVID-19 pandemic was the same as is spent on fighting climate change in an entire year.

RELATED: B.C. heatwave a sign of things to come, warns climate advocacy group

Polling suggests climate change is taking hold as a key issue in the lead up to an anticipated 2021 federal election. A recent Angus Reid survey shows the environment and climate change tied with healthcare as the issue Canadians care most about, which doesn’t come as a surprise to Klein.

“All emergencies begin with a period of denial, you know whether it was World War Two or the pandemic or the climate emergency. We all spend a period of time in denial, and then there’s this combination of events and leadership that shifts the Zeitgeist and brings us all into emergency mode,” he explains.

“These extreme weather events — those are those events. The terrain of public opinion is already shifting, now we just need the political leadership to catch up.”

With files from The Associated Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today