Climate change has arrived. Through erratic weather patterns, forest fires and glacier melt we are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Worse, the process of climate change, based on the levels of greenhouse gases we have already put in the atmosphere, is likely to increase the severity and frequency of severe weather events. If we allow levels of greenhouse gases to continue to rise, the disasters of today will be dwarfed by future catastrophic impacts.
Clearly, one of humanity’s principal challenges in this century will be to stop climate change. To do this, we must drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) – gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that trap heat in the atmosphere, raising global temperature and thereby spurring climate change.
Humans have become addicted to burning fossil fuels for energy - a principal cause of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing assault on the world’s forests through burning and cutting is also a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions. Worse still, the clearing of the forests eliminates their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, compounding the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere still more.
As early as the 1970s, scientists began to warn that humanity’s ever-increasing production of greenhouse gas emissions would change the Earth’s climate. In 1992, the world’s leaders began to heed their warnings at the Rio Summit when Canada and 186 other countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signatory countries agreed to a long-term objective to “stabilize GHG concentrations in the atmosphere.”
By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on December 17, 2002, Canada committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012.
But Kyoto is only the first step. Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions will require a reduction in global emissions of at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Sierra Club Canada believes that our common future depends on making the transition to a low-carbon, energy efficient society. We work to ensure that Canada meets and surpasses its Kyoto goals.
All countries, including Canada, must shift support from big, centralised and polluting energy sources, such as fossil fuels and nuclear power, to renewable energies, conservation and energy efficiency programs.
Over the long-term, Sierra Club Canada’s goal is to build broad public support for the transition to a low-carbon energy efficient society.