I have been struggling with how to address this next topic and on October 31st, I listened to Boris Johnson’s welcome speech to delegates at COP26. I think he says better than anything I could come up with to describe the critical need for action now, so I start this article with his opening lines.
Welcome to COP, welcome to Glasgow and to Scotland whose most globally famous fictional son is almost certainly a man called James Bond who generally comes to the climax of his highly lucrative films strapped to a doomsday device desperately trying to work out which coloured wire to pull to turn it off while a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it and we are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today except that the tragedy is that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real and the clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and turbines and furnaces and engines with which we are pumping carbon into the air faster and faster- record outputs and quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2 raising the temperature of the planet with a speed and an abruptness that is entirely manmade and we know what the scientists tell us and we have learned not to ignore them 2 degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people as crops wither, locusts swarm 3 degrees and you can add more wildfires and cyclones – twice as many of them, five times as many droughts and 36 times as many heatwaves 4 degrees and we say goodbye to whole cities – Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai – all lost beneath the waves and the longer we fail to act the worse it gets and the higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act because humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change. It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now.
A framework is a basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text. Hawkin identifies six frameworks for action to solve the climate crisis: equity, reduce, protect, sequester, influence, and support.
We all know we live in a world where racism continues to be prevalent. As an individual, I make every effort to be open to all other human beings and hope if anyone ever detects a behavior in me that I should be called out, they will be empowered to do so. We are all the product of the environment in which we were raised and I lived a somewhat sheltered life so I’m the first to admit I may harbor prejudices I do not wish to ever express.
To successfully end the climate crisis in one generation will have a greater chance of success when all persons on this blue dot work as one. I came across an interesting statistic from the David Suzuki Foundation; “25 percent of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada’s urban areas are within a kilometer of a polluting facility, compared to just seven percent of the wealthiest.” More importantly, there is a federal bill on the table to address and prevent environmental racism and promote environmental justice. If passed, this bill will require Canada to link race, socioeconomic status, and health outcomes. A parliamentary committee approved the bill in June 2021. That’s a step in the right direction.
My copy of Regeneration was published in 2021. The numbers cited in this article and others to come are up-to-date unless otherwise indicated.
It blows my mind that every day the world burns 100 million barrels of oil, 47 billion pounds of coal, and 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Combined they emit 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. We have such a dependency on fossil fuels that it will clearly be a monumental undertaking to wean ourselves from those sources of energy but we are talking about the survival of humanity so there our options going forward are limited.
It is easy to understand why those employed in the fossil fuels industry currently are nervous about their futures. Their livelihood is at risk. In the Summer 2021 edition of Finding Solutions, a David Suzuki Foundation publication, there was an article titled, “Ten Reasons to Have Climate Hope.” Item 9 reads, “Climate action creates millions of jobs. For every job lost in fossil fuels over the past six years, the Canadian economy created 42 new ones.” That is most encouraging and I speculate a testament to how a highly educated country like Canada can transition workers in one industry to another opportunity. Without a doubt, this kind of transition will be uncomfortable but the statistics suggest to me it will be more of a big speed bump rather than a dead-end road.
With this said, the main way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to stop putting them into the atmosphere. It is also the biggest challenge as humanity has such a dependency on burning coal, gas, and coal. As well, Reduce includes emissions from agriculture, food systems, deforestation, desertification, and destruction of ecosystems. But there is hope; the implementation of renewable energy from wind, solar, energy storage, and microgrids are critical, and well on their way.
We have a long way to go but a future that is within reach if we make an effort.
There will be many examples of Protect as I unfold this series of articles on how we can protect ecosystems in particular. As a general rule, we think about bigger systems when thinking about climate change. In reality, pollinators, wildlife corridors, beavers, habitats, bioregions, seagrasses, wildlife migration, and grazing ecology are equally important. The reason is that these less known systems are the foundation on which larger systems rely to thrive.
Terrestrial (land) systems hold 3.3 trillion tons of carbon in and above ground which is more than four times more carbon than in the atmosphere. It is contained in forestlands, peatlands, wetlands, grasslands, mangroves, tidal salt marshes, farmland, and rangeland.
If we lose 10% of the earth’s terrestrial systems, the plants and organisms below and above the ground die and emit carbon dioxide. Scientists predict this could increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by as much as 100 parts per million.
Protect is all about maintaining the healthy function of living systems. When we lose an ecosystem, the birds, reptiles, rodents, mammals, insects, and creatures that dwell there lose their homes, which is the primary cause of the extinction crisis.
Biodiversity, humankind, the land, cultures, the oceans, and the climate are inseparable and interdependent.
The natural carbon cycle has been in place without change for millions of years. It is only since industrialization that humanity has upset the natural balance of the cycle to a tipping point that without corrective action, the human species is at risk of extinction. No one believes it will come to that but it is a real possibility if we continue on the path we followed to get to this point.
Carbon naturally moves in and out of the atmosphere. Forest, plants, and phytoplankton take in carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen and carbohydrates.
To sequester means to get the carbon back into terrestrial systems. The primary way we can sequester is through regenerative agriculture, managed grazing, proforestation, afforestation, degraded land restoration, replanting mangroves, bringing back wetlands, and protecting ecosystems.
As individuals, it is easy to say, “What can I do?” The answer is everything. Politicians ultimately are accountable to all those who elect them and today climate change is high on everyone’s agenda.
I’m proud that we don’t use plastic bags in Nova Scotia anymore. It would be better if they were legally outlawed. This is just a simple example of how we as individuals can influence laws, regulations, subsidies, policies, and building codes.
Each of us has just one voice, but when one voice becomes “we,” change happens.
There are many well-established organizations throughout the world that are well developed and will thrive with the support of the masses. They are typically ahead of the curve and highly competent at what they do.
These organizations are at the heart of Regeneration as will become clearer as you read upcoming articles.
I close with a reminder that I am not an expert but I’m trying to become better informed and develop insight into how I can make a difference to secure the future of our children and grandchildren. Working together we can save our planet. I’m glad you’re along for the ride.
These are pretty dull reads but I think what’s coming up will be more interesting so please stay tuned.
Related – Methane
The focus on what I’ve shared to this point has been carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, it is important to introduce methane into the conversation.
The following is lifted from Climate Home News. It is not an original thought but I think highlights some key points in a way I like to think ideas through.
Although it only stays in the atmosphere for around nine years, methane has a warming impact 84 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It is responsible for almost a quarter of global warming to date. Despite its global warming impact, tackling methane has received far less political attention than carbon dioxide emissions. Methane levels in the air are now higher than at any point in the past 800,000 years. According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane emissions are needed, in addition to carbon dioxide reductions, to keep 1.5C within reach.