The issue of time
Is humanity screwed up? Is it too late to act on climate change? The simple answer is no. As climate scientist Zeke Hausfather has already explained, there is also no deadline after which all efforts will be in vain. For example, there is growing evidence that by 2040 the world will warm by 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial times. But any additional degree, any tenth of a degree more, will amplify already important consequences. As Mr. Hausfather illustrated in a Twitter post last summer, humanity nevertheless complicates itself by delaying tough decisions. The researcher wrote that if the world had started reducing its emissions as early as 2000, it would be like going down a beginner’s ski slope. However, 20 years later, the track to be descended is now classified as very difficult.
A recent study by Statistics Canada found that cities across the country are becoming increasingly… gray. Three-quarters of large and medium-sized Canadian cities were less green in 2019 than they were in 2001. Montreal, like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, lost green space during this time. Greening cities helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Planting trees also limits urban heat islands. In Montreal, for example, it will be getting hotter by the end of the century. According to the Ouranos consortium, which specializes in the study of climate change in Quebec, the average temperature in summer will rise by almost 6°C by 2100, in a scenario of high GHG emissions. The average summer temperature will exceed 26°C. There could also be up to 75 days per year when the mercury will exceed 30°C. The number of heat waves will increase significantly. A greener city would mitigate the effects of heat.
Leave the carbon in the ground
A study published during COP26, in Glasgow, last November, made it possible to better quantify the amount of carbon stored in Canadian soil. This study by researchers at McMaster University for the Canadian Section of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) calculated that there is the equivalent of 384 billion tonnes of carbon in the soil in Canada. The highest proportion is found in Manitoba, with 110 billion tonnes. Quebec ranks fifth in the country with the equivalent of 45.7 billion tonnes. This is more than 10 times the amount of carbon captured by Quebec forests (4.3 billion tonnes). All of this carbon is mostly found in peatlands and wetlands. Whenever these media are disturbed, CO2 is released. To compensate for these emissions, it is then necessary to reduce those of human origin by the same amount. In order not to complicate life, it is preferable to leave all this carbon in the ground.
The limits of individual actions
Recycling, composting and even driving an electric car: this has become the daily life of many Quebecers. But more and more experts are arguing that there are limits to placing the burden of the transition on individuals. According to René Audet, who teaches in the department of strategy, social and environmental responsibility at UQAM, “we have to get out of the question of individual behavior”. “To achieve this, there will have to be greater constraints, set by governments. Much like seatbelt wearing, drink-driving or smoking, which required stricter laws to change behavior, the climate emergency requires the same approach. René Audet believes that there will be more and more pressure on governments to force them to act.
The taboo word: decline
A recent survey of the scientific magazine New Scientist calculated that humans create the equivalent of 100 billion tons of objects of all kinds each year. However, the vast majority of these objects are made with resources that are not infinite while producing very large quantities of GHGs. A mathematical equation that is hardly sustainable in the medium and long term. In recent years, the concept of degrowth has been increasingly approached as the solution to the climate crisis. A taboo word for many people, who see it as a synonym of impoverishment. But for René Audet, degrowth also means reducing our pollution and our waste. It means implementing a circular economy that limits the production of waste as much as possible. “The reality is that we have to plan our economy differently. We are ripe for a good frank discussion on the ecological transition. »
A global vision
One of the main conclusions of the latest IPCC reports is that a global vision is needed to deal with climate change. Because GHG emissions know no borders. No matter where they come from, they end up in the atmosphere. According to the most recent reading from the Mauna Loa observatory, located in Hawaii, the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere showed 419.03 parts per million (ppm) on March 2. A year earlier, on the same date, it was 417.98 ppm. Beyond 400 ppm, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to contain warming below 1.5°C. The other warning from the IPCC is that above 1.5°C, the consequences of climate change multiply. One of the best examples remains the ice cover at both poles. This normally allows the sun’s rays that strike the Earth to be reflected. However, warming causes a rapid reduction in this mirror of ice, which reduces its ability to reflect the sun’s rays.
- From 3.3 to 3.6 billion
- Number of people already living “in very vulnerable contexts” to climate change
Source: IPCC report
- 15 times more
- Rate of additional deaths between 2010 and 2020 attributable to floods, droughts and storms in the most vulnerable regions, compared to less vulnerable regions
Source: IPCC report