Author: Grant Linney
Grant Linney is a Canadian climate activist who has delivered close to 600 presentations as well as writing Op-Eds for newspapers and letters to politicians. He recently spoke at a virtual conference organized by The Centre of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) on “Challenge of Climate Change”
Humanity is currently facing two very real and existential threats. The first is COVID-19 and our massive response to this shows that governments all over the world can indeed take decisive leadership. Even more of this sort of action is needed for what constitutes our greatest existential threat ever — that of climate change.
While only 15 national governments have thus far declared climate emergencies, declarations at the state/province and local levels now number 1,874 jurisdictions embracing 820 million citizens. On June 17, 2019, Canada (my home country) preened itself with its declaration of such an emergency but, less than 24 hours later, this same government approved the re-construction of a dramatically larger Trans Mountain Pipeline to transport some of the dirtiest oil on the planet to seaports where it can be exported. Talk about catastrophic contradictions!
Pakistan, listed among the top ten most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, has yet to declare a national emergency. However, your Prime Minister has won international praise for his recent promise to produce no more power based on coal. Such promising actions do speak louder than words.
However, it is painfully clear that the nations of the world have taken very inadequate steps thus far if we are to limit our average surface temperature increase to less than 1.5 C by 2030. A few significant gestures will simply not cut it …. That’s like sending one fire truck to a five-alarm fire.
While decisions affecting one’s personal lifestyle (e.g., driving an electric vehicle; eating less meat) do make a difference, it is much more important that our governments legislate system-wide change. Former U.S. Vice President and climate champion Al Gore said, “It’s more important to change laws than light bulbs.” Let’s use light bulbs to illustrate his point. One can individually decide to replace all incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, but it would be far more impactful if governments legislated the demise of incandescent bulbs — that’s system change, and we need such things to happen in all sectors of our economy and within specific time frames. It’s that simple. An emergency, by its very nature, demands immediate and massive changes. We already have the technology to do this. What we lack is political will.
So, how do we compel our politicians to talk less and act a lot more? Many climate scientists agree that the key missing ingredient is the masses of people speaking and acting up. Our demands must be clear, ambitious and deafening. In Montreal, Canada (September 2019), we had 500,000 people join Greta Thunberg in a very impressive youth climate demonstration. As we gain control over COVID, we shall need people to once again show up in large numbers demanding change. How about one billion demonstrators worldwide? Our critical and very time-limited message demands such action.