We are not frogs
Dorothy Cutting, June 19, 2006
While it is commonly understood that the targets set by the Kyoto
Accord for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions fall far short
of what is necessary to prevent an ecological calamity, it is
astounding that Mr. Harper’s government has announced that
Canada cannot meet even this goal. Instead, funding for valuable
programs to combat global heating has been sliced. If this is
any indication of what the “made-in-Canada” plan is
going to look like, our country, and indeed the planet, is in
a great deal of trouble.
Sometimes just a small amount of a substance can kill you. Ask
anyone who is allergic to bee venom or penicillin. Carbon dioxide
has only increased 100 parts per million since the start of the
industrial age, but the implications for climate and ecology are
dire. The CO2 in our atmosphere has reached almost 380 ppm. In
another ten to fifteen years, at 400 ppm, the green plants we
have on which we have depended to clean our air of this gas will
no longer be capable of dealing with the increased amounts and
may in fact even begin to return CO2 to the atmosphere –
turning from a sink to a source. They will also begin to lose
their ability to absorb nitrogen, which will compromise their
ability to grow and thrive. (http://www.earthsky.org/shows/show.php?date=20030916)
To add to this, the very soil plants in which grow is being affected
by increasing temperatures. As the soil warms, more bacteria grow
and spread in the soil, and the decomposition of organic matter
they cause emits more and more CO2. From the 25 years from 1978
to 2003, there was a loss of carbon from the soil of England and
Wales that was “equal to the entire amount by which the
United Kingdom reduced emissions during the same 25-year period.”
(Cameron Smith: The climate change melody in my head, Toronto
Star, June 17, 2006)
Even at the present level of CO2, our oceans are beginning to
become too acidic to fully support life. Coral reefs and tiny,
shelled organisms in the plankton are crumbling. Ultimately, the
entire food chain will be affected. Marine life in the northern
waters will be especially vulnerable. (http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/)
At present levels of CO2, the summer ice in the Arctic may melt
away in as few as ten years (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1774815,00.html).
Spring 2006 in the Canadian Arctic has been the earliest and warmest
ever recorded, thus severely affecting the wildlife of the North.
By the time the caribou reached their calving grounds this year,
the vegetation they on which they depend for food had already
gone to seed. (http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/life/story.html?id=5d59a05e-5dd6-4522-af0c-974feb9be7ca)
The glaciers on Greenland are melting and sliding into the sea,
twice as fast as they were just five years ago (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11385475/).
The loss of the entire Greenland ice sheet would cause a sea level
rise of seven metres, and if we allow the Earth to warm more than
2 degrees Celsius on average, this outcome is considered more
and more certain. Even a small fraction of that sea level rise
would force the evacuation of 7 million people from Bangladesh.
Coastal cities around the world will be flooded, including Vancouver
The Antarctic ice sheets are also in danger. Complete melting
of these ice sheets along with those of Greenland could lead to
a sea-level rise of about 80 meters – and it was raining
there just the other day.
In Siberia, the melting permafrost contains 500 million metric
tonnes of carbon, twice what scientists previously believed was
Canadian permafrost alone contains 48 billion metric tones of
carbon, which, if released by global heating could make a further
contribution of up to 4 degrees Celsius of temperature rise. Were
this to happen, our planet would experience an abrupt temperature
rise levels it has not experienced in literally millions of years.
Further warming will be caused by the release of gigatonnes of
the powerful greenhouse gas methane, as the Polar ice and permafrost
Given these scenarios, how can it be that even governments complying
with the Kyoto Accord are following strategies that would allow
the global average temperature to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius,
and CO2 to rise beyond 450 ppm? What can they be thinking? It
is widely recognized that we must keep the figure below 2 degrees
– an achievement that requires immediate actions that far
exceed the requirements of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.
Here in Canada, our government has refused to attempt to reach
even the modest standards of Kyoto, inadequate as they are. Has
Mr. Harper no imagination? Twenty years from now our fisheries
stocks will be drastically depleted, our prairies will be turning
to dust bowls, our coastal cities will be flooded and many thousands
of environmental refugees from all over our planet will be streaming
across our borders. Are we to build a wall to keep them out? What
Every one of us must do everything we can right now to call the
attention of Stephen Harper’s government to this crisis.
And if they still refuse to listen, we must throw them out of
office. We may not be scientists, but neither was Darwin. This
didn’t prevent him from searching for and discovering the
truth. We, the people of Canada, are fast learning the truth about
the climate crisis, and we will act as citizens to protect our
species and the life of our planet.
The “made-in-Canada” plan is no “solution.”
Each one of us, whether we be trade’s people, business executives,
government officials, teachers, scientists, environmentalists
or retirees, has an inescapable moral imperative to do all he
or she can to lessen the impact of the present climate crisis.
And we have just ten years to do it.
We are not frogs. We are all in the same big pot, and someone
has come into the kitchen and turned up the stove. The water is
getting hotter and we can feel it. And we have the good sense
to leap out before it’s too late.