Sierra Club of Canada PublicationsContact UsSearchHome
Sierra Club of Canada Program Areas Get Involved Media About Us Chapters
Sierra Club of Canada


Our Programs
    Atmosphere & Energy  
    Health & Environment  
    Protecting Biodiversity  
    Transition to a Sustainable Economy  

Take Action
Join Us Today!

Climate Crisis Declaration

Declaration for Climate Crisis Cooperation: invitation to candidates to "sign on"

There can be no doubt that we face a crisis of unparalleled proportions due to the inter-related threats of climate change, peak oil, war, water shortages and ecosystem destruction. Credible scientists and researchers such as George Monbiot, James Hansen and Andrew Weaver are calling on humanity to cut GHG emissions by at least 60% over the next 20 years, which means the rich world will need to cut its emissions by about 90%.

Unless we cut emissions, and soon, we risk, within 100 months, crossing the tipping point for runaway global warming and climate change, after which our efforts to prevent climate change would be futile. Our goal must be to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) levels in the atmosphere, which are already dangerously high, to 350 ppm CO2 or a total GHG level of 400 CO2 equivalent.

However, instead of falling, atmospheric GHG levels are rising at increasing rates.  And how could it be otherwise, as we destroy ecosystems that naturally sequester carbon, dig up more fossil fuels, build more petroleum-dependent transportation infrastructure, coal-fired power plants and other unsafe, unsustainable "development" and squander precious resources on war & militarism?

Meanwhile, we know, thanks to the work of Monbiot, Hansen, Guy Dauncey and others, that it is entirely feasible to achieve the drastic cuts they recommend.

As a candidate and potentially an elected representative, I am committed to work with others, within my own party and across party lines, to steer Canada away from economic growth which requires non-renewable resources and towards an innovative green economy that values, protects, and restores ecological health.  

I support the establishment of a permanent multi-party (including Green Party) standing committee on climate change, which would produce policy blueprints for government, based on input from the scientific community and civil society. Options for engaging the public and providing fuller opportunities for solutions to emerge, such as the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change, are also worth considering.

I support the recommendations of the 2005 Stern Commission on The Economics of Climate Change. Once the costs of fossil fuel pollution are internalized, following the "polluter pays" principle, and fossil fuel subsidies are prohibited, the power of the market will drive the conversion from the suicidal fossil fueled economy towards a safe, renewable energy economy.

Canada must respect its international obligations. This includes its commitment to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention (FCCC) as one of the Annex 1, or industrially developed,  nations.

I want to build on previous examples of cross-party cooperation towards sustainability. For example, in 2003 members from all federal parties supported and passed the Well-Being Measurement Resolution. I will work to follow through on this initiative to establish a Canadian Genuine Progress Index.

In June of this year, Canada's Parliament passed the Sustainable Development Act which will help ensure governments live up to their environmental commitments. This law was inspired by the David Suzuki Foundation's blueprint for Sustainability Within a Generation and was supported by ALL federal parties. I will work to see that the goals outlined in the act are pursued vigorously and that the Federal government itself studies the blueprint and adopts measures suggested to attain the goals.

Canadians must do their part to prevent the collapse of the ecological systems on which life, and human civilization, depend. Because Canadian levels of GHG emissions are among the highest per capita in the world, and because we enjoy democratic rights and access to resources unavailable to people in most other parts of the world, we have a special responsibility to act.


Background information:

This "backgrounder" is designed to provide links and quotes from some of the abundant information available relating to the Declaration for Climate Crisis Cooperation.

For information on how serious the crisis is, check out:

http://climatecodered.net
http://www.onehundredmonths.org
http://www.350.org/en/about/science
http://www.earthfuture.com/

100 months from August 2008 - New Economics

Note: The 4th  Global Environmental Outlook (GEO4) by the United Nations Environmental Program published October 2007 issued their last wakeup call  that global climate change and the ongoing destruction of global ecosystems now threaten the very survival of humanity.

For more information about the GHG concentration levels required to prevent runaway climate change, check out:
http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/320

One quote from the 350.org website:
As James Hansen of America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the first scientist to warn about global warming more than two decades ago, wrote recently, "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

That will be a hard task, but not impossible. We need to stop taking that carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air. Above all, that means we need to stop burning so much coal‹and start using solar and wind energy and other such sources of renewable energy ­while ensuring the Global South a fair chance to develop. If we do, then the earth will slowly cycle some of that extra carbon out of the atmosphere, and eventually we'll return to a safe level. By decreasing use of other fossil fuels, and improving agricultural and forestry practices around the world, we could get back to 350 by mid-century. But the longer we remain in the danger zone‹above 350‹the more likely that we will see disastrous climate impacts.

Some people will argue that the danger from our production of greenhouse gases (GHG) is over-stated or even non-existent.  The Suzuki  Foundation website at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Science/Skeptics.asp
has convincing responses to the claims of the climate change denial industry.

The Sierra Club Canada has prepared a comparison of Canada's federal parties on their climate change platforms


With regard to the costs of militarism, it's worth noting that the US military is the single largest consumer of energy in the world. In her article, Every War is a War Against the Earth, in the Jan/Feb. 2002 issue of Audubon Magazine, Kathleen Dean Moore describes some of the horrendous consequences of militarism on the natural world. In terms of statistics, she says:

The U.S. Department of Defense "creates more than five times as much toxic waste as the five major U.S. chemical companies," according to Susan Lanier-Graham, author of The Ecology of War. An F-16 burns in a single hour more fuel than an average American will burn in two years.

The World Game Institute (p. 6) has tallied up how much it would cost to fund 17 programs for "what the world wants", including landmine removal, eliminating starvation, providing clean, safe energy through efficiency and renewables, providing health care and AIDS control, stopping deforestation and soil erosion and more. That comes to less than one third of what is squandered on militarism.


Could we cut our GHG emissions drastically and still have access to the necessities of life? One thing is certain; we have not seriously tried the many options for transforming our economy that researchers suggest. Some useful suggestions can be found in the first 5 websites listed above. Books, such as Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth, Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change by Guy Dauncey and Heat by George Monbiot  also provide useful suggestions for necessary changes if we want the earth to be livable into the next century.

One solution that has been largely over-looked until recently is protecting natural ecosystems, especially forests, wetlands and other areas rich in biological activity, because of their ability to sequester carbon naturally. Soil is an integral part of the natural carbon cycle so farms need to use techniques which protect the soil's ability to sequester carbon. More information can be found on websites such as:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_sink#Soils_2
http://soilcarboncoalition.org/
http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/700.html

A quote from the Environmental Literacy Council site, above:

"The carbon cycle is by far the cycle of greatest interest due to its importance in both climate change and global warming. Soil plays a critical role in this cycle since the majority of carbon in the atmosphere comes from biological reactions within the soil."


On the dangers of embracing the nuclear option:

Quite a few people argue that nuclear energy can replace fossil fuel-generated energy without producing GHG. Nuclear energy is not a sensible option though, because:

- it depends on a non-renewable resource (uranium), which is environmentally devastating to mine
- if the resources spent on developing the nuclear industry were spent on conservation and developing renewable energy sources, the savings in GHG would be much higher
- the environmental and health consequences of the nuclear industry are extreme and continue to jeopardize the genetic code of life for centuries to come
- nuclear plants pose a real security risk in terms of their appeal as potential terrorist targets
- we do not need nuclear energy, given all the other safer, renewable options we have. Germany's Hermann Scheer argues this point convincingly (in Chris Turner's Aug. 2, 2008 Globe and Mail article, "The wind at his back":

Mr. Scheer used Ontario as his case in point, noting that the approximately 20,000 megawatts of its electricity currently drawn from non-renewable coal and nuclear plants was about equal to the amount of generating capacity that smaller and much more crowded Germany had added in wind power alone in the past 10 years. "Where is the problem?" he asked. "The problem is in the mind."


Why are mechanisms for translating some of these solutions into public policy such as a multi-party standing committee and a citizens' assembly on climate change necessary?

Solving the climate change problem  requires a  holistic problem-solving approach which takes into account rapidly evolving scientific conclusions and is able to evaluate policy impacts in many areas. We need input from people with a wide variety of expertise, including those with the ability to evaluate policies systemically, to solve this problem. One example to show why a holistic problem-solving approach is needed: There is widespread agreement on the need to put a price on GHG production through mechanisms such as a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. Making such systems effective in reducing our GHG emissions is not straightforward though. For instance, if one country imposes a carbon tax on its industries, could that provide an incentive to import products, such as food, from outside the country, where the tax does not apply? And how do we make sure that putting a price on GHG emissions does not simply exacerbate the gulf between rich and poor, making it possible for some to have heated swimming pools, while others can no longer afford to heat their homes? Do we need a system for rationing GHG production, as George Monbiot argues?

The Standing Committee on Climate Change would produce policy suggestions for government, rather than merely review and improve on government proposals. It would need to use telecommunications technology in order to hear from a large number of experts and concerned citizens without using vast quantities of fuel to travel to regional centres all over Canada.


For more detail on how a "Genuine Progress Index" (GPI) works, click on "Measuring Well-Being" at http://www.SustainWellBeing.net and select "Measuring Genuine Progress." 

"Indicators are powerful.  What we count and measure reflects our values as a society and literally determines what makes it onto the policy agenda of governments.  As we proceed into the new millennium, these indicators tell us whether we are making progress, whether we are leaving the world a better place for our children, and what we need to change."

Ron Colman. Director
GPI Atlantic     
www.gpiatlantic.org


Read an article by David Suzuki on Canada's new Federal Sustainable Development Act. It requires Canada to establish a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy with measurable targets for protecting Canada¹s environment in accordance with the precautionary principle.



 


SCC Publications

Main Publications page

Rio Report

SCAN - Sierra Club of Canada Activist News

People, Trade and the Environment

How to be an Activist



Sierra Club of Canada National Office
info@sierraclub.ca