I’ve noticed a lot of climate change apathy out there, sometimes where I’d least expect it.  And it’s easy to understand why: slow, impending doom isn’t the kind of information humans are biologically equipped to deal with.  Daunted, most of us imagine climate change as something that may affect us in a far-off, post-apocalyptic future – one in which we have to deal with food shortages resulting from severe drought or with mass exoduses out of flooded coastal cities.  As natural as it is to hang our hopes on convenient denials or distract ourselves with compelling messages in a noisy world, we may be making a fatal mistake by choosing to not acknowledge the reality that we are now dealing with the initial consequences of a warming planet.

Dr. David Suzuki has identified the following as effects of climate change currently impacting Canadians, each of which carries physical and fiscal consequences.

  • Forest fires are increasingly frequent and more intense.  The more fires we have, the more greenhouse gases are released.  This causes the planet to heat up and consequently, results in more fires.  We’re in a vicious cycle.
    Watch Into the Fire
  • Forest fires are also burning deeper into the boreal soil where about 50% of the global carbon is locked.  Northern fires are causing the carbon to be released from the soil into the atmosphere, which creates more warming.  And more fires. Another vicious cycle.
    Watch What Trees Talk About
  • Less glacier and mountain snowpack equals less fresh water.  A lack of fresh water creates drought in agricultural areas, e.g. California’s multi-year drought.  To whom will our southern neighbors eventually look for fresh water for agricultural purposes?
    Watch Why Should Canadians Care About the Drought In California?
  • Warmer weather makes for better habitation for species that are not supposed to survive in our ecosystem.  One example is the deer tick, carrier of Lyme Disease – a serious ailment that can lead to arthritis, heart problems and neurological impairment.  Also of concern are mosquitoes, native to southern climates, increasingly found in the norther hemisphere, and potentially carrying dengue, zika, yellow fever and chikungunya viruses.
    Watch Ticked Off: Climate change spreads Lyme disease into Canada

Whether or not it’s too late to turn the tide, we don’t know, can’t know.  It isn’t what we should be asking and it shouldn’t affect how we move forward.  The question is: what will it take for me, for us, to recognize we’re on a deadly trajectory and must do what we can to mitigate a most unfortunate future.

If you’ve already adapted by flying less, driving an electric or hybrid car, eating less meat and dairy, and ensuring your home is energy-efficient, you’re doing more than most.

Thing is, saving our species will require commitment from every single one of us.

Behavioural change on this scale requires government legislation and the support of climate change reversal initiatives on all levels, municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal. Beyond our own borders, climate change mitigation absolutely requires a global effort, which is achieved only by electing politicians and political parties for whom it is a, if not the, priority.  If politicians are aware that this is of great importance to their constituents, they will act.  Send them the message it is important.  Most important.

As Mark Jaccard, a professor at SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management has stated, “It’s simply not enough to expect individuals to make environmental changes without political prompting. You really need to do it with policy to make sure that everyone does it, because it’s rather attractive to burn gasoline in your car and natural gas in your home and so on.”

“The opposition politicians who see a chance to get into power by killing climate policies, those are the ones that we, as voters, have the responsibility to defeat,” Jaccard said.

We have the evidence, we’ve been warned, and one thing’s for sure: we’ll get the future we deserve.