Good News Bad News

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COVID and ClimateAs I write this article, I realize you will be reading it as we are heading into a new year. The year of COVID-19 is behind us, but Covid is not yet gone. The scourge of COVID-19 will last well into 2021. The good news of course is that vaccines are now here and have brought some light at the end of the tunnel. (We hope). In the last 2 days (Dec. 16 and 17) Vancouver Island has seen just 5 and 4 new cases of Covid for which I am grateful. I hope  these numbers will continue to go down until they reach zero and stay there. Of course we must still keep up our guard for the next while.

In many ways the Covid pandemic has taken away the sense of urgency around climate change. It is now time to focus once again on climate action.  It seems that the battle of Climate change is very much a good news/bad news story. First the Good News.  A recent report by researchers from Climate Action Tracker estimated that, if countries stick to their promises, the world could limit warming to 2.1 degrees C by the year 2100.

That’s a huge improvement compared to earlier predictions. After a failed climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the group estimated that the planet would warm by 3.5 degrees C by 2100. The ratification of the Paris Agreement improved that projection, but only to 2.7 degrees C.

The group’s newfound optimism is the result of many large, industrialized countries promising to cut their emissions to net-zero by mid-century. China, currently the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, has promised to zero out its emissions by 2060; Japan, South Korea, and the European Union all have similar targets. While the U.S. has yet to declare a target, President-elect Joe Biden said during his campaign that he would pursue a goal of net-zero by 2050 — and rejoin the Paris Agreement, bringing the number of signatories back up to 195. Canada has just released its plan to reduce carbon emissions to its 2030 target and also to be net zero by 2050.

However there is a problem. HOUSTON (or anybody else) ARE YOU LISTENING. Here is the bad news.

Despite all those net-zero promises, a new report (2020 Report – Production Gaphas found that the countries of the world are not on track to meet their Paris Agreement commitments. The world would need to reduce its fossil fuel production by 6 percent annually between 2020 and 2030 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. Instead, countries are planning to increase fossil fuel production by 2 percent annually on average.

From my vantage point we are making progress but there is much work to be done. In some ways we have lost a year of working on climate change. In other ways Covid has brought a reduction in carbon emissions with its forced closures. People have flown less, driven less and generally used less fossil fuels. Yes, there has been about a 7 percent reduction in carbon emissions in 2020 but what does this mean in absolute numbers. C02 emissions were projected to increase by 36 Gigatons. This years 7 percent reduction simply reduces that number to 34 Gigatons which is still a significant overall increase. Not much difference on the grand scheme of things.  Also, as we restart the economy do we just go back to business as usual?  Our government would have us believe NOT as they plan to increase the carbon tax by $15 per ton each year from 2022 to 2030. Will this do the job?  Not likely, as they continue to subsidize the fossil fuel corporations.

So what are we to do in the face of this information? I would suggest three things.

First what can we do as individuals?  A new project called Count Us In (count-us-in.org) states the 16 most effective steps that we can take as individuals to reduce our own carbon emissions. I could tell you what they are, but I strongly suggest you check out the website for yourself.

Secondly, it really does make a difference to let our politicians know we expect more of them.  In the new year DICAN plans to restart its letter writing campaigns started by Plastic Free Denman. (Check out OnePlanet.com while you are at it, to learn about living within the resources our one planet gives us)

Thirdly, we as a community can make a difference. As the new year goes forward, DICAN  will resume meeting. We hope that our whole community will come together since we can accomplish much more together than as individuals alone. Stay tuned and Count Yourself In. (count-us-in.org)

Submitted by Dr. Ron  (rawilson33@gmail.com)