Federal MPs and Ontario MPPs, July 2010

We wish you a good, refreshing summer holiday.

We also hope that you will take time this summer to do some reading on the greatest challenge we have to face: the climate crisis.

Some of the world’s leading scientists have been stressing the short period of time we have to act. Note that these experts are yet hopeful that humankind can do the necessary and change our harmful lifestyles. But we have to recognize the urgency of the situation and take serious action.

This is an unpleasant message to convey, and environmental organizations are reluctant to say it. Donors want positive news! Few Canadians are climate change deniers, but not many see the situation as urgent.

The Prince of Wales in March 2009 said that we have less than “100 months to save the planet.

Tim Flannery in Now or Never (note the title!) stresses that changes have taken place faster than predicted even a short time ago. The Arctic is “now warming 4 times faster” than the global average. He joins with others in considering that 350 ppm carbon dioxide is the maximum safe level--it was 280 ppm before fossil fuels began to be used and has now reached 390 ppm.

Leading American climate scientist James Hansen warns in his recent book, Storms of my Grandchildren, that the “tipping point can be passed, after which the dynamics of the system take over, with rapid changes that are out of humanity’s control.” We are already in the “danger zone,” and must get CO2 concentrations down to “at most 350 ppm in order to avoid disasters for coming generations.

It takes millennia to build up ice sheets, but meltdown can occur rapidly, and once started global warming can be expected to result in a disastrous rise in sea level.

There have been 5 mass extinctions up to now (meaning the loss of more than 50% of species), all caused by natural disasters such as asteroid hits and methane releases. We are en route to causing the sixth, through global warming.

Is it not time to start heeding these scientists? Scientists themselves tend to have a conservative bias--scepticism is part of their training. But we have only one Earth, and cannot afford, for the sake of future generations, to be complacent.

Some recommended reading on climate change:

Tim Flannery, The Weathermakers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. New York: Atlantic Monthly 2005; and Now or Never: Why We Need to Act Now to Achieve a Sustainable Future. Toronto: Harper Collins 2009

Bill McKibben, The End of Nature. New York: Random House 1989.

Alanna Mitchell, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart 2009

George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Canadian ed. Toronto: Doubleday 2006

Jeffrey Simpson, Mark Jaccard and Nick Rivers, Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge. Toronto: Douglas Gibson Books 2007

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