Urging world leaders to take a closer look at climate change
On Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 at 12:00pm in front of the Legislative Building, Regina 350 will be holding a rally against climate change. In a global movement to raise awareness and call world leaders to action, the rally is just one component of a Global Day of Action on Climate Change. As of Sept. 15, Avaaz, a global agency promoting activism and community change, has reported that 2,829 events have been registered, occurring in countries in South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
World leaders will be meeting Sept. 23 in New York for the United Nations Summit on Climate Change where discussions will be held on the goals and actions needed to address issues surrounding energy, agriculture, cities, transportation, resources, and other climate concerns. At the international summit Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq will represent Canada. Stephen Harper will not be in attendance at the summit, though he will be attending a special dinner with Ban Ki-Moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, to discuss climate issues. Rather than concentrate on environmental concerns, Harper will focus his attention on addressing the UN General Assembly regarding Canada’s action on the ISIS and Ukraine crises.
Sunday’s event will be an effort to call these leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society to address climate change and make effective, lasting change to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) made a clear call for change when they released their Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on Sept. 9. The bulletin reported that greenhouse gases have caused a 34 per cent increase in radiative forcing from 1990 to 2013. Radiative forcing is the difference between the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth and the amount of energy that is emitted from the Earth back into space. An increase in radiative forcing means that less energy is released into space, consequently warming the planet. Carbon dioxide accounts for 80 per cent of the gas responsible for the warming effect. One should note that this increase in radiative forcing is calculated from atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, not from total gas emissions.
“Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans. About a quarter of the total emissions are taken up by the oceans and another quarter by the biosphere, reducing in this way the amount of [carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere.” The WMO reported in their Sept. 9 media release. This means that while there has been an alarming increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, there is an additional concentration of gases in the biosphere and being absorbed by the oceans. As a result, the oceans’ acidity levels have skyrocketed. WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reported a pH decrease of 0.0011–0.0024 units per year over the last two decades.
“We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases across the board,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in the WMO’s Sept. 9 press release. “We are running out of time.”
Activists for the Global Day of Action on Climate Change agree that the world is pressed for time and wish to see real change in policy and practice, which would lower greenhouse gas emissions and preserve our Earth. Lowering emissions would regulate temperatures, slow the melting of arctic glaciers, stop the increasing acidity of oceans, and halt other consequences of the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“In Regina there are several groups involved in the event,” explains Regina 350 in an email interview, “including the Council Of Canadians and Mother Earth Justice Advocates and a few more who cooperate through the Energy East Coalition against the pipeline.”
A pamphlet that Regina 350 is circulating to advocate for climate change awareness gives a stark image of the severity of climate change in today’s world.
“Imagine a glass of water slowly tipping over: At first, as it starts tipping, nothing happens. But once it passes its tipping point, the glass suddenly falls over and all the water spills out. Once that happens, there’s no way to get the water back in the glass.”
Regina 350 and organizations around the world hope to stop that glass from tipping through the Day of Action on Climate Change.
“We urge people to get involved in the United Nations consultation process and add voices to the issue because right now the consultation process is overweighed with corporate lobbyists.”
A group of environmental activists who have participated in Idle No More, Occupy Regina, and the Green Party came together to act as Regina 350 and organize the Day of Action because they believe environmentally focused activism is necessary to protect our world.
“We all agreed there needed to be a single issue, science centered environmental organization with no position on any other issue in Saskatchewan. Originally we were trying to start a new organization altogether, but with the United Nations climate summit on Sept. , it seemed that was where the momentum was heading, and 350 is a science centered, single issue organization that’s already connected to the UN summit, so it was a logical fit.” Regina 350 explained.
Regina 350 is one among 188 other groups around the world that are affiliated with 350, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for environmentally sustainable practices. While initially active without political involvement, the organization soon realized that politics is too closely linked with the environment. The voice of citizens would need to be heard, loud and clear for world leaders to take notice and implement change. Now, the organization and its global affiliates organize marches, rallies, and events to speak out for sustainability.
“With the number of different groups focused on the tar sands and the pipelines alone, and more people becoming aware of climate change itself, there will probably be events and actions on a regular basis tied to the same issues.” Johnson explained.
Regina 350 plans to get as many people involved in advocating for environmental sustainability, already having the support of U of R Sustainability. Students can expect to see awareness campaigns at the University throughout the year as Regina 350 gains momentum and recruits activists and volunteers.