Image: Fabrice Florin/Flickr
There’s no shortage of solutions to the climate crisis. Rapidly developing clean-energy technology, reducing energy consumption and waste, increasing efficiency, reforming agricultural practices, and protecting and restoring forests and wetlands all put us on a path to cleaner air, water and soil, healthier biodiversity and lower climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
Clean energy technologies, including energy storage methods, are improving as costs are dropping. Exciting new inventions like artificial photosynthesis, machines that remove atmospheric carbon to create fuels, and windows that convert light to electricity show what people are capable of when we put our minds to resolving challenges.
It’s critical that we continue to develop, deploy, and scale up solutions, so why are we still mired in outdated ways and business as usual? For decades, experts have been warning about the consequences of rapidly burning fossil fuels, yet greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as the planet heats up faster.
Europe is in the midst of a record heat wave; Chennai, India, has run out of water; farmers in Canada and the U.S. are seeing diminishing returns after prolonged droughts; refugees are flooding borders as extreme conditions, water scarcity and failing agriculture increase conflict and displace millions — all caused or exacerbated by climate change. Even in rainy Vancouver where I live, the city implemented early water restrictions when the usual spring showers didn’t arrive.
People and organizations from the entire spectrum of society are calling for action. Students are marching in the streets, progressive decision-makers are putting climate disruption at the top of the political agenda, and Indigenous peoples are asserting their rights to protect lands and waters from fossil fuel projects.
In the U.S., more than 70 leading health organizations — including the American Medical Association, Lung Association, Heart Association, and College of Physicians — issued a statement urging political candidates “to recognize climate change as a health emergency.” The Canadian Medical Association, Nurses Association, Public Health Association, Association of Physicians for the Environment, and the Urban Public Health Network issued a similar statement.
To their credit, every major political party in Canada has a climate plan, some more detailed than others, and the current federal government has implemented many strong policies, despite its continued approval of fossil fuel projects. But we’re still not on track to meet our Paris Agreement commitments.
Here and elsewhere, the fossil fuel industry still rules, enjoying massive government subsidies and tax breaks and government and media promotion. If we understand the problem and its urgency — and mountains of scientific evidence amassed from around the world over decades confirms we do — and we have solutions, why are we so slow to act? MORE