Climate change is impacting the health of humans around the world, threatening the survival of species and ecosystems, producing destructive weather patterns, forest fires, droughts and superstorms, and promising more devastation to come.
Our actions today can stop those hell bent on continuing this destructive path into a grim future, but we must keep pushing with urgency. Climate and ocean emergency consciousness is contagious. But so is lack of it.
Fortunately, this May, people around the world will be joining hands to step up the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Breaking free from fossil fuels could be the biggest fight humanity will ever face.
First, we must act to prevent imminent harm, and we should act in ways that have a direct impact on the forces destroying the Earth. Then we must offer everyday folks zero-carbon alternatives and emergency responses.
People who haven’t yet realized that we’re in a climate emergency might do well to picture the following stomach-churning headlines on their morning smartphone news swipe over the next few decades:
· Climate change is not incremental: warming and impacts will spike big time this decade
· Canadians more likely to die in a human extinction event than a car crash
· UNESCO removes World Heritage Site status for the Great Barrier Reef as bleaching kills remaining 5%
· Severe water shortage makes India and Pakistan nuclear trigger-happy
· Canadian psychiatrists officially recognize “Oil Addiction Disorder” as record GDP loss and suicides mount as result of oil patch crash
· DIE-OFF: Last three wildlife sanctuaries fall victim to South African multi-year drought
· UN Security Council announces economic sanctions against Australia for incarcerating 100,000 Pacific Island migrants.
· Super swarm of tornadoes in southern Ontario kills 50 and is near death experience for thousands more
· IPCC warns UN that atmospheric CO2 will exceed 500 ppm this year
· Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest wilderness in ashes (after pipeline-ignited wildfire)
· Canadian oil company announces last of its polar bear rescues as summer ice-free conditions forecasted as permanent
· UN: Global food crops crashed this year – no country exempt, famine widespread
· Number of workers worldwide employed at night exceeds those during hot daylight hours
· The Arctic Ocean is 50 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution
· Snowpack and glaciers down to 5% in Alps, Himalayas and Rockies
· Our Bangladesh moment: abrupt global sea rise submerges first American city
· Severe heat displaces a record 250 million – Canada and Russia receive majority of climate refugees
· UN: Ocean protein collapse as deoxygenation and acidification double whammy humanity
· Earth will warm by at least 6 degrees this century, UN offers no escape plan
· UN Security Council calls on world to stop the “Climate Holocaust” as toll hits 30 million
· UN Epitaph: Fossil fuels could have been phased out worldwide in a decade after Paris COP21 were it not for corporate collusion
Back to today’s reality. It will take 40 years to conclude the Paris Agreement, yet once ratified it will allow for all of the fictional news above to become a catastrophic reality. Contrary to the common impression that the Paris Agreement made historic progress on climate change, it does nothing to prevent catastrophic, runaway, global climate change and oceans collapse.
2015 was a record year for both global surface temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide – and the largest ever increase in one year. In just the few months since COP21 Paris, the world has fundamentally woken up to a worsening, record-breaking winter climate. Each successive month in 2016 is showing that levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, as well as ocean and surface warming, are accelerating at unprecedented rates. March 2016 was the Earth’s 11th-straight warmest month on record, according to NASA. News of ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation worsens by the month.
The good, really good, news is that the debate over climate change is over. We may now choose to keep looking the other way but we can never say again that we didn’t know what will now happen. Paris as the voluntary Olympics of carbon “intentions” was a nudge, and it is important (just 20 years too late). We still need a genuine game changer to safeguard our future.
The bad news is that while the Paris climate agreement is the global emergency button, federal and provincial politicians have not been issued with talking points, let alone walkie-talkies, to communicate an emergency action plan swiftly and effectively. Indeed, here in Canada, the prime-minister-we-thought-was-saviour is pushing oil pipelines as the way forward. Hello?
The surprisingly simple truth behind such extraordinarily extreme political climate change denial is this: Implementing global-scale decarbonization can only occur now with the blessing of the international banks and fossil fuel moguls. The really, really bad post-Paris news is that it’s a 3.5ºC deal that is going to inflict a deadly 6ºC on our grandchildren after 2100. Paris, despite the hype, is an ecocidal, progenycidal deal created by a 100%-consensus-constrained process with fossil fuel psychopaths.
Climate change denial is a sleight of hand crime against humanity and the natural world. But far more evil is climate change deception, telling those who are being disastrously impacted now that you will act decisively – and then not taking action. It is time for North American politicians to end the political duplicity and start treating climate change as a “human extinction level” existential threat and act accordingly.
After all, if criminal investigative recourse is appropriate for Exxon Mobil (and Shell, BP, etc.) for decades of deliberate inaction and manufactured denial in the face of acquired scientific knowledge, how is it any different for political parties and governments that attempt to rationalize reneging on fully implementing a mandatory, zero-emission reduction plan to meet the integrity of the Paris 1.5°C target pledge?
We didn’t take much action before climate change became a problem. Now it is a horrific global emergency. Whether we like it or not, we are now engaged in an epic battle against the ecologically insolvent, in a manner of speaking, a “war of the worlds,” which is aptly best understood by the great author H. G. Wells: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." And as Wells would no doubt agree: Nature is indifferent to human survival. It doesn’t negotiate – it repossesses.
The game changer is that the climate justice movement has become a huge, worldwide collaboration – growing in numbers and audacity – that doesn’t pull punches, calls our fossil fuel fate a global climate and ocean emergency, and steadfastly argues that it’s much too late now to settle for so-called low-carbon energy reform and that we must advocate immediate, rapid abolition of fossil fuel burning.
Fortunately here in Canada, our First Nations did not wait for politicians and started the Idle No More mobilizations. Similarly, learning from indigenous struggle as well as the early environmental movement, Occupy, and the anti-austerity movement, Canadians are now confronting the challenge; nonviolent civil disobedience is morphing into nonviolent disruption.
We’ve been going in the wrong direction on climate for decades. We’re no longer climate data detectives. We’re not low carbon reformers, we’re fossil fuel abolitionists. Who knows when politicians and extraction extremists will finally reach peak sloth, but we’re the first responders, and millions are now leading the global emergency mobilization.
Everyday people everywhere are demanding and doing the extraordinary.
Grounded in climate science and global risk analysis, a principled belief that all lives matter is the most direct march to action-responsive climate truth. Today, we are demanding emergency responses in the wake of the Paris agreement signing:
• Declaration of a "Global State of Climate and Oceans Emergency"
• Immediate full-cost pricing of fossil fuel pollution
• Immediate and mandatory termination of fossil fuel subsidies
• A decline in global emissions within two years
• Leave It in the Ground: An end to all new fossil fuel extraction and exports
• Cessation of all non-essential fossil fuel extraction (phased out fossil fuel use only for renewable energy infrastructure development)
• No compromises (no pipeline to tidewater in exchange for a lower carbon plan when pipelines will only lead to higher carbon emissions)
• Criminalization of climate-related corruption with UN sanctions
• Assurance that COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco in November must address Paris Agreement omissions: ocean protection, turning voluntary pledges (INDCs) back into binding commitments, enforcement measures, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rights of Climate Refugees to Resettlement, Rights of Future Generations, a goal of under 1.5°C equilibrium temperature increase, zero carbon emissions well before 2050
• At least one international right – the right to a safe, habitable climate – afforded to all sentient beings.
In tribute to our shared democratic values, a climate mobilization is occurring this month, led globally under the “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” campaign banner by Bill McKibben and 350.org, and endorsed by civil society organizations worldwide as well as locally by B.C. groups and communities actively opposed to the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and other provincial flashpoints (e.g., Northern Gateway, Site C, Port coal expansion, LNG proposals, etc.).
The power of truth is that it remains a truth whether we believe it or not. In the case of fossil fuels, to ignore climate science is life- and limb-threatening to all. Our collective humanity demands that we all speak out, bear witness, and tell the truth for a better world. At times, it may look like the odds are stacked against everyday people, but no fight worth fighting has ever been easy.
To democratize survival, we urge the B.C. judiciary to become judicial activists and to uphold the defence of necessity. After all, if non-violent resistance to corporate-induced climate collapse is not legally justifiable for acts of civil disobedience, then nothing is legally justifiable.
Please join us in standing in support with every courageous act by every activist that brings us one step closer to the abolition of fossil fuels.
Break Free from Fossil Fuels. Our very survival depends upon it.
Howard Breen is the Executive Director of Urgent Climate and Ocean Rapid Response (UCORR) in Victoria. UCORR is hosting a“Break Free from Fossil Fuels” presentation and discussion at University of Victoria (May 9th, 7pm David Turpin Buillding Rm A102)