You, Me and the IPCC

By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

It is safe to say that we are all reeling a little from the IPCC 2022 report. Frankly, I do not think a more sobering document could exist. If you could not bear to read it, basically, it says that time is up. We squandered our limited time and must act now, or else.

It is scary, clear and urgent, and when I first read a synopsis of it, my heart started racing, and I felt a little sick. I had a mild panic attack, my first in years. The report showed that quite possibly, my worst fears had been realized. I wondered, after enduring all the events of the last two years and now the crisis in Ukraine, can’t we humans even act to save ourselves? What happened to all the grand talk and positive plans from COP26?

Kyiv in happier times. In 2017, the city was recognized as the greenest metropolis in Europe. Photo by Max Vakhtbovych

But then I became angry. Thinking of the report makes me want to scream about it to everyone I know. It makes me want to grab climate change deniers and try to shake some sense into them. But of course, my rational side takes over. I know confrontation won’t help, so I continue doing my part in the various ways I always will, albeit more deliberately, and with more intensity and attention.

It’s not too late

While the report says we’re out of time, it’s not too late. Not yet anyway. Science says it’s still possible to make the changes we need. The question now is will people demand it? The report says we need to peak GHG emissions by 2025 and reduce GHG emissions by 43% by the end of the decade.

These are huge transformational changes that will require huge transformational efforts by all parties. It will cost trillions of dollars (estimates say up to 6 trillion), but the cost need not daunt us; there is money already being invested elsewhere, it just needs to be moved from high carbon assets to low carbon and net-zero carbon assets.

Countries, cities, banks, big businesses, ultra-wealthy individuals, and regular people must play a part. Interestingly, the one thing that gave me hope from the report is the crucial role that cities will play as part of the solution.

Cities as the Solution

Why are cities such a worthwhile place to make efforts? More than 2/3 of global GHG emissions come from cities, while currently, about 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050 the worldwide number of people living in cities will rise to 70%. In most Western and developed countries, the number will be far higher, upwards of 90% in many cases. This high percentage means efforts we make in helping cities will have a huge impact on the world overall.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Photo by Life Matters.

The recommendations for cities are not rocket science. It is simple, common sense stuff. Good housekeeping, as it were.

Increasing density to keep a city’s sprawl compact will help. By reducing sprawl, you reduce development pressure on adjacent rural and agricultural land, thus keeping food production local and sustainable. Smaller, more dense cities also reduce the distance people travel to work and make alternate transport options like bikes or public transportation viable for the average user.

Cities can encourage plant-based diets and incentivize reducing food waste from restaurants and grocers to reduce carbon output. Much of the food waste we see in these businesses results from arbitrary and antiquated rules on food safety that are no longer realistic today. Much of the so-called waste could be diverted to food banks, shelters or low-income families.

Cities can mandate the use of green roofs and urban parks with bylaws. Green roofs reduce heating and cooling costs, slow rainwater runoff, provide habitat for birds and insects, and capture carbon in the trees, plants and the soil they produce. Green roofs combined with green spaces like parks and tree-lined streets lower the summer temperatures in cities and moderate weather events, making it a much more pleasant place.

Parks and green spaces provide healthy spaces for people and promote well-being. Photo by @claremarienyc via Twenty20

Cities may also demand electricity derived from fossil-fuel-based systems transition to clean, renewable sources. Not only does this reduce the carbon emitted, but it also creates demand for the industries that provide clean energy. Cities can offer incentives to these industries and attract clean investment, bringing money, jobs, tax revenue and prosperity to their region. Technologies like carbon capture, solar, wind and energy storage are the obvious ones, and all of them will experience exponential growth in the coming years as demand increases.

Best of all, cities can provide the immediate returns that people need. A city full of green spaces where people don’t have to travel by car to get to work or leisure activities is a much more livable city than the ones where most of us currently live. People who experience this type of change will feel pride in their communities and only want more. As friends and families elsewhere begin to see these changes, they will want to too. Better lifestyles equate to better well-being, which benefits everyone.

But how to do it?

It seems cities are the perfect place to focus our attention if we want to stop the worst of the problems from climate change. Changes implemented at the civic level do not require the same level of effort, pandering and dilution to special interest groups as are required to make changes at the national level. Still, they have a huge effect on emissions and quality of life, which brings me to the last point I wanted to discuss today.

Cities have the potential for a huge change. This is obvious. We must remember that the people who run cities are elected by many other people. People are at the root of the problems we face and the root of the change that needs to occur. That is why the candidates you vote for in your own civic elections are of critical importance. Educate yourself on past voting records; chances are they won’t suddenly change and go green if they aren’t already. If there are new candidates, listen closely because these are the ones that are likely ready to move our cities into the next phase, the phase of green development.

Our very own Jamie D’Souza is one of these new candidates. I am very proud to say that she will be running for public office in her own home riding in Montreal, Quebec. I will let her tell you more about her decision in an upcoming blog of her own.

In your next civic election, be like Jamie. Be the change you want to see in the world. Stand up and engage with your city. Don’t wait for someone else; take action. If you really can’t run for office, do the next best thing and vote for someone like her. Someone who cares about the environment and the world we all share.

With great gratitude, thank you to Jamie and all the others like her. The good people doing good things.

Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

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