Climate strikers #FightFor1Point5. What does that mean?
Meantime, Canada announces new plan to meet climate goals
You probably wouldn’t notice if your hot chocolate was 2 C warmer.
But what if the Earth was two degrees hotter?
According to scientists, a 2 C difference in the Earth’s temperature would be noticeable and have devastating effects on the environment.
That’s why thousands of climate strikers from around the world are protesting this week, both virtually and in person.
In particular, they are revisiting the promises made in an international climate change agreement, called the Paris Agreement, which was signed five years ago, on Dec. 12, 2015.
“We've kind of wasted the past five years, I would argue, in terms of climate action,” said Canadian climate striker Tavie Johnson, 17. “We have not done anywhere near enough.”
B.C. teen Tavie Johnson, right, doesn’t want to go back to the ‘old normal’ before the pandemic. She said that ‘old normal’ ignored climate issues. (Images submitted by Tavie Johnson)
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is a legal agreement among more than 195 countries to tackle climate change.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the agreement on behalf of Canadians in 2016.
The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to stop the Earth from warming more than 2 C compared to pre-industrial levels — or compared to what it was before the 1700s, when we started burning fossil fuels to run our factories and machines.
Keeping any warming to 1.5 C would be even better, many scientists say.
That’s where the #FightFor1Point5 hashtag comes from.
In Paris, France, climate strikers protested in front of the Eiffel Tower on Dec. 11 as a way to warn against an increase of 1.5 C in temperatures on the planet. (Image credit: gaia_mugler/Instagram)
What has Canada done to fight climate change?
Canada is behind on its Paris commitments, but it’s taking steps to change that.
On Friday, Trudeau released a new climate change plan.
A major feature of that plan is an increase to the carbon tax, which is a way to make people pay more for activities that pollute, including driving gas-powered cars or heating their homes with oil.
The government also promised to spend money to help people buy green vehicles and fix up their homes so that they use less energy, among other things.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016. (Image credit: Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)
On Nov. 19, the government also proposed a new law that would force Canada to produce “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050.
That means any pollution we produce would be offset by activities that are good for the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using carbon capture technology to trap greenhouse gases.
Jewelle Robbins said she feels inspired by planting trees and seeing more bike lanes opening in her Ontario town. (Image submitted by Jewelle Robbins)
Climate striker reacts
If these changes happen, they could help Canada meet its Paris goals.
Jewelle Robbins, 16, from Peterborough, Ontario, said Friday’s announcement by Trudeau is “very inspiring and hopeful.”
Still, she said, there’s always a chance that the government won’t follow through on its promises.
“I'm also kind of feeling worried that, you know, it just won't happen,” she told CBC Kids News.
Emissions going up, not down
Tavie, from North Vancouver, said the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement is not a milestone to celebrate.
“We've continued to increase our emissions rather than going in the opposite direction,” she told CBC Kids News.
A rally in favour of climate action took place in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Dec. 11. (Image credit: fridaysforfuture.berlin/Instagram)
A United Nations report released this week says greenhouse gas emissions were at a record high in 2019.
Isn’t COVID-19 helping?
COVID-19 travel restrictions helped curb the production of greenhouse gases in 2020.
However, the concentration of emissions in the atmosphere is still expected to rise in the coming years, according to the report.
Scientists predict that rising temperatures will negatively affect our ecosystems and contribute to rising water levels, the destruction of habitats and the melting of glaciers.
Tavie said it’s important to remind everyone how urgent this is and not to lose focus on the climate crisis during the pandemic.
“I think the importance of not going back to normal cannot be understated right now. We can't go back to what we called normal before the pandemic because ‘normal’ was a crisis.”
Some strikes are virtual
Strikes took place today in Ottawa, Belleville and Peterborough in Ontario as well as other parts of the world to put pressure on governments to do more.
Cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax had strikes earlier this week, either outdoors or online.
Tavie planned to take part in her first-ever virtual strike.
“I'm very excited to see how it plays out,” she said. “Hopefully our community can rally around us and support us and we can spread our movement far and wide.”
The Alberta Legislature Building was one of the Canadian protest sites. (Image credit: edmontonyouthforclimate/Instagram)
Tavie said she and her fellow Vancouver strikers planned to flood people’s Instagram and Twitter feeds with information and pictures about the fight for 1.5 C.
As for Jewelle, she plans to be part of a candlelit protest in front of Peterborough city hall, calling on officials to make local changes, including more bike lanes and better public transit.
With files from Emma Farge, Aislinn Laing/Reuters, Bob Weber/The Canadian Press