Canada is heating up: Here's 5 ways Hamiltonians can combat climate change

Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. The city has declared a climate emergency. So what are we supposed to do about it?
Environmentalists display a banner at a recent Hamilton city council meeting. Councillors voted at that meeting to declare a climate emergency. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A new study shows Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Last week, the City of Hamilton declared a climate emergency.

So there's a climate change problem. But what are we supposed to do about it?

City councillors first voted March 18 to make the declaration, which is largely a pledge to keep up efforts to fight climate change and reduce emissions. The city is also setting up a task force across its numerous departments with a goal to reduce emissions to zero by 2050.

This came two weeks before a study by Canada's Changing Climate Report (CCCR), commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The study says that since 1948, Canada's annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia. In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3 C.

CBC News asked Ian Borsuk, Environment Hamilton's climate campaign co-ordinator, what Hamiltonians can do on a local level to make a difference. Here's what he said.

Leave the car at home. Even for one day a week.

Borsuk says taking HSR one day a week is a good start. (John Rieti/CBC)

It's easy to hop in a car to go places, Borsuk says. But even just taking transit, riding your bike, or walking one day a week helps. Try it once, he says, and you'll realize it's not as hard as you think.

Local data from the city's climate change staff, he says, show emissions from every Hamilton sector have decreased — except for transportation. Local air quality research also shows year after year that the biggest threat to our respiratory systems isn't Hamilton's storied industrial sector. It's emissions from our vehicles. 

"This is one of the biggest changes someone can make," says Borsuk. He suggests taking HSR one day a week. "Consider giving it a chance every Friday."

Eat less meat. Pick one day to not eat meat at all.

Going meatless one day a week is a good start, Borsuk says. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Borsuk is vegan, but says he doesn't expect you to be. Even having one meatless day a week, he says, makes an impact.

Meat is "incredibly carbon intensive," he says. It takes a lot of grain and water to feed livestock, energy that wouldn't exist otherwise. Meat is "significantly less efficient in terms of calorie emissions."

He suggests Monday as a good day to "make a decision to not get a burger for lunch today."

"It's really easy," he says. "It's getting easier every day in Hamilton."

A study last year from University of Reading researchers shows that even replacing 25 per cent of beef consumption with chicken would significantly reduce food system emissions.

Use reusable bags and containers.

Borsuk says reusable shopping bags, mugs, water bottles and straws make a difference. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Borsuk recommends carrying a reusable water bottle, and if applicable, a reusable coffee mug. 

Lots of people have them, he says, but they forget them at home. "Actually take it," he says. "Throw it in your bag."

Water bottles can be easily refilled. Coffee shops around Hamilton, he says, are increasingly open to people using their own cups.

Keep a metal straw in your bag, he says. Use reusable shopping bags. "Really try to remind yourself to use those things every single day."

Buy local.

Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, centre, visited the Hamilton Victory Gardens in 2014. He chatted with Jerry Noordam, left, and Peter Ormond. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Borsuk likes the idea of buying local products. He recommends buying local food, but if possible, buy other items locally too.

"It's not necessarily always the case," he said. "But typically, if you're purchasing something that was manufactured and produced close to you, you're cutting down on transportation emissions."

Talk to people.

This graphic shows how much Canada has warmed according to Canada's Changing Climate Report. (CBC News)

Borsuk recommends sharing conservation ideas with people you know, and hearing their ideas too. 

"Talk to friends, family and neighbours," he said. "It's a lot easier to consistently make changes if you're telling people about the changes they're making and why."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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