An ‘all hands on deck’ approach will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our communities to withstand the harsher climate of the future. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

An ‘all hands on deck’ approach will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our communities to withstand the harsher climate of the future. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

OUR PLANETARY HEALTH: Immediate action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Megan Tomlinson

Special to The Record

The summer of 2021 in this province was like no other. The climate crisis reached a palpable level as we bore witness to the escalation of extreme weather events. The BC Coroner’s Service reported a dramatic increase in sudden deaths, estimating 560 human lives lost to a single event known to us as the ‘heat dome’ in June. Livelihoods and homes were destroyed as a result of unrelenting wildfires and Vancouver was given the unenviable distinction of having the worst air quality of any major city in the world.

This summer also brought the release of a significant report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an enormous global undertaking that synthesizes all scientific data and knowledge pertaining to the cause, effect and potential impacts of climate change. The report definitively settles the debate of whether the climate crisis is human-caused and warns of more frequent extreme weather events in future years with absolute certainty. Experts resoundingly agree: the ‘death of coal and fossil fuels’ must occur without delay or we will suffer severe consequences.

Essentially, there are two options: do nothing, or mitigate and adapt. If we choose the former, catastrophic weather conditions and widespread human suffering will be accelerated. On the other hand, mitigation and adaptation are viable options. An ‘all hands on deck’ approach will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our communities to withstand the harsher climate of the future.

Individual actions, such as seeking green forms of transportation or switching to a plant-centered diet, are steps we can take to support the mitigation of climate change. And while these actions might be inconsequential on a global scale, they hold the potential for influencing those around us to take action. The domino effect leads to collective action which is a key ingredient for influencing change. And because of the interconnectedness between the climate crisis, social justice, community health and the environment, there are many avenues to be involved.

In British Columbia, a significant source of methane (known as a ‘super pollutant’ greenhouse gas) is a toxic byproduct along the production line of liquid natural gas or LNG. The Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment have partnered to raise public awareness on the harmful health impacts to Indigenous communities and people living in close proximity to these fracked wells. The campaign, https://www.unnaturalgas.org/, highlights the alarming contribution this fossil fuel has on B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions and debunks the political rhetoric which portrays natural gas as a clean transition fuel.

Finally, we must voice our climate concerns to our municipal, provincial and federal politicians and cast a well-informed vote in the upcoming federal election. Our political leaders need to take a decisive course correction towards a clean energy future. Government subsidies for the oil and gas sector are detrimental to the path forward. Party platforms need to include concrete plans for assisting workers to transition into jobs that are in line with climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The detrimental health effects and socioeconomic disparities exasperated by the climate crisis serve as a disturbing alarm bell that requires immediate attention. The time for pressing the snooze button has passed. The choice is clear: we can either take brave and innovative action or bury our heads in the sand with the certainty of increased human suffering and loss of life. Let’s tap into our collective ingenuity and morality without further delay.

Megan Tomlinson R.N. is a member of the Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment. www.cvnhe.org

Climate crisisHealth and wellness