A United Nations report released earlier this month said we have less than two decades to drastically change our habits, or face the dire consequences of extreme climate change.
The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said without serious changes, global warming will increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial temperatures as early as 2030.
This 1.5 C increase was a non-binding target set during discussions about the Paris Accords, which sets 2 C as the total increase in global warming allowable, and has long been thought of as a reasonable target.However, that extra half degree has drastic effects.
Millions of people will deal with flooding from the rising sea levels. The coral reefs, rather than just dying frequently, will all but vanish. Hundreds of millions more people will be exposed to frequent heatwaves.
And that’s if the world manages to limit the warming to just 2 C. Canadians know the energy-saving drill. Turn off your lights when you’re not in the room and unplug your television when it’s not in use. Wear a sweater and thick socks instead of turning up the heat. Don’t eat meat and grow your own vegetables.
On the other hand, a 2017 Carbon Majors report issues by CDP, a non-profit charity, says half of all emissions since the Industrial Revolution can be traced back to just 25 companies. The report also mentions more than 70 per cent of global industrial greenhouse gas comes from just 100 companies.
While individuals do have to make their own contributions to prevent the environmental collapse of our planet, less is said about the responsibilities of corporations to change their ways.
No one should deny the global industry built around meat-eating contributes hugely to climate change, or that it is definitely preferable to ride a bike or walk than take a five-minute car ride.
However, big business must also take responsibility for curbing and off-setting their emissions. It isn’t individuals but corporations that lobby governments to slow progress towards a net-zero planet. For example, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has been communicating with the government about the “continued growth” of Canada’s oil industry.
It hardly seems likely that they’re talking about how to reform the industry completely. Capitalism requires profit and expansion, so that shareholders don’t leave for greener (as in richer, not cleaner) pastures.
If the past few decades of alarm bells over climate change have shown us anything, it’s that corporations aren’t changing their ways any time soon.
Everyone should take steps to reduce their impact on the world. Perhaps, though, the biggest step a person can take is to vote for politicians who will change regulations and force companies to take steps towards sustainability.