David Suzuki: Is the climate crisis creating a global consciousness shift?

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      When an assassin killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, no one called it the start of the First World War. That happened years later, after the implications, consequences and scale of the response could be assessed. It’s often the way. That’s why historians are important; they put events in context. 

      Similarly, I doubt anyone knew how our world would change after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their first computer in Jobs’ parents’ garage in 1975. 

      In 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen testified in Washington that human-caused global warming was kicking in, people might have been excused for failing to grasp the significance of his early warning. But there’s no excuse for humanity’s subsequent dismissal and denial of the reality of his statements and the deliberate, aggressive opposition to any action to reduce the threat. 

      For years, environmentalists have called for an urgent response to runaway climate change. Evidence has poured in from around the world to corroborate Hansen’s conclusions, from melting glaciers, sea level rise, and ocean acidification to increasing extreme weather events and changes in animal and plant behaviour and ranges.

      Despite the evidence, few governments have taken the necessary steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of listening to scientists and citizens, many leaders have chosen to heed the fossil fuel industry’s massive PR machine and right-wing ideologues who see the call for global action as a socialist threat to capitalism.

      There has been progress, at national and subnational levels, and among forward-thinking corporations and organizations. Some, like the commitment by countries including Denmark and Germany to reduce dependence on fossil fuels after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, were in response to markets rather than the climate crisis, but it positioned them well as evidence for climate change mounted. 

      More recently, people on the frontlines of climate change such as Pacific Islanders and Inuit have warned of the changes they’re experiencing. The insurance industry and a number of corporations have called for action, with some, like Tesla, designing solutions. But many in the media and government continue to downplay the problem.

      I’ve been astounded by the lack of response over the years, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest a shift is now taking place. Although we may not recognize its significance without the benefit of hindsight, we appear to be in the early stages of something huge. 

      Even some news outlets are shifting. The U.K.’s Guardian decided earlier this year to increase its coverage of climate change, going so far as to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry. The New York Times decided to use the more accurate term denier rather than skeptic to refer to those who reject the overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change. 

      People power is another sign of the growing shift: 400,000 at the largest climate march in history in New York in September, with 2,646 simultaneous marches in 162 countries; an unprecedented gathering of 25,000 in Quebec City in advance of a premiers’ climate change summit in April; and more than 10,000 in Toronto (including me) on July 5 for the March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate in advance of the Climate Summit of the Americas. 

      When Pope Francis reached beyond the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to call for action on climate change, his message was endorsed by other religious leaders and organizations, including the Dalai Lama, the Islamic Society of North America, an influential group of Jewish rabbis, and the Church of England. 

      Beyond visible evidence of the increasing willingness to meet the challenge of global warming, one of the biggest signs of a shift has been the almost unnoticed but spectacular increase in renewable energy investment in countries like the U.S., Brazil, and China

      It’s easy for governments and industry to prioritize corporate profits and short-term gain over the best interests of complacent citizens. But when enough people demand action, take to the streets, write to business, political, and religious leaders and talk to friends and family, change starts happening.

      We never know how big it will be until it’s occurred—but this time, it looks like it could be monumental! Let’s hope so.

      Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

      Comments

      10 Comments

      Tunder Bar

      Jul 15, 2015 at 9:23am

      The shift in consciousness is about how a group of environmental activists with the backing of numerous left wing third world countries and the United nations can completely undermine climate science and turn it into a political cause to effect a global transfer of wealth.

      Quote by Christine Stewart, former Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits.... climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

      Quote by Timoth Wirth, U.S./UN functionary, former elected Democrat Senator: “We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

      Quote by Richard Benedik, former U.S./UN bureaucrat: "A global climate treaty must be implemented even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect."

      Quote from the UN's Own "Agenda 21": "Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level."

      Quote by Ottmar Edenhoffer, high level UN-IPCC official: "We redistribute de facto the world's wealth by climate policy...Basically it's a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization...One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore."

      Well done Tunder Bar

      Jul 15, 2015 at 11:32am

      But.. I fear your post falls on deaf ears. It just feeels so much beter to think you are 'saving the planet' while walking to work in the rain. It's so much nicer, while voluntarily giving up your freedom of movement and government control over your whereabouts, to think that public transit is 'saving the planet' than to realize how stupiid you were.
      Besides.. the debate is over. Environmentalism indeed IS a religion. Just ask the pope.

      ec

      Jul 15, 2015 at 12:27pm

      Over population is the problem. All other issues are sympthoms of this.

      David, what do you propose for us to solve climate change? Don't worry, the solution is mass extinction. Things will take care of themselves.

      @Tunder Bar

      Jul 15, 2015 at 3:21pm

      Spot on. China adds more than one Canada worth of CO2 a year, while we're being told we have to really watch our usage. Canada should certainly have environmental regulation, but focus on per capita CO2 is just a way to redistribute wealth so that the elite of every nation are the only ones with any quality of life. After all, until Canada has peasants like China has peasants, we're going to be unequal, and that's doubleplusungood.

      My experience

      Jul 15, 2015 at 3:33pm

      has been that my electric bicycle kit has given me much more liberty than my car ever did. My car always felt like a ball and chain so I sold it. Now, with 500 watts of electricity retrofitted onto my mountain bike, I'm free to go anywhere, for free! I get peace and quiet, peace from oil wars, peace from the stress of car ownership and peace of mind. Plus my bike uses technology grown right here in Vancouver.

      It's a sexy time to ride electrons. Yessir.

      You can see it coming a mile away.

      Jul 16, 2015 at 5:42am

      Unfortunately, the shift in environmental consciousness has already been misdirected by the powerful to prepare us for "carbon trading" which is an open door to corruption. Instead of enacting real limits to carbon emissions, corporations can shift around their pollution allotments like shells in a game. Hard limits on emissions were the only way to save the planet. However, we have already been trained to accept carbon trading as part of an "environmental" mindset. Total BS.

      Anonymous

      Jul 17, 2015 at 6:55am

      The drought in California, the drought in BC and the heat that we are experiencing in Vancouver right now along with the recent summer forest fire extremes should be serious reminders that we should all be putting pressure on world leaders to take some fast and extreme measures to see if we can't help reverse the trend. While we are grateful to our scientists and particularly David Suzuki for showing us all the scientific data we need to make an educated decision with regards to saving our planet, it is also long past the time for people everywhere to stop denying the evidence in front of us try to help fix it.

      @ Tunder Bird

      Jul 17, 2015 at 7:48am

      Isn't this transfer of wealth of which you speak the exact same thing that has been carried out by the forces of capital against the so-called third world for the past, oh I don't know, four-hundred years or so? (Via the ruthless exploitation of natural resources and indigenous populations among other things.) And furthermore this economic arrangement only seems to be accelerating in this era of late capitalism not only in poor countries but here in our own through the undermining of public goods and the transferring of public wealth to the one percent all in the name of neoliberal austerity and other social and economic policies. This is a terrific arrangement if you find yourself on the right side of a rigged economic equation, which I doubt you are.

      Robert Smith Chilliwack BC

      Jul 17, 2015 at 8:13am

      I posted this to a TPP comment on Suzuki's site. Only the 1% can affect climate change one way or the other. The monumental shift Suzuki speaks of has to come from the 1% and as you can see the 1% have good reason to make that monumental shift.
      It seems Suzuki is waiting for the worlds population to wake up but they are, and will still vote for the economy ahead of the environment. It's the 1% that needs waking up.

      The 1% will soon own half the worlds wealth by adding another 6% while the rest of the world has gone another $75T in debt. As predicted stimulus is the largest wealth transfer in the history of human civilization. The EU has committed to bond buy backs, Canada lowered interest again even though the one January lead to negative GDP.
      I don't think it takes much math to see more 'hell no we won't pay' Greek style protests until a few billion starting shouting off with their heads. Personally I think the 1%, like catastrophic climate change, has already reached the financial tipping point. but it's not my ass that's connected to the head people will roll down the street. I'm considering a bowl of popcorn as this global wealth transfer winds down, kinda like watching lightning over a bone dry forest.

      TPP comment
      Robert Smith under the TTP if we change anything that affects the bottom line of corporations invested here, LNG, then the taxpayers pay the difference. lol what could go wrong??? Privatize profit at the publics risk, sweet. I can see about 5 levels of criminal and political corruption in that mess.