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The Climate Crisis: An Introduction

By Neighbours for the Planet, October 2019

You have seen many reports recently warning about the impact of global warming on Earth’s climate.

We are already seeing record high temperatures, greenhouse gas (GHG) levels, and rates of polar ice melting around the world.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we must reverse the increase in greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2020 and decrease them by 45% before 2030 to keep earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celcius.

Achieving these targets is possible but preventing temperatures from rising another 1.5oC will require unprecedented effort, cooperation, and commitment. This brochure gives a basic description of the problem and what you can do to mitigate it.


“The first thing I have learned is that you are never too small to make a difference.” Greta Thunberg


Why must we act?

Carbon Emissions

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

The climate is heating and ice is melting much faster than projected, at rates and to a level not expected until 2070. Scientists believe this is because of the rapid accumulation of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) due to the burning of fossil fuels.

Extreme Weather Events

Unless enormous changes are undertaken, we will see stronger storms, in places they haven’t occurred before. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms, lightning, hail, drought, heat waves, and fires will intensify and spread.

Economic Consequences

Extreme weather events have damaged roads, bridges, houses, buildings and other infrastructure.

Insurance companies are increasing insurance rates in threatened areas and budgets will be impacted by the need to repair and replace damaged property and to harden existing property.

Property values will decline due to damage, declining land productivity, and the threats of extreme weather events in impacted areas. This undermines tax bases and the ability to fund climate change responses, without reducing funds for other areas.

Previously arable areas will no longer be able to be farmed due to heat and drought. This will drive increases in migration and refugees.


We must rapidly shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels.


Environmental Consequences

Sea levels are rising as the Arctic ice melts resulting in flooding in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Increase in temperatures are resulting in the invasion of Lyme disease ticks from the United States and the expansion of the pine beetle territory which has destroyed 50% of commercial lodgepole pine trees in B.C. Droughts are also causing wildfires in B.C and Alberta which are destroying forests and resulting in extreme smoke pollution.

Biodiversity is threatened: 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction; 5% of species are estimated to be at risk of extinction from 2°C warming, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming. As much as 10% of the insect population is also threatened.

Oceans are heating up and becoming more acidic, impacting fishing, coral reefs, and species survival and exacerbating extreme weather patterns due to warm ocean waters.

Human, animal, and plant health are impacted due to disease from the spread of bacteria, fungi, and viruses to new areas; death from heat waves, drought, and famine will increase.

People will migrate, accompanied by social, political, and economic instability. The poor (poor countries and poor people everywhere with fewer options) will be most severely impacted.


  • Implement financial, regulatory, legal, and policy incentives at all levels of government to decrease use of fossil fuels, including a refunded carbon tax, so the true costs of petroleum are captured in its price.

  • Replace subsidies for carbon based energy sources to renewables and storage. Add incentives for converting to solar, wind and geothermal. Protect urban tree cover, forests, and wetlands. Invest in massive tree planting around the world. Extend tax credits to decrease energy use through efficiency improvements and change in use patterns

  • Invest in mitigation, adaptation, and resilience at all levels. Some communities at risk will need to move. Others may partially adapt. Assistance and compensation will be needed.

  • Economic opportunities in green jobs.

What can I do?

  1. Be an advocate. Talk about climate change with your family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. Ask them if they are concerned. Pass out these handouts to everyone you know (you can print them from from the resource page).

  2. Vote for candidates at all levels who understand that we are in a climate crisis and have a bold plan of action. Vote for a climate champion!

  3. Have an energy audit done for your house. Use the results to reduce your household energy consumption, including weatherization, passive solar, and air circulation.

  4. Reduce meat consumption, especially beef.

  5. Join a climate group in Richmond Hill: Neighbours for the Planet, Extinction Rebellion, Targeting Climate Change, Drawdown, Blue Dot or in Toronto: 350 Toronto, ClimateFast, Leadnow. Learn more about what you can do and take action.

  6. Let your elected officials know you are concerned about climate change. Go to town halls, call elected officials and leave messages. The messages give them power to take action.

  7. Media – write letters to the editor. Even if your letter is not published, it highlights climate issues and will help get more reporting on climate news.


For more info and to join us, sign up for weekly updates.

Don’t let it be “Too Little, Too Late”. Every one of us must act now.


Reading Resources

Project Drawdown

Lists the most important things contributing to increase in GHG, costs and benefits of reducing emissions from these areas, in rank order. Book or website. Tons of useful information.

UN Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change 2018

UN IPCC Report on Land and Water

Green New Deal Canada:

Watch for the next IPCC Climate assessment report, due out before the UN Climate Summit in NYC Sept 21-23.

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