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In 2009, 114 countries including Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord, agreeing “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” They recognized “the scientific view” that the increase in global temperature should be held to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. However, the increase of the world’s combined land and ocean temperature is already about 1 degree with no decrease in sight, and Canada is far from meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas targets.

The 2 degrees is an upper limit for serious problems, not a threshold at which problems start to occur. President Obama recently warned that “climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here; it is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.” One obvious result is the rise in sea level of 1.6 mm per year caused by expansion of the water on warming, and the melting of glaciers and icecaps. This is already threatening low-lying areas such as Florida and Bangladesh. Another result is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as the 200-mm rainfall in 12 hours that flooded Peterborough in 2004, and the current drought on the west coast of North America that has led to serious wildfires.

In recognition of the changing world in which we are living, in 2012 Peterborough City and County, the 8 townships, and the Hiawatha and Curve Lake First Nations passed a plan (see SustainablePeterborough.ca) to provide a path to sustainability integrating its economy, environment, society and culture. As one path forward, in 2013 Sustainable Peterborough received $400,000 in grants from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Ontario Trillium Foundation to create, by 2017, a local action plan that will lower our energy consumption, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and help us adapt to our changing climate. The energy inventory for the region is now essentially complete and the setting of greenhouse gas targets is beginning. A number of community task forces have been formed to consider different theme areas for reduction, including, for example, Land Use Planning, Transportation, and Community Energy.

Community individuals are also being asked to contribute their ideas and expertise. There is a survey available online at http://fluidsurveys.com/s/PeterboroughCCAP/, and the public will be asked for input at a number of events.

It is clear that we need dramatic changes in our way of life if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, but luckily all these changes actually improve the quality of life, providing cleaner air and water, more employment through green jobs, and better public transportation, for example.

We can all act on climate change now by voting for the party that provides the best platform to address the issue. If you need guidance on which party’s objectives are closest to your ideals, do the online VoteCompass survey provided by the CBC, or come to the All-Candidates meeting on climate change on October 1, 7 pm, at Trinity United Church, 360 Reid St., just a 10-minute walk from the bus terminal. You can also look up the “voters-guide” by the Council of Canadians that compares the platforms on several important issues. To know how to vote, google “Elections-Canada”. Finally, consider joining OPIRG, KWIC or SustainableTrent to make an ongoing impact.