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The Sierra Club is hosting a session to let people know how they can, at a local level, reduce greenhouse gases.

Canadians have an appetite for destruction.

The world, North America, and Canada specifically have been devouring our “natural capital” (land, water, coal, oil, flora, fauna) for decades, and our destructive appetites show no sign of abating. We’ve grown accustomed to luxuries. It’s less enjoyable to take short, cool showers, ditch our cars and limit our eating habits to seasonally available foods than to consume blindly at will. Climate change is one outcome of such near-sighted consumption. And it could spell the end of civilization as we know it.

Climate change is caused by an increase of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc) in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases help insulate the Earth from the sun’s heat and maintain a stable climate, but with an over-abundance of these gasses too much heat is trapped. The resultant global warming leads to extreme weather events (heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, drought, higher maximum and minimum temperatures) that will affect many levels of society, from agricultural production and water availability to health and the continued existence of low-lying islands and coastal zones.

Eight to ten thousand people from across the globe will convene in Montreal from November 28 to December 9 for the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1st Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

The event, abbreviated to CoP11/MoP1 will be the first time all the countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol will meet, since it came into force on February 16 of this year. Canada signed on in December 2002, but Kyoto couldn’t come into force until 90 days after being ratified by at least 55 countries. This happened when Russia signed on in November 2004.

The Kyoto Protocol was first adopted in 1997, in Kyoto, Japan, when Canada and more than 160 other countries agreed to work towards targets that would reduce climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol outlines the emissions targets of each country, and the options available to achieving them.

Canada’s Kyoto target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Canada’s emissions are now 20 percent higher than 1990 levels, however, and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise around the world. The Kyoto Protocol is legally binding, but it’s up to participants of CoP11/MoP1 to figure out how to enforce compliance.

The conference will be hosted by Canada’s environment minister Stephane Dion, and while the negotiations are only open to government officials, other parties are welcome to attend as observers. Various NGOs will be hosting other events open to the public.

Leading up to the 12 day CoP11/MoP1 in Montreal, the local chapter of the Sierra Club is holding an information session on climate change called Cleaning Up Our Act, Globally. The session will take place on November 17 at the north end library, and will include talks about the history of climate change, how to reduce climate change locally and at home.

“I’m definitely happy to be learning about climate change because it’s something that I don’t know as much as I should,” says event organizer Moe Berrigan, an activist who is volunteering with the Sierra Club. Berrigan is also helping to organize a International Day of Action march in Halifax on December 3.

Berrigan says hosting CoP11/MoP1 is a great opportunity to urge Canada to recognize people are concerned. “The grassroots is very important because to help things people have to change their lifestyles and change their mindset about climate change and about their consumption in general.”

Berrigan says she hopes the meeting will reach both the climate change-conscious as well as those with little previous knowledge.

“There’s so many things you can change,” she says, “energy consumption, water consumption, food consumption, where your food comes from, there’s so many things. Hopefully, after all these goings on people won’t have any excuses.”

Cleaning Up Our Act, Globally, November 17 at the North Memorial public Library, 2285 Gottingen, 6pm. www.sierraclub.ca.

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