Climate change deadline is now: Phannenhour

climate change

(Photo: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post)


Things got so bad at one point in my academic career that the seminary I attended launched what is still known today as ‘The Phannenhour Rule.’ This rule states that a student may apply for no more than three course extensions in any one term. The previous year, I had applied for extensions in all five of my courses because I was unable to start, and thus finish, most of the assignments.

For the past several decades, we, as a global society, have been engaged in an even more debilitating form of procrastination. We have been putting off our attempts to address climate change because we are not sure what the final result of such an extensive experiment in social and economic change would be.

The insidious nature of climate change does little to spur us out of our lethargy. Our global climate is changing because we are releasing too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere primarily through our burning of fossil fuels. The change that we experience, however, is gradual, sporadic, and virtually unobservable. Once we can see the harm that we are doing to our atmosphere, it will be too late for us to take effective action. We are, consequently, being asked to trust scientists and scholars, whom we do not know. They are telling us that the amount of carbon dioxide we can emit into the atmosphere is limited to 350 parts per million before we begin to threaten the sustainability of life. We have now reached 400 parts per million.

Carbon dioxide is an odourless, invisible gas so we cannot see it filling up our atmosphere, surrounding our world in a fluid warming blanket. We know that summers are getting warmer, but the winters seem colder. Storms are getting more intense, but they afflict us only occasionally. Besides, weather happens in Canada. We get used to it. We learn to adjust. At this time, climate change may be an irritant and inconvenience to our lives, but in many low-lying countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines, poor people already know it as a life-threatening phenomenon.

In December the nations of the world will meet in Paris, France in an attempt to construct an agreement that will reduce and eventually eliminate our global production of greenhouse gases. This meeting is our last and only chance to make the change we need. We have come down to the deadline for action. We cannot procrastinate any longer.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, in a couple of weeks, we will elect a new government that will need to play an active role in these negotiations. Every member that we elect to our Parliament must be able to articulate a clear, comprehensive, and effective plan for our nation’s participation in this global effort. The political factions may argue among themselves about who is better prepared to mitigate climate change, but in the end, we will all need to work together regardless of our political convictions and loyalties. Whomever we elect will need to participate in an agreement, and then implement its provisions here at home. That government will then need our support.

Canada has a history of delivering to the rest of the world what we are blessed to possess in abundance. Our nation was built on fulfilling the world’s needs, first for fish, then for furs and timber and wheat, and most recently, oil and gas. The world now needs a new vision of a clean energy future, complete with the technology to make that future possible. Can we deliver on these needs, or will we procrastinate? Climate change is everyone’s problem, but we have the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

Daniel Phannenhour (Pastor Dan) is an unretired Lutheran pastor and father to three lovely young women. He currently lives with his wife in the Oakville parsonage, and is exploring new ways of embodying the Christian faith while celebrating the multicultural and multifaith diversity of our community and nation.

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