“The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology … is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit.”
For two days, mayors from all over the world have been meeting at the Vatican to discuss the climate change among other things. The Vatican is trying to bring these people together with the hope that it will help bring the world’s political leaders closer to a binding agreement on climate change this coming December in Paris. Just how has climate change affected these cities? Their mayors know the truth:
Tehran, Iran – Water shortages due to climate change and over-exploitation of groundwater, and a century of development have threatened a city where its country’s precipitation levels are a third of the global average. Sadly, Tehran also has to contend with pollution from outdated factories and locally-mixed gasoline that falls below the usual standards. According to the World Health Organization, Tehran’s air has four times as much pollution as Los Angeles.
Vancouver, British Columbia – This beautiful west coast city in my own country is at great risk form sea level rise. A 2013 study in Nature Climate Change placed Vancouver as one of the top 20 cities on the planet at greatest threat from climate change. To mitigate this, Vancouver has banned construction on all areas that are below 3.6 feet above sea level.
São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s richest and most populated city is facing the worst drought it has seen in a century, leading to water cutoffs and rationing. The city will need to build new reservoirs and draw from other river basins but that won’t be ready for a number of years. Sadly, despite efforts to reduce emissions in an effort to combat the problem, São Paulo’s emissions have increased as it tries to deal with this drought even though Brazil’s emissions have been dropping overall.
New Orleans, Louisiana – This city has had to deal with both Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mayor Mitchell Landrieu described how his city’s poorest neighborhoods were most vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges. As hurricanes become stronger thanks to global warming, half if this city that lies below sea level will be that much more deadly. Mitigating efforts including levees, storm surge barriers, and dikes can help, but will they be enough?.
Stockholm, Sweden – This city is an example of what is possible. It adopted its first climate plan back in 1998, and will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20 percent from 1990 to 2020. To date it has prevented more than 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by switching to green cars and another 500,000 tons from switching to biofuels. Mayor Karin Wanngard pointed out that 75 percent of Stockholm’s public transportation uses renewable energy. The ultimate goal is to be fossil fuel-free in the next 25 years.
I think the world’s mayors have a lot of power to exert influence higher up through states and provinces and ultimately up to the federal governments around the world. That’s exactly the point behind David Suzuki’s Blue Dot campaign. I applaud Pope Francis for taking the initiative to bring these important individuals together in order to talk about this. How often do we say that the world’s leaders need to tackle this problem head on? Well, Pope Francis is a world leader.