10/30/2018 16:50 EDT | Updated 10/31/2018 11:48 EDT

6 Ways Students Can Turn Climate Fears Into Collective Action

If you are feeling discouraged, lost or anxious, let it be a catalyst.

By Aidan McNally and Laura Cutmore

Earlier this month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report delivering an urgent wake-up call to the world — we must take unprecedented action to curb the worst of climate change, and we only have 12 years to do it.

The Paris Agreement, of which Canada is a signatory, was signed in 2015 as a global commitment to keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius, though the intention was to prevent warming beyond 1.5 degrees.

Canadian Federation of Students

The IPCC report reveals that 1.5 can no longer be an aspirational goal, but that surpassing 1.5 degrees of warming will have irreversible climate impacts. According to the report, we must avoid 2 degrees at any cost to prevent the suffering, displacement and even death of millions of people. The IPCC report confirms what island countries, Indigenous peoples, and others have been saying for years: "1.5 to stay alive."

The bad news is that we're on track to reach 1.5 degrees of warming between 2030 and 2052, which gives us about 12 years to prevent the worst of catastrophic climate change. The good news is that, while grim, this report is clear preventing 1.5 degrees of warming is still possible.

This means taking matters into our own hands to take collective action.

To begin, we need to stop focusing on individualized solutions to climate change, like reducing meat consumption and banning single-use plastics. These tactics distract from the fact that 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions since 1998 have been caused by just 100 fossil fuel companies. In order to solve the climate crisis, we must put the onus back on companies that have been profiting off the destruction of our planet.

This means taking matters into our own hands to take collective action.

Here are six things you can do to address climate change right now:

1. Read and share the IPCC report

The IPCC report is one of the single most important reports on climate change. Read and share it with university boards of governors, your friends, your family — and consider passing a motion at your students' union to endorse it.

2. Take collective action

We must collectively fight for climate justice and support Indigenous climate resistance opposing new fossil fuel projects. Whether that be showing up or donating, we must take the lead from Indigenous climate leaders who have been at the forefront of protecting land that often has never been ceded or surrendered.

The reality is, we continue to see new investments in extraction projects.

JASON REDMOND via Getty Images
Indigenous leaders, Coast Salish Water Protectors and others demonstrate against the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project in Burnaby, B.C.

From the Federal government's recent purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline to its approval of BP's risky drilling project offshore Nova Scotia, we need to engage in mass mobilization to defeat these projects and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Groups like, Council of Canadians and Indigenous Climate Action have been at the forefront of advocating for environmental justice, and are good places to start.

3. Understand the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

UNDRIP is an international instrument adopted by the UN in 2007 that affirms the rights of Indigenous people — including Indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination and "free, prior and informed" consent for natural resource extraction. Despite the Canadian government signing onto UNDRIP in 2010 after intense public pressure and the adoption of Bill C-262 earlier this year, the document has yet to be fully implemented. Increased public pressure is needed to ensure UNDRIP is implemented and respected.

4. Increase public pressure

Climate change is a complicated problem, and no one solution is going to fix it. We need bold action to protect our planet from the worst of climate change. Contact your representative at the municipal, provincial and federal level to demand that they take action now. That can look like:

Municipal level:

Provincial level:

  • Setting bold emissions targets and provincial climate plans.
  • Investing in a just transition for workers away from the fossil fuel industry into a green economy in a way that prioritizes the most marginalized.
  • Earmarking funding for Indigenous and community-owned renewable energy projects.

Federal level:

  • Immediately cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and new fossil fuel projects.
  • Committing to complete decarbonization by 2050, and invest in a rapid transition to a green economy. This includes the redirection of $3 billion currently spent on fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Committing to strong global commitments at COP 24 climate conference and financially support the world's poorest and most vulnerable who will bear the brunt of global climate change.

5. Organize on campus

Students and young people have been at the forefront of climate justice on campus, as we will be the ones saddled with the climate crisis — so join a campus climate action or a local fossil fuel divestment group.

Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. is one of several universities to come under pressure to divest from fossil fuels.

Across Canada, only two post-secondary institutions have divested from fossil fuels. We are also seeing the growing influence of fossil fuel corporatization on campus through large donations to our cash-strapped public institutions. So organize on campus and start demanding that university administrations take action.

6. Check in with folks and take care of yourself

The report makes it clear — the disastrous effects of global climate change will be felt in our lifetimes, and sooner than we think. This is a terrifying prospect for us all. Check in with your friends, loved ones and fellow organizers and take care of yourself.

More from HuffPost Canada:

If you are feeling discouraged, lost or anxious, let it be a catalyst for action. There is no time to waste — we need creative and bold solutions, so let's fight for them together.

Aidan McNally is the Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students — Nova-Scotia; Laura Cutmore is the External Vice-President of the Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students and an organiser with Divest Dalhousie.

CORRECTION: An editor error in an earlier version of this blog indicated that Dalhousie University was one of two universities to divest from fossil fuels. It has not divested from fossil fuels.

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