Professor Mark Jaccard’s lecture on climate emergency emphasizes the importance of sincerity and citizen action

This lecture was a part of the Faculty of Environment Dean’s Lecture series From Environment Research to Public Solutions

Photo: Madeleine Chen / The Peak

Written by: Madeleine Chan

Mark Jaccard, SFU Distinguished Professor and Director of the School of Resource and Environmental Management, gave a talk about climate action at SFU’s Harbour Centre last week. He is also one of the four SFU experts recently recruited to the newly established Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

The lecture was based on his new book The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success: Overcoming Myths that Hinder Progress, which details actions against climate change in relation to citizen efforts. 

Jaccard began the talk to a lecture hall almost filled to capacity with an invitation and reminder to the audience to think critically about their own biases. 

He then went on to list his common myths surrounding climate change: fossil fuels, global agreements, and domestic policies. He concluded that global decarbonization, or the elimination of fossil fuel use, is a difficult process.

Jaccard then showed how the path to successfully lowering carbon is relatively “simple.” He explained that our key actions should be to “rapidly phase-out the burning of coal, oil, and most uses of natural gas” and implement compulsory policies for this.

Jaccard also described some of the factors that are holding the world back from this “simple” path. This included the promotion of climate myths, rigid pro/con views, “wishful-thinking” biases, biases that further our agendas, and climate sincere or insincere politicians. 

Throughout the entire talk, Jaccard heavily emphasized the importance of not having views that one is unwilling to change. 

“I’m not saying that you cannot be pro or con [ . . . ] but I invite you to think about how rigid you should be in your views [ . . . ] Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.”

Matt Horne, the City of Vancouver’s Climate Policy Manager, was also there as the respondent to comment on the city’s plans for climate success.

He noted that the city of Vancouver’s emissions largely come from two main sources: buildings and transportation.   

Horne emphasized that “it comes down to [a] simple set of six or seven solutions at a local level, like more walking, more cycling, more transit, more electric vehicles, [electric] heat pumps, renewable gas. It’s not a long list of what we have to transition from today.”

A busy and passionate Q&A session followed, with questions from the audience ranging from clarification about the speakers’ points to oppositional views on their stances. 

When asked how the average, climate-concerned citizen can make the most of their time, Jaccard suggested that supporting certain political parties that champion climate action and are vocal about the issue’s importance through civic action are the best ways.

Horne added to this that local Vancouver politicians are “very accessible” and are willing to meet with climate-concerned citizens. 

This talk is the second of four in the Faculty of Environment’s 2020 Dean’s Lecture Series. The series of free talks are in celebration of the Faculty’s tenth anniversary and, according to the event page, features “scholars and practitioners who explore some of the pressing social and ecological challenges we face.”

The next and last talk in the Dean’s Lecture series is called “Navigating towards ecologically safe and socially just fisheries” and will be held on March 12 at SFU’s Harbour Centre in room 1900 at 7:00 p.m. Jaccard’s lecture was also streamed live  and is available to watch on the SFU IT Services website through a link on the event page.