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Senior citizens: Take action on climate change now!

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When you get to our age, you think seriously about your legacy. Do you focus on the financial inheritance you want to leave your family, or do you consider how people will remember you?

We think about climate change.

We are in our 70s and have benefited from a period of unprecedented economic growth and wealth.

But while the burning of fossil fuels has given us so much, like a Faustian bargain their continued use will compromise everything we love and know. The fossil fuels burned to power the tremendous economic development of the last 100 years are warming the atmosphere at unprecedented levels.

More than 2,000 climate and atmospheric scientists tell us that we are on track for global warming of 6°C by the end of the 21st century, far above the 2°C "safe" level. 

While we have lived through a time of great wealth, our grandchildren will inherit a world in great decline, unless we do something to turn this mounting disaster around. 

Confronting global climate change isn't easy, especially when you're at an age when energy levels are not what they used to be. We can speak from personal experience that ensuring the wellbeing of our young grandkids has fuelled us into action.

So what would happen if grandparents from across Canada united with other grandparents from around the world to pressure our governments to transition us away from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy economies?

According to Elections Canada, more than 70 per cent of Canadians between 55 and 74 years voted in the 2011 federal election, compared to approximately 41 per cent of Canadian between 18 and 34 years. 

Senior citizens vote and politicians know it. Imagine what our elected representatives would do if we seniors collectively told them to take action on climate change.

A great number of us took to the streets in New York City and cities around the globe to do just that at the People's Climate March on September 21. We were there among an estimated 400,000 concerned citizens, part of the greatest climate march in history, to give world leaders the political will to "up the ante" on their climate commitments when they convened at the Climate Change Summit on September 23.

People from all walks of life, ethnicities and ages were there. We were heartened to see so many senior citizens with their signs and enthusiasm. We just need to organize.

In the months leading up to the events in New York, our organization, For Our Grandchildren, collaborated with Grandparents Climate Campaign, a group from Norway with 2,000 members that, among other things, are pressing state-owned Norwegian Statoil to withdraw from the Alberta Tar Sands. We developed a joint statement, calling on grandparents from around the world to join us in pressuring our governments to take progressive action on climate change.

For Canada, this includes putting an effective price on carbon, developing a National Climate Action Plan, regulating fossil fuel extraction, and accelerating the shift towards sustainable transportation and buildings. 

While in New York, our organizations met Dr. James Hansen for dinner the night before the People's Climate March. Dr. Hansen is a climate scientist who, in 1988, catalyzed the climate movement when he testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that there was a strong "cause and effect relationship" between observed temperatures and human emissions into the atmosphere. Dr. Hansen is a grandparent and campaigns on their behalf. His book, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must read for grandparents and really, everyone.

Dr. Hansen spoke of the need for citizens to march in the streets in large numbers. In his view without sizable demonstrations, politicians will not recognize that public opinion supports steps to reduce climate change. 

Time will tell if the People's Climate March and ensuing momentum will move our politicians in the right direction. In the meantime, we asked Christiana Figueres, Secretary to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, to consider supporting an international coalition of grandparents. She expressed interest, but wants to see progress towards the coalition's development before committing any resources, something that For Our Grandchildren and Grandparents Climate Campaign will actively pursue.

Convincing our governments -- or electing new ones -- to start building the green economy of tomorrow will be the greatest legacy we will leave our grandkids. We just need you to join us. Are you in?

Learn more at forourgranchildren.ca

Anthony Ketchum is the Founder of For Our Grandchildren, and Peter Jones is the Chair of For Our Grandchildren.

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