Photo courtesy of Our Horizon

The era of climate change denial is over, yet the connection between human consumption and climate change continues to be lost on some consumers. Climate change warning labels on gas pump nozzles provide a low-cost solution to bridge the gap that societies have towards the cause and effect of climate change.

Our Horizon, led by founder and executive Rob Shirkey, is the non-profit organization fighting to make climate change warning labels the law. A\J first discussed climate change warning labels in July 2014 in our Arts and Media issue. Since then, North Vancouver became the first city to pass the legislation making it mandatory for climate change warning labels to be displayed on gas pumps.

Launched in 2013, the climate change warning labels work similar to warning labels on tobacco products. They connect the cause and effect of climate change with consumers, locate responsibility and encourage buyers to seek out the externalities associated with climate change that are not reflected in price of fuel.

“It is not until we’re made to face the reality that we’re up against and it is not until we’re made to feel responsible for this that we will then be able to move forward in meaningful ways,” – said Shirkey at a TEDx conference in Toronto.

The labels get consumers thinking about their contributions to climate change and guide them in seeking out alternatives for their fuel consumption. The hope is that opening up that discussion encourages a shift in consumer demand away from fossil fuels and incentivizes businesses to also seek out fuel alternatives to their products.

After North Vancouver by-law passed last month, a chain reaction of municipalities implementing the legislation has started to occur with cities like Port Moody in BC voting in favour of the legislation. Shirkey says that North Vancouver has led the way in getting other municipalities on board, as there’s sometimes apprehension around leadership in politics. Our Horizon is hopeful that Vancouver and other communities in BC will begin the legislative process in the next year.

However, the climate victory in North Vancouver is just the first step. “We're going to continue to advocate for the idea at the municipal level,” said Shirkey. “We're also starting a conversation with provincial and federal government.”

Through a global database currently being built, Our Horizon is planning to “shotgun” their message out to the world and start conversations with global politicians. By informing politicians of the implementation of climate change warning labels in Canadian cities, they hope to inspire countries around the world to implement similar legislations. 

“The neat thing about shotgunning it out to the world is who knows where it might end up,” said Shirkey. “Imagine if this lands in the inbox of some Dutch or Swedish politician who says, "Wow. This is inexpensive, compelling, and governments are starting to do it. Why not do it here?" We think it's an idea that is destined to spread all over the world.”

Our Horizon is looking for people to volunteer some time to help them build their database to take Climate Change warning labels globally. Sign up at ourhorizon.org/global

Take climate change warning labels to your municipality! Download the Our Horizon Advocacy Action Kit to get started. 

Eunize Lao is the Editorial Intern and a third-year Environment and Business student at the University of Waterloo. 

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