What about climate change? No. 2

Climate change
A few of the apocalyptic headlines from the past few days:

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC news

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out – Al Jazeera news

Scientists Just Laid Out Paths to Solve Climate Change. We Aren’t on Track to Do Any of Them –Time magazine

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – CNN

Earth has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – ABC news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – CBC news

Terrifying climate change warning: 12 years until we’re doomed – New York Post

U.N. Panel Warns Drastic Action Needed to Stave Off Climate Change – Wall Street Journal.

Unprecedented action needed to curb global warming – UN report – ITV news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – Victoria Times-Colonist

A major new climate report slams the door on wishful thinking – Vox

Climate Report Warns Of Extreme Weather, Displacement of Millions Without Action – NPR

Alarming as it is, this is hardly the first time scientists have warned us that we have to make changes or we face a catastrophe. And it’s not like we can’t see it coming: record tornadoes, record hurricanes, record typhoons, record temperatures, record tsunamis, record droughts… this summer we were warned “2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming” (New York Times).

As the BBC story notes:

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

A SINGLE degree. Can’t we strive for at least that?

In the US, the NOAA reported:

August 2018 was characterized by warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces. Record warm temperatures were present across parts of each major ocean basin, with the largest portions across the Barents Sea and the western Pacific Ocean, and small areas across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. During the month, the most notable temperature departures from average were present across Europe, central Asia, the northeastern contiguous U.S., and southeastern Canada, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher.

All of which makes me wonder why we’ve heard so little about climate change and Collingwood during this election campaign. Aside from what I wrote in my earlier post, I’ve heard only one candidate mention it. And that concerns me.
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What about climate change?

Forest fires. Flooding. Drought. Algal blooms in our lakes. Extreme temperatures. People dying in heat waves.

Climate change and its effects have been headline news this year more than ever. The New York Times dubbed 2018 the “summer of fire and swelter.” 2018 is predicted to be the fourth-hottest year on record – and the three hottest before that were the three previous years!

So what are we doing about it?  Nothing, it seems, at least in many places. The NYT commented that the unrelenting news is, “… revealing in real time how unprepared much of the world remains for life on a hotter planet.”

In Ottawa, on the sweltering Canada Day, the humidex made it feel like it was 47C. Montreal reached a record 37C the next day – and that wasn’t accounting for the humidex, which topped 40C. Thirty four people died in Montreal from “heat-related complications” that week.

What can we do? Or more importantly, what can Collingwood do?

I don’t know. Small municipalities are limited as to what they can achieve and whatever effect they can accomplish would be small. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, that we shouldn’t so something. Climate change, after all, is affects everyone. Those in government have a responsibility to make an effort and not simply ignore the problem.

Not just higher tiers of government, either. Surely there are constructive, positive things we can accomplish at the municipal level, even for a small town such as we are. 

This is important because it is getting worse and the effects are cascading throughout every facet of our lives, as the NYT reports:

Temperatures are still rising, and, so far, efforts to tame the heat have failed. Heat waves are bound to get more intense and more frequent as emissions rise, scientists have concluded. On the horizon is a future of cascading system failures threatening basic necessities like food supply and electricity.

As your next Deputy Mayor, I will ask to create a think tank, maybe a regional one that includes our municipal neighbours, or maybe one based out of Simcoe County. We should reach out to people, organizations and companies to gather as much input about what opportunities we have to make a difference. Find out what others have done, and whether they can be applied locally. Hold public information sessions, ask what residents want us to accomplish.

(Yes, I realize the very notion of engaging the public has been alien to council this term, but we can go back to open and accessible government next term when we elect a new council).

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Climate Change and Collingwood

Climate changeClimate change is arguably the single most pressing, most important, most challenging issue to affect governments at this time. Our world is suffering and weather is getting extreme in many parts. It’s affecting crops, wildlife, safety, water… everything.

But what are Canadian municipalities doing to combat it, to reign in their use of fossil fuels, reduce their carbon footprint, reduce emissions, pollution, and embrace alternate energy systems?

Not much, according to a study done by the Ontario Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure. OCSI’s 2014 report, “When the Bough Breaks” has some discouraging statistics. According to their survey, only 38% of Ontario municipalities are “incorporating climate change into their asset management planning.” Climate change was a priority in only 13% of municipalities.

Scarier is that, when given a list of relevant activities to choose from, 22% of respondents admitted their municipality was doing nothing to address climate change impacts. Nothing. A fifth of our municipalities aren’t even preparing themselves for catastrophic or severe weather.

In 2008, Collingwood’s now-forgotten Sustainable Community Plan report had this to say:

Over the next forty years, the Town of Collingwood is expected to experience local forces of change such as unprecedented population growth and changing demographic and global forces of change such as rising commodity prices and climate change… Over the next 40 years, climate change may impact the topography, water supply, water levels and climate in Collingwood, and around the world.

The plan went on to address ways Collingwood might act to create a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly community that helped reduce the human impact on climate change. Some, but far from all, of these ideas were incorporated in later town initiatives.

Since then, there have been many initiatives to deal with climate effects implemented by municipalities worldwide (especially to mitigate the threat to municipal infrastructure), and there are whole new trends in areas like stormwater management that have developed and are being shared.

But what has Collingwood done since that report? Not much, if anything.

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Lights out for Earth Hour, Saturday

Earth HourEarth Hour returns tonight, Saturday March 31. Collingwood has been a proud supporter of Earth Hour ever since it went worldwide.

If you care about climate change, or care about the environment, turn your lights out for 60 minutes from 8:30-9:30 p.m. local time. Come on, show you care! Turn those lights out. It’s only for 60 minutes.

Remember to unplug TVs, stereos, etc to stop ‘phantom’ power, too! Let’s see if we can set a record for low power use for Earth Hour 2012.

To learn more about Earth Hour, visit: www.earthhour.org/