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Thursday, May 28, 2020
Our View

At this point, we have to start adapting to climate change

What regional and local municipal governments do in the battle against climate change can’t and won’t amount to much – the numbers are just too inconsequential to matter.

That doesn’t mean they don’t try, though it doesn’t give local officials license to flush away large amounts of money on meaningless projects. Likewise, individual efforts to reduce the now-clichéd carbon footprint are laudable, though also insignificant in isolation.

“Isolation” is the operative word, as collective action would amount to meaningful reductions in, say, greenhouse gas emissions. Or could amount to something, if not for concerted corporate efforts to counter any real change, political or otherwise.

Woolwich councillors this week heard from delegations who discussed ways to both reduce our carbon footprint and learn to adapt to the perils that will arise when we inevitably fail to stave off climate change.

On the whole, chances are we’re going to do nothing, or little enough to be called nothing, such that catastrophic warming is our likely future.

Research and computer models  find that limiting global warming to 1.5°C – the slippery slope to the no-going-back 2°C – would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

The consequences for failing to do so will be deadly for many and very, very expensive for pretty much everybody. We may acknowledge that – though many people, often influenced by the aforementioned corporate propaganda, dismiss the prospect as alarmism – but we won’t make significant changes to reach such goals.

Expecting action on a wider scale, especially by governments of the biggest polluters, is likely beyond the pale, and the possibility of drastic steps within the next decade – the 2030 deadline identified in the latest IPCC report – is close enough to zero to be called zero.

That means we’ll end up dealing with much more extreme weather – droughts, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes – and the deaths, displacement and financial losses that comes with it.

We’re already seeing the impacts of the warmest weather on record. Even in the area, where the impacts are expected to be somewhat more muted, we’re experiencing weather events more pronounced than in the past, along with some sudden fluctuations.

We’re not to confuse today’s weather with the big picture of climate, but every anomaly adds to the evidence.

If climate models are on target, we can expect more extreme weather days ahead, even putting aside the human contribution to global warming/climate change.

If the models hold, we can expect more than just rising temperatures. Greater impacts could include changes in precipitation patterns, in soil moisture, and possibly in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events.

Changes in weather patterns may affect the frequency and intensity of pollution episodes.

Ontario falls prey to a number of natural hazards: drought, heat waves, floods, rain, snow and ice storms, tornadoes, and even hurricanes, although they’re rare. Small changes in average climate conditions are expected to generate significant changes in extreme events.

Experts anticipate fewer extremely cold days and more extremely hot days and more severe thunderstorms, which can cause injury and property damage.

While things are projected to get worse, there have already been an uptick in weather-related disasters across the country, particularly floods. That comes with a human toll, and a large hit to the wallet.

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