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We Must Heed Storm Warnings to Build a Brighter Future

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By David Suzuki with contributions from Senior Editor Ian Hanington
David Suzuki Foundation

A house on the coast of North Carolina's Outer Banks collapsed when it was undercut by the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Credit: Mark Wolfe/FEMA

A house on the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks collapsed when it was undercut by the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Credit: Mark Wolfe/FEMA

In 2012, North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission warned that sea levels there could rise by a metre over the next century. The warning was based in part on U.S. Geological Survey findings that “sea level rise along the portion of the East Coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is accelerating at three to four times the global rate” and that sea level in the region “would rise up to 11.4 inches higher than the global average rise by the end of the 21st century,” according to ABC News.

It was meant to help the state prepare its long, wide, low-lying coast for the kinds of severe occurrences that are becoming increasingly common as climate change ramps up. But developers and others complained the forecasts could hurt property values and increase insurance costs.

Politicians came up with a novel “solution.” They passed a law banning policies based on the forecasts.

Under the law, predictions can be for 30 years at most and must be based on historical data about sea level rise. This ignores mountains of scientific evidence about global warming and its consequences, including the fact that sea level rise is accelerating as ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions drive global average temperatures higher.

The law allowed developers and government to continue building homes, buildings, roads and bridges along the coast, oblivious to threats outlined by people who study climate and oceans. Whether heeding the warnings would have mitigated the devastation and tragedy from Hurricane Florence depends in part on actions government might have taken. But refusing to accept scientific evidence for the sake of short-term profits, although all too common, isn’t the way to protect citizens and property.

The Coastal Resources Commission released a more modest warning in 2015, concluding sea level rise could be 15 to 20 centimetres over 30 years — less than other research predicts. North Carolinians also elected a governor last year who accepts the reality of climate change and has committed to taking action. But so far, not enough has been done to safeguard the vulnerable coastline from sea level increases or storm surges exacerbated by climate change.

As meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains in the Washington Post, “A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor — producing heavier downpours and providing more energy to hurricanes, boosting their destructive potential.”

The notion that storms and other weather events will follow predictable historical patterns is being shattered by record climate-related storms, droughts, floods and heatwaves worldwide. The tragedy so many are facing, from loss of homes to loss of lives and livelihoods, is compounded by the fact that much of it is or was preventable. Employing solutions while continuing to develop new knowledge and technologies in everything from agriculture to renewable energy would create good jobs and economic gains, while protecting human health and well-being and the very life-support systems that keep us alive and well.

Many in the U.S. understand this. While the federal government rolls back environmental laws and protections, “more than 3,000 U.S. cities, states, businesses, investors, counties, regional associations, faith communities, and post-secondary institutions are on track to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 17% — and possibly by as much as 24% [by 2025], bringing the country close to meeting its promised target under the Paris Agreement,” an Energy Mix article states.

Those reductions depend on how well signatories to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ America’s Pledge keep their commitments on a range of goals regarding renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, carbon pricing, carbon sequestration strategies and preventing methane leaks. But the benefits of doing so go beyond ensuring our survival and well-being — though that should be enough!

A study by C40 Cities, the Global Covenant of Mayors and the NewClimate Institute concluded, “Cities around the world could create 13.7 million jobs and prevent 1.3 million premature deaths per year by 2030 by pursuing ‘ambitious urban climate policies’ that ‘vastly reduce carbon emissions globally,’” Energy Mix reports.

As our thoughts and hopes are with the people of the U.S. East Coast, the Philippines and other places caught in terrifying weather, we must remember that we’re all in the storm now. Our way to safety is also our way to a brighter future.

Published with permission from David Suzuki Foundation

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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