The sky isn’t falling, the sea is rising up to meet it
I had an uncle stay with me this past summer. A brilliant mind in many ways, he nevertheless has chosen to be a climate change denier. In reply to hearing his stance, I told him that the beauty of climate change is that it doesn’t give a you-know-what about peoples’ opinions. Neither do the 99% of climate scientists trying to wake us to the irreversible trend towards warmer oceans and atmospheres that is already leading to more chaotic weather patterns.
When the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their latest report earlier this month, it had the most dire news yet about where our planet is headed. The year 2100 used to be the benchmark by which we had to have our act together as a planet. Then it was 2050. Since our species has done little to stem the carbon tide, the IPCC is now saying we must keep planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.
Known climate change skeptic Rex Murphy opined in the National Post on Oct. 12 that the latest report amounted to environmentalists crying wolf too often. He likens the IPCC panel to members of a doomsday cult who keep changing the deadline for when the universe will shut off. Contrary to Murphy's analogy, climate change scenarios have not been revised further into the future, the dates of concern, and the action required, keep getting more urgent. Imagine going to the doctor, getting a clean bill of health and a life expectancy of 90 years. Ten years later, you go back for a checkup, having done no exercise and consumed junk food for the entire decade. The doctor reduces your predicted lifespan to 70 years. Following Murphy’s logic, you would then call the doctor an alarmist for revising your prognosis.
On Oct. 14, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) held a meeting in Baddeck about the province’s current efforts to draft coastal protection legislation. Three people attended. Now, one poorly attended meeting does not constitute a crisis. Similarly, a single weather event cannot be definitively linked to, or blamed on, climate change. However, the faulty logic occurs when deniers extend that to say that none of our current (or future, for that matter) changes in our climate, be it record storms, droughts or snow in July, can be linked to human-induced or human-encouraged climate change. Along those lines, while one poorly attended meeting is disappointing, a pattern of apathy is cause for concern.
The EAC reports that 70% of Nova Scotia’s population lives within 5km of ocean coastline. In Victoria County, nearly our entire population lives within that proximity – and most within eyesight of the ocean or inland sea. The seas have already begun to rise and polar cap ice is melting at rates we never anticipated.
As the what-can-i-do-i-amonly-one-person mentality sets in, we must realize our biggest role as citizens is to support the tough policy choices that lay ahead and vote with our dollars to support corporations working to leave a future for our children’s children.
There is a real possibility at this point that we simply won’t get out of our own way in time to do enough. Like too many problems, it will be someone else’s until we’re nose to nose with a deadline we can’t ignore.