Community Comment, by Sue Davies
I know, I know, another rant about climate change! Well maybe so but then maybe it’s time to take another look at the subject. Many people will tell you that they don’t believe all the spin about climate change, “It’s all hype for political reasons,” or “Nobody really knows what is really happening,” et cetera. Well whether you believe the evidence for climate change or not, it seems to me that doing nothing and just hoping is rather a big risk to take with our only planet.
Personally I think the evidence for climate change is very compelling. What is less clear is just what climate change will mean in each given location. What challenges might these changes cause and, more to the point, what will be the solutions to these challenges?
Imagine, if you will, what Revelstoke might be like 50 years from now. Most evidence points to the long-term reduction of the snowpack in the surrounding mountains. Our snowpack acts as a buffer to our water system, storing water through the spring and summer and slowly melting to ensure that the supply keeps coming until the autumn rains start. We have already seen that although we live in a rain forest, we do suffer water shortages. A reduction in snowpack could seriously impact the summer availability of water in Revelstoke.
Another symptom of a warmer climate is that summer storms will have more energy. The ferociousness of summer storms in the southern U.S. is due in part to the huge heat potential in the atmosphere. More heat means more thunderheads that can spawn not only lightning, a significant source of forest fire ignition, but also tornados. The incidence of tornados in Canada has increased markedly over the past two decades.
So these are some of the changed conditions we can expect climate change to bring to Revelstoke. The real question is what should we do about them? As individuals it is easy to feel powerless to do anything, but history shows us that a revolution can start with a single person. I’m not talking about a bloody revolution but a revolution in thinking. It is time to change the way we think about climate change.
The current idea is that the climate change problem is so huge that it requires huge solutions. As an individual it is pretty difficult to come up with huge solutions! Many of us think that it is best to rely on the “experts” to fix the problem. But what many people fail to realize is that with a very large population, small solutions from each person add up to huge solutions that are not attainable by even the most expert of “experts.”
We, you and me, have the power to reduce our carbon footprint. Part of the change can happen at home; changing habits to drive less, use less petroleum based products, be more efficient in our energy use. Supporting renewable and environmentally responsible government policies and opposing those that continue or increase our reliance on oil can bring about the rest of the change.
Unfortunately, even if we stopped releasing carbon into the atmosphere today, we would still face some changes in our climate. To mitigate the effects of the expected changes in our climate maybe the people of Revelstoke need to consider some of the following.
Should we continue to use our purified drinking water to irrigate our lawns or should we be thinking about installing rainwater barrels to keep our gardens green? Should we be thinking about ways to protect our properties from an increased risk of forest fires (search “living with wildfires” for information)? Should we be thinking, as a city, of things we could do to reduce the overall carbon footprint of Revelstoke, such as turning some of the streets into walking streets; adding to our bike paths; keeping sprawling housing developments to a minimum so our city stays compact? What should our policies be with regard to our roads? Do we want more and larger roads or fewer, safer and more efficient roads?
We, the people of Revelstoke, need to decide whether we are going to just drift into whatever climate change throws at us or take charge and decide our own future. If we are going to take charge and decide our own future, then the future starts right now and we need to plan with a long term view in mind.
For more information on climate change, search Climate Action Network Canada, or join the North Columbia Environmental Society at www.northcolumbia.org. To write to Stephen Harper regarding climate change policies send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Davies is contributing a four-part series on behalf of the North Columbia Environmental Society. The series runs until April.