Climate change your attitude

Newfoundland and Labrador is learning the hard way: climate change can no longer be ignored.

Anthropogenic climate change. There are still those – even educated! – who don’t believe in it despite the abundant, available evidence to the contrary. Even though these climate change deniers happen to be in the (statistically irrelevant) 3% minority these days.

What tends to be the focus of disagreement of late is the magnitude of our impact, how much climate change is part of an historic trend, and just how much it’s going to change. Either way, it’s hard to ignore the growing feeling that the weather is hotter, drier, wetter, wonkier, and in some odd twisted places, even colder (the models show the Central Coast of Labrador cooling due to arctic ice melting offshore).

Hard to LiveI could blather on about my Grenfell education and google a bunch of stuff for ya but suffice it to say the weather has been predicted to become more extreme in all the models. You probably already know this. It’s certainly not helping the caribou populations in Canada (one theory is that the freeze-melt-freeze-melt-freeze cycles in the winter are making an ice layer that renders it difficult for caribou to get to their food). It’s ruining winter sea, river and pond ice used by northerners for transportation (ice roads and skidoo trails). For example, the year the Trans Labrador road opened up was also the first year I could remember not being able to take a skidoo down the coast to Cartwright.

It’s changing ecozones for flora and fauna, and causing species to move north, or gain altitude. And for the love of bakeapples, it’s going to crash the habitat of our plant foods and medicines. All this has been known for some time, and has already been reported on. But as long as it happens “up there” or in “some other country“, and not our (generally southern) more populous Canadian cities, very few are directly affected; thus people generally don’t give a shit.

What I find quite cynically satisfying…

…is when the collective greenhouse gas (GHG) karma comes home to roost. Take the massive floods in Calgary and Toronto (and other regional towns and First Nations communities we heard so little about). Oil producer (Calgary) and oil user (Toronto). I don’t revel in the personal or collective losses. I don’t celebrate the damage caused. I do not think the people of any region or city deserve to suffer. But I do believe we should reap what we sow. We here in Canada have enjoyed living far beyond our means for far too long and we’ve expected other regions to make up for it. And now it’s costing us. A lot.

Honestly, I would rather see our own cities flooded as a result of these actions instead of, say, oceanic countries like Vanuatu going under the ocean just ‘cuz we love our inefficient toys too much. We just love cutting down all the trees that turn CO2 into pesky oxygen for bum wad. We don’t mind completely buggering up the ocean food chains, or worsening oceanic algae production. ‘Nope don’t need to recycle’. ‘Nope, not gonna find alternative energy sources until I gotta’. For frack’s sake.

It just burns me

In fact, the SECOND LARGEST FIRE EVER RECORDED IN CANADA is burning away right now; and depending how the rest of the season goes, it might just make the top of the list. Are forest fires caused by or linked to climate change? Yer friggin’ right buddy. There are a lot of studies out there, but Mike Flannigan has been doing this work for decades and he posits that forest fires are not only caused by climate change, they exacerbate it in a positive feedback loop (the link opens a .pdf file but has lots of neat graphs and stuff).

The recent fire in Labrador West, which is one of many this year, burned out an area nearly the size of Terra Nova National Park (to put it in perspective). It also shut down communications for much of Labrador, burning out part of our brand spankin’ new $24 million fiber optic thread to the rest of Canada. (The recent fire near Gull Island gave me some hope that perhaps since the wood/biomass isn’t all going to be removed from the Muskrat Falls reservoir, maybe it could be burned out thus reducing the mercury contamination at least).

It’s provincial government policy…

…to ignore fires that don’t threaten populated regions, or commercially viable timber resources.

While I generally agree with this principle from an ecosystem perspective, I disagree with it if the fire was caused by humans, or if humans have exasperated natural systems. For instance, if we’ve cut out the amount of wood that would naturally be burned. Or, say if we bake the earth so much that forest fires no longer follow any semblance of natural trends – particularly when we’ve decimated natural wildlife populations.

Besides, the recent flooding in central and western Canada and the fires that, combined, burn tracts of land the size of the Avalon Peninsula in Canada every year have shown us that our infrastructure is horrifically ill prepared for the changes in climate we’re currently experiencing (let alone those we will soon see).

And in the future?

Will there be enough rainfall to maintain current power production in Labrador? How are we going to protect the 1,100 additional kilometers of Labrador Island Link if we barely keep tabs on upwards of 300 or so forest fires that burn away in this province every year? With six water bombers?

Or is it five?

And what if it’s too smoky to fight the fires?

We need to invest in our infrastructure now to deal with the further changes to our climate that are coming. We need to start restoring faster than we’re destroying. We need to start in this province. We should have been doing that the instant we started taking oil revenues because, a) we had the money to put aside for it, and b) producing oil is partially to blame for the climate change.

Fires, floods, ice storms, and other natural disasters are going to increase in frequency, severity, and randomness.

Fires won’t put themselves out (quickly) and trees aren’t going re-plant themselves (at the rate they’re being cut and destroyed).

Soil won’t un-erode itself.  Fish won’t restock themselves. Species won’t become un-extinct.

Sure, we don’t consume (all) the oil we produce in this province, but we have to bear some of the responsibility for our actions, don’t we? That’s why Canada doesn’t produce or export DDT or asbestos any longer. It’s time to switch to small, sustainable, and more affordable energy solutions. It’s time to reduce our consumption. Friggin’ recycle b’ys. Compost. Garden.

Tax the pollution – that will help curb overconsumption while increasing demand for alternative energy (or subsidize those instead of taxes).

Because the earth’s free carbon recycling program has come to an end.

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