I’m in Washington DC, attending the fourth annual Citizens Climate Lobby gathering. Monday morning, climate scientist and hero Dr. James Hansen addressed the crowd of 350. And today – big news! – President Obama is making an announcement at Georgetown University, just down the street from where we are meeting. about a climate change plan.
Meanwhile, at home in Canada, the Alberta floods continue to cause suffering, dislocation, and even deaths. Calgary-based journalist Andrew Nikiforuk wrote in The Star about his city’s “Manhattan moment”:
In 2005 the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative promised warming temperatures, melting glaciers, variable rainfall, changes in stream flows, accelerated evaporation and more extreme events.
In 2006 climate scientist Dave Sauchyn told a Banff audience that “droughts of longer duration and greater frequency, as well as unusual wet periods and flooding” would be the new forecast. Meanwhile researchers documented a 26-day shift in the onset of spring in Alberta over the past century.
Five years later the Bow River Council concluded that “Our rapidly growing population demands much of the land and water. Our climate is changing and the future of our water supplies is uncertain.”
In 2010 the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an agency that the Harper government killed last year because it didn’t like its messages on climate change, reported that changing precipitation patterns were “the most common gradual, long-term risk from a changing climate identified by Canadian companies.”
In particular oil and gas firms “with operations in Alberta expressed the highest level of concern. A number of them described potential water shortages due to decreased precipitation and runoff as the most significant risk from physical impacts of climate change that they are likely to face.”
In 2011 the NREE published more inconvenient truths in a document called Paying the Price. It concluded that the annual cost of flooding in Canada due to climate change could total $17 billion a year by 2050.
Also in the news yesterday, Mike DeSousa revealed a ‘secret’ meeting on climate dangers that was attended by the Canadian spy agency and top Canadian security officials, organized last year by a former deputy minister from Environment Canada.
The discussion, outlined in documents that were marked “secret” but declassified for release through access to information legislation, predicted that the world would likely reach a tipping point in global warming by 2050, missing an international target agreed to by Harper and other international leaders at 2009 negotiations in Copenhagen as part of a deal to avoid irreversible damage to the planet’s ecosystems and its economy.
“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, models predict (the) 2 C warming target, agreed to in Copenhagen will be exceeded by mid-century,” said a presentation delivered by Environment Canada at the July 5, 2012 meeting.
“To avoid surpassing it, global CO2 emissions must level off immediately, and decline to negative values before end of century (implying net CO2 extraction from atmosphere), or other means of moderating warming would be needed.”
The Environment Canada presentation warned of several potential impacts of temperature increases, including increases in extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and cyclones as well as impacts on coastal cities, food security and biodiversity loss. Click here to read full article.
And yet our current federal government mouths platitudes on climate change, allowing ideology rather science to dictate our country’s response to the greatest crisis we face. Maybe, just maybe, change is in the air. President Obama is going to be at Georgetown University, just down the street from our Citizens Climate Lobby meeting, focused on addressing the climate crisis. Dr Hansen, and Citizens Climate Lobby, say it’s time to price carbon pollution. There may be more people in Alberta, and all of Canada, more receptive to this message than there was last week.