Climate Disruption Presentation at Council

By Kirk Winter

            Ginny Collings and Deborah Pearson, from the group Climate Reality, made a blunt and forceful presentation to City of Kawartha Lakes Council. They both spoke about the realities of “climate disruption” that we will be facing over the next 20 to 30 years if nothing is done to slow the warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

            The presenters began by sharing the UN Report on Climate Change that states clearly that much stronger climate action needs to be taken on climate disruption, and taken now.

            According to the report, every 24 hours, 110 million tons of pollution, largely from burning fossil fuels, is released into the atmosphere. The bulk of that fuel is coal, oil or natural gas. The tipping point for climate change occurs when there is 350 parts per million of carbon found in the world’s atmosphere. We reached 300 parts per million in 1910, and reached 350 parts per million in 1950.  In 2000, we broke 400 parts per million, and in the last 18 years climate disruption has been growing in strength and cost to property and human lives.

            Since 2000, the earth has experienced the 17 hottest years ever, and 2014 to 2018 have been the four hottest years ever.

            A European heat wave in 2017 saw temperatures in excess of 44C. In the City of Kawartha Lakes, an average summer is supposed to have five days above 30C.  In the summer of 2016, there were 33 of those scorching days.  In 2017, there were 32 of those days, with another 10 averaging 29C.

            An Environment Canada report on 2018 stated that all four seasons last year were hotter than ever before.

            The report indicated that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, and a decrease in the Polar Ice Cap will have disastrous consequences for all. Lake Simcoe reported 30 fewer days of good ice last winter than any year before, directly impacting ice fishermen and snowmobilers.

            Violent windstorms, flooding, and ice storms often overwhelm municipal infrastructure, and these events are occurring far more than they used to. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reported weather related claims last year in Ontario alone at $1.2 billion, and that number keeps escalating season by season.

            The drought of 2016 stressed trees, crops, and wells right across CKL, and many fear that will be the new normal. 2017 saw a record season for forest fires right across Canada. A typical fire season has 757 forest fires.  2017 featured 1325 fires, and double the number of hectares burned than is usual.

            Climate disruption has also allowed the spread of West Nile Virus and Lymne disease to areas of Ontario never thought possible.

            The presenters shared that research predicts that if climate disruption goes unchecked, in 20 years Ontario will have Alabama-like summers with temperatures of 45C, and the humidex spiking temperatures to over 50C.

            Biologists suggest that climate disruption will stress sugar maples out of existence, and make barley production far more difficult. Organizations representing brewers world-wide have predicted beer shortages as barley supplies are threatened.

            In 2017, 15,000 scientists signed a letter saying the world must act now. The UN shared that the world has approximately 12 years to reduce emissions by 45 percent.

            Attempts are being made. In 2018, Scotland produced two-thirds of all of its power by wind. In 2015, every country in the world signed the Paris Climate Agreement.  Unfortunately, the recent withdrawal from the accord by the United States has made achieving climate goals much harder.

            In Canada, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have all set goals to produce 100 percent of their power from renewable resources sooner than later. More than 60,000 Canadians own electric cars.  WalMart has made a promise that by 2028 all of their semi-trailers will be battery powered.

            Council listened with rapt attention to the presentation, and then the floor was open to questions. 

            Councillor Ashmore wondered if there was really enough data to conclusively point to humans as the culprits behind climate disruption. The presenters shared that 97 percent of climate disruption has been caused by human activity.

            Ashmore then wondered what most of the rest of the world could do with China and India so flagrantly polluting.  The presenters shared that China is committed to closing 80 to 100 of its coal-fired plants, they are adding electric buses by the hundreds and are currently the largest producers of solar panels worldwide. The presenters also added that Canada is one of the top 10 producers of carbon emissions in the world, and that we need to get our house in order now.

            Councillor Richardson, whose family operates a tree farm in Pontypool, shared what she has seen just over the last eight years. They are now growing and selling trees that could not have survived in Ontario before.

            A Kawartha Lakes Healthy Environment plan will be presented to Council next month.