Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bracing for Impact

"Return your seat tray and seat back to the upright position. Lean forward, hands over your head. Feet flat on the floor. Brace for impact." All good advice if you're in an airliner facing an unscheduled return to Earth.

But what about climate change? How do we brace for those impacts? Fortunately we're finally getting around to thinking about the threats and how to respond to them.

There are a number of issues that need advanced planning and preparation. The big one is the replacement or reinforcement of essential infrastructure to ensure it can withstand a more demanding climate with severe weather events of increasing duration, frequency and intensity. Roads, bridges, floodways, essential utilities, the lot.

Then there's the problem of sea level rise, especially when it comes to populated areas most vulnerable to inundation and severe storm damage. You've got to figure out what you can defend and what has to be surrendered to the sea. Some people are going to be displaced and it takes a lot of planning to handle their relocation.

We don't pay a lot of attention to the health and healthcare impacts of climate change and yet they're huge. Extreme weather is very hard on people, especially the young and the old. In Britain they're raising the issue and demanding action from the political caste.

As extreme weather events such as flooding or heatwaves become more common, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change urged ministers not to “wait for disaster” before acting.

The new alliance, made up of leading health bodies including royal colleges, medical faculties, medical publications and doctors’ organisations, called on the government to be “properly prepared”.

The group, launched on Wednesday, said the health service is ill-prepared for dealing with the effects of climate change such as the extreme weather seen this winter.

Where is Canada's national dialogue on climate change and health care? What are we doing to assess the threat and prepare to meet the near to mid-range needs of the Canadian people? This is not an area where you want to play catch-up. That costs lives.

Food security. In other countries they're addressing the problem at both domestic and international levels.  This is a vastly bigger problem than the political attention it gets which is little to nil. We have all but forgotten the December, 2014 report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that warned most of the world's farmland will be severely degraded within just 60-years.

Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.

About a third of the world's soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.

The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming. The earth under our feet is too often ignored by policymakers, experts said.

 "Soils are the basis of life," said Semedo, FAO's deputy director general of natural resources. "Ninety five percent of our food comes from the soil."

Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation.

Canada is not immune to soil degradation although we are in a better position than most. Yet there's a lot we can do to rehabilitate our farmland and prepare it for a harsher climate with more floods and droughts but we have to be proactive and it will take time.

There are so many threats we have to deal with - severe weather events, floods and droughts, invasive species, biodiversity loss - on and on. The time to begin formulating our strategy is now. We don't have the luxury of time to waste.


UU4077 said...

There is some stuff going on. In Ontario, for example, there is the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative.

Hugh said...

Our insane BC government wants to flood thousands of acres of agriculture land in Northern BC with the $9 billion Site C dam.
Even though power demand in BC has not grown in the last 10 years.

UU4077 said...

UBS starting advising against investing in electricity generators long-term starting in Aug.,2014 (for Europe, anyway. North America could have a similar outlook). BC is making a big mistake.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ UU4077 - yeah, I did a post on the UBS report.

I later tied it in with reports about developments in solar cell technology and Tesla's Power Wall storage system.

If the technology can be economically viable for a place like Germany that gets unobstructed sunlight for about 3 hours a year then there should be nothing standing in the way for North America. Even coastal BC gets vastly more sunlight than Germany.

Steve said...

can we just not buy a safe for the world

Hugh said...

What do you think of this?

Our public and private debt is unprecedentedly large and growing rapidly.

This is partly due to interest rates which have been held at record low levels for years.

Govt thinks this is ok, because we can deal with debt by growing the economy every year, forever.

This will allow us to maintain the debt to GDP at a stable level.

Never mind that exponential growth, even at only 1 or 2%, is unsustainable, mathematically impossible and environmentally suicidal.

They erroneously assume growth rates of the past can be maintained in the future.

They think they can deal with debt by running deficits and keeping interest rates super-low, both of which add to the debt.

So govt's #1 priority is GDP growth. GHG emissions are secondary.

They won't shut down the oil sands because that would slow GDP.

In BC, govt is pushing hard for LNG export, seen as GDP growth, even though that would hugely add to GHG emissions.