How will climate change affect Muskoka? ~ Lesley Hastie

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

There is a high probability that our planet will be irrevocably changed for the worse and life on earth damaged beyond repair in my family’s lifetime. This is my view of the result of unchecked climate change.

I’ve been here before! This time it is the threat posed by climate heating. Last time it was the threat posed by the nuclear weapons of the USSR and USA.  Both had nuclear weapons many times more numerous than needed to cause nuclear winter (when smoke from nuclear war would blot out the sun for decades and cause almost complete loss of life on the planet). Both of these Cold War enemies often raised the level of threat to the highest Defcon 1 when, for instance, they thought they saw incoming missiles when they had actually been flights of geese, or the full moon (October 5th, 1960). Their philosophy about firing their missiles was “use them or lose them” before the enemy took them out.  We knew that Canadian cities were intended USSR targets.  Our planet and humanity were in great peril.

As my husband, Ian, and I learnt more, we knew the only way to face each day was to do something about it.

Dr Evgueni Chazov, USSR Minister of Health and President Gorbachev’s physician, and Dr Bernard Lown, eminent US cardiologist who invented the defibrillator, had met at an international conference and they too knew they had to do something. And as renowned physicians in each country, they were in a position to educate politicians and the public about the medical consequences of nuclear war. Thus was founded the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in 1980. Ian became the Toronto president of the Canadian Affiliate and I ran the Toronto office.

It was an active and depressing period for us both as Ian talked to packed audiences to educate them about the risk of nuclear winter, nuclear war, about the way nuclear weapons decimate the population, and how blast effects, burns, radiation and other trauma totally overwhelm medical responses. But it was not in vain. “The extreme danger intrinsic to nuclear war and the possession of nuclear weapons became apparent to all sides. In 1986 after the Reykjavik Summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the new Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the United States and the Soviet Union concluded two important nuclear arms reduction treaties: the INF Treaty (1987) [1] and START I (1991).” [2]

Within a few years both the US and USSR had dismantled large numbers of nuclear weapons which considerably lowered the threat of nuclear war. And after many years of negotiation other treaties followed including the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (2003) and the New START Treaty (2010).

For their efforts in educating the public,  IPPNW won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

And here we are again. This time we face flooding such as we have never seen, with millions upon millions of people displaced as rising sea water covers their islands and deltas, and migrants swarm onto the shores of countries such as Canada which have not been inundated. We see droughts and famine, Himalayan rivers that provide water to both Pakistan and India drying up enough to starve farms of water and to start a war … which could turn nuclear [3]. We have already lost 60 per cent of the animal wildlife on this planet since 1970 [4] and much more will be lost.

So what is the answer? Once again, it’s facing these dire consequences, and educating the public, trusting science and supporting politicians so that they work to make sure that global warming is kept to the lowest possible minimum, i.e. to 1.5 per cent.

The 2018 Report of the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) found that the difference between the lower increase in global warming of 1.5 per cent compared to two per cent would benefit just about every aspect of life on earth and land as well as economic growth. It would reduce the adverse effects on agriculture, husbandry, fishing, aquaculture, salination, salt water intrusion, acidity of oceans, coral reefs, tropical cyclones. On land, increases above 1.5 per cent would mean significantly greater risk of droughts and precipitation deficits, less food, loss of climatically determined range for insects, plants and vertebrates, more forest fires, spread of invasive species, damage to tundra and boreal forests. “Populations at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences with global warming of 1.5°C and beyond include disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihood. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050.” [5]

We have so little time, “12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN.” [6][7]

Sadly, we also have work to do in the nuclear weapons treaty area as the US and Russia are at risk of abandoning the INF and possibly other longer-range treaties as they seek to expand and develop their nuclear arsenals. [8]

My priority now is once again to be active in whatever way seems most likely to make a positive difference. I have a grandchild. Perhaps you do too.

Come to the Active Living Centre on Saturday June 15 from 1 – 4 pm and hear how each of us can be part of the solution. Dr. Peter Sale will talk about how Climate change will affect Muskoka and what we can do about it. Thirteen Table talks (small group presentations by specialists, and discussions) will follow the keynote speaker. Doors open at 12:30. Admission by donation.

Lesley Hastie is an economist/statistician, former civil servant in the U.K. and Ontario Provincial Governments, and retired teacher of economics in the International Baccalaureate program.

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[1] The INF treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibited the development and deployment of ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges of 310 miles to 3,420 miles. The agreement forced each country to dismantle more than 2,500 missiles and kept nuclear-tipped cruise missiles off the European continent for three decades.

[2] wikipedia

[3] Each has around 130 nuclear missiles.

[4] https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/living-planet-report-2018

[5] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/summary-for-policy-makers/

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

[7] In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range), IPCC report

[8] “Of the 14,500 nuclear weapons on the planet, Russia and the United States own the lion’s share, with a combined total of approximately 13,350 nukes. The remaining 1,150 weapons are held by seven countries”. CNBC.

4 Comments

  1. John Rivière-Anderson on

    Leslie, thank you for this very informative piece.

    Congratulations on the very important Huntsville climate change event you and others have arranged.

    I would also hightlight the David Suzuki Foundation-sponsored climate action webinar to be held on Wednesday, June 19, 1:30 – 2:30 PM PST. Here is a quote from the invitation:

    “‘Election 2019: Engaging Youth in Climate Action’. Young voters (18-30) have more power than they may realize. Although they make up a large segment of eligible voters, they don’t tend to show up on election day as much as older voters. In this one-hour webinar, PhD law student and UBC Climate Hub student director Grace Nosek will draw on years of organizing young people and share powerful social science research on how to engage young voters in climate action that will ultimately lead to increased voter turnout.”

    Here’s the link:
    http://go.davidsuzuki.org/JD04Vk0exU00i4q0Nl00050

    Should you be unable to attend, a recording of the session will be offered as well.

  2. Hugh Holland on

    Thank you Leslie for your initiatives on two critical topics. The earth’s climate is so complex and so variable, it is beyond the capacity of untrained individuals to comprehend. Even for experts, it takes a team approach. So, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was first proposed by the United States and was established by the United Nations in 1988.

    But after 30 years of evidence from the world’s best climate scientists, we are still bombarded by conflicting opinions. Should we believe the best-qualified experts who stake their collective professional reputations on their findings, or should we believe those who are still calling climate change a hoax or conspiracy in order to secure some perceived economic or political advantage for themselves?

    It is generally good to question and to get second opinions, but at what point should one stop questioning and accept the advice of experts with the most comprehensive and authoritative knowledge? When the best qualified doctor tells you that you should take an anti-biotic to avoid losing your leg, how long should you argue? There is a long list of things that can be done to mitigate climate change and at the same time modernize the economy. The earlier we start, the less severe and costly the remedy will be.

  3. Lesley, than you so much for the terrific article; one that you book-ended with one of my top 5 quotes, and the invitation to Saturday’s event; to which I’ve been looking forward for quite some time. I have 11 grandchildren; and quite honestly, I fear daily for the environmental trends which is our legacy to them.
    .
    As a point of reference (for people of my advanced years); during the Cuban missile crisis (when the clock only reflected nuclear concerns) the Doomsday Clock was set at 11:53. But for the last 2 years (with climate change concerns included); the Clock has been set at 11:58 (largely due to climate change; despite the proliferation of nuclear weapons).

  4. Diana McCormick on

    Greetings Lesley, with hopes for an encouraging response to your event Saturday. Since I am unable to attend I will watch for the coverage and follow-up.
    Thanks for your initiative.

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