Thursday, April 12, 2012

Discussing the winter that wasn't

Everyone talks about the weather, yet seems to ignore our changing climate. To call this past “winter that wasn’t” strange is the understatement of the year. Globally, the past year saw a new high of $380 billion in economic cost of catastrophic weather events, and there were over 129,000 new weather records set in America.
Meanwhile, here in Barrie, we had so little snowfall that I never even broke out our large shovel. The bay was only frozen 60 days, not only the shortest period in recorded history, but less than half the average of only a century ago. Anyone still denying we are well into a period of unprecedented global warming really has their work cut out for them.
And yet there are still deniers, who claim (even at the same time) that global warming isn’t happening and that it’s due to solar activity, or just normal variation. Science continues to show both of those arguments to be groundless. And it only makes sense – over the past century human activity has increased carbon in the atmosphere by 40%. Who can honestly believe such actions don’t have consequences? Only the self-deluded.
Climate change will have major consequences for Barrie, and we are already beginning to see them. First, of course, is the loss of traditional industries, especially in valuable tourist markets. Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing all produce significant income for the region, yet are in danger of disappearing. And of course our children rue the loss of tobogganing and outdoor skating.
But there are even more serious consequences on the horizon. The lack of snowfall this past winter means far less soil moisture from the spring melt. In general, climate change means greater chance of drought, interrupted by shorter, heavier rainfalls and floods, while pests escape the winter die-off and come back stronger each year. These will hurt farming in this otherwise rich agricultural region, just as many are re-learning the joys of local food.
Luckily, citizens of Barrie are rising up to try and address this issue, promoting ways to prevent climate change, and finding ways to adapt to the changes that will be forced upon us. One such organization is Transition Barrie, whose monthly meetings discuss and plan local action on climate change, energy insecurity, and global economic breakdown. It is very likely that, in future, we will need to be more self-reliant, like in days of old.
Want to learn more about these issues? Attend the next Transition event Wednesday, April 18th at 7 PM in the Huronia Room at City Hall. Speaking will be local cardiologist Brad Dibble, author of the book “Comprehending the Climate Crisis”. Come out and meet other local citizens who care enough to take action, or bring your questions for Dr. Dibble. Myself, I’m eager to ask him what role he feels our federal government should play in this issue.

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Climate change should shift our perceptions"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of the Ontario School of Economic Science and Earthsharing Canada

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