I SUPPOSE we should always read beyond the headlines. On the editorial page of the May 21 Chronicle-Journal, I saw a guest column by Gwyn Morgan titled “Climate Change Conversation Must Change Focus to Mitigation.”
Great news. This person “gets it” — we need to place more focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions which in the context of environmental law and climate change refers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions which will reduce the severity of climatic changes.
Reducing emission will mitigate, meaning the elimination or reduction of the frequency, magnitude, or severity of exposure to risks.
But no — the author is not using mitigation in this way. He is speaking about measures to cope with in-progress disasters — putting sandbags in place to save houses from flood waters. This is very important but has nothing to do with root causes and planned adaptation to reduce climate change damage.
Much of his column is a rant about Trudeau’s broken election promises and Trudeau’s ineffective dealings with China. The broken election promises are discussion points. However, even the biggest bully on the world playground, Donald Trump, has some problems dealing with China.
I have no insights into how to deal with bullies in various global issues. To promote emission reduction, my advice would be to price carbon on all goods coming into Canada (a level playing ground that would result in jobs and innovation in Canada), but this seems unlikely at this time in history.
We are literally witnessing a steep increase in the frequency and magnitude of severe weather — flood and forest fire presently. Mr. Morgan wades in with “flawed government put people on the flood plain and created the problem” in reference to a flood in Calgary of 2013. Yes, but this ignores the history of the Calgary flood in 2005 and follow-up science and reports that recommended no more building on the flood plains in Calgary. Both the Harper government and the Alberta Conservative governments chose to ignore those science and flood risk studies.
His solution for forest fire risk reduction by removing underbrush reads similar to Donald Trump’s idea — rake the forest floor.
Mr. Morgan makes a direct pitch for the Conservative bid in the coming federal election in October 2019. And he does not have any plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in fact he wants to halt promotion of the use of electric cars. Morgan has a long history of promoting fossil fuels and opposing attempts to mitigate emissions. According to the Globe and Mail, by 2005 he had become the “loudest voice in the oil patch trying to shout down the Kyoto Accord” — an earlier version of the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.
Ireland is the latest country to declare a climate emergency. Such declarations are part of a global movement to address critical rising carbon emissions. With these declarations governments can take urgent action to become carbon neutral. In Canada, 386 city councils have declared climate emergencies including Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, six major cities in Ontario and many communities in Quebec.
Each country on the planet has a role to play. We do need to adapt and be ready for the floods and fires. However, we also need to mitigate — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Related severe weather in the near future could overwhelm people and municipal governments.
(Graham Saunders has a history of climate research, including flood frequency and forest fire behaviour.)