April’s snow and freezing rain, on top of several months of seemingly erratic weather, is a reminder that climate change is not a future scenario but a current reality.
Last week the federal government released a report, Canada in a Changing Climate. The report gathers the science on the effects of climate change in Canada, and sets out what is expected to happen with and without significant climate action.
One of the report’s main findings: Canada’s climate is warming more than twice as fast as the global average, due to a complexity of factors.
With climate change, we’ll continue to experience increased weather extremes and their effects: hotter temperatures, higher likelihood of high precipitation, flooding, changes to snow and ice cover, and risk of freshwater shortages, to name a few.
The report indicates that the degree to which we will experience these changes depends on how much and how fast we act.
For example, in Ontario, if greenhouse gas emissions are kept relatively low, the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius will increase by four in the latter part of this century. If emissions are high, the number of 30+ degree days is projected to increase by 38. The lower emissions scenario requires “rapid and deep emission reductions.”
Making those reductions requires concerted effort at all levels: individual, local, national and international. It’s daunting, but here’s a place to start:
The City of Ottawa has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience, but translating that commitment to planning, action and funding has not been fast or deep enough. Ottawa City Council’s Environment Committee is expected to vote on a motion on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 to declare a climate emergency, with the aim of prompting action. Ecology Ottawa is encouraging people to call their City Councillors before April 16 to ask them to support the motion.
Ecology Ottawa is also encouraging people to attend the Environment Committee meeting on April 16 at 9:30 a.m., and is holding a rally outside City Hall at 8:30 a.m. for people to show support for the motion and urgent climate action.
Climate Action Week is all about sustainable and renewable energy, focused on practical solutions to energy challenges. Yes, there are solutions, and yes, it’s time.
I get it. I want to be heard, be treated fairly and keep my family warm, healthy and safe too. My family roots are in fact in rural Alberta and small town B.C. and Saskatchewan, where my ancestors settled on Cree and other Indigenous lands and made a living there. I currently depend on fossil fuels that others work hard to provide.
The thing is, that’s what unsustainable means. An energy economy and livelihoods that are built on unsustainable energy sources—not to mention on trampling on Indigenous rights and damaging the environment that we all depend on—can’t last. We have to stop investing in this and make the transition to alternative sources, together. That—not fear and frustration and hatred—is what should unite us.
If your purpose in coming is to spread hatred and chaos, don’t bother. We have no room for that in this city, or this country.
If you’re a public figure trying to score political points from this mess, you should stop, and repair the damage you’ve caused.
If you’re concerned about all of this, help draw attention to the people, groups and businesses who are finding solutions. That’s the way we will all survive.
In January, Ottawa City Council voted 19-3 to change the name of the City’s standing committee on Environment and Climate Protection to Environmental Protection, Water and Waste.
This change in wording may seem minor, but it signifies something important. The new title suggests a view of the “environment” as something separate from our regular day-to-day existence, something we can allocate some small space to in our backyards or parks and tend from time to time. It conveys the perspective that the environment is primarily a municipal service to be delivered, rather than the very context in which we live and breathe.
At the same meeting, Ottawa City Council did discuss incorporating a “climate impact lens” across all committees and departments, but not right away.
Some municipalities, including Vancouver, Halifax and other cities around the world, are declaring climate change an emergency requiring immediate action. Here in Ottawa, political leadership at all levels—municipal, provincial and federal—is sorely lacking. Some positive measures have been introduced, but leadership has often been coming from community members and groups, including young people, instead. Some examples:
Inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, high school and university students in Europe, North America and elsewhere are organizing school strikes for climate action. Groups have been meeting on Parliament Hill and Confederation Park every month or weekly on Fridays to press for change.
Powershift: Young and Rising is happening on Algonquin Anishinabe land (Ottawa) from February 14-18, 2019. Hundreds of people, particularly young people, are expected to gather at this climate justice conference, to share ways to prompt climate action and create an alternative vision of equitable, sustainable living, through art, organizing and other strategies.
Ecology Ottawa has launched a campaign calling on Ottawa City Council to make climate action a priority in the 2019 budget and next Term of Council Priorities, and is asking people to sign a petition on their website.
350.org Ottawa will be hosting Elizabeth May on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 to speak about the connections between the tornadoes that hit Ottawa last October and climate change.
Several groups are taking part in Climate Action Week 2019 in Ottawa, February 14-23, 2019, hosting a series of activities focused on transitioning to sustainable energy sources.
We do have climate leaders, climate solutions and people who care. The shift is coming.
The gathering is in support of members of the Wet’suwet’en People who are peacefully protecting their territories from construction of a natural gas pipeline by Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada.
Yesterday, RCMP moved in and arrested 14 people, on the grounds that the RCMP were enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to clear the way for construction of the pipeline.
The land protectors say this is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and of Wet’suwet’en law.
It signifies that Canada and Canadians are putting corporate profits and environmental degradation before Indigenous rights and any hope of a better relationship with sovereign Indigenous nations.
The Ottawa action will start at noon at the Parliament Hill front gate.
What’s the most important thing you can do for the environment on Monday, October 22? Vote.
Our municipal government is responsible for many of the systems that affect our ecological footprint as citizens and determine the city’s environmental health.
The people we elect need to lead the creation of sustainable, equitable and safe systems in many areas: planning and management of our built urban and rural environment (including development, infill, and affordable housing); action on climate change (including renewable energy); protection of our environment (including greenspace, trees, flora and fauna, water sources and quality); transportation (prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users); a strong local food system; and waste and recycling. They need to prioritize these in funding decisions. They need to value and support community engagement, local action, and accountability to residents as essential dimensions of our city’s governance. They need to work toward a different and better relationship with the Indigenous peoples on whose land we have built this city.
Some of the candidates for mayor and councillor have clear platforms on these issues (some may have even written the book on them). Others have positions or track records that indicate that these are not among their priorities.
If you need more information on the candidates for mayor, city councillors and school trustees before you vote:
Ecology Ottawa has done a survey of all candidates about their positions on local environmental issues.
The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital has posted the results of a survey of municipal candidates on environmental issues.
The Ottawa Food Policy Council’s survey of candidates covers food issues.
OttawaStart has published a list of links to municipal candidate Q&As and debates.
The City of Ottawa website has lists of all candidates, including their websites, as well as information for voters about how and where to vote.
The annual One World Film Festival in Ottawa is on from Thursday, Sept. 20-Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, with a bonus film on Thursday, Sept. 27. The Festival is jam-packed with documentary films from around the world on environmental, social justice and human rights topics.
Among the environment-themed films:
The short film Earthrise (USA 2018), about the power of the first photo of our shared planet taken from space, on Friday, Sept. 21, 6:15 p.m.;
Not in My Neighbourhood (South Africa/Brazil/USA 2017) on struggles for land and housing in São Paulo, Cape Town and New York, on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7:15 p.m.—highly relevant in light of the evictions of the Timbercreek Heron Gate community taking place in Ottawa;
The Wapikoni Indigenous short films program on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1:30 p.m.