Good Morning Leaders of Canada!
I am writing to you this open letter today on climate change, and most importantly some of the bad that has crossed my RSS feeds and inboxes. The very intelligent people at MIT have revised their best guess of temperature rise by the end of the century if we continue with business-as-usual… they are now projecting a 5.2ºC increase ( average across the globe ), with a 9% chance of a 7ºC increase in global temperatures. These numbers are being independently supported by the International Energy Agency ( IEA ) which warns of a 6ºC increase, and the Hadley Centre which are projecting 5-7ºC increases. You can find the reports and more information at: MET office’s Hadley Centre & International Energy Agency (IEA) & MIT’s centre for Global Climate Change Science
For the last twenty years the scientific community has been sending increasingly dire warnings to the human species about the risks and dangers of a 3ºC temperature shift. Changes that included the melting of the polar ice sheets, large scale melting of antarctic ice sheets, the possible failure of the Atlantic currents that keep Europe warm, increases in ocean depth of up to 6 meters in some areas of the world, North America being hit hardest. Temperature changes like these do not cause a linear level of damage to our world, one degree increase does not equal 2 meters in ocean depth. Rather it is an exponential growth in change. Think of it like the Richter scale, but for our weather. Doubling the temperature gets you four times the change, or 24 meters of ocean depth increase and the full melting of both polar ice caps. All by the end of THIS century.
Lets put some costs to this sort of climate change, keep in mind that these are napkin calculations based on information that is not 100% complete, so I am erring on the side of conservative. I will base my projections on what is increasingly looking like the ‘best case scenario’ of a 6 meter ocean depth increase by 2100.
A 6 meter increase in ocean depth will displace roughly 4 million Canadians. Their homes will be under water. The majority of these Canadians will be in British Columbia and the Maritimes particularly hard hit will be the Vancouver area and the communities in the Frasier Valley delta. All ready parts of the Metro Vancouver Area are below sea level, notably Delta and Richmond, where some 300,000 Canadians live. At the current average price of a home in Canada ( $274,000 as of January 2009 ) the estimated cost, in loss of buildings, would be around $1,096,000,000,000. Yes, that is just over one TRILLION dollars. This is just the cost of replacing the lost homes, not relocation of this massive amount of people, nor does it cover the costs of replacing the commercial and industrial components of the coastal areas of Canada. I will not hazard a guess on to the costs associated with replacing 30-40% of Canada’s commercial and industrial complex, which is what we would lose along coastal areas.
At a 6 meter increase in ocean levels we would lose every major ocean port in Canada. The Vancouver port would be under water, as would ports in Victoria, Prince Rupert, the Montreal port, Halifax. All ports besides those in the Great Lakes would be under water. I have no way of knowing the full extent that sort of change would cause to the Canadian economy, or the cost of replacing such key elements of our infrastructure. What I do know is the Vancouver port has a Gross Domestic Product of $4 billion per year ( making the Vancouver Port the 149th largest economy in the world, just slightly larger then the nation of Malawi ), and handles $43 billion dollars in cargo each year, and represents $8.9 billion in direct economic inputs. This would ALL be under water. Gone.
In places further inland the changes are just as devastating. For example the lumber industry across Canada, particularly in BC and Alberta, are getting hit with devastating attacks of the Pine Beetle. This damage is so extensive you can now see it from space. Millions of hectares of forest have been destroyed all ready. What controls Pine Beetle populations are fire and cold. You need to have the temperature highs stay below -30ºC for a minimum of a week for the Pine Beetle larva to be killed during the winter. ( Or 24 hours of temperatures at -40ºC ). These sorts of low temperatures are becoming increasingly rare TODAY, if you add an average 5.2ºC to temperatures… Well, I suppose we can just burn the entire province of British Columbia to remove the infestation. Pine Beetle currently costs the forestry industry $2.4 billion dollars in timber, and it looks to be getting worse each season.
In Alberta, where I live, the problem is water. We are a dry province, and getting drier. As the temperatures increase we will see southern Alberta turning from ‘dry land’ farming to ‘desert’ farming. All ready the main water sources in Southern Alberta, the Milk River and the Bow River, are shrinking. It is projected that by the end of the century the Bow will be 25% of its current size, and the Milk will be 20% of its current size. These are glacier and run-off fed rivers. Without the winter snows these rivers are running lower and lower each year as the runoff shrinks and the glaciers disappear. This is going to cripple southern Alberta’s agriculture sector. The bread basket of Canada will collapse, putting thousands of farms and ranches out of business and doing untold damage to our economy and food supply. Northern Alberta and the Tar Sands, the most important part of our country for politicians these days, will also be in jeopardy. Tar Sand extraction requires a lot of water. The Athabasca River is projected to shrink by up to 50% as the glaciers and snow-falls that feed it vanish, putting the multi-billion dollar tar sands projects at risk.
In a nut shell climate change is going to cause economic and social upheaval that makes the current ‘economic downturn’ look like a cake walk. Right now we are talking about problems that are costing billions to solve, climate change is going to cause problems that cost TRILLIONS to solve. Many many TRILLIONS of dollars that will also be linked to massive systemic failures in our core infrastructure. What I have outlined above is the tip of the iceberg, we are looking at disasters of unprecedented proportions in Canadian history.
What is our government doing about these problems? Nothing. The current ‘plan’ is to ‘wait and see’ what the ‘Obama administration’ is going to do. I am uncertain as to when Canadians started voting for the President of the United States of America. At my last check I was voting for Canadian politicians, and we had a Prime Minister who is supposed to lead a government and the House of Commons on issues surrounding Canada and Canadians… did I miss a referendum?
This inaction is the total epic failure of not just the current Conservative government, but the entire political spectrum in Canada. Instead of sitting down in the House of Commons and working together to find a solution, or even a very sketchy plan, our House of Commons is filled with childish bickering, partisan rhetoric, and a whole lot of wheel spinning. Instead of reaching across the floor to his opposition our Prime Minister is running smear campaigns and hate ads. Instead of rational discourse the NDP leaders are ranting and filibustering. Instead of effectively calling the government to task, the Liberal opposition is waffling and struggling with their personal branding and image. My email inboxes are filled with requests for donations from all the major political parties, from the NDP to the Conservatives to the Liberals and the Greens. Donations to pay off DEBTS from the last election. Now tell me why the heck I would donate to, or vote for, people who are so fiscally incompetent that they run their entire party into debt?
We are staring down the barrel of a gun here. We are facing the biggest environmental, political, and social problem of the century. My children are the
ones who are going to suffer through the challenges of climate change. They are going to face the brunt of our poor decisions, and my grandchildren will live in a Canada so radically different from mine that it is impossible to comprehend. A Canada without Vancouver, Victoria, and Halifax. A Canada where our coast lines are completely different, where places like the Bay of Fundy no longer exist because they are under water. A Canada of deserts in Alberta, and bald treeless mountains in British Columbia. A Canada where there is no ice caps, where Polar bears are extinct, and the permafrost is gone.
I am a staunch Canadian patriot, and to see the leadership of our country, be they political, social, or economic, fail so badly, so consistently is heart breaking. You should all feel a great deal of shame for leaving a world worse off for your children, I know I do.