The fact that there are still people who still debate whether the environmental (and social) phenomena collectively known as climate change is caused by human activity is, to put it mildly, a head scratcher. One can argue that we are each entitled to an opinion and if some choose to lean towards denial, well, not much to do about it.
On the other hand, things can be classified as wrong when Elections Canada decides that discussing climate change during the federal elections can become a partisan issue. In other words, if a third party brings up climate change during the campaign and spends more than $500 doing so, they would have to register with Elections Canada, which could further jeopardize their charitable status.
Trouble is, climate change is not a partisan issue, whether some parties and their candidates choose to acknowledge it or deny it. As it stands right now, we are seeing some unprecedented environmental events, many of which unfold at a much higher speed that expected.
If one’s house in on fire or in danger of flooding, should the people living in it pretend it’s not happening, keep the worry levels low and hope for the best? True, smaller scale events are easy to grasp.
But how on Earth – the irony! – can anyone say ‘nah, I do not believe it’ when the Amazon is burning as we speak (and so is part of Africa), the Arctic is melting at a much accelerated rate than expected* and approximately 3 million hectares were lost to massive wildfires in Siberia. *Monitoring stations in the Arctic are pointing to zero sea ice extent for September 2019, given the record low numbers recorded since July.
The fires in Alaska have been pretty bad this year. The skeptics will say that fires have always been a part of the Alaskan summers, which is true, but the hottest on record June and July are a new thing. Much like the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, which in turn causes the release of seafloor methane, which then adds to the greenhouse effect. On July 31, more than a half of it was shown to be melting, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute. The Bering Sea is facing similar issues.
This is not some social media sensational trend nestled under alarming hashtags. Reputable monitoring stations and science institutes around the world are reporting on the above and more. Our planet has seen better days, that’s for certain.
If far away fires do not alarm you, then closer to home troubles should. Take the salmon stocks. Approximately 4.8 million sockeye salmon were expected to return to the Fraser River this year, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada. A meager 628,000 fish made it back. A similar number of fish returned to the Skeena River; instead of the predicted 1.7 million.
Even the most optimistic of us cannot shrug this one off. The main factors that have contributed to the sharp decline, according to both government and independent scientists, are climate change and habitat loss. The low decline means, among others, that the nature cycle that has been up and running for thousands of years will see severe disruptions as many species depend on the salmon. Humans included. West Coast salmon fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the salmon returns are requesting disaster relief from provincial and federal government.
The big picture gets more complicated the more you contemplate an issue such as low salmon returns, which is mostly caused by climate change. Sockeye salmon are not the only ones. The declining numbers of chinook salmon stocks are impacting southern resident orca whales. Some died of hunger and scientists fears that more will follow. As a side note, some people believe that the orcas are a bit picky and should change their diet if they want to survive. It almost sounds comical, if it wasn’t for the dire situation these animals are in.
It’s impossible to dismiss this troubling news as someone’s hidden agenda to cause fearmongering. Much like we cannot dismiss the rapid disappearance of the caribou. Yes, we’re running out of them too. No, it’s not the wolves but habitat loss and climate change (still, we are killing the wolves, which is a dreadful and dreadfully expensive endeavor.)
Like I pointed out in a previous column discussing the caribou issue, it is painfully ironic that soon there will be many more of these iconic animals on the quarters we carry on our pockets than in the wilderness where they belong.
Bottom line: climate change and its myriad consequences, reflected not just in the natural world surrounding us but also in how it affects us humans, is not a partisan issue. It is an urgent issue concerning everyone, and that concern should be addressed through the way we vote in the incoming elections.
Though the effects of climate change may be localized geographically and thus more visible to some than others, there is but one planet and what we keep being reminded of is that nature bats last. We ought to heed that, have the maturity to look at it as it is, and the courage to do what it takes to make things better.