Robert’s column

Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Climate change an increasing problem

I remember about 15 years ago, I attended a lecture in Nanaimo by Gwynne Dyer

I remember about 15 years ago, I attended a lecture in Nanaimo by Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian military historian, author, professor, journalist, broadcaster, and retired naval officer.

As he comes from my hometown, St. John’s, and the fact that I’ve always had a great interest in military history, I’ve always been interested in hearing what Dyer has to say on any subject relating to international politics and military matters.

What was different about his lecture in Nanaimo was that it wasn’t about politics and what nations could soon be at each other’s throats, which has always been his speciality, but about climate change.

He said he felt compelled to discuss the subject because, at the time, the world was at a tipping point and if drastic measures were not taken to deal with the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases being dumped in the atmosphere, there would be repercussions that would impact people around the globe.

I remember that most people in the audience listened to the scholar with great respect, and gave him a nice round of applause when he finished, but I didn’t get the feeling that they took his message to heart and appeared to be willing to go back to their lives in the hopes that someone, somewhere would eventually find a way to deal with the crisis without impacting them too much.

Dyer said that if nothing was done to deal with climate change within the next 10 to 20 years, one of the things we could count on is changes in weather the likes of which has never been seen before.

It’s now 15 years later and it appears that he was correct.

This past summer saw “heat domes” on the Island and the Mainland that drove temperatures into the 40s C, killing crops and marine life, setting off wildfires that consumed whole towns, and making life miserable for those (and there are many) who had not much use for air conditioners until that merciless heat descended on us.

Then, of course, was the heavy rains and flooding that struck the Cowichan region, the Island and much of the Interior last week that has destroyed homes, infrastructure and taken lives as well.

I remember when Cowichan was struck last year by major flooding and many said at the time that it was a freak once-in-lifetime event and would likely not happen again for many decades.

Well, here we are less than year later and it has happened again and many experts are now saying that such weather calamities could become common thanks to the impacts climate change is having on the planet.

I was not much heartened by the agreements raised at the recently concluded Glasgow climate conference.

The participating countries did agree to further cuts to their emissions of carbon dioxide to try to keep temperature rise around the planet within 1.5 C, which scientists say is required to prevent a “climate catastrophe”.

However, these current pledges, if they are indeed met at all, will only limit global warming to a rise of about 2.4 C.

Like the audience at Dyer’s lecture, the nations that attended the summit appear to acknowledge that climate change is happening, but would rather kick that can down the road and have the next generation of leaders deal with it.

The young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who makes no bones about what she thinks about politicians and corporations that make light of climate change, called the climate summit a “failure” and a “PR exercise”.

She also criticized the summit’s goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“We don’t just need goals for just 2030 or 2050,” Thunberg said.

“We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come.”

It seems we will have to brace ourselves and try to prepare as best we can with the next weather calamity which, undoubtedly, will come our way.

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