Small cities and towns are at the whip-end of climate change. Climate change can have a large impact on us. However, even if we could accomplish massive reductions (30 per cent – 50 per cent) in our own carbon emissions, our reduction has no impact on worldwide carbon levels.
So why do small cities and towns put energy and effort into creating a climate action plan? If we act today, time is on our side. If your great great grandparent had invested $100 at 3 per cent interest in 1900, you would have $3500 today. If we invest carefully now, we can use pennies on the dollar to prevent disasters. Or look at this from the other end. Your great-grandchild is going to turn to you and say “What the hell, why didn’t you do something?”.
Small cities and town’s climate action plan should hit the three top questions: Where is global warming going to hit our town hardest? How can we shift resources from responding to emergencies to preparing for emergencies?
How are we contributing to the problem?
It’s not hard to list the Okanagan’s top three problems.
- Overdrawing water resources.
- Impact of summer fires on tourism and retirement.
- Flooding – snowmelt dump, up from the ground, out from the lakes.
I grew up in the Cascades and I was shocked to discover that you didn’t have to be a polar bear to swim in the Okanagan snowmelt. Why can you swim in Okanagan lakes? The lakes are really deep, with a trickle in and a trickle out. The water basks under the Okaganan sun long enough to warm up. Drawing just a little too much, year after year, could bankrupt the system and re-write our economy.
Our current non-plan is to have a hundred different agencies in charge of water, measuring and restricting randomly, while we withdraw unknown amounts.
Tourism is an important part of our economy.
But we are a dry spot in a province-wide forest. While other places will worry about fire damage to local property, we will be hit first by tourists refusing to come when the summer particulate count is higher than Toronto or Montreal.
When people think of flooding, they think first of lake level rise. Homes and businesses in the Okanagan are built distressingly close to the lake water level (Peachland, this means you). But the 2017 accelerated snowmelt evacuated communities half-way up the mountains while ground-water flooded houses from the bottom up — a problem neatly excluded from most homeowner policies.
The second reason cities and towns need a climate action plan is that the definition of “disaster” is going to change in two ways. They are going to come more frequently (the meaning of “a 100 year flood” is shifting) and our disasters will no longer make national news. When one town is hit, the province and the federal government sends aid. When many towns are hit, resources are spread more thinly, donor fatigue sets in, and towns need to be more self-reliant.
Can we afford it?
Cuba, with a median income about $200CAD/month has a hurricane preparedness plan which puts the US FEMA to shame. Climate action plans shift resources from responding to emergencies, to preparing for emergencies: like any good investment, small and steady changes now, will prevent millions of dollars loss in the future.
Let’s use this time to plan wisely. If we miss this opportunity we will be a day late and a dollar short. Explain that to your grandkids.
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About Kristy Dyer:
Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com