- The scale and the measures taken to combat the health crisis linked to the Cov-2 SARS pandemic are unprecedented
- Its emergence was surprising for the population, but not for public health professionals. Its imminence had been forecasted by epidemiologists a long time ago.
- This crisis allows us to draw a parallel with the fight against climate change and emphasizes the importance of preparedness.
- Quebec must prepare to face the impacts of climate change in order to be more resilient.
If the health crisis that our planet is experiencing is dramatic, both humanly and economically, it should nevertheless generate some benefits. First and foremost, no one can take a situation for granted or a context as immutable. The spread of the coronavirus and the measures taken by governments throughout the world to protect the population and health systems demonstrate beyond any doubt that an economic equilibrium that has been undisputed, or so little, for decades can falter dangerously overnight.
Secondly, it is fascinating to note that powerful economic forces have been called into question in the space of a few days as a result of recommendations by scientists. The scientists who sounded the alarm several years ago about the need to prepare our societies for the emergence of a new virus that would destabilize the health care system, as well as the economy, are now listened to by the society. Which brings us to the last benefit of this unfortunate crisis: the new ear of our leaders to experts in their fields. Let us draw a parallel with climate change.
Links between CO2 and climate change have been known for a long time
In his fascinating essay entitled Losing Earth, writer and journalist Nathaniel Rich reminds us that the first warnings about the risks associated with climate change do not date back to the founding report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the famous IPCC, dating from 1990. But from the section of a report on environmental protection on the consequences of fossil fuel combustion on the climate presented to American President Lyndon B. Johnson in…1965!
In his book, Rich forcefully reports and details the many scientific articles and government documents clearly linking the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the warming of the Earth’s temperatures. From John Tyndall’s discovery of how the greenhouse effect works in 1821 to Charles Keling’s first records of the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii starting in 1957, much of what we know today was already known decades ago.
A problem of temporality
So why are we not doing as much to fight climate change as we just did with the coronavirus? Quite simply because COVID-19 poses an immediate threat to human health. The consequences are materializing in the daily count of new cases, new hospitalizations, and deaths. In order to stop the bleeding, or at least slow it down, governments have taken drastic actions. This is not the case with climate change. The climate projections, complex and multiple, describe catastrophic consequences for a future that seems distant (the “worst-case scenario” even evokes a warming of our planet by +7°C by 2100). Moreover, even in the case of an extreme weather event, experts cannot link the event to climate change with certainty. It is therefore difficult for a society to prepare itself to fight against abstract and distant consequences.
Tools to get ready
However, the floods of the 2017 and 2019 springs and the heat waves of 2010 and 2018 are there to remind us that extreme weather events can have significant impacts on the functioning of our society and on the physical and mental health of the population. In fact, even today, one year after the 2019 spring floods, some residents of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac are unable to return to their homes or find new property.
The good news is that there are several tools to prepare for the floods. For example, an up-to-date and comprehensive emergency preparedness plan allows you to act in case of an extreme weather event. Municipalities are required to have such a plan in place since the floods of spring 2017. Then, to prepare for the impacts of climate change, there is an even better plan: the climate change adaptation plan (mentioned in a previous article). Its development requires an effective and targeted adaptation approach that helps municipalities be well-prepared, by:
– Anticipating risks;
– Assessing them in terms of their expected consequences;
– Identifying vulnerabilities in municipal infrastructures, natural and built environments, and the population;
– Proposing measures to reduce these vulnerabilities.
In doing so, municipalities take tangible actions to anticipate and substantially reduce risks, and to prepare the population adequately. In short, by preparing themselves, municipalities are generally more resilient.
CCG supports many municipalities in their adaptation efforts, from grant research to the drafting of the adaptation plan. It’s not too late to prepare; contact us and find out how we can help you make your own transition.