Climate Change Report to the CRD Environment Committee

by Committee Chair Vic Derman


In January 2016, CRD Board Chair
Barb Desjardins asked the Environment Committee to provide a report detailing
how the region should respond to climate change. The Board Chair’s request is
opportune. Recent evidence suggests that climate change is accelerating and
poses an ever growing, potentially critical, threat to human society and all species
on our planet.

Three to five
years ago, generally accepted estimates indicated a maximum sea level rise by
2100 of about 33 centimetres or 1/3 of a metre. By 2015, these estimates had
been revised to indicate a rise of about 1 metre. Recently, study of the West
Antarctic ice sheet revealed deterioration at a much more rapid pace than expected
causing researchers to suggest sea level rise of 2 metres by century’s end. A subsequent
review of this data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a
U.S. governmental agency in the Department of Commerce, concluded that a near 3
metre rise could be expected, quite possibly by 2050 – 2060 as described in the
following quote:

“… In a presentation at the Risk Management Society’s RIMS 2016 conference in
San Diego April 12, a top scientific official with the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration said that recent, as-yet-unpublished data from
Antarctica suggests that sea levels could rise three meters — almost ten feet —
by the
middle of the

Davidson, NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science
and services, told conference attendees that “the latest field data out of West Antarctic is kind of an OMG
Davidson said that data shows sea level rise could reach three
metres by 2050 or 206—a much steeper rise happening far sooner than even
the most catastrophic scenarios currently available in peer-reviewed journals
and the far more conservative estimates published by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change. That steep a rise in sea level would put significant
parts of many California cities underwater in just two or three decades… .

These projections have yet to be
fully reviewed and accepted by the broader scientific community. Nevertheless,
if correct, they suggest a catastrophic
outcome if serious mitigation does not occur very quickly. Severe environmental damage would almost certainly
result. Equally alarming are the potential fiscal and social impacts.  A three metre rise would eliminate, or put at
severe risk, hundreds of trillion dollars of assets. Protecting them would be
extremely expensive if it were possible at all. Meanwhile, society would likely
face hundreds of millions of “sea rise refugees” as low lying coastal areas
were inundated or became otherwise unlivable.

Another metric is equally
alarming. Delegates at the recent Paris conference on climate change agreed
that society cannot exceed an absolute
of 2 degrees Celsius © warming without risking runaway climate
change. However, the conference also agreed that keeping warming to 1.5 degrees
C would better limit damage and provide a much greater margin of safety.
Subsequently, a researcher at Concordia University created a “climate change
clock” to indicate when these targets might be reached. His answer: Without a
substantial increase in efforts to mitigate, 1.5 C will be reached in about 15
years (2031) with 2.0 degrees being reached in about 26 years (2042). These dates
suggest very short time lines to accomplish the paradigm shift that all
communities, including our own, may well face. To date, our responses to global
warming could best be characterized as incremental and slow. Given the likelihood
we are facing an increasingly urgent
crisis, we must consider the need for an immediate and much more massive


Climate Change Schematic A

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