Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’
July 17th – Toronto breaks yet another heat record. It is 11:54 pm and I am lying in the living room trying to take advantage of the small window mounted air-conditioning unit while an industrial fan is pointed towards me and a wet towel is draped over me. It is hot and in so much as I blame my overactive metabolism and my third storey apartment the culprit is the weather. As someone who has spent the better part of the last five years involved in climate change work and research I know enough not to associate one incidence of extreme heat with global climate change. That said, it hasn’t simply been one incidence, or two or three, or hundreds, but thousands. While the vast majority of scientists agree and continue to enhance their understanding as to how our climate is changing, for some – scientifically validated, and peer-reviewed evidence simply will not do.
How about some anecdotal evidence? In another excellent video from the producer of Crock of the Week, Peter Sinclair; we are introduced to what Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post points to as the type of weather we are likely to experience for the rest of our lives. It is from Robinson that the Crock of the Week gets its title. The compilation of news clips and videos entitled ‘Welcome to the Rest of Your Life’ is just over 8 minutes long and serves to highlight the past 3 weeks of extreme heat, wild fires and wild weather that has blazed, razed and rampaged its way across North America affecting millions of us directly and millions more indirectly now and in the months to come.
In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff, Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the US, is quoted as saying the weather has, ‘no parallel’ and that by simply looking out the window you can see climate change in action. CBS news reports that the period from May 2011 to April 2012 has represented the warmest 12 months since 1895 when the US started keeping records, while CNN goes on to report 1800 record high temperatures have been reported and that 40,000 daily heat records have broken so far this year, double that of 2011 (which by the way is still 20,000).
Tom Costello of NBC news reports that the storms that hit the northeast united states recently knocked out power to 5 million people, 2 million more than those who were without power as a result of Hurricane Katrina. To put that in perspective, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area represents a population of more than 5 million people.
While the focus of the ‘Crock of Week’ is focused on the US, the Canadian news could have certainly supplied some footage. The CBC reports, “Drought in Central, Eeastern Canada baking (July 15th), another record breaking day in Toronto
While sun-worshippers may relish the heat, for others it can be agony and even deadly. However, it isn’t simply the heat that is the problem, it is the impact is has on our infrastructure, our agriculture, our farmers, their families, those vulnerable members of society, i.e., the elderly and the economically disadvantaged who cannot afford the air-conditioning or the secondary impacts of higher foods prices as a result of crop damage.
Interspersed between the reports and interviews from NBC, ABC, CNN and is a conversation with Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, who acknowledges, ‘clearly there is going to be an impact, I’m not distributing (sic that), increasing CO2 emissions in (sic) the atmosphere is is going to have an impact, it will have a warming impact, how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict and depending on how large it is – then projects how dire the consequences are.”
The consequences seem pretty dire – for example, simply consult the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Weather (SREX) or the farmer whose crop has been dessimated by extreme heat and long-lasting drought.
While we may wish to blame the oil companies our ravenous appetite for fossil fuels doesn’t seem to be decreasing, that is another issue. As scientists the world over acknowledge, even if we could halt the increase in greenhouse gas emissions immediately those already in play will continue to affect global climate change for years to come.
How much evidence scientific, anecdotal or otherwise does one need to accept the reality that global climate change is an issue. Not just for comparatively wealthy North Americans, but also billions more in the developing world.
One of my heroes, Sir Austin Bradford Hill, the famed an epidemiologist and statistician who was one of the first to demonstrate the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer wrote “All scientific work is incomplete – whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have or postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.”
While science continues to validate projections of global climate change and further substantiate the drivers and mechanisms behind that change we might want to consider the overwhelming reality of change happening all around us.
And while I agree with Rex that we are indeed an adaptable species, adaptation isn’t as easy as he makes it sound. While Rex contends, “it is an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions,” I’m not that convinced. Yes, engineering solutions will be important, but adapting to a problem as overwhelming and globally pervasive as climate change won’t simply mean a technical fix. Shifting agricultural production, bringing water to new deserts and equipping cities to effectively respond to the social, environment and economic challenges of our present reality will not be easy or inexpensive. That said, we can’t begin to consider adaptation if we can’t come to terms the reality of the rest of our lives and those of our children and grandchildren.
Companion Video from the YALE forum on CLIMATE CHANGE & THE MEDIA (Peter Sinclair)
This weeks blog post was written by Stewart Dutfield, CC-RAI’s Program and Communications Manager after viewing the most recent, ‘Crock of the Week’. Stewart has studied and worked in the area of climate change for nearly five years and is interested in the aspect of communications and public awareness around climate change, as well as climate adaptation in the urban context.
This blog post reflects the opinion of the author.
SSHRC Internships: Sarah Applebaum developing the business case for climate change adaptation at Toronto Environment Office
As an MBA student specializing in Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business at York University I jumped at the chance to work with the Toronto Environment Office (TEO) for the summer. The initial draw of the position was the opportunity to develop a business case for climate change adaptation activities at the City. As my internship progressed, priorities within the office have shifted and new projects arose.
Through a partnership with The Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, we convened a multi-stakeholder meeting involving infrastructure providers, utilities, the private sector, academics, and representatives from the three orders of government. The aim of this meeting was to gauge interest in the formation of a Toronto Region Action Group to discuss resilience to extreme weather. This is an initiative that is moving forward, with the first meeting of the action group scheduled for late September.
It is an extremely interesting time to be working for the municipal government, and Toronto Environment Office. Last week, the Core Service Review, conducted by KPMG, recommended that the City undertake a number of changes and reductions in its environmental protection and improvement activities to help the city realize cost savings and close the deficit gap.
Political leanings and ideology aside, this is a great example of how our government works and the democratic process. On Thursday July 21, the public is invited to provide deputations (in person or written) expressing their opinion about these proposed reductions.
With a focus in both sustainability and organizational change, I am very interested in the outcomes of this process. How will the vision, mission, and activities of the Toronto Environment Office evolve? How will these changes be communicated not only to TEO staff, but within city hall and to the general public? How will the key decision makers obtain buy in from key stakeholders?
About the Graduate Student: Sarah is an MBA Candidate (2012) at the Schulich School of Business with a focus on Sustainability and Organizational Change. She holds a Bachelor degree in Environmental Science and International Development Studies from Dalhousie University. Sarah is an active student leader within the Schulich Community. She is President of the Schulich Chapter of Net Impact (an international organization focused on socially responsible business issues), executive member of the planning committee for the Inaugural Schulich International Case Competition, and is a consultant with the York Sustainable Enterprise Consultants. After completion of the MBA, Sarah plans to work with organizations to embed sustainability principles into their business models and strategic plans.
On March 1st, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration (CC-RAI) co-hosted the York University Climate Change Policy & Research Day. This was the biggest event held so far as part of the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change project. The event demonstrated the value of seeking far greater research collaboration between researchers and policy makers to tackle climate change with the urgency it deserves.
We were fortunate to have as our chair Karen Kraft Sloan, Special Advisor on the Environment to the Vice President Research and Innovation, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies and Canada’s former Ambassador on the Environment.
This event brought together 3 distinct groups:
- policy staff from local and regional governments and community organizations from City of Toronto, the Region of Durham, the Region of Peel, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Association for Canadian Education Resources (ACER); and York Region;
- researchers from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Peter Victor, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS) Ali Asgary, Richard Bello, David Etkin, as well as Science & Engineering (FSE) Huaiping Zhu;
- graduate students from across various academic disciplines
In the morning, an audience of York graduate students and faculty as well as other invited policy staff observed an open forum between policy staff and researchers. The policy makers presented on climate change issues they face, shared adaptation strategies, and identified areas where they need expert opinions and more research. York’s professors responded with their ideas and presented their latest research on climate change impacts and adaptation.
Researchers and policy makers came together to address research gaps and explore potential research collaborations. For instance, the City of Toronto sought opinions on the best way to build a business case for adaptation to climate change while the Region of Peel was interested in working with York’s professors to develop a regional database of environmental statistics and economic data to help them in their decision making. The researchers, many of whom advise national governments on best practices for mitigating and adapting to climate change, were excited by the prospect of working with local policy makers towards home-grown solutions.
“It was really good for me personally to know the people who are working in this area and [I] would welcome any opportunity to collaborate with them in this very important line of research” said Ali Asgary, who is the Graduate Program Director of the York MA program in Disaster & Emergency Management.
Collaborations like this are key to getting Canada as a whole to achieve fair, ambitious, and binding carbon emissions reductions. “I enjoyed the panel discussions … the interaction between the academic/research perspective and the policy participants’ viewpoint was very interesting” said Nancy Rutherford who is the Principal Planner in the Policy Planning Branch at the Region of Durham.
York graduate students greatly enjoyed the lively panel. “I very much enjoyed the presentation. I gained a lot of valuable information” said Maryum Sherazi, a Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) student at York University. “I also enjoyed getting insights on the relationship between the policy makers and the researchers”.
Students and policy makers mingled in the afternoon session, which emphasized career pathing. “It was a valuable chance to meet senior policy makers who are doing such important work on climate change,” said Erica Stahl, a candidate in the joint MES/JD program at York University studying climate change and social justice. “Sometimes you forget that you can turn your passion into a career, and that your job can help make the world a better place. This event got me inspired again.” Everyone involved expressed their desire to build on the relationships forged at this event. “[It was] inspiring to meet [a] group working together towards greatest impact [on this issue]” wrote one participant in their evaluation form for the event.
The Knowledge Mobilization Unit worked with the organizations represented on the panel to profile a competition for five paid summer internships at the City of Toronto, the Region of Durham, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Association for Canadian Education Resources (ACER); and York Region.
CC-RAI would like to thanks our policy partners for taking part as well as York faculty.
In the fall of 2011, the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change Project will host its Research Forum. This event will build on the successes of the Policy and Research Day and profile the student interns who will have completed their placements with our policy partners. March 1st was just the beginning.
This event also had a social media presence. It was live tweeted by a number of our participants with the hashtag #KMbCC. For a full transcript of the tweets, please see here. Gary Myers, Digital Researcher at York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit also wrote about the event on his blog, KMbeing. You may read Gary’s post by clicking here.
On March 1st, 2011 from 8:30am-3:00pm in the Harry Crowe Room (109 Atkinson) York University and Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) will be hosting the York University Climate Change and Policy Research Day.
Join faculty, researchers and policy makers from the City of Toronto, the Regions of York, Durham, and Peel, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and the Weather Water Gateway project for a panel discussion on climate change work being done at the regional and municipal level, as well as existing research gaps and opportunities for collaboration.
Karen Kraft Sloan, former Canadian Ambassador for the Environment and adjunct faculty at the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) will chair a series of panel discussions on current climate change research gaps and opportunities for collaboration with project partners with policy partners, faculty and graduate students.
This event will also allow graduate students to hear from policymakers about potential career paths and to speak to them directly about the Climate Change summer internships being offered by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit.
Watch this spot for details on upcoming internship details next week!
This event is generously supported by funds from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).