Twenty years ago I was, if not a climate-change denier, at least an aggressive climate-change skeptic. I’d gleefully debate anyone I knew who was passionate on the subject. I’d explain how the planet’s climate had been changing throughout its history. (Kind of like saying “People have always been fat” when the doctor tells me to lose weight).
I’d argue that even if humans are having some minor effect, the results are easily mitigated. The ingenuity of the human spirit! The triumph of technology! Why, this could even be a good thing! Think of all our great technological adaptations! Historically, great floods spark explosions of progress! We could be on the cusp of a new golden age.
In short, I was an idiot: naïve and willfully blind. But I eventually recovered. Bit by stubborn bit, I came to realize how little my opinion matters in this regard. A warming planet doesn’t need my belief. It’s happening either way and a lot of people are going to suffer as a result.
So these days, I think a lot about what the next 20, 30, 50 years are going to look like in Canada’s Ocean Playground. I read a lot of reports and have the opportunity to meet lots of experts. Clear pictures appear. I see periodic shortages of staple foods and other essentials, as spring storms wash out the isthmus of Chignecto, severing Nova Scotia’s only road and rail links to the rest of Canada.
I see life badly disrupted in villages and towns around the province, as thousands of homes and their neighbourhoods become unlivable due to frequent floods, contaminated drinking water, and overwhelmed sewage systems.
Downtown Halifax becomes an oft-flooded zone. Lower Water Street, the Bedford Highway, and the Armdale roundabout wash out several times each year. Inland communities where property taxes soar and infrastructure groans as thousands of people suddenly decide that rarely-flooded Enfield might be a nicer place to live than underwater-again Chester.
Countless millions of people from coastal Asia and Africa will be climate-change refugees; it’s doubtful countries like Bangladesh will even still exist. Those people won’t be sitting patiently amidst the floodwaters while we debate how to help them. They will throng into our large and mostly empty country in numbers that are now just the stuff of Conservative fever dreams.
This isn’t fear-mongering, any more than a weather forecast is fear-mongering. This is simply the situation.
None of this means, however, that things are hopeless. We can still mitigate the damage we’re doing to the planet, and take preparations to ensure Nova Scotia is still a place where people can live and thrive in a century. In our cover story, Chris Benjamin talks to the experts about how we’re preparing and what we need to focus on. This is part of a special package of stories produced in collaboration with Advocate newspapers around the Maritimes.
You’ll also find a new column from Zack Metcalfe, plumbing various environmental issues and offering practical tips you can follow to reduce the harm humans are causing to the planet. For example, did you know that if we all went vegan, some 75% of the planet’s farmland could be returned to nature? Yes, you love steak and bacon. So do I. But lately, eating them troubles my conscience. Sometimes the greater good demands compromises.