Waking up to Catastrophe

By Peter Jones

4RG’s Climate Change Forum, “Waking up to Catastrophe”, took place Saturday, May 25th, in Peterborough, Ontario. The title of the Forum was a carry-forward from last year’s “Sleep Walking to Catastrophe”. Since then public opinion in both Canada and the U.S. has changed, as most people now recognize that climate change is a threat to the future well being of the Earth.

Three panelists covered various dimensions of the topic:

Alanna Mitchell, the author of “Sea Sick”, reviewed the increase of Greenhouse Gas emissions.  She explained that the failure by the nations of the world to cap the emission of carbon dioxide means that the critical limit of GHG in the atmosphere will be exceeded in the next decades. She also pointed out that the oceans are absorbing both heat and carbon dioxide, a situation that will seriously impact fish stocks crucial to feeding the Earth’s population.

Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, reviewed the progress of the Province of Ontario in reducing GHG emissions.  He acknowledged that the Province had made progress to date, but pointed out that there were no programs in place for continued reductions from next year to 2020, the target date for Canada under the Copenhagen Accord.

The Honourable Jeff Leal, Minister of Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough, reviewed the various programs instituted by the Ontario Government that had put Ontario close at the top of Canadian provinces in reducing GHG emissions.  He then answered a wide variety of questions from the audience directed to environmental issues.

During the second half of the program, Guy Hanchet, a member of the 4RG Steering Committee, presented the theme “A Tale of Two Cities”, comparing Peterborough, Ontario with Peterborough, England, both of which suffered serious flooding in recent years. He contrasted the strong commitment of the U.K. Government to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change with the half-hearted measures of our Federal Government. (Click to down load his annotated Slide Show).

After his “Tale of Two Cities” presentation, a question and answer session with members of the audience mapped the way forward for organizations in the Peterborough area concerned with climate change. Discussion centered around emissions from the Alberta tar sands and offsetting GHG emissions. Participants raised several themes:

  • campaigns to persuade pension funds to exclude investments in fossil fuel companies;
  • holding all levels of government accountable; and
  • partnering with grandparents in other regions regarding key issues across Canada.

Thanks are due to many individuals and organizations, starting with St. John the Evangelist Church and the Reverend Gordon Finney for use of the Guild Hall.

4RG acknowledges the support of the Federal New Horizons for Seniors Program. Terry Pinfold and Adrienne McKay assisted with the publicity. Thanks to Cathy Mitchell, Peterborough Green Up Association, and Melanie Kawalec, Sustainability Manager, City of Peterborough, who aided our efforts to reach the environmental community. The Raging Grannies added a colourful and musical analysis of the climate change problem from a Canadian perspective!

Click on the link below for other environmental organizations that participated in the Forum:

4RG thank you slide