CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS & VIEWS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Even if we find solutions for reducing carbon emissions, we will still need solutions to help us adapt.
Alexandre Magnan, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations
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As our climate changes we hear a lot about mitigation or reducing emissions, but another piece of the puzzle is adaptation.
With rising sea levels, for example, the importance of hard adaptations like shoreline armouring and seawalls are obvious, but as important are the so-called soft adaptations like emergency management and planned relocations or retreats.
With flooding and fires in Alberta and droughts in Saskatchewan, the Prairies are experiencing catastrophic events more frequently.
But before looking at what adaptation will look like, we need to examine who is most at risk.
The most vulnerable
According to Natural Resources Canada’s Regional Perspectives report, social groups such as Indigenous peoples, women, lower income people, rural communities and new Canadians are more vulnerable to climate change.
Sharlene Alook, from Kisipikamahk, Bigstone Cree Nation, in northern Alberta, is a masters student and collaborator with an Indigenous-led conservation and sustainability project at the University of Alberta.
“I was born and raised in an environment that was abundant in freshwater and beautiful landscape,” Alook says.
“I went back home and I saw the river had receded. I went to the places I used to pick berries and they are not there. I see more logging trucks than ever before and the water in the lake is not healthy, there’s not much wildlife.”
Alook says climate change affects Indigenous people by limiting access to food sovereignty and threatening language, treaty rights and culture.
“They have to go further to hunt and gather food,” she says. “Climate change has affected the waters, the unpredictable weather.
“Our calendar months are based on the descriptions of the animals, the migrations and it’s now unknown. We have traditional areas where we fish and pick berries. We conduct ceremonies here, this is where our language comes from.”
Jeff Birchall, director of the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Lab at the University of Alberta, says people that are marginalized are most exposed to the impact of climate change.
“In order to make your community actually resilient, those folks need to be incorporated not just in what is community resilience, but in becoming resilient,” Birchall says.
For example, a higher standard of living means a community can bounce back from a disaster, he says. Focusing on the vulnerable aspects of a community, while difficult, is crucial.
The 24th Winter Olympic Games are underway in the Chinese capital, but winter itself seems far away. To counter the lack of cold weather, the organisers are using vast quantities of water and energy to supply the events with fake snow.
What are the consequences of maintaining artificial winter conditions on this scale? Madeleine Orr, a sport ecologist in the Institute for Sport Business at Loughborough University, considers the tournament’s environmental scorecard.
How important is the local climate in Winter Olympic Games?
The first Winter Olympics took place in 1924 in Chamonix – a town in the French Alps. All the events happened outdoors. The Games organisers flooded courses to create natural rinks for ice hockey and tracks for sledding sports. There was plenty of fresh powder snow for skiing, too.
More recent Games have used significant amounts of artificial snow. Olympic snow makers have said that Sochi 2014 was about 80% fake and in Pyeongchang 2018, closer to 90%. Now we’re watching a Winter Olympic Games in Beijing with 100% artificial snow, which is unprecedented. There’s a whole range of questions that this raises in terms of the safety and competitiveness for athletes and the environmental cost of the Games.
The last few Olympics were poorly chosen for their natural conditions. Climate change has increased the temperature and shifted precipitation patterns in Beijing, but not so significantly that conditions are substantially different to what they were ten years ago when the bid was advanced. A Winter Olympic Games here was always going to rely on artificial snow because Beijing and Zhangjiakou (the mountain city in Hebei province which will host skiing events) are just not that snowy. And in that case, snowmaking is a great stop-gap solution: you can produce snow, you can’t produce cold temperatures.
Since the 1960s, ski resorts have increasingly relied on artificial snow. To survive, resorts must be able to open about 100 days of the year. That window is getting very tight. In Europe, for example, the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research found that about 12 days have been lost from the beginning of the season and 26 days from the end since 1970 in the Swiss Alps. In North America, we’re seeing similar numbers.