What can we expect to see within our lifetimes?
Climate change is happening quickly enough that some of us alive today may see a very different world if we make it close to the end of the century. Even for folks who won’t be around then, climate change will be a part of your life—indeed it is affecting us already.
We’ve all seen the headlines from around the world about heat waves, forest fires, flooding, crop failure, sea level rise, glacial melt and stronger hurricanes. People are dying as climate change exacerbates some problems and creates others anew. Sadly, these effects tend to worsen inequality since marginalized people are often more vulnerable.
While Manitoulin Island is probably better situated in terms of climate impacts than some parts of the world, we are by no means immune. Locals have already noticed declines in certain fish species, while at the same time unwanted species like disease-bearing ticks are moving in. The latter is happening because of warmer winters, which could also cause more freezing rain, potentially leading to accidents. On average, we’re expected to have less snow, but more precipitation on an annual basis. However, this doesn’t mean that there will be more water—evaporation likely will outstrip precipitation, leading to potential moisture stress in farmers’ fields.
Some of these challenges can be managed if we plan properly in advance. Others may be more difficult to keep in check, such as increased risk for a major forest fire—Manitoulin is already long overdue. Fluctuating water levels may become the norm, rather than a slow-moving pseudo-cycle. While long-term it’s more likely that the Great Lakes levels will go down, no climate models can predict this with certainty—depending on where increased precipitation falls, we could also experience periods of higher lake levels. Heat waves and severe storms are also on the rise.
All of these are just the physical effects. The situation starts looking worse when considering the ripple effects we might feel, socially and economically, from areas hit worse than our own. For instance, crop failures in other locations could raise food prices around the world. And struggles for livelihoods have already led to what some consider climate-triggered violent conflict. Less-impacted areas such as our own should be ready to take in people leaving other places; as situations worsen mass migration may increase.
Climate change could shake the foundations of society, so we must work to improve our resilience. However, preparedness alone is not enough; if climate change continues on the track towards a worst-case scenario, adaptation at a certain point will likely become futile. Therefore, we absolutely must reduce emissions—read next week’s query to ponder the question of who we should look to for leadership on this.
To get involved with local climate action, please attend a Climate Action Open House on December 2 at the Mindemoya Community Hall or December 4 at the Park Centre in Kagawong, both drop-ins from 7 to 9 pm.