“It’s weird seeing 10 carp a metre long thrashing about on the roadway…they are mating most vigourously.” That was the response of an acquaintance to my inquiry about life these days on a partially submerged Toronto Island.
The effects of the rising lake are a bit different off the island. Closer to home, our beaches are largely washed away. Roadways and basements are flooded. Our iconic Leuty Lifeguard Station seems to shift around on the sand like a toy.
There’s a certain strange beauty to all of this that is captured and shared digitally over and over. Perhaps it’s the jarring juxtapositions – kayaks moored to submerged picnic tables, neon Muskoka chairs peeking out of water where we know land ought to be.
But mostly, the scene and the circumstances are unsettling and ominous. One senses a force unleashed that can’t ever be called back and tethered again. Whether that’s true or not, who knows? The answer lies in knowing the cause and my guess is there’ll be no agreement on what that is. Time may reveal the truth of it all, I suppose.
But in the interim, here is the point, I think – this is what climate change looks like. If this isn’t it, these are, at least, some of its symptoms. This is our glimpse into the future.
What we do know is that we’re locked into some change as a result of too many carbon emissions over too many years. The challenge is, of course, to limit that change and avoid the most devastating of what’s possible. The scientists – at least any worthy of the name – tell us that to avoid catastrophe we must, by the year 2050, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to at least eighty percent below those of 1990. It is ambitious but it is also necessary and, thankfully, achievable.
But, of course, the issue is never the target. They’re easy to set. And in spite of them, nations have faltered and international agreements have come undone. But cities have been different. In cities – around the world – progress has been made. Witness our own city – emissions have dropped by over 24 percent since 1990.
But that, still, is not enough. Noting an emerging gap between projected emissions and the 2050 target, a recent City Report – TransformTO Report#1 – tells us that not only is significant action and investment required to correct our course, it needs to happen now.
This is why I recently joined with a number of East End environmental scientists and concerned citizens under the banner of GreenEast to write a letter to our Mayor, imploring him to lead Council to fully adopt, fully implement and, importantly, fully fund the recommendations of a second City Report – TransformTO Report#2.
TransformTO Report#2 provides that course correction. It calls for an integrated set of programs and policies including,
- the electrification of transit and transportation;
- extensive building retrofits;
- the development of renewable and community energy systems;
- extensive waste diversion and reduction; and,
- workforce development to respond to social equity and the consequent growth of green jobs.
These are all effective responses to climate change. And, they are also the programs and policies of cities committed to modern infrastructure, the creation of decent jobs and the equitable distribution thereof.
On July 5th, Council will vote on TransformTO Report#2. It is an opportunity for Council to effect necessary change – to invent and invest in new ways to live and be productive in our City. The future that we all desire for ourselves and for those who follow is within our grasp now – but not for long. To paraphrase David Suzuki from some years ago, others have done their part. The scientists have done their part. The burden now shifts to our elected representatives to do theirs.
Matthew Kellway is a member of Green East and former MP, Beaches-East York