Reimagining climate resilience
When it comes to climate change, some of us still picture a distant, looming threat that we have plenty of time to course-correct. But its impacts are already dominating our headlines, our hydro bills, and our daily lives. No matter who you are — or where — climate change has already disrupted your everyday life, whether you realized it or not. And those most at risk from these impacts are our most vulnerable. Here’s why we need to go deeper on the climate change conversation to understand how unforeseen impacts are putting us at risk, and why holistic solutions are more important than ever.
As wildfires, heat waves, flooding and other extreme weather events create vast challenges on a global scale, taking climate action has never been more urgent. We often talk about climate change only in response to a fire or flood that we see in the news. But the conversation is much broader than reactive, ad-hoc responses to individual crises; we need to expand our perspective and have detailed conversations about regeneration, climate and environmental literacy, climate restoration technologies, equity and environmental justice, and beyond. This big-picture perspective helps us reimagine how we approach the many individual threads that are part of the bigger climate picture.
Phasing out single-use plastics or participating in a neighbourhood cleanup are all fantastic direct actions to take on an individual level in your own community. But thinking broadly about climate resilience also means expanding our dialogue. To that end, we need to consider two questions: how is climate change impacting our lives beyond the obvious — and who is paying the greatest price?
We need to expand our perspective and have detailed conversations about regeneration, climate and environmental literacy, climate restoration technologies, equity and environmental justice, and beyond.
When we talk about climate change impacts, we tend to focus on the most overt ones — issues like heat waves, droughts, and heavy precipitation events often take center stage. But extreme weather events aren’t the whole story. As our land use has expanded to the point where we’re seeing degradation to over a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land, we are experiencing severe biodiversity loss. And the link between biodiversity loss, land use and climate change leads to events that many of us had not considered.
Even if you live far away from the Australia or California wildfires, or the Texas snowstorm that devastated their infrastructure, biodiversity loss and climate change directly impacted your life last year. COVID — just like SARS, HIV, and Ebola — was transmitted from an infected animal either through wildlife trade or human encroachment into their habitat. Like all zoonotic diseases, COVID comes from humans infringing on natural ecosystems.
We depend on biodiversity in our daily lives much more than we realize. It underpins food production, fresh water and fuel sources, and limits communicable diseases. Biodiversity loss will severely impact nutrition, food production, traditional medicine, infectious diseases, health research, and will indirectly change land use, migration, and income.
The loss of nature and the related biodiversity loss are linked to our greatest recent catastrophes; it’s these same forces of biological degradation that are causing extreme weather events, destroying our planet, and making us sick. And those deleterious impacts are harming some of us more than others.
Equity and the climate conversation
As we’ve clearly seen this past year, vulnerable populations have been much more likely to be impacted by black swan events. There are many circumstances in which our elderly, underhoused, racialized and economically precarious populations face crisis impacts more quickly, and with much greater severity. Those who are most vulnerable to climate change are those with the smallest safety nets. And we must make equity a bigger part of the conversation.
Climate restoration must be fundamentally linked to equity. Social inequalities can greatly exacerbate the impacts of climate change, deepen environmental degradation, and undermine sustainable development. We saw this happen in British Columbia this summer, where those who could not afford air conditioning bore the brunt of the unprecedented heat wave. We’ve also seen it happen during floods and wildfires in Western Canada, where some of those displaced from their homes can afford hotels or second homes, while others were left with long-term stays in emergency shelters. Economic inequality can even determine evacuation decisions themselves; one study in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina found that some people chose not to evacuate because they simply couldn’t afford to. Some didn’t have the means to pay for alternative housing during the evacuation, and others didn’t have transportation out of the city.
These are just a small snapshot of some of the critical but hidden issues that merit more conversation, and more resources as we work to become more climate resilient. We must include diverse perspectives in the climate resilience dialogue, are work toward holistic solutions that don’t leave anyone behind.
In response to the increasing impacts of climate change on businesses, both now and in the future, more companies have been publishing climate disclosures following Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations to promote transparency, efficiency and resilience. Find out more.