GBF - 2019 Winter Newsletter

4 | WINTER 2019 | GBF.ORG INSIGHTS FROM H 2 O INSIGHTS FROM By Jennifer Ferguson, Chair of the Communications Committee of Georgian Bay Forever. It was a startling, stimulating and sobering day for the 104 people who attended Georgian Bay Forever’s (GBF) October 2018 H 2 0 educational event, co-hosted this year by the Georgian Bay Association (GBA) and sponsored by Bruce Power. The event was startling because we learned that we are literally eating and UPDATE FROM THE IJC Kicking off the day was Gordon Walker, Canadian Section Chair of the International Joint Commission (IJC) and a long-time cottager in the Cognashene area. Established in 1909, the IJC provides advice and recom- mendations to both the American and Canadian governments with respect to achieving the objectives laid out in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA – 2012). These objectives pertain to conservation, remediation, CLIMATE CHANGE—WE MUST ACT NOW Consistent with recently released reports, Dr. Shannon Carto, a Policy Advisor with the Environmental Commission of Ontario, confirmed that we are 0.5 degrees Celsius (ºC) away from environmental catastrophe. Dr. Carto spoke to the need for all of us to act now if we want to change the ending to the current climate change story. “I never thought I would live to see the impacts of climate change” she said. “But, as scientists the world over have recently confirmed, climate change is moving faster than we are. We are the last generation that is capable of doing something about it.” The growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) levels over the past 250 years is mostly attributable to the burning of fossil fuels through human activity. The readings of CO 2 , a greenhouse gas, passed the 350 parts per million (ppm) mark in 1988 and reached 409 ppm in August 2018. Climate disruption may be irreversible beyond 350 – 400 ppm. “We need to cut greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions as much as possible as soon as possible,” Dr. Carto said. Rising CO 2 emissions are causing the Earth to warm up, and the rate at which the Earth is warming has accelerated dramati- cally over the most recent decades. As the Earth’s temperature rises, our climate changes. And, Ontario is warming faster than the global average: the Earth’s temperature in the Georgian Bay area has gone up 1.5 ̊C since 1948 compared to a 1 ̊C degree increase for the entire planet. Oceans play a huge role in moderating the effects of global warming by absorbing 93% of the heat created in the atmosphere. However, the rate at which oceans can absorb heat is slowing down. Furthermore, as oceans absorb more CO 2 , acidity levels rise in a pro- cess called ocean acidification that is killing coral reefs and many of the fish and vertebrates that rely on them for food. As our planet heats up, we are seeing more and more extreme phenomena around the world. A few examples from 2018 include: • Extreme and deadly heat waves in Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. • For the first time ever, temperatures reached 30˚C at the Arctic Circle. • The warming of the north and south poles resulted in the smallest amount of sea ice extent on record in the Arctic and the second smallest in Antarctica. Other extreme events that are on the rise include devastating wildfires, torrential rainfall and large-scale flooding as well as more severe storm activity and increasing drought conditions. From Dr. Carto’s presentation, courtesy of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario GOVERNMENTS ARE STRUGGLING TO IMPLEMENT EFFECTIVE POLICY. IT’S UP TO ALL OF US TO ADOPT BEHAVIORS TO SAVE THIS PLANET. Paris targets are out of reach unless we act much more and now! Efforts need to be tripled to not reach 2˚C, and quintupled to stay below the 1.5˚C target. “Pathways reflecting current NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution) imply global warming of about 3°C by 2100, with warming continuing afterwards. If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is very plausible that the goal of a well-below 2°C temperature increase is also out of reach.” — The November United Nations Emissions Gap Report of 2018. protecting human health, reducing pollutants, combatting invasive species and responding to climate change in the Great Lakes. According to Commissioner Walker, the overall health and drinking water quality of Lakes Huron/Michigan is good. However, fish populations and ice coverage have both declined and surface water temperatures have increased. In coming decades, the key issue will be phosphorous levels. According to Commissioner Walker, the IJC is concerned about increasing nearshore nutrient inputs that contribute to the risk of algae blooms that threaten to contaminate our fresh water supply. The IJC is also increasingly mindful of the effects of microplastics and invasive Phragmites —an issue he credits GBF with bringing to the fore. drinking our own trash. It was stimulating because we learned so much and quickly realized that we have so much more to learn. Lastly, it was sobering because we learned that climate change is upon us and that it’s up to all of us to act NOW to avoid environmental catastrophe. “A lot of us have a very direct Georgian Bay connection. And what is Georgian Bay, some people call it the Sixth Great Lake.” — Commissioner Gordon Walker GBF.ORG | WINTER 2019 | 5 CLIMATE SCIENCE IS CLEAR AND BEYOND DEBATE