Watchdog says her ‘socks blown off’ by climate change
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | June 22, 2017|
There is a serious lack of urgency around climate change, says Ontario’s environmental watchdog, who will be in Minden July 6.
“I have yet to meet an audience that is worried enough,” Dianne Saxe, the environmental commissioner of Ontario, told The Highlander. “Most people, even very educated people, think about climate change the way I did before I became commissioner. I thought I was pretty well-informed ... and I find a lot of people are in that boat. I can tell you I’ve had my socks blown off, since I became commissioner, by how much worse the situation is than I originally thought.”
Saxe’s career began with two major Bay Street law firms and the Ontario Public Service. She later established one of Canada’s top environmental law boutiques.
She’s been Ontario’s environmental commissioner since 2015.
Data about the exponential increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the last 10 to 15 years, combined with the fact that it takes about a generation to really feel the effects of those emissions, elevated her concerns once she became commissioner, she says.
Saxe pointed to recent carbon dioxide readings, which showed the first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million.
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing the sun’s energy and preventing heat from escaping back into space.
“This hasn’t happened before while there were humans on Earth,” she said. “The time for action is right now.”
Brent Devolin, Haliburton County warden, will have a luncheon with Saxe, members of council and other interested parties prior to the public event at the Minden Community Centre.
“In terms of planning for these types of extreme weather events, we’ve reached the point where we understand that this is the new norm,” he said. “We have a passionate group of people in this community who want us to make strides in this regard.”
Coun. Pam Sayne says she’s looking forward to the commissioner’s visit, and pointed to council’s recent efforts to heighten its sense of urgency and understanding around climate change.
An addition to the township’s Renewable Energy Policy will require senior staff to include environmental implications and a “renewable energy readiness” assessment in the items they present to council, on top of the existing financial implications.
“We’re trying to encourage that change in mindset in our decision-making processes,” Sayne said.
This new policy will be reflected in the township’s council reports after June 29.
The impacts of climate change can be more obvious in rural communities, says Saxe, especially for people working in the agricultural sector. Transportation sectors in larger cities are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
But large or small, every community can begin curbing its carbon footprint right now.
“What are you doing to reduce how much you are making things worse? For every person, organization, the first step is to figure out your carbon footprint and cut it by five per cent every year,” she said.
Environment Haliburton! helped organize the event, which will begin at 7 p.m.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.