EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE − Climate change is not something “out there” somewhere else. Its catastrophic impacts are already being experienced, locally – in the city, on farms, in our homes, our economy and our bodies and minds. It should be next municipal Councils’ overarching concern in all decisions as the crisis unfolds rapidly over the next strategic eight to ten years − a mere 2.5 Council terms.
All of us will feel the effects of poorer air quality, hotter temperatures with resulting increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events; food crop and supply chain failures, and higher incidences of food- and water-borne diseases and allergens. Health (both public and personal) declines, diseases and pandemics occur more often, and the workforce and economy feel all these effects. Demands on City and County taxes, services and emergency resources rise.
The heat waves of the past summer and May’s derecho storm are due to climate change. The current rising cost of living is in part due to climate supply lines disrupted by droughts, fires and floods.
Federal and provincial refusal to tax excessive profit-taking by Big Oil companies or legislate phase out of fossil fuels means less money for municipalities and for more vulnerable people, including children, the elderly, the chronically ill, people with cognitive or mobility impairments, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with mental illness. If any of these are of lower socioeconomic status, migrants, refugees or homeless, they are the most vulnerable.
Extreme weather events can exacerbate mental illness and addictions. Psychiatric medications can interfere with a person’s ability to regulate heat and their awareness that their body temperature is rising, which is associated with injury and death. People with mental health challenges are also more likely to live in poverty or have co-occurring substance use disorders, which make it harder for them to cope or adapt to changes. In addition, those with severe mental illness are more likely to be dependent upon the municipal and provincial social service infrastructure, and medication supply chains that are often disrupted in disasters. Being homeless only makes all that truly disastrous.
Extreme, prolonged weather events have been associated with high levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, increased alcohol and drug-taking with higher use of hospital emergency departments. Children are harder hit by disasters than adults and are more likely to have ongoing trauma-related symptoms after a disaster.
Fire departments and ambulance services get stretched to the breaking point. As do other municipal responsibilities like Public Health, Police, Disaster Management, Housing, Recreation, Parks, Water, Electrical Utility, Land Policy, Transit. All these are municipal responsibilities and must start yesterday to adapt to and mitigate the local climate impacts.
Municipal elections really matter in these catastrophic times.
Right here, locally, not just at the UN or in Ottawa, the climate crisis needs municipal councillors and mayors who truly understand the urgency and make climate change THE priority lens of every decision.
We citizens must understand that putting our taxes and municipal services to work on the climate emergency priority is an investment in community cohesion through the coming crucial years.