On December 4th, Ontario’s Auditor General, reported that the provincial government’s climate plan was not supported by sound evidence and would fail to meet greenhouse gas emission targets. Given the implications – increases in flooding, drought, fire, extreme heat, insect infestations, disease outbreaks and more – all Ontarians should be demanding a new and viable climate plan that is based on facts, not fantasy.
There are other reasons to engage, however, beyond the enormous social and economic costs to humans. Climate change is also a major threat to biological diversity – the variety of species and ecosystems on Earth. Even now, climate change is altering and destroying habitats, increasing the spread of disease and parasites, changing inter-species relationships, and shifting the timing of breeding and nesting.
Scientists predict that globally 20 – 30 percent of plant and animal species will be at greater risk of extinction due to climate change. In Ontario, researchers are already documenting negative impacts to, among others, ducks, geese, moose and caribou.
For the sake of all life, we need to make the transition to clean, renewable sources of energy as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even if we support the objective, however, we may differ on how to achieve it. For example, wind farms have often been a source of dispute among nature lovers and green-energy advocates because of deadly impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife.
Risks to wildlife can be reduced through careful siting, design and operation of projects to avoid significant habitats and critical times of the day or year, such as migration, when animals are most vulnerable. And, of course, bird and bat mortality at wind farms pales in comparison to the devastating consequences of society’s continued reliance on fossil fuels, and even on other forms of renewable energy.
In designing and implementing solutions, we must not lose sight of the plants and animals with whom we share our lands and waters.
Anne Bell has been directing Ontario Nature’s conservation and education programs since 2007. She loves to go birding, camping, swimming, and skiing and to play hockey with her husband and two young daughters, Kestrel and Castilleja.