Lands to Great Lakes

Lands to Great Lakes

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A Prosperous Economy needs Climate Resilience

By Jo-Anne Rzadki, Conservation Ontario

Recently, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.  Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.  The panel reports that this will cause sea levels to continue to rise, there will be longer and more frequent heat waves with currently dry regions receiving less rainfall and wet regions receiving more.  As a result of our past, present and expected future actions, effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 stop. 

You can read the report and draw your own conclusions, but I know for some this may be discouraging to hear and generate a feeling of hopelessness and that it’s too late to do anything about this.  I prefer to take the “glass half full” view. 

The theme of this year’s A.D. Latornell Conservation Symposium, Resilience: The Ability to Adapt to Change, sends a positive and hopeful message that in the face of dire messages, there are things we can still do – even within in the current restrained fiscal “climate” - to work collaboratively and make a difference. Citizens, public agencies, private industry, non-government organizations, and community groups can all contribute to building resilience by finding new ways of doing business.

One of the streams in the Symposium program will focus on the Green Economy and Ecosystem Services.  Speakers will explore how ecosystem services support resilience and will identify priorities in managing those services for increased resilience and human well being.  Case study presentations will highlight successes, what has been learned, and what is needed by various sectors to advance the economy within the context of resilient sustainable ecosystems and societies. 

Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities recognize we have a role to play with others in contributing to a vibrant society and economy by promoting new technologies like low impact development and green infrastructure and by providing the best local watershed science available such as up to date floodplain maps which help to adapt to more frequent intensive storm events like those we have seen over this past summer.
What I find encouraging is that businesses, companies and their investors are recognizing that economic prosperity is dependent on ecosystem services.  Our environment helps to produce energy, supplies water to industry and individual households, contributes to tourism, timber, fisheries and recreation sectors, provides food and much, much more. This year’s Symposium program will provide examples from private sector companies of what they are doing to ensure economic and environmental and climate resilience, reduce emissions and manage water, as well as maintain biodiversity and natural systems that are essential to good business – and healthy lifestyles for employees and communities. Some may call it “Green Washing” but from what I’ve seen, there is plenty of real progress being made for the right reasons.  They will also be telling us their challenges and providing suggestions for how those of us in the conservation and environment sector can work more effectively with them. I’m looking forward to the discussion….and the opportunities for collaboration.

Jo-Anne Rzadki is the Watershed Stewardship Coordinator at Conservation Ontario and led the development of the Green Economy/Ecosystem Services stream for Latornell 2013. Jo-Anne will be speaking about Conservation Authorities in a Changing Economy- Green Economy Roadmap in session T2D at the Symposium. 

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