There is no ‘Planet B,’ warns speaker at climate forum

Godfrey Baldacchino stands in front of a climate change slideshow at a public forum held at Florence Simmons Performance Hall in Charlottetown on Sept. 22. Brenlee Brothers photo.

By Brenlee Brothers

Sept. 29, 2016

Luna Khirfan knows the importance of local knowledge when it comes to climate change.

And local people tell her the historic section in Charlottetown is running into problems. When rain falls, because of the hard surfaces downtown, it pools in the historical court instead of being channelled into the sea, she said in the Florence Simmons Performance Hall on Sept. 22.

She was there as part of a public forum that concluded a three-day conference on building small island resilience to global climate change.

Experts alone cannot make change, and this is just one example of knowledge gained from the local community, she said.

“By putting our expert knowledge with the local community’s experiential knowledge, that is when we can affect change for the future.”

Godfrey Baldacchino is co-holder of the UNESCO chair in Island studies and sustainability at UPEI.

At the forum he showed a chart featuring some of the world’s largest polluters. China, United States, Russia and India are the major contributors.

The chart showed Canada contributing two per cent of global pollution. But consider Canada has the smallest population of all the major polluters, Baldacchino said.

“When you factor that in, you realize that on a capita basis, Canada’s contribution to pollution is really high.”

If we mess up, we can just go to Mars, he said. Then he corrected himself.

“There is no Planet B.”

P.E.I. is not a major polluter because of its small population and lack of manufacturing industries, Baldacchino said. And the Island has the largest voter turnout for provincial and federal elections in Canada.

“This speaks to the engagement of the people with their politicians,” he said.

“Which has its benefits.”

The Island’s size creates a situation where results of climate change are quick and visible, Baldacchino said. But it’s also a good thing because Islanders are living laboratories for change.

“Once something starts, you can see the impact happen very, very fast.”

Adam Fenech is the director of the Climate Lab at UPEI.

It’s important to understand the Island’s vulnerability to coastal erosion and sea level rise, he said.

That is why UPEI is testing something called innocuous rift, a virtual reality headset that lets individuals stand at Victoria Park in Charlottetown and watch the sea levels rise slowly, then come towards them and over their head.

“It gives you a sense of what sea level rise would look like here on Prince Edward Island.”

As well, UPEI is using a fleet of drones to fly around the Island capturing precise imagery of what the coasts looks like right now, Fenech said.

“When we do that year to year, we will have a really good understanding of the prophecies that are occurring with coastal erosion.”