MEDIA RELEASE – MAY 1, 2012 FOR MORE INFORMATION Cathy Orlando, Project Manager ’s Citizens Climate Lobby [email protected] 705-523-3388 (h), 705-929-4043 (c) BROKEN EARTH DAY Parliament must connect dots on extreme weather and

It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. When scientists predicted that global warming would increase the frequency and severity of extreme-weather events, we thought they were talking about decades from now, perhaps even mid-century. Their warnings, however, are no longer just predictions of catastrophes to come, but the new reality that will only get worse unless we reduce the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

On May 5, thousands of people in Canada and around the world will connect the dots between extreme weather and climate change through’s Climate Impacts Day.

Just this past winter, many Canadian and American regions experienced record high temperatures, and every other week, it seems, brings a weather-related catastrophe that the scientific community connects to our changing climate.

By early March, the number of reported tornados that touched down in the United States in 2012 had doubled from that time last year. On April 3rd, south Dallas bore witness to a destructive series of tornadoes that flung semitrailers in the air like toys. The United States may well experience another record tornado season, which is worrisome since 2011 is ranked the fourth Manitoba: Flooding on the Assiniboine deadliest tornado year on record in the River is being called a “300 year flood.” United States. Even Canada was hit. A

deadly tornado devastated the Ontario town of Goderich in August last year.

Scientists agree that the link between tornadoes and climate change needs further study. The connection to extreme rainfall, however, is much clearer, as a warming atmosphere holds and releases more water. Last year saw unprecedented flooding in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec, while a third of the community of Slave Lake, Alta., was destroyed by wildfires. Along with individuals, provincial economies are taking a hit from the extreme weather – the flooding has cost Manitoba’s economy $1 billion this year alone.

A series in Scientific American, published in 2011, explores the connection between extreme weather and climate change: “Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were ‘consistent’ with the predictions of climate change. No more. ‘Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming,’ says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.” A very recent study from April 2012 hints that global warming is causing the cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the oceans to intensify more than scientists had expected, an ominous finding that may indicate a higher potential for extreme weather in coming decades.

The recent floods and wildfires across our country join a list of other major disasters across North America this year that “would not have happened the same way without global warming”:

• In 2011, Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in damages, in total costing approximately $53 billion, along with incalculable loss of human life. This includes wildfires in Texas and Arizona, exacerbated by , the fourth deadliest tornado year on record, record floodwaters along the Mississippi River. • Approximately 5 million people were affected by floods in China in 2011 with the government issuing its highest level disaster alert. In Australia, a seven year drought has given way to floodwaters which have covered huge swaths of the country.

• In 2010 Pakistan experienced its worse ever flood. Approximately 20 million people were affected. That same year, Russia experienced its hottest summer on record, sparking wildfires at the rate of 300 a day.

• In North America, large fire (>400 hectares) frequency and total area burned have increased markedly since the mid 1980s in strong association with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt. The extreme-weather events ought to be viewed as the “Pearl Harbour moment” on climate change that propels our elected officials to take action. But the Canadian government and U.S. Congress appear far from ready to declare war on carbon dioxide, the principal responsible for warming the planet. Both countries are signatories to the inadequate and nonbinding commitments in the Copenhagen Accord, which is their “solution” to the . Even more disturbing, Canada is only a quarter of the way to achieving its Copenhagen Accord targets according to Environment Canada data.

We’ve been given a taste of what can happen in a world that is now 0.74 degrees Celsius warmer than it was a century ago. How much worse will it get if we fail to reduce our ?

While our governments may not be raising the issue, citizens are starting to. According to a recent poll conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 82 percent of Americans report that they personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or natural disaster in the past year. The poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012.

Up until now, polls have indicated a decline in concern among North Americans about climate change since 2006. According to the Yale Project on Climate Change, this decline is associated with a decline in media coverage on climate change over the past few years.

It is imperative that media outlets, in addition to politicians, take their lead from scientists and citizens and start connecting the dots on the impacts of climate change now and in the years ahead.

On May 5, hundreds of Canadians will participate in’s Climate Impacts Day. Canadians will also take part in initiatives to raise awareness of the urgency of the and solutions during National Environment Week (June 5-11). A campaign is also in the works when the provincial energy ministers meet in PEI on September 9-11 to discuss a national energy strategy. In the months leading up to these talks, civil society groups and citizens, led by Tides Canada, Climate Action Network and the Citizens Climate Lobby will call for the adoption of a Canadian Energy Strategy, to focus on the transition away from , which produces the greenhouse gases that warm our , to a new energy economy that focuses on conservation and .

A key mechanism to facilitate the transition is carbon pricing. But how can government put a price on carbon without hurting businesses and citizens? Citizens Climate Lobby proposes carbon fee and dividend: A steadily-rising fee is placed on carbon-based fuels so that , oil and gas become more expensive sources of energy than wind, solar and other carbonless methods. Revenue from the fee is given back equally to all households to offset increased costs.

Conservatives, reluctant to enact any law that would increase the size of government, could embrace this revenue-neutral approach. The carbon “dividend” or “green cheque” would prove popular with the public, making it politically viable.

In North America millions of jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency will be created by transitioning to a . And as fossil fuel emissions go down, cleaner air will reduce the respiratory problems associated with air pollution. Lessening our dependency of the controversial oil sands will limit the health and environmental damage caused by this type of fossil fuel extraction.

“To do” lists generally fall into two categories: Things we should do and things we have to do, the latter getting priority. Until now, pricing carbon was on the “should do” list, something that would create jobs and reduce air pollution. QUOTABLE THE SCIENCE On May 12, the National Research Council reported that “the “All of a sudden we're not talking about polar significant risks that climate change poses to human society bears or the Maldives any more. Climate and the environment provide a strong motivation to move change translates into mold on my baby's ahead with substantial response efforts.” crib. We're talking about homes and schools and churches and all the places that got hit.” From the Vatican, a new report from the Pontifical Amanda Little, Nashville-based author, on Academy of Sciences recommends that we “reduce the 2010 flood in her city worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure "Our figures indicate a trend towards an the long-term stability of the climate system.” increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change. It's THE ECONOMICS as if the weather machine had changed up a In April 27, 2012 Huffington Post article , Canada’s National gear.” Roundtable for the Environment and the Economy is now Peter Höppe, head of the Geo Risks using its dying days, to issue clear warnings to Canadians. Research/Corporate Climate Center at Businesses are not prepared for the impacts of climate change. Munich Re, one of the world’s leading re- They reiterated their findings from the 2011 report that insurers climate change will drain $5 billion a year from the Canadian economy by 2020. The costs will climb steeply after that, chopping Canadian economic activity by between $21 billion "Despite countless studies by scientists from and $43 billion a year by 2050, depending on how much action around the world and agreement among 98 is taken to reduce greenhouse gases by then. per cent of the world's climate scientists and most of the world's scientific academies and In November 2011, the International Energy Agency, a societies that greenhouse gas emissions are politically right- leaning organization, in which Canada is causing the Earth's average temperature to a founding member (1974), advised countries not to lock themselves into insecure, inefficient and high-carbon rise, not to mention the facts staring us in the energy systems. They are strongly advising that action is face — increased frequency of extreme needed now. weather conditions, rising sea levels, melting ice caps and glaciers — some politicians in While some critics claim that putting a price on the U.S. continue to reject the science and carbon will hurt the economy and kill jobs, quite the argue that we must proceed with business as opposite is true. “Building a Green Economy,” a usual.” report from Citizens Climate Lobby, shows that the David Suzuki from a March 2011 blog shift away from fossil fuels will produce more jobs Politicians who reject science are not fit to and stimulate the economy. lead BC professor Dr Shi-ling Hsu makes a compelling case for a over cap and trade in his book “We just celebrated Earth Day. May 5 is more The Case for a Carbon Tax. like Broken Earth Day, a worldwide witness to the destruction global warming is already causing.” Bill McKibben, the founder of