Consider Climate Issues Before You Vote – Comox Valley Record

Three years ago, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned mayors around the world: “It is in cities that the climate battle will be largely won or lost.

Since then, we have seen the pressure on cities and towns increase as they learn to deal with extreme weather events. The physical and social infrastructure of our communities will be challenged more frequently and with greater intensity if further changes to our climate are not prevented, ultimately putting the health of all citizens at risk.

Nurses have a remarkable history of advocating for human health and we are increasingly concerned about the impending climate crisis. Deaths from extreme heat events, worsening asthma and other lung conditions caused by wildfires, and the spread of zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease are realities of our time. All Canadians are affected by climate change; however, certain populations are more at risk, including those living in poverty, young and old, and people with chronic conditions. Future generations will suffer the most.

The most important driver of climate change is human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. The way people live, work and travel all contribute to collective GHG levels. Canada’s municipalities and regional districts can influence about 50% of our national GHG emissions through decisions about land use, transportation and infrastructure. Significant reductions in GHG emissions in cities would limit the warming effects of air pollution, improve air quality and mitigate the overall impacts of climate change.

In British Columbia, transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for approximately 40%. The recently released report on Transportation Air Pollution (TRAP) from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment demonstrates that this pollution is directly associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, infections and other health problems. Municipalities can directly reduce transportation-related GHG emissions through thoughtful urban planning, increasing active transportation infrastructure, and protecting carbon sinks like forests and wetlands.

An additional ten percent of GHG emissions in British Columbia come from buildings, primarily heating, cooling and hot water production. Natural gas is the main source of energy in homes and buildings and is unfortunately extracted through highly destructive and polluting processes. Municipalities can introduce low-carbon energy bylaws aimed at reducing the number of new buildings with natural gas lines while encouraging clean energy alternatives.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recognizes the central role communities play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. They provide training, resources and funds to help cities implement successful climate action. Municipalities are on the front lines of climate change and our local communities and leaders must be ready to meet the challenge.

Unfortunately, the last municipal elections only got 34% of British Columbians to vote. Comox Valley residents had a slightly higher level of represented voters with 46% in Cumberland, 40% in Comox and 37% in Courtenay. This October 15, citizens can take meaningful action on climate change by voting for candidates who understand the critical role municipalities play in fighting climate change.

Climate change is often portrayed as a global problem, a conundrum too big for individual towns or villages. It is seen through a lens of political indifference or economic risk, generating unnecessary rhetoric and blocking meaningful action. We need to be clear: climate change is a human health and social justice issue that has significant implications for municipalities and local communities. This is the defining problem of our time and we must tackle it locally. Each election could mark a historic turning point for our community; consider asking candidates which side of the story they will be on.

Megan Tomlinson, RN is a member of the Canadian Association of Environmental Nurses and a regular columnist for the Comox Valley Record https://cane-aiie.ca

Comox ValleyElection 2022

Teresa H. Sadler