July 2, 2019

Climate Change isn’t a Hobby

Joan Nodelman

About the Author

Joan is a specialist in governance, education and risk management with over forty years of professional practice. She is committed to helping clients achieve their organizational objectives and goals through holistic risk management.

I don’t have hobbies; hobbies cost money. Interests are quite free.

– George Carlin –

For me, climate change isn’t a hobby. On a recent blog post, I received comments like “My, you chat about climate change so often!”  I admit to being a squeaky wheel on the topic.  However, I got the impression that the comment suggested that I view climate change as a “Hobby”, a diversion, like playing with LEGO.  The comment disturbed me. But, when I probed my feelings, I was not angry, but sad. 

You can Lead a Horse to Water

There is a proverb that says:

You can Lead a Horse to Water, but you can’t make him drink

In my childhood, I remembered a similar proverb from the Chinese culture:

You can lead an ox to water but you can’t push its head down to drink.

The proverbs refer to offering someone opportunities that they refuse to accept.  Over the years, I have met many people that do this. During family gatherings, family members may strongly disagree on an issue, causing angry arguments. Often, it is better not to talk about the issue at all.  In fact, this may be the root cause of climate change denial.  We are a family of humans and do not agree.

Why do we deny reality?  Often these behaviours and attitudes come from something deeper than just our understanding of the issue.  Thus, the denial may be intuitive or emotional.  Sometimes we react without thinking.  If something precious and breakable is falling to the floor, we are quick to snatch it out of harm’s way.  So, if your child is stepping out into traffic, you will pull him back.   

Fight or Flight – Climate Change Isn’t a Hobby

When we face stress or danger, we trigger our fight-or-flight response.  We may stand against the danger, such as an attacker, and defend ourselves.  Other times, we may run away from the situation.   

Denial is a very common response to danger. People mentally flee from the danger. And so it is with climate change.  The impact of severe climate events endanger our lives, assets and our lifestyle.  We do not wish to engage in actions to prevent or reduce this danger.  In fact, if we say to ourselves that “It’s all garbage and hot air,” we give ourselves permission to do nothing.  After all denial is much easier and cheaper. 

Price of Denial – Climate Change Isn’t a Hobby

I am sorry to say ignorance of climate change and its impacts can be expensive. In fact, we can see this in the aftermath of the California 2018 wildfire. PG&E, who sparked the disastrous wildfire, received fines and must pay large penalties.  Also, PG&E must rebuild the burnt-out transmission system to keep the business running. The total cost led to PG&E declaring insolvency.  PG&E then passed the company’s costs to the ratepayers.  So, PG&E customers will see large increases to their electricity bills because of the wildfire.

Another example is closer to home, in the City of Toronto.  The City experienced a culvert washout on its major roadway, Finch Avenue, in August 2005. In fact, if the City had fixed the culvert before the rain event, the maintenance cost of the culvert enlargement was less than $45M.  However, the final cost of the disaster, after the flood and damage to the road, ballooned to $400 million to $500 million in insurance claims.  This does not include uninsured costs, like loss of business.  

Where it Hurts

In recent years, weather-related insurance claims increased in number and size.  As a result, the industry started work to learn how climate change affects their business and clients. Based on this work, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) stated that they: 

[su_quote cite=”Insurance Bureau of Canada”]recognize that climate change is underway[/su_quote]

IBC publishes many resources to encourage public understanding of climate change and how to lower climate risk.

Ignoring climate change risks will never make the danger go away.  In fact, it will cost our assets, lives, and livelihoods.  So, climate change is serious business, with real costs.  We are not playing with LEGO!

Climate Change Isn’t a Hobby – Let’s Take Action

Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) urges the public to take action. In fact, they publish reports to provide information and data on the science and effects of climate change on Canada.  In this work, the authors strive to convince the public about the truth of climate change.  Thus, they ask us to adjust our decisions, activities and thinking, to deal with the climate crisis facing Canadian’s and the world. So, this is serious business and not a game or hobby.  Climate is all pervasive, this is our world, and we cannot run away.

Climate Change Isn't a Hobby
Climate Change Isn’t a Hobby

We are not helpless!  We can learn more facts about climate change.  The Internet gives us access to a world of knowledge.  So, we can easily find out how to keep ourselves safe from floods and wildfire.  Thus, we can prepare an emergency preparedness plan.  Also, we can decide how to spend our money with climate conscious budgeting.  Climate change management is not a hobby, it’s a necessity.

We all need to change how we do things.  So, we must choose actions that lower our greenhouse gas emissions and use more renewable energy.  

Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney said:

[su_quote]Little drops of water, little grains of sand, Make the mighty ocean, and the pleasant land. So the little minutes, humble though they be, Make the mighty ages of eternity.[/su_quote]

By adapting our lifestyles, we can all work together like the drops of water and grains of sand in the poem, to help solve our climate problem. 

Call to Action

You are not alone.  There are folks here to help you out.  Seek the advice of climate risk and resiliency experts.  Do not be afraid to engage in the debate.  We all have something valuable to offer. 

We provide ongoing commentary on these issues.  Feel free to contact us, we are always happy to discuss your climate, risk and resiliency. 

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