CONTEXT FOR NANAIMO WATER SYMPOSIUM: “The Hard Work of Hope – Climate Change in the Age of Trump” – a book by Bob Sanford and Jon O’Riordan
Note to Reader:
The Climate Nexus (Rocky Mountain Books, 2015) analyzed and explored the economic and social realities facing water, food, energy and biodiversity. The Hard Work of Hope continues this narrative and seeks to develop effective solutions to the growing urgency for global action on climate change.
Again co-authored by Bob Sandford and Jon O’Riordan, The Hard Work of Hope builds on events that have transpired since December 2015, including initial implementation of the UN’s 2030 Transforming our World global sustainable development agenda; the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; the commitment of the Canadian federal government to establish a climate action plan; and the UN Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, which aimed to advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Bob Sandford is the EPCOR Chair for Water & Climate Security at the United Nations University. He will set the tone for the Nanaimo Water Symposium. At a public lecture on the evening of April 11, 2018 his inspirational message will be a call to action.
The Hard Work of Hope
This latest RMB Manifesto emphasizes three themes: the growing urgency for global action regarding climate change; the fact that future development must not just avoid causing damage but strive to be ecologically and socially restorative; and the reality that effective solutions require changes to technology, restoration of biodiversity and increased public awareness.
About the Authors:
Bob Sandford is a renowned author and public speaker. He was the co-author of the UN Water in the World We Want report on post-2015 global sustainable development goals relating to water.
Jon O’Riordan is a former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management in the British Columbia Provincial Government. He is an Adjunct Professor with the School of Community ad Regional Planning at UBC and Research Director with the Climate Adaptation Team centred at Simon Fraser University.
Our Climate is Changing
“Though contemporary politics and the state of the environment seem grim in this ‘post-truth world’, there will always be hope. But that hope will require hard work by everyone if our planet is to remain a desirable place to live in a warming world,” write Bob Sandford and Jon O’Riordan.
“Changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere are causing water to move more energetically through the global hydrological cycle, making the world’s water crises even more urgent to address. Until we lost the relative stability of the planetary water cycle, we had no idea how much we relied on that stability.”
“Water is at the very centre of human existence, part of an intimately interwoven nexus that links the amount of water we need to sustain human life, to how much of it we take from nature to grow our food, to the amount we need for generating energy, to the increasing impact our burgeoning population is having on biodiversity worldwide.
“What we are discovering is the extent to which the fundamental function of our political structures and global economy are predicated on relative hydrologic predictability, especially as it relates to precipitation patterns that define water security.
“As a result of the loss of relative hydrologic stability, it is not just food production, energy use and biodiversity-based Earth system function that are disrupted. Political and economic stability is also at risk in a number of regions in the world.
“We are only now beginning to understand how complex this issue has become. Hydro-climatic change has the potential to literally and fundamentally redraw the map of the world.”
Global Water Crisis is Widespread
“The global water crisis is more widespread than we think.
“First Nations and other remote communities even in Canada have suffered needless water shortages or contamination.
“Places here and abroad have been impacted disastrously by flooding of magnitudes never before witnessed. Droughts are occurring that are so deep and so prolonged that no one remembers such suffering ever happening before.
“It is questionable whether some of these places will ever be habitable again. Ours is a world of distress and danger we can help alleviate and prevent. That is why it is important to consider how a disruption in the global order right now could affect our capacity to advance and export our expertise in the management of water to where it is needed.
“That is why we should pay close attention to what is happening in the United States. So why be concerned? We should be concerned because we may be at a turning point in human history that will complicate our efforts to address the growing global crisis with respect to water security and climate stability.”
Implications of US Withdrawal from Paris Agreement
“The new American president has stated that the US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The immediate risk is that what is happening in the US will slow the global momentum on climate action.
“If this happens, President Trump may be condemning future generations of Americans and the rest of the world to hell on Earth. This profound threat to the future of humanity, however, has not been mentioned in mainstream coverage of the new political road the president began immediately to plow through the White House.
“America’s potential failure to meet its obligations with respect to the Paris Agreement ought to be of concern not just to those who worry about climate or about water resources but to anyone who cares about the world order or even about order itself. If there is to be hope, then an improved order must somehow emerge out of what will hopefully be a temporary setback.
Why We Should Be Concerned
“So what have the climate and the global water cycle been doing while much of humanity was distracted by the geopolitical upheaval associated with the US election and the potential threat to the future of the European Union brought about by rising populism in Europe?
“Scientists in the US and around the world officially declared 2016 the hottest year on record, the third such precedent-setting year in a row. Arctic warming is already 3.54°C above the global average, so holding that region to an increase of less than 2° per the Paris Agreement is already out of the question and has been so for a decade.
“The concern among climate scientists is that in the absence of Arctic sea ice, and with oceans warming, we appear to be approaching the point where we have warmed the planet enough that the Earth itself and its cold oceans have begun to literally sweat out greenhouse gases.”
“What these scientists are talking about is the very real potential for runaway climate feedbacks in our time. The problem is that there are a lot of hydrocarbons in the ground in the Arctic, and most are kept trapped there by an imperfect cap of frozen ground and permafrost.”
What We Can Do in Canada
“This could be the time to resolutely support and promote factual, intelligent, thoughtful and persistent dialogue as a hallmark of what Canada will stand for in this new epoch. And this is clearly a time when, for the sake of the future, we must uphold scientific principles and defend the scientific method in all matters related to water and climate change.
“We need to support, report, communicate and celebrate the scientific research undertaken in Canada by government agencies and universities, and to share and showcase advances in leading-edge technology and practice in the private sector.
“Most importantly, however, this is a time when we need to get our own water house in order, not just because of growing concerns over water in the United States but because our own future prosperity and place in the world will depend on how we deal with the accelerating changes of hydro-climatic regimes that will affect every part of this immense country.
“By acknowledging and celebrating successes in making the world better – successes that have come about by cultivating collective memory of past social injustices and environmental problems and recognizing how far we have come in addressing many of those – we demonstrate how we are in fact already actively clarifying and realizing a vision of where and how we want to live in the Anthropocene.”
Climate Change is Not a Hoax
“Climate change is not a hoax. Though it is easy to wish otherwise, climate change is real and it is a threat to us all. But if we work together to manage water better, we can deal with that threat.
“With this challenge before us, those who understand how food production, energy use and biodiversity-based Earth system function revolve around water and how water is related to climate are going to be very important to the future. Such is the hard work of hope in our time.
“Although the transition of the global economy to achieve the 50–50–50 goals of the UN Paris Agreement is too slow and timid, there are some encouraging signs of progress.
“Renewables are providing for a larger proportion of total energy use than ever before. Various jurisdictions have enacted some encouraging new legislation governing groundwater use and retaining ecological flows in streams.
“More and more farmers are recognizing the value of restoring natural capital on their lands, and the degradation of terrestrial biomass has been slowed. However, these shifts are still insufficient to reduce total global carbon emissions or significantly increase carbon storage in the Earth’s ecosystems.
“There needs to be more-fundamental change, which in the past has been brought about by new economic conditions resulting from the advent of ‘disruptive technologies’ those that transform whole markets by making existing technologies or products obsolete,” conclude the authors.
The Role of Governments
“There are four key actions that must be led by governments across the globe and be implemented by 2030 in order to start to turn the corner.
“The first goal is to reduce the threat of water insecurity. Water lies at the heart of the nexus, yet it faces the most severe risks due to changing hydrology. The International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018–2028 must result in meaningful progress for ensuring safe access to sustainable water management and sanitation globally;
- basic infrastructure – both engineered systems and using nature’s assets for managing the increased risk of flooding;
- application of emerging smart technology for more efficient water use;
- long-term drought management plans to deal with potential mega-droughts; and
- a complete rethink of regulations for recovering resources from waste water treatment.
“Canada’s current financial policies actually restrict integrated resource recovery from waste treatment.”
The Role of Individuals
“A top-down approach, by governments alone, cannot achieve the transition outlined in this book.
“Indeed, the necessary effort can be successful only through the synchronization of government policy, with a network of energized and aware citizens operating through universities, businesses, governments and households that can influence and implement such policy from the bottom up.
“This support requires an informed citizenry that understands the potential roles they can play in contributing to solutions and engages in deliberations on the transition.
“In short, the public needs to become educated on how the nexus of water, energy, food and biodiversity functions, on the links to healthy ecosystems and how people can adapt their everyday decisions about consumption, travel and accommodation to reduce their individual and collective carbon footprint.”