Appealing to Consciousness and Conscience: The Effects of Climate Change on the World's Most Vulnerable Populations.

Author:Apolonio, Edward

Recently, I have become more attuned to the effects of climate change. The forest fires in Portugal, the declining levels of the salmon that were once abundant in the Atlantic, heat warnings and tornado watches in the Prairies, risk of forest fires in Jasper, Alberta because of the massive pine beetle infestation, and the significant ice surface melt on the Antarctic ice sheet all point to the effects of our changing climate due to global warming.

I am not an expert on climate change, but over the last few weeks, my understanding and appreciation of its effects, particularly on our societies' most vulnerable has grown considerably. Climate change has been dubbed "the defining (and greatest) challenge of the 21st century"; "the defining moral issue of the century"; "a profound denier of freedom of action and a source of disempowerment"; a threat multiplier for vulnerable populations, and a threat to national security (according to the U.S. and the U.K.).

My purpose then is to convey my experience and realizations as I researched this topic. I hope to move my readers into action, even in simple ways: to become part of the solution, and not the problem.

The harsh reality is that the world will be experiencing catastrophic climate events more frequently. Across the globe, sea levels will continue to rise, storms/typhoons will appear more frequently, intense and sustained droughts and floods will be more common, as will extreme weather events such as tornadoes and heat waves, which now affect one-third of the world's population.

On a global scale, the effects of climate change vary depending on latitudinal location, and the region's capacity to adapt. In Northern Canada, a 4[degrees]C-5[degrees]C temperature increase by the end of the century is projected, causing irreversible changes to ice and snow conditions. Some regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia are more vulnerable because of low capacity to adapt, lack of infrastructure, and a corresponding unmitigated exposure to the elements. Climate change by its nature is indiscriminate and will affect everyone. In the summer of 2003 for example, approximately 70,000 deaths were reported in Europe due to a summer heat wave. Imagine that an entire city disappeared in one summer: the death toll was roughly 5,000 more than the entire populations of the Alberta cities of St. Albert or Fort MacMurray.

Studies anticipate Canada to be at a low risk, considering our capacities to adapt. In fact, Canada...

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