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What’s the connection between potholes and penguins?

Recent criticism that Canada’s municipal leaders are wasting time discussing issues that are “a little far afield from matters of city hall”, at an upcoming leader’s conference in Whistler, BC is missing the point.

The keynote speaker for the conference, Jean Lemaire, Quebecois biologist and oceanographer, will make a presentation on the impacts of climate change on the endangered ecosystem of Antarctica, the “last unspoiled continent on the planet.”

Some claim the conference’s agenda should focus on more important issues such as mending pothole-ridden roads. But the fact is climate change is inextricably linked to these municipal matters.

Many municipal problems – including infrastructure damage such as road surfaces buckling in extreme heat or collapsing in heavy rainstorms and producing problems such as potholes, at the very least – are caused or exacerbated by the increase in extreme weather events we can expect to see as a result of climate change.

Not to mention other serious municipal concerns such as sea-level rise affecting ports and waterfront property; health risks such as the migration of tropical disease; and widespread impacts on biodiversity – including the spread of pests like the mountain pine beetle currently partly responsible for the extremely elevated fire risk in areas such as 100 Mile House, BC.

So before we dismiss those pesky penguins in the Antarctic as a niche interest, it may be good to recognize them as an indicator that our municipal potholes are likely going to get worse if we don’t take action to adapt to, and mitigate, the consequences of climate change we’re already experiencing.

ACT’s second report – on Extreme Weather Events, authored by Dr. Gordon McBean of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction – is scheduled for release in early September.

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