For fans of TV’s legendary Jeopardy! game show, here’s a challenge that might stump some contestants: “Our greatest ally in adapting to climate change.” (On the show, of course, clues are phrased as answers, and you have to guess the question.)
If you responded, “Who is nature,” then you have the potential to be a champion — of the planet. (Only half points if you said, “enlightened billionaires” or “progressive industries.”)
Nature remains the most powerful countervailing force against climate change. That’s why nature groups across Canada are urging Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault to put the protection and restoration of nature at the centre of the federal government’s forthcoming National Adaptation Strategy.
The public consultation period for the strategy is officially over, and the government is now considering input from partners, stakeholders and citizens to draft the final strategy.
The strategy will outline what Canada must do to adapt to the impacts of climate change — impacts that are happening right now in the form of droughts, floods, fires and heat waves in every part of the country.
The open letter from the nature groups urges the federal government to ensure the strategy aligns with Canada’s commitment to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.
Why should nature be at the heart of our adaptation strategy, still in draft format? Because, simply put, we cannot survive without it.
First of all, we depend on the food, water, soil, pollination and other services provided by our ecosystems. Take something very basic, like your drinking water. Even if you live in the heart of the city, nature is your end-point supplier. Banff National Park in Alberta, for example, protects the Bow River Basin watershed — and clean drinking water for 1.2 million people. Biodiversity loss and pollution are threatening such ecosystem services, and we cannot achieve resilience to climate change without addressing these threats.
Secondly, nature provides adaptation solutions just by being itself, by following its cycles and rhythms.
Terrestrial wetlands, for example, can slow and absorb water flow, providing flood and erosion control.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault must put the protection and restoration of nature at the centre of the federal government’s proposed National Adaptation Strategy, writes Jamieson Findlay. #CdnEnv #sustainability #ClimateChange #COP26 #nature
Coastal wetlands can (in the right circumstances) expand and keep pace with sea-level rise.
Healthy forests, besides also providing erosion control, can bounce back from insect infestations and wildfires.
In conserving and restoring these and other ecosystems, we secure the most promising avenues for protecting communities against extreme climate impacts like heat waves, floods, wildfires, droughts and sea-level rise.
What’s more, all these ecosystems (along with grasslands and oceans) store vast amounts of carbon and can slow global warming — which, by the way, is affecting all species, not just humans.
And that brings us to another area of the strategy that needs stronger emphasis: the importance of protecting all species. Wildlife needs the same opportunities as humans to become resilient to climate change. Protected areas, for example, can serve as “climate refugia,” where the effects of climate change are buffered and species have the time and space to adapt.
All this is why the letter’s signatories are asking for the federal government to:
- Include in the strategy a clear commitment to halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. In other words, we need to go beyond just limiting environmental damage and actually bring nature back.
- Invest in and advance key short-term actions to protect and restore nature and advance nature-based solutions. These actions include expanding funding for Indigenous-led conservation and Indigenous Guardians programs, as well as expanding funding for protected areas.
- Commit to a transformation and return to balance in our relationship with nature.
That last point is the kicker. “If you can’t be in awe of Mother Nature,” longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek once said, “there’s something wrong with you.” It’s time we set right the wrong (or at least misguided) diminution of nature’s awesome potential, especially its capacity to address climate change. Indigenous peoples, who have anciently been nature’s stewards and are often on the front lines of climate change, are well aware of this potential.
Think of the climate adaptation challenge as a kind of Final Jeopardy! for the planet — the deciding, high-stakes round where participants have to be at their sharpest. The release of Canada’s adaptation strategy by the end of 2022 is a key opportunity for us to show we have the right stuff … by calling on nature’s right stuff.