Climate change a local issue too, expert says

Climate change expert Barry Smit spoke in Hamilton Tuesday evening.
Dr. Smit will be speaking as part of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change Public Speaker Series. (CBC)

Climate change is a global issue with plental of local ramifications, accoring to Barry Smit, a global warming expert and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change at the University of Guelph.

Smit was in Hamilton Tuesday night to deliver a talk, titled 'Hot Air and Unmitigated Disasters: The Fractured Science and Politics of Climate Change,' focuses on the need for Canada to focus more on science and research when making environmental policies.

"Canada should act as a corporate global citizen and we're not now," Smit said. "We should have policies that recognize the interests of future generations. Right now, our policies seem to only focus on short-term economic interests."

Smit said there's plenty of research that shows ignoring climate change not only affects the environment but also affects the economy.

"The costs of not taking action are far greater than the costs of taking action. There are all kinds of studies that show that."

One local example would be apple orchards, Smit said. Last season, apple trees blossomed early due to the mild winter. When the frost returned, the blossoms died and approximately 80 per cent of the apple crop was lost, resulting in as much as $100 million in lost revenue, he said.

"Another one would be health," he said. "With warmer conditions, vector-born diseases are already spreading. Disease-carrying insects, like mosquitos with West Nile, are surviving longer over the winter and further north."

This past summer, Hamilton and the rest of the province saw a record number of West Nile infections and there was one reported local death as a result of the disease.

"That's one little thing alone that's local, but I'm focusing on what it means for the world."