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Climate change discussions miss key issue: Colwood City Councillor

A question posed by a UBCM conference delegate today prompted lively discussion around what she said is a key climate change issue that the province has not yet broached.

After listening to representatives from three BC communities discuss today how their cities plan to adapt to the challenges of climate change, Judith Cullington, a City Councillor in Colwood BC, raised an entirely new point: we all know we need to adapt to changes in the weather, but what about the changes in the province’s demographics?

Many of the communities that presented, including Richmond, Prince George, and Elkford discussed how their cities were dealing with the mountain pine beetle, increased flooding, and the importance embedding adaptation-oriented action into environmental policy documents. None however, discussed the potential influx of people immigrating to the country to escape more dire situations elsewhere.

“What they were talking about was a lot of, you know, the weather is going to change. We’re going to have more drought, we’re going to have issues around floods, issues around wildfire, so we’ve thought about all those kinds of things,” said Cullington.

“[But] there are going to be parts of the world that, if the things they’re talking about are true, are going to become very uninhabitable... so people are going to have to go somewhere,” she said.

“On a global scale, what we have in BC is going to begin to look very very attractive. So we’re potentially going to get a lot of people moving here, and have we thought about that?”

Speaker Kindy Gosal, Director of Water and Environment for the Columbia Basin Trust agreed that the problem has already begun, and needs to be addressed.

“Amenity migration is already happening,” he said, citing communities such as Invermere and Rossland experiencing influxes from Alberta. He added that communities need to think both about the decrease of resources such as water, and the potential increase in demand due to a rising population happening at the same time.

“If a community is stuck reactively adapting to things like floods…there won’t be opportunities to help other communities,” he said.

Climate Change Adaptation Advisors for the BC Ministry of the Environment said that conversations surrounding the issue have not yet occurred in other ministries, but that the idea is forward thinking.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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