Instead of Preventing Climate Change, Newfoundland is Now “Flood Mapping” to Prepare for Its Consequences

Preparing for something so clearly preventable and so clearly catastrophic might be the dumbest move made in human history.

We’ve got two choices: switch to a cleaner, more renewable energy source — hydro, solar, wind (all of which are quite viable as European countries are demonstrating) — or we can keep on burning oil and filling the atmosphere with fumes that trap heat on earth … and prepare ourselves for the consequences of our actions. 

A recent press release from the Government of NL states, in a positive tone, we’d rather do the latter. “The Department of Environment and Conservation has completed a climate change flood risk mapping study for the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.”

Dan Crummell is both Minister of Environment and Conservation, and Minister Responsible for the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. He says that “Flood risk mapping helps communities prepare for increases in extreme precipitation and is therefore a crucial tool in efforts to adapt to climate change.”

We are actively preparing for an apocalyptic doomsday we are creating ourselves, in the quest for more oil money. “These studies help us identify areas susceptible to flooding due to climate change, as well as the steps required to reduce flood damage, and measures to enhance public safety,” Crummell says.

Is the economy more important than life itself? Are we not wise enough to adapt to a world in which we don’t rely on oil? Did we not exist before the discovery of oil? Are we more scared of its absence in our lives than of death itself?”

Active climate change readiness is a clear declaration we are aware that we are destroying the planet we live on. It’s quite literally a slow and senseless suicide.

“Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s is a growing, vibrant community with many young families increasingly making this their home,” says David Brazil, MHA for Conception Bay East-Bell Island. “The flood risk mapping is an important piece of work to help the town with its planning to accommodate future growth in the area, and most importantly, to ensure the safety and health of all residents.”

The press release goes on to admit its true intentions are not environmental, but economic. “The climate change flood risk mapping study will assist in regulating new developments in flood-prone areas; help minimize flood damage to properties and the environment; and restrict activities that could degrade water resources.”

The only sensible commentary on the matter comes from Moses Tucker, mayor of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, who concedes the fruitlessness of trying to end climate change. “Like many communities, our council and residents have had growing concerns about the impact of climate change and flood risk on our community.”

He’s just happy, whatever the province’s motivation for the flood mapping study, that the town will be better prepared than other towns … who have too quickly forgotten how fast something like Hurricane Igor can turn a community upside down.

2014’s budget has allotted a three-year, $400,000 annual commitment from government to undertake one climate change flood risk mapping study each year. “It is important for responsible and informed risk management planning in communities; ensuring public safety and public health; adapting to the impacts of climate change; and appropriate emergency response to flood events.”

It’s definitely commendable and wise to get prepared for climate change. But saying “Well, Newfoundland can’t end this itself,” is a little misinformed since Newfoundland is certainly a little more complicit in keeping the oil industry alive than most provinces.

We’ve based our economy on it for decades. So fact is, we can help curb it, and everyone saying “we can’t help end climate change if other provinces and states aren’t going to” is circular apathy that’ll guide us nowhere in changing our ways. 

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  • Animal agriculture is the #1 cause of climate change. Please research this. Watch Cowspiracy. Check out for health information. Unless we look at our meat consumption and choose to stop eating animals our planet will continue to worsen. There is enough food on this planet for everybody yet we are feeding it to animals that we kill and eat as people continue to starve. Our meat consumption is responsible for drought, food insecurity, mental and psychical illnesses and unnecessary deaths. It’s destroying our planet. Animals experience extreme pain and misery due to our apathetic eating habits. We ought to own up to it. Take care

    • THere is no map yet, the image above is a generic flooding map. THe press release was an email since deleted, sorry, but I’m sure it’s still available on the provincial government’s website if you poked around.

  • While it’s uncouth for an article’s author to chime in in the comment thread, I just wanted to say those are great points of course, and stress that the goal is only ever to spark dialogue like this. The main thing is we as a society are finally talking about climate change — in election debates no less.

  • I want to make clear that I definitely agree that changes need to be made now as opposed to later, and these changes need to be drastic to have any effect. That being said, I also think that this article over simplifies climate change and what is necessary to reverse it(if possible) and the multi faceted issues that arise due to it. The studies mentioned are necessary to protect people and their homes, and they also have the dual purpose of helping Newfoundlanders realize that climate change is real and not just a threat they will read about on the news. It will affect them directly and harshly. If you want Newfoundland to pull out of the Oil & Gas game completely, not only would we completely destroy our economy (if you think we are losing young people to other provinces now…) but we would also be sued into oblivion by long term contracts with large companies that we would be breaking. Any government that would try to do this would face a revolt like we haven’t seen before, and the incoming government would follow the will of the people (as they are supposed to) and bring it right back.

    But lets assume that Newfoundlanders are fine with this route and that the economy doesn’t matter, because the argument of your article is that climate change is more important (and in the long run you are right). When we set this example for the rest of the world, and sub sequentially crumble due cutting our legs out from us, what message will that send to every other oil producing nation? Do you think they will be crawling all over themselves to follow suit? It is a romantic thought that we can go cold turkey from oil, but we need a backup plan. Unless Newfoundlanders are fine with going back to pot bellied stoves, lamp light and no electronics (find me a modern electronic device that has zero parts that require oil in some fashion and I’ll be… well… surprised), we need an alternative.

    What we should be doing is demanding investment into other energy sectors within the province (wind, solar, hydro) and exporting surplus energy to help build our economy. But that isn’t romantic and has complicated fine details (energy storage, conditions that aren’t always perfect) so it is hard to get behind. Keeping with Oil and Gas is comfortable and has kept food on the table, and we Newfoundlanders love staying with what we know. So what is the answer? Losing our apathy and becoming actively involved with going forward, not backwards. Doing so requires preparation (studies like these) of what is to come due to climate change, and not losing sight of what caused it. We’re never going to go cold turkey, but if we arm ourselves with knowledge and push forward we can mitigate damages while not losing ourselves in the process. We need to stop thinking about how to just remove oil, but learn how to replace it.

  • I hear what you’re saying, and appreciate the urgency expressed here — it is certainly an urgent matter to do whatever is possible to avoid the worst case scenarios of catastrophic climate change. That said, even if industrial society was to shut down today and not burn any more fossil fuel, there is still significant climate change “baked into” the system. Climate change is not only coming, it is happening now. The only question is whether the fortitude exists to make the tough decisions. In that light, it is sensible that such studies are conducted.

    The part that boils my blood is that the government is conducting such studies and acknowledging climate change, while at the same time continuing with its business as usual, drill-baby-drill attitude, and its eagerness to have the province function as a launchpad for Arctic oil. That’s inviting the worst possible outcomes.

    • Jon P. is right on the money. Regardless of what is done from here on out, we WILL experience some degree of climate change now and in the foreseeable future, so this type of planning is absolutely necessary. I also really applaud the sense of urgency expressed in the article and the critique, but I don’t agree with the stance entirely.

      “Active climate change readiness is a clear declaration we are aware that we are destroying the planet we live on. It’s quite literally a slow and senseless suicide.”

      This statement is portrayed negatively, but the action described is actually hugely important and positive. Climate change readiness is a prudent and necessary step to address the damage that has already been done and is irreversible. It’s really not a preventable situation anymore, it’s one that requires maintenance once we lower emissions maximally – the prevention of continued acceleration of climate change is the goal. So bravo for the creation of this map, and for people not burying their heads in the sand – I hope to see more maps made for other municipalities. As for the provincial government’s stance on the oil industry, I 100% agree that it is frustrating and hypocritical. This is the problem, not the creation of flood risk maps.

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