Conversations about climate change often revolve around the discussion of hard numbers and statistics relating to sea levels and temperatures. ACAP Saint John is trying to add another layer to the conversation.
“As an NGO filling this role of doing a municipal climate change plan is unique and exciting for that same reason because it affords us the ability to consider more social policy as well as science, to think about how they inter-relate with ecosystems as well and to bring it all together into a comprehensive plan,” said Graeme Stewart-Robertson, the executive director of ACAP Saint John.
Adapt SJ is an initiative supported by the municipal and provincial governments that is taking a hard look at how climate change will affect the life of every day Saint Johners.
ACAP Saint John has spent the last year exploring where Saint John will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but now they are looking for input from the people who will actually be living through it.
“We’ve done our background and it’s going to continue and we’re going to refine and really go beyond what a lot of communities have. It’s time to take it to the people to give them a sense of ownership in it and say this is as much your plan as ours,” Stewart-Robertson said.
“Now that we know those vulnerabilities and those risks here are our ideas for recommending adaptations and ways we can change to become more resilient, and resourceful and compassionate, but how do you see yourselves adapting, how do you fit into that puzzle.”
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The next phase of the project is being launched Wednesday night at the Five and Dime on Grannan Street, where ACAP will present adaptation plans for three of Saint John’s neighbourhoods: the south end, the lower west side and the old north end.
According to ACAP about 25 per cent of people living in the south end and 50 per cent of the lower west side will be affected by rising sea levels in the next 50 years. But the whole point of the Adapt SJ project is to delve into those numbers to find out what that actually means, and how these sorts of impacts can by mitigated.
“That’s just directly affecting. It’s not even counting how people may be affected on their way to work or to get food, or how they’re feeling safe when they’re faced with the stresses and shocks of climate change and major storm events,” Stewart-Robertson said of the numbers.
“So we really have to consider that this is affecting not just government levels and businesses, but citizens … and we need them to feel that the plan serves them just as much as everybody else.”
Saint John Mayor Don Darling says climate change is a large factor in the city’s long-term planning.
“Our group, the city, city employees, city management is recognizing that we are dealing with climate change. Climate change is real and that, you know, with the flood events we’ve been having, with the rain events we’ve been having, this is very real,” he said.
Darling added that the city is also working on a greenhouse gas and energy reduction strategy so the city can not only be prepared to adapt to climate change, but also be a leader in cutting emissions.