International Association for Impact Assessment


  • Guest post by IAIA Board Member Shirley Lee.



    The impact of greenhouse gases on climate change has been on the environmental agenda of some developing countries as early as the 1980’s. The inertia of governments, coupled with the relentless efforts driven by the fossil fuel industries to refute scientific observations and assessments by climatologists and biodiversity experts, have put up barriers to mitigating climate change effects over the past three to four decades.

    Meanwhile the many who are suffering from the direct impacts of global warming keep asking the question: What are we waiting for?

    How much more evidence do we need?

    Frequent abrupt natural disasters and extreme weather are impacting the vulnerable and the poor. We are having heat waves and wildfires.

    There are super hurricanes and tornados:

    • Hurricane Katrina (2005)
    • Hurricane Sandy (2012)
    • Oklahoma Tornado (2013)
    • Hurricane Nepartak (2016)

    ….some leading to massive floods and storm surges that required emergency evacuations, claimed many lives and properties, and are recurring in many cities around the globe:

    • New Orleans, USA (2005)
    • Haiti (2012)
    • Jammu and Kashmire, India (2014)
    • Missouri and Illinois, USA (2015)
    • Hebei, China (2016)

    Many places are suffering from long droughts. The rising temperatures are posing serious threats to agriculture and crop production. There are increasing conflicts and social movements against climate change deniers. These are really bad times and dark hours.

    Strong leadership is required to step in and we do have visionary political and religious leaders as champions to mitigate climate change impacts.

    And we are seeing more light for humanity in the Paris 2015 Agreement, where 195 nations had pledged to cut carbon pollution as much as possible, to curb the global average temperature to “well below 2oC” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC”.

    But is the goal realistic and achievable? The switch from fossil fuel power generation to renewable wind and solar power is slow. Breaking the current inaction and resistance/barriers requires strong national policies/legislation and a fundamental shift in consumer mentality. We should not be complacent.

    As the world’s leading organization on impact assessment, IAIA has been actively contributing to the climate change cause. The various special-interest sections engage IAIA members on topics such as climate change, agriculture and forestry, biodiversity and ecology, disaster and conflict, and more.  Furthermore, we have dedicated the next annual conference to be held in Montreal, Canada, on 4-7 April 2017 to focus on “Impact Assessment’s Contribution to the Global Efforts in Addressing Climate Change.” This conference will also include a special forum on Nordic/Artic issues.

    So we hope to start a brand new “Tale of Two Cities”—this time Paris and Montreal. It is amusing how Dicken’s preface to his book resonates so well with the current climate change crisis, matching our afflicted vulnerble nations with threats and despair that surpass those felt by the peasants before the French Revolution.

    The time is now. Climate change actions should start with me and you. Do make a difference and join us in Montreal for IAIA17 next April.

    Shirley Lee is the Director of the Hong Kong Institute of EIA and currently serves as a Member of the IAIA Board of Directors.

    Do you have thoughts after reading this post?  IAIA members, login to join the discussion at IAIAConnect in the Members group.

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