While Nova Scotia has benefited from the availability of energy from coal and oil in the past, use of these fuels has contributed towards climate change, air pollution, and the depletion of non-renewable resources. It is estimated that 80% of our energy is derived from imported fossil fuels. Typically, coal and oil are imported from politically unstable countries such as Venezuela, Columbia and from the Middle East.
Climate change has been described as one of the largest threats to human health of this century. Greenhouse gas and particulate matter released during the burning of fossil fuels not only has a significant impact on the environment, it can also have negative impacts on human health since clean air, water, and land are essential to good health.
Exposure to elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases and ozone is associated with increased hospital admissions for pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthmas, allergic rhinitis, and other respiratory diseases, and with premature mortality (Ebi & McGregor, 2008).
Climate change causes significant adverse impacts to the environment and human health, which brings additional cost burdens to municipal and provincial governments. Ecosystems and community infrastructure are challenged to adapt to the changes associated with warmer temperatures, melting glaciers, increasing sea levels, and increased storm intensity and frequency.
Fluctuating energy prices, dependency on imported fuel sources, and the environmental effects of dirty fuel are pressuring communities to understand how they can increase energy security, stimulate healthy, sustainable economic development, and make choices that are good for the environment and human health within the community. By supplementing fossil fuel based energy with energy from renewable energy resources, improvements in health among residents will result in a more vibrant community and will ease the burden on health-care systems by reducing the number of environmentally-related illnesses and death.
The Municipality of the County of Cumberland, the Town of Springhill, the Town of Parrsboro and Cumberland RDA have taken positive steps towards addressing climate change through the encouragement of renewable energy development, energy efficiency and municipal sustainability practises via the Cumberland Energy Office.