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Canada is not immune to global warming, report says

Top scientists say the latest international report on climate change shows Canadians must wake up to the impact of warming temperatures on land, on water and in communities across the country

They say the Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, released Sunday in Japan, shows changes are on their way and further delays in responding to them only narrow the options.

“We no longer have the option of choosing between mitigation and adaptation,” Debra Davidson, a University of Alberta sociologist and lead author on the report, said Monday.

“We’re already locked into a global warming scenario in which adaptation will be absolutely necessary if we want a reasonable quality of life,” said Davidson, one of more than 2,000 scientists and expert reviewers from 70 countries who contributed.

 

Agriculture affected

The report says crop patterns will need to shift. Although some studies predict better growing conditions in more northern latitudes, disruptions to normal rain and snowfall patterns will cause problems, it suggests.

“There’s always been some predictions in some areas that some crops will do better,” said John Smol, a biologist at Queen’s University in Montreal. “But if the drought frequency continues, what’s the economic cost of a 10-year drought?”

Some Canadian lakes are already seeing algae blooms increase at rates that can’t be explained by agricultural run-off, he said. Popular fish such as lake trout could be threatened by changing patterns of spring thaw and winter freeze-up.

 

Insurance claims rising

Floods, too, will be an issue for Canada, predicted Andrew Weaver, a British Columbia Green party legislature member, climate modeller and lead author on previous editions of the report. The number and value of insurance claims are already on the rise in Canada, he pointed out.

The report warns the entire fresh-water ecosystem of the vast boreal forest that stretches almost across the country is under threat.

“Rates of climate change associated with medium- to high-emission scenarios pose high risk of abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure and function of terrestrial and fresh-water ecosystems,” it says. “Examples that could lead to substantial impact on climate are the boreal-tundra Arctic system.”

 

Water envy

Look for other nations to eye Canada’s abundant fresh water with envy, Weaver warned.

“If you look at the climate projections, we get a heck of a lot more water and the southern U.S. gets a heck of a lot less. Where we have water, we get more, where they don’t have water, they get less.

“There are issues of water transportation that are going to raise their head in the near future whether we like it or not.”

Davidson warned that the consequences of climate change will fall more heavily on poor communities. Wealthy centres have more money to upgrade homes, build seawalls or buy more insurance. They’re more likely to have better infrastructure in the first place.

And if they need to change how they fish or farm, they can make the investments more easily.

“A poor community will have relatively fewer resources at the household level,” Davidson said.

Canada needs to stop thinking about climate change as something that only affects sea ice or low-lying tropical islands, said Smol.

“These are things that many people in the scientific community have known and have been saying ’It’s getting worse and worse and worse and worse. And if anything, the rate of getting worse is accelerating.’

“The longer we wait, the harder it is to do anything. And we’re losing options.”

An Environment Canada scientist was one of the lead authors of the study. The department declined to make him available for an interview and instead outlined in an email the measures the federal government has taken to fight climate change.

A 2012 report by Environment Canada acknowledged the country will miss its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets by nearly one-third.

Organizations: Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, University of Alberta, University in Montreal Environment Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Japan, Queen Arctic U.S.

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  • david
    April 01, 2014 - 10:43

    Say you came up with a new product or service. And say there were absolutely no rules or regulations or burdens of proof so that you could say publicly whatever you wanted regarding what you product did do or prevented from happening. and say you were lucky enough to get all the media everywhere to eagerly report everything you said....for free....as a "news" story. You'd quickly have a very lucrative business, with no heavy lifting whatsoever. And here we are.

  • Bob
    March 31, 2014 - 22:47

    Top MIT Prof. (Ethos here does not get any greater) Speaking in regards to Massachusetts’ new $50 million climate change proposal, MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, a leading figure in the climate change movement, pointed out the absurdity of blaming every weather event on global warming and climate change. “The changes that have occurred due to global warning are too small to account for,” Lindzen told WBZ-TV. “It has nothing to do with global warming, it has to do with where we live.” Although supporting the theory of man-made global warming, Lindzen admitted that rhetoric from the political class and green movement has been nothing more than over-the-top “catastrophism.” “Even many of the people who are supportive of sounding the global warning alarm, back off from catastrophism,” Lindzen said. “It’s the politicians and the green movement that like to portray catastrophe.” Even more surprising, Lindzen goes on to point out the government’s obvious use of climate change alarmism to push greater state control, even warning over politicians’ use of “crony capitalism.” “Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. The opportunities for taxation, for policies, for control, for crony capitalism are just immense, you can see their eyes bulge,” Lindzen said. Lindzen has frequently been attacked by climate alarmists for refusing to give into political pressures regarding climate The growing number of failed predictions from the global warming crowd has only cooled the public’s belief in recent years

    • andy
      April 01, 2014 - 14:15

      Wow! I hope the world our grand children inherit isn't too destroyed from people like yourself in denial. You quote one person while the vast amount of research that exists support the fact that we're quickly and efficiently devastating our only planet.

    • Robert Hiscock
      April 01, 2014 - 16:35

      Wow! Andy, what do you think we should do with them. Many environmentalists believe that "deniers" should be put in prison. Sounds fair eh bud? War is peace, freedom is slavery, and environmentalism is totalitarianism. If you will agree with my play on 1984, I will agree that global warming, er , I mean climate change, is catastrophic and we Must Do Something.