The effects of climate change on Canada in the next century will affect everything from human health and community infrastructure to water resources and even tourism and recreation activities, according to a newly compiled presentation of scientific research published yesterday. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society released the Degrees of Change diagram, an NRTEE compiled document which lays out potential effects of a changing climate on Canada at different degrees of warming. The impacts – 60 in all, based on documented scientific literature – are categorized into eight separate sectors and include; ecosystems, water resources, human health, communities and infrastructure, resource industries, service industries, security and trade and ice, snow and sea. The diagram is included in the October issue of Canadian Geographic and Géographica magazines, which are almost wholly devoted to climate change.
At two-degrees warming, for example, the diagram shows that summer Arctic sea ice extent could be halved, runoff in the South Saskatchewan River basin significantly reduced, and shipping through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway could become more costly due to lowering water levels. The two-degree marker is significant because Canada and other G8 nations have agreed to take measures to limit global temperature increases to no more than that level. However current Canadian policy under the Harper government is set to double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in a much higher rise in temperature. And we are currently experiencing global climate disruption at a temperature rise less than 2 degrees, surprising many scientists who study this issue at the rapidity of change.
NRTEE Chairperson Robert Page stated:
“Climate change is not just a theory. It’s taking place now. That means we must go beyond cutting carbon emissions. We must start adapting our behaviour, our communities, and our economic activity to the emerging reality of climate change.“
The diagram shows even more risks to Canada’s coastal communities, fish and wildlife habitat, and human health, if global temperatures rise beyond the two-degree point.
The diagram is meant to illustrate a range of possible impacts that are scientifically accepted and projected at this time. Some “positive” effects are documented, too – apparently Canadians will be able to golf more, but ski less.
The RCGS and NRTEE are sponsoring expert panel discussions and have collaborated with the RCGS’ Canadian Council for Geographic Education to produce an education resource package to be distributed to 12,000 middle and secondary schools across Canada highlighting the implications of regional and local impacts of climate change. Dealing with the impacts of climate change means educating our children, said RCGS President Gisele Jacob, who stated
“The joint Climate Prosperity initiative with the NRTEE reinforces the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s educational role in fostering environmental stewardship in Canada. Education is key to widening public understanding of our changing climate, the impacts and adaptive solutions.”
To generate a national conversation on the impacts of climate change and potential solutions, the two organizations are hosting a series of panel discussions with leading Canadian experts over the next two weeks. The first will take place today from to 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Regional sessions will take place in Halifax on Oct. 13th, Montreal on Oct. 14th, Toronto on Oct. 18th, Vancouver on Oct. 20th and Saskatoon on Oct. 21st.
Those of us who don’t live within a reasonable drive of these cities will have to content ourselves with this month’s issue of Canadian Geographic – don’t forget to get your copy!