No region untouched by climate change, study shows
By Bill Curry
Globe and Mail
Published March 11, 2008
— Climate change is already affecting every region of Canada, according to a major new federal government study that cites specific local examples of the good and bad in a warming nation.
A common theme throughout the report is the many ripple effects to come from increasing water scarcities. Hydro power will be harder to come by, while Canada's thirsty neighbours to the south are expected to intensify political pressure for access to northern taps.
"With increasing drought projected for the southwestern United States and Mexico, growing demands for export of Canadian water can be anticipated," states the 448-page report.
Titled From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007, the report was posted without fanfare Friday on the Natural Resources Canada website.
Building on the conclusions of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the report's authors take a close regional look at what rising temperatures mean for Canada.
"On average, Canada has warmed by more than 1.3C since 1948, a rate of warming that is about twice the global average," it states, identifying the Western Arctic as posting the greatest temperature increases.
"All of Canada, with the possible exception of the Atlantic offshore area, is projected to warm during the next 80 years. ... Temperature increases will be greatest in the high Arctic, and greater in the central portions of the country than along the east and west coasts."
The report's team of advisers, writers and editors include federal and provincial public servants, academics, aboriginal groups and civil society organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.
Canadians will notice the effects at the extremes: High summer temperatures that exceed 30 degrees will be more common, creating more smog-related deaths for vulnerable Canadians such as the elderly. Extreme cold in winter will be less common, bringing its own problems. The lack of deep cold spells that kill off such bugs as the mountain pine beetle could lead to new infestations, putting Canada's prairie crops at risk.
Among the regional findings:
There have been dramatic drops in Great Lakes water levels.
Sea level measured at Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island has risen 32 centimetres over the past century.
Retreat of glacier cover in Western Canada has been widespread since the late 1800s, and since the 1920s in the Arctic.
Snow cover in the Arctic has decreased by 20 days a year since 1950.
On the positive side, the report predicts the summer tourism season will be longer and more land will be available for forestry.
Erik Haites, an environmental consultant who co-wrote the chapter on how climate change will affect international relations, expressed hope that Canadians will broaden their understanding of global warming.
"I think most people hear the term of climate change and think of it in terms of average temperature changing. But precipitation [and] evaporation are a substantial part of that," he said. "I think the general public hasn't made those links to the water impacts of climate change, although that's been in the science for a number of years."
Though it was released on the website, official versions of the report have yet to be printed and there was no formal government press conference to announce the report.
Mr. Haites said he hopes that won't lessen the impact of the research.
"The message that it is happening now is something that we hope that the public and the policy makers will take away from this," he said.
A new report from Natural Resources Canada, From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007, outlines the impact
of climate change on each region of the country.
The Western Arctic will be the most affected region in Canada
Species habitat will shift and melting permafrost will create problems for human infrastructure such as buildings and roads
Newly open Arctic waters will create business opportunities, but also threaten national security, the environment and local cultures
More storms and coastal erosion due to rising sea level
Sea lettuce has been spreading since 1990, bringing negative effects for shellfish
In Northern Quebec, a gradual cooling has been replaced by a sudden warming of about 2 degrees celsius since 1993
Hydroelectricity and forestry in the north could benefit
Lower Great Lakes water levels could affect the shipping industry
Water shortages have occurred or are expected in sections of Durham, Waterloo and Wellington counties and along the shoreline of southern GEORGIAN BAY
Heat-related mortality could more than double in southern and central Ontario by the 2050s
More frequent droughts could cost farmers billions
Loss of cold winters could spread pests and disease
Glaciers in B.C. are currently retreating at rates unprecedented in the past 8,000 years
Warming waters add to the vulnerability of Pacific salmon fisheries in freshwater and saltwater