Thursday, March 13, 2008

Climate Changes

They're still out there. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, the climate change naysayers believe that all of the concern about rising carbon dioxide levels is just atmospheric gassing off. They are convinced that the call to drastically reduce our energy consumption is being fueled by those crazy environmentalists who need to get real jobs. To prove their point, these same naysayers are pointing to what is dangerously close to being the worst winter on record in Ontario as proof that the good old days of the hardy Canadian winter are back. Right?

Wrong. A recently released study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada says that these kinds of climate extremes are a clear indicator that the impacts of climate change are already being felt. The 500 page report, which was produced by 145 of Canada's leading scientists, confirms that bizarre winter weather is just one of the impacts that Canadians will have to get used to. Continuing water shortage in the prairie provinces will increasingly put Canada's breadbasket in drought conditions. Severe storms will increasingly become the norm, while summer smog conditions will put further demands on our already stressed health care system.

One of the study's lead authors is Norm Catto, a geographer at St. John's Memorial University. His concern is that the intensity of weather events is increasing. For example, Hurricane Juan devastated Atlantic Canada in 2003. If the storm surge had coincided with high tide, water levels could have been up to a half a metre higher.

The damaging effects won't be limited to coastal areas, either. Thanks to more intense rainfalls, cities could routinely face the kind of flooding that caused billions of dollars in damage in Peterborough and Toronto in 2005.

While the government report was not publicly available as of this writing, another report released last Friday. Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a world of difference, combines the considerable expertise of Canada's leading environmental groups and conservation agencies. The list of contributors includes Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe, Sierra Club of Canada and WWF Canada.

The Tomorrow Today report calls for an immediate recommittment to the Kyoto Protocol and a policy change that would put a price tag on greenhouse gas emissions that would start at $30 per tonne of CO2 in 2009, then increase to $75 by 2020.

"Canada is at a critical turning point. If we further destabilize our climate, release toxics into our air or water, destroy critical habitat for species and continue to over-exploit our oceans, we are going to pay a big price," said Peter Robinson of the David Suzuki Foundation. "That's why we need to take action today - not tomorrow - while we still have a chance to preserve clean water, wild habitat and to prevent the worst impacts of climate change."

"Action today is going to be much more valuable than action tomorrow, especially on issues like protecting intact wilderness, including the Fort Knox of carbon storage - our intact boreal forest," points out Anne Levesque, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The Tomorrow Today roadmap sets out five principles that should shape all federal laws and policies, including precaution, polluter pays, protecting future opportunities, accountability, and good global citizenship.

The report concludes that as one of the world's most prosperous nations, Canada has a moral and economic responsibility to take actions that will provide sustainable solutions for everyone. For the naysayers who stand firm in their commitment that action on climate change will hurt us economically, Tomorrow Today’s roadmap makes it clear that Canada is well positioned to make the transition to a more sustainable economy.

"We have the resources and ingenuity to help citizens and businesses through this transition," states the report's conclusion, "and we have citizens and leaders with the foresight to see how much this country could lose if we continue with business as usual."


The report, Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a world of difference, is available online at

The Alliance for Resilient Cities, a project of the Clean Air Partnership, is a collaborative network designed to support local governments to identify the impacts of climate change and identify pro-active strategies to protect their communities.


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