CBC Digital Archives

Climate change puts Canada's coastal cities at risk

Hollywood stars speak out about it, politicians argue about it and books on the subject are bestsellers: global warming is a hot topic today. But just a few decades ago, some scientists were predicting another ice age. CBC Digital Archives looks at four decades of CBC's climate change coverage, beginning with murmurs of a northern warming trend in the 1960s and ending with the Kyoto Conference of the late 90s.

As the world heats up and the polar icecaps melt, sea levels could rise as much as one metre in 50 years, according to this 1988 CBC-TV clip. This means that Canada's coastal cities -- like Saint John, N.B., shown in this clip -- could be headed for trouble. To minimize disaster, these cities will need to consider the projections of climate change in their city planning. Environment Minister Tom McMillan stresses that these warnings comes from reputable scientists, not just "some kook on a street corner." 
• The year 1988 is considered by many experts (including Canada's David Suzuki) to be a pivotal point in climate change history. On a hot June day, respected NASA climatologist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that he was 99 per cent confident that a lasting warming trend had begun, and it was highly probable that this was caused by the greenhouse effect. Hansen's strong statements — most notably, his "99 per cent confidence" — triggered a shift in public concern over global warming.

• A 2006 Boston Globe article, looking back on Hansen's 1988 testimony, recalled that after he testified "every newspaper and every newsmagazine published long reports on the subject — within a week, 'greenhouse effect' had gone from a scientific term to a media buzzword."
• Because the greenhouse effect became such a hot topic that year, Time magazine changed its annual Man of the Year honour to "Planet of the Year" in 1988, naming "Endangered Earth" as the recipient.
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: Jan. 16, 1988
Guest(s): Al Malinauskas, Tom McMillan
Host: Barbara Smith
Reporter: Kathryn Wright
Duration: 2:53

Last updated: May 10, 2013

Page consulted on February 25, 2014

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