Canada

Climate report predicts major consequences for Canada

Temperature hikes expected in the next century could be disproportionately high in Canada, up an average of 10 degrees, scientists said from Paris on Friday.

Scientists warn Arctic could be ice-free in summer; environment minister calls for 'real action'

Temperature increases expected in the next century could be disproportionately high in Canada, up an average of 10 degrees, scientists said from Paris on Friday, leading Environment Minister John Baird to call for "real action."

Environment Minister John Baird: 'The time for talking about this and studying it in Canada is over.' ((CBC))
Top scientists from 113 countriesagreed unanimously at the International Panel on Climate Change that the mass burning of fossil fuels, land use and agriculture practices are melting polar ice caps.

Faced with projections that say Canada could be particularly hard hit by the effects of climate change, Ottawa is set to put tough emissions policies in place, Bairdtold CBC NewsFriday from Paris.

"The time for talking about this and studying it in Canada is over. We have to get acting," Baird said, adding he would soon be meeting with other world ministers in Paris to discuss how Canada "can play catch-up" in reducing emissions.

"The planet's future is at stake," Baird told CBC News. "[Global warming] is a fact and it requires real action."

"I think the first … realistic step in any such plan would be to try over the next few years to stabilize emissions. Obviously over the longer term to reduce them, but as I said before, realistically, the only way to get … reductions is to develop technologies," Harper said.

Baird acknowledged that the consequences may be particularly dire in Canada, where temperature increases are expected to be higher in the next century than in most parts of the world.

"If the temperature in the world was to go up by 1.8 to even four degrees, which is the range [projected by the year 2100], that's going to have gigantic consequences for the world, but even more significant for Canada, because we're a northern nation and have huge Arctic territories," Baird said.

One Canadian scientist on the Paris panel told CBC News that Canada could heat up by an average of 10 degrees. The change would mean no ice in the Arctic summer.

Time for 'tough environmental policies': Baird

The 21-page summary of the panel's findings released Friday represents the most authoritative science on global warming, which the experts describe as an "unequivocal" problem.The new message to world leaders is that inaction is no longer an option.

That means moving away from voluntary greenhouse gas emissions caps and enacting tough environmental policies,Baird said.

Ken Denman, a Canadian and one of eight key authors of the study, told CBC News from Paris that scientists believe the temperature increases in the Arctic will be double the average increases elsewhere.

"In other words if it says three degrees, you might thinksixdegrees for the High Arctic," he explained.

Denman said rivers in Alberta and Saskatchewan are usually filled with glacial melt in the summers, but "with much less glaciers and earlier melting, you might expect those rivers to be much lower, [resulting in] less water for irrigation when it's needed."

In a worst-case scenario, warming couldmelt the Greenland ice sheets in a millennium, causing a sea-level rise of up to seven metres, Denman said.

Reconsider spending priorities: Suzuki

David Suzuki, Canadian environmentalist and host of the CBC's The Nature of Things, said from Halifax on Friday morning that scientists have done their part and the burden has now shifted to politicians.

Environmentalist David Suzuki: 'There's been a drumbeat of all kinds of weird weather events, and [Canadians] understand that something weird is happening and they really want some action.' ((CBC file photo))
"There's been a drumbeat of all kinds of weird weather events, and [Canadians] understand that something weird is happening and they really want some action," Suzuki said.

He pointed to the destruction of B.C. forests by pine beetles surviving warmer winters and the series of freak storms that devastated Vancouver's Stanley Park this winter.

Suzuki asked why Canada doesn't reconsider its spending priorities.

"We don't hesitate to spend $16 billion a year on defence. What is the likelihood that we'll go to war or have hostility directed against us? A heck of a lot less than the 90 per cent certainty that humans are causing climate change right now."

Rather than aim for cuts of five or 10 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions, he challenged the Conservatives to aim for 60 or 70 per cent cuts by 2050.

But Suzuki also said the report is a rallying call to ordinary citizens to make simple lifestyle changes that could curb the global warming threat.