How a 2-degree climate change would hit Canada

Ongoing climate change may halve the Arctic's summer sea ice, reduce runoff in the South Saskatchewan River basin and boost the cost of shipping in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, researchers say.

Ongoing climate change means that summer Arctic sea ice could be halved, runoff in the South Saskatchewan River basin reduced and the cost of shipping through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway could rise due to lower water levels, according to a compilation of research published Tuesday.

Billed as the first comprehensive illustration of expected climate impacts in Canada, the report is a joint project of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), which publishes Canadian Geographic and Géographica magazines.

The October issue of the magazines feature the compiled research, including a diagram outlining  60 effects of climate change at increasing levels of warming.

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy chair Robert Page says temperature increases in Canada are expected to be twice the world average as a result of climate change. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))
"I think it's important to get the correct science information in Canadian hands," NRTEE chair Robert Page said Tuesday at an Ottawa news conference called to release the data. "What I like about this (report) is it's an attempt to bring it back to an accepted factual base."

The scenarios about Arctic sea ice, the South Saskatchewan River and the Great Lakes are premised on a temperature increase of 2 C over pre-industrial levels.

That temperature rise is significant because the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen last December ended with a non-binding document aiming to limit world temperature increases to no more than 2 C. Globally, temperatures have already risen by 0.8 C over the past century.

But as Page pointed out, the increase in temperature in Canada is expected to be twice the world average, and parts of the Canadian North are expected to experience a rise in temperature that is twice the Canadian average.

Yet as the compiled research shows, not all impacts in Canada are negative. For example, a 2 C increase could bring increased timber yields from faster-growing trees in the North and more Atlantic cod north of the 60th parallel. The ski industry might struggle, but golfers could benefit from warmer temperatures.

The society and roundtable have also produced an education package based on the compiled research, which will be distributed to 12,000 schools across Canada.

On Tuesday evening, the two groups hosted a reception at the Canadian Museum of Nature where Canada's new Gov. Gen. David Johnston spoke.