Where we are
The federal government is warning that Canada faces greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather as a result of climate change, as well as increased risks to human health from pollution and the spread of disease-carrying insects.
In a report posted on the department’s website, researchers from Natural Resources Canada said it is clear the country’s climate is rapidly changing and will continue to do so for the coming decades, even if there are aggressive international efforts to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are responsible for the changes.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to lessen the magnitude and rate of climate change, but additional impacts are unavoidable, even with aggressive global mitigation efforts, due to inertia in the climate system,” the report said. “Therefore, we also need to adapt – make adjustments in our activities and decisions in order to reduce risks, moderate harm or take advantage of new opportunities.”
The researchers said Canada is in the early stages of preparation for climate-related changes to the environment, and what measures have been taken have yet to be properly evaluated, while “agreed-upon methods to track and measure actions taken to reduce climate change risk and vulnerability do not yet exist.”
“There is a cost to Canada from global emissions and it’s in our economic interest to work to get those global emissions down,” said David McLaughlin, former executive director of the National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment, which the government axed in 2012.
The government researchers highlighted a range of impacts that can be expected, including increased flooding and wild fires; the spread of insect-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus; increased stress on endangered species and reduction of bird populations, and industrial challenges such as lower levels on the Great Lakes system that will impair shipping. They also predict a longer growing season which could increase food production, especially in northern regions, but will also bring more pests and extreme weather that could reduce crop yields.
“This is probably the biggest societal issue we should be having a conversation around. There’s been lots of focus on environmental sustainability; I’m not sure we’re having the robust dialogue around what the health implications are today and in the future.”
Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Public Health officer for Nova Scotia.
The health-related costs of climate change are significant. In 2008, poor air quality alone, including from oil and gas production, cost Canada about $8-billion. By 2031, those costs are expected to rise to $250-billion according to a report by the Canadian Medical Association.
Jorgen Randers of the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo
Ideas from 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years
Energy efficiency and renewable energy will stave off the worst effects of climate change until after 2050. For the coming few decades life on Earth will carry on more or less as before. Wealthy economies will continue to grow, albeit more slowly as investment will need to be diverted to deal with resource constraints and environmental problems, which thereby will leave less capital for creating goods for consumption. Food production will improve: increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause plants to grow faster, and warming will open up new areas such as Siberia to cultivation. Population will increase, albeit slowly, to a maximum of about eight billion near 2040.
Eventually, however, floods and desertification will start reducing farmland and therefore the availability of grain. Despite humanity’s efforts to ameliorate climate change, its effects will become devastating sometime after mid-century, when global warming will reinforce itself by, for instance, igniting fires that turn forests into net emitters rather than absorbers of carbon. Very likely, we will have war long before we get there. Mass migration from lands rendered unlivable will lead to localized armed conflicts.
Creating Our Recovery Systems
Communities without Borders
Creating Our Systems
Restoring Our Atmosphere
Restoring Our Oceans
Restoring Our Environment
The Office of Science and Technology Policy was established by the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976. The Office is responsible for advising the President on all questions in which science and technology are important elements, including climate change.