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Five climate reality checks in Canadians’ own backyards

By Pieta Woolley

In this month’s Observer, Josiah Neufeld reports from Bangledesh, where rising shorelines have put much of the nation “on the brink of climate disaster.”

Similarly, in the October 2015 National Geographic, Kennedy Warne documents Kiribati’s crisis in the South Pacific, where rising oceans threaten to submerge the entire nation.

At the end of Neufeld’s article, he asks Farida Akhter, the executive director of UBINIG — an organization of Bangledeshi farmers, botanists, scholars and policy analysts — what Canada can do to help.

“Developed countries can do only one thing,” Akhter said. “That is reduce carbon emissions. I think that would be helpful.”

Nevertheless, in central-heated and air-conditioned Canada, making climate change seem real and immediate can be a challenge. That’s because our relative wealth can shield us from witnessing the day-to-day effects.

Of course, we’re not immune from climate change in this country. The federal government is already predicting withering effects of climate change on Canada’s farming industry, winter roads and other infrastructure; the spread of diseases; tourism; fisheries and hydroelectricity. There’s also the economic losses from extreme events, such as forest fires and storm surges.

Here are five climate reality checks in Canadians’ own backyards.

1. Parts of the Northwest Territories and Yukon are up a whopping 3 degrees since 1948

All of Canada is getting hotter. In fact, when the global temperature mean rises, Canada’s mean temperature rises twice as much. In the Arctic, heat means melting sea ice, a loss of permafrost and a dangerously changing habitat for animals, such as polar bears. 

2. Winnipeg is about to get hot. Damn hot.

Until 1990, Winnipegers enjoyed about 15 days of hot summer weather: over 30 degrees. By 2040, the number of hot days is expected to more than double to 35. By the end of the century, it may be the hottest city in Canada, with 70 days — more than two consecutive months – over 30 degrees.

3. BC is drying up

The rest of Canada will see more snow and rain falling over the next 30 years. But South-Western BC’s rich agricultural land is seeing less rain fall and more summer dryness due to increasing temperatures and more evaporation. In 2015, for example, BC declared a “level 4 drought,” meaning that available water was insufficient to meet the needs of people and ecosystems.

4. Storms are surging over Atlantic Canada

While summer temperatures are up just under one degrees on the East Coast, and winter temperatures are down by just one degrees, even these slight changes have resulted in unprecedented coastal flooding in all four provinces. In fact, heading into the weekend of April 9, Environment Canada predicted record surges in the Bay of Fundy.

5. The Great Lakes are nearly ice-free

Normally, about half of the Great Lakes freeze over. But this past winter, just under 10 percent of the lakes were covered with ice, meaning that “young fish may face harsher environments; shoreline habitats are in jeopardy; the risks of pollution are elevated; and algae problems could be worse than usual this summer as a result, leading to an increased number of beach closings.” That’s according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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