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 October 16, 2010
Degrees of Change - Climate Change Impacts in Canada in the 21st Century

 Degrees of Change provides a very clear indication of the possible physical impacts Canadians can expect as a result of climate change.

Earlier this month the National Roundtable on Economy and Environment and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society released the Degrees of Change diagram which lays out potential effects of a changing climate on Canada at different degrees of warming.

The impacts - 60 in all, culled from documented scientific literature - are categorized into eight separate sectors and include; ecosystems, water resources, human health, communities and infrastructure, resource industries, service industries, security and trade and ice, snow and sea.

The diagram is included in the October issue of Canadian Geographic and Géographica magazines, which are almost wholly-devoted to climate change. This release included a special roundtable discussion at the Museum of Nature, and a launch reception with the Governor General providing the keynote address.

The Degrees of Change Diagram
(click to download - PDF version)

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The goal of this project is to widen the national conversation on the issue of climate change, the physical effects of which on Canada in the next century could touch everything from human health and community infrastructure to water resources and even tourism and recreation activities.

Compared to average temperatures prior to the industrial revolution well over a century ago, the world is currently 0.78°C warmer. What does this mean for Canada and the people living here now? And what could further climate change induced temperature increases entail?

"Climate change is not just a theory. It's taking place now," said NRTEE Chair Robert (Bob) Page. "That means we must go beyond cutting carbon emissions. We must start adapting our behaviour, our communities, and our economic activity to the emerging reality of climate change."

At two-degrees warming, for example, the diagram shows that summer Arctic sea ice extent could be halved, runoff in the South Saskatchewan River basin significantly reduced, and shipping through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway could become more costly due to lowering water levels.

The two-degree marker represents temperature increases over pre-industrial levels and is significant because Canada and other G8 nations have agreed to take measures to limit global temperature increases to no more than that level.

The diagram and feature articles in the magazine go on to show even more risks to Canada's coastal communities, fish and wildlife habitat, and human health, if global temperatures rise beyond the two-degree point.

Not all impacts compiled in the diagram are necessarily negative. For example, a two-degree increase could see timber gains from enhanced tree growth in some northerly locations, greater access to northern oil, gas and mineral resources, and an increased abundance of Atlantic cod north of the 60th parallel.

Some tourism and recreational pursuits, such as skiing, would likely be hurt while others, such as golf, could benefit. The diagram is meant to illustrate a range of possible impacts that are scientifically-accepted and projected at this time.
 
Besides the magazines and poster diagram, the RCGS and NRTEE will sponsor expert panel discussions and have collaborated with the RCGS' Canadian Council for Geographic Education to produce an education resource package to be distributed to 12,000 middle and secondary schools across Canada highlighting the implications of regional and local impacts of climate change.

The RCGS Canadian Atlas Online (CAOL) will also carry a dedicated module on Climate Prosperity with interactive maps, diagrams and 13 lesson plans in the CAOL Learning Centre.
Dealing with the impacts of climate change means educating our children, said RCGS President Gisèle Jacob.
"The joint Climate Prosperity initiative with the NRTEE reinforces the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's educational role in fostering environmental stewardship in Canada" said Ms. Jacob. "Education is key to widening public understanding of our changing climate, the impacts and adaptive solutions."

"Adapt and prosper will be increasingly central to Canadian governments, communities, and businesses as these effects become more and more evident," said NRTEE President and CEO David McLaughlin.

The Diagram and its interactive supporting materials are available here.

Source: www.climateprosperity.ca