Degrees of Change: Climate Warming and the Stakes for Canada
Degrees of Change explains the implications of a changing climate for Canada and Canadians. It is the second report in the Climate Prosperity series by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) on the economic risks and opportunities to Canada of climate change.Examining what the impacts of climate change will mean to our environment and what a global low-carbon transition will mean to our economy, Climate Prosperity offers new insights and analysis into shaping Canada’s public policy responses to this most extraordinary challenge.This Degrees of Change report illustrates the expected impacts of a changing climate for Canada and how adapting to these impacts now will be necessary to secure our prosperity in an uncertain climate future. In Canada and across the globe, we are already seeing the effects of warming temperatures and changing climate conditions. As climate change persists, we can expect, for example, further melting of glaciers and sea ice, rising sea levels, earlier springs, shifts in the distribution of animals and plants, and increasingly volatile weather. No region and no aspect of our geography will be immune; but impacts will vary in time and intensity.That is why the NRTEE has developed a uniquely Canadian diagram to illustrate the effects of climate change across eight areas of importance to our country and Canadians. Based on a vast array of published scientific literature, it maps scientifi cally accepted climate-related impacts, current and projected, to a global temperature scale. It puts global political commitments of keeping world temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) into perspective by showing what different levels of warming could mean to Canada. From ecosystems to human health to water resources to communities and infrastructure and more, Degrees of Change demonstrates just how pervasive and pernicious climate change could be. Both risks and potential opportunities — as we currently know them — are presented. Canada — our people, places, and prosperity — will be affected by climate change. Changes in forest growth, pest outbreaks, and wildfi res will impact resource-dependent communities and the livelihoods of workers and families. Tourism operators relying on seasonal patterns for snow and sun may have to plan for different outcomes. Farmers may face more varied drought and rain effects causing new economic impacts on their crop values and farming operations. These are but a few examples of what’s at stake and how climate change impacts Canadians where we live and work.Knowing what climate change could mean allows us to consider how and when to adapt to it. Adapting, so we can prosper through climate change, is essential for Canada’s economic and environmental security. Levels of warming in Canada are already higher than the global average. Arresting the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — necessary to limit the extent and speed of climate change — does nothing to change the impacts expected from GHG concentrations already in the atmosphere. Inevitably, we must think about how to adapt to the effects already taking place and those sure to come.With risk comes uncertainty. And climate change offers both. This report helps reinforce the need to improve our understanding of how climate change could affect us and assess the risk of what this means. To date, we as a country have only just begun to consider the implications of future climate change impacts and see that they become factored in major planning decisions by governments, businesses, and communities on a more consistent and coordinated basis. Whether it’s reinforcing infrastructure degraded by thawing permafrost in Nunavut or building new seawalls as protection from storm surge fl ooding in New Brunswick, we need to think differently about the value of taking action to adapt to current and future impacts of climate change. A changing climate makes the very concept of status quo irrelevant. Taking action to adapt now is an opportunity to shape possibilities and secure our prosperity for the future.