Here are the possible effects of a warming planet, from Peggy’s Cove to Banff National Park and all the way to the Okanagan Valley
When it comes to educating our country about climate change, scientists face a distinctly Canadian problem of scope: While most of us have a general understanding that the climate is changing, it’s is all too easy for a Yukoner to dismiss rising sea levels as someone else’s problem or a Torontonian to be completely apathetic to Arctic permafrost. “Many of the changes don’t have a direct, tangible connection to most people in Canada—they’ve probably never even seen permafrost—so it can be hard to appreciate its impact,” says Greg Flato, senior research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
To conquer apathy in action, Canada’s Changing Climate Report, released by the government this spring, zoomed in on the speciﬁc effects of climate change in all corners of Canada. In each, they predicted two futures: One if we dramatically slash carbon emissions starting right now, and another if we do nothing. Scientists predict temperatures will rise 1.8 degrees in a low-emission scenario and 6.3 degrees in a high one. “Our choices now effect what our lives will look like at the end of the century,” Flato says. If we choose poorly, what might Canada look like in 2100? We imagined six famous Canadian landmarks in a much hotter future.
Fighting climate change may be cheaper and more beneficial than we think
In a cartoon that went viral before the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, a conference presentation lists some of the side benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, from cleaner air to green jobs, as a man in the audience asks: “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”
Ten years after U.S. cartoonist Joel Pett penned that cartoon, there is stronger scientific consensus than ever that climate change is real, and more and more evidence that fighting climate change has positive side effects or “co-benefits.”
Environmental researchers and policy advisers now say it’s crucial to take those into account when making decisions about climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Carbon pricing and the journey towards an ‘energy constrained world’
It’s not often that you see an oil executive and a climate change analyst nodding in agreement. But at last week’s Shell Energy Summit, climate researcher and author Mike Berners-Lee reached an agreement with Shell’s integrated gas and new energies director, Maarten Wetselaar, when they were each asked what the most significant step forward in the global fight against climate change would be.
Both, without missing a beat, replied “a price on carbon.”
But if a universal price on polluting externalities remains sensible in the eyes of a classical economist, politically, the practical question of how to engineer a price on carbon is trickier than ever. Only last month in Oregon, Republican senators sparked a democratic crisis when they fled the state to avoid having to vote on a carbon emissions bill they feared the Democrats would win. It looked as if advocates for carbon pricing were heading for victory, but then the GOP simply packed in the debate and headed for the state line.
Without a quorate assembly the bill — or any bill for that matter — could not be considered. Worse still for supporters of carbon pricing mechanisms, the gambit appears to have worked. The Republicans only resumed their seats in the State Senate after the bill was killed from the voting schedule.
The Oregon standoff is an extreme example, but it is part of a wider trend whereby carbon pricing routinely faces a fierce pushback from certain quarters. And yet, many businesses, including plenty of carbon-intensive firms, are reluctant to give up on a policy tool that could provide one of the most effective means of driving down emissions and mobilizing investment in clean infrastructure, especially when global emissions keep inching upwards.