Oceans, glaciers at increasing risk, including Canada’s: climate report

More than 100 authors from around the world release report at a scientific gathering in Monaco

Damage to Earth’s oceans and glaciers from climate change is outpacing the ability of governments to protect them, a new report from an international scientific panel concludes.

“The capacity of governance systems in polar and ocean regions to respond to climate change impacts has strengthened recently,” says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“But this development is not sufficiently rapid or robust to adequately address the scale of increasing projected risks.”

The panel released its report, the work of more than 100 authors from around the world, at a scientific gathering in Monaco. A companion to a recent report on the effect of a warming climate on land, the document lays out what’s in store for oceans, glaciers and permafrost.

It concludes that if nothing improves, the effects will be severe — and Canada will not escape.

Arctic communities will be most directly affected.

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

“The shrinking cryosphere in the Arctic and high-mountain areas has led to predominantly negative impacts on food security, water resources, water quality, livelihoods, health and well-being, infrastructure, transportation, tourism and recreation, as well as culture of human societies, particularly for Indigenous peoples,” the report says.

More than 120,000 Canadians live in northern communities.

By 2060 — within the lifetime of about half of Canadians now living — coastal floods off British Columbia and the Maritimes that used to occur once a century will be annual events, it says.

Water availability across Western Canada will be disrupted.

Crucial kelp forests and seagrass meadows that nurture sea life off both east and west coasts are threatened. Kelp forests shelter thousands of species, from fish to seals to seabirds.

“The decline of kelp forests is projected to continue in temperate regions due to warming, particularly under the projected intensification of marine heatwaves, with high risk of local extinctions,” says the report.

And while animals in Arctic seas are expected to increase, that comes at the price of dramatic declines everywhere else in the world.

The report gives short shrift to those continuing to doubt the impact of human-caused climate change.

“Global warming has led to widespread shrinking of … ice sheets and glaciers, reductions in snow cover, Arctic sea ice extent and thickness and increased permafrost temperature,” it says. All of those statements are rated “very high confidence,” which is as confident as the report’s careful language allows itself.

It says scientists are now “virtually certain” that the oceans have warmed unabated since 1970. Since 1993, it’s likely the rate of warming has more than doubled, with more than 90 per cent of excess heat going straight into salt water.

There is between 99 and 100 per cent certainty the oceans are growing more acidic from the amount of carbon they have absorbed.

Permafrost temperatures around the globe are now at record levels. Arctic and boreal permafrost currently stores almost twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, carbon that could be released if the soil melts.

The report notes that while the globe is now locked in to decades of disruption from current greenhouse gas levels, almost all of the negative effects can be softened by reduced emissions.

It ends with a plea for governments to co-operate, calling for “profound economic and institutional transformative change.”

“Co-operation and co-ordination among governing authorities across scales, jurisdictions, sectors, policy domains and planning horizons can enable effective responses to changes in the ocean (and) cryosphere,” it says.

“This highlights the urgency of prioritizing timely, ambitious, co-ordinated and enduring action.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta RCMP launches online crime reporting across the province

A goal for the Alberta RCMP is to make sure all crime is reported, no matter how small

84 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday

1,036 active cases across Alberta, 10,796 recovered cases

Lacombe resident creates labyrinth near Breton

Marsha Duggan encourages others to use their imagination

76 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday

Active cases at 1,036, 10,713 recovered cases

Stettler to celebrate rich prairie culture throughout September during Alberta Culture Days

Stettler has been selected as a “Feature Celebration Site” for Alberta Culture Days

Charges likely in fatal attack at central Alberta medical clinic: RCMP

A vigil was held Monday night to mourn the victim

Premier Jason Kenney in Lacombe to introduce rural Internet

Shaw to provide 1g Internet to all AB residential customers

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

‘So sorry:’ Man pleads guilty for gas-and-dash death of Thorsby gas station owner

Mitchell Robert Sydlowski was charged with second-degree murder, but the 29-year old pleaded guilty to the lesser offence

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

AB Infrastructure Minister announces $8,522,800 regional water transmission line

Funding is covered jointly by the province, Ottawa and benefiting municipalities

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools receive grant from Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

WRPS has received $15,975 from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

Most Read