From oods to res, drought and coastal ero­sion, cli­mate change is al­ready hav­ing an im­pact on Canada’s com­mu­ni­ties, land­scapes and wildlife

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - By Michela Rosano

From floods to fires, drought and coastal ero­sion, cli­mate change is al­ready hav­ing an im­pact on Canada’s com­mu­ni­ties, land­scapes and wildlife

The Bow and El­bow rivers filled ar­eas of down­town Cal­gary with more than two me­tres of wa­ter in June 2013. The flood, which spread across south­ern Al­berta, was the worst the city had seen since 1932 and the costli­est nat­u­ral disas­ter in Cana­dian his­tory. In May 2016, a wild­fire ig­nited in the parched bo­real for­est south­west of Fort Mcmur­ray, Alta., and blazed through the com­mu­nity, driv­ing 88,000 peo­ple from their homes. It was the largest wild­fire evac­u­a­tion in the prov­ince’s his­tory. Since the 1950s, Inuit El­ders in com­mu­ni­ties along Hud­son Bay have ob­served in­creas­ing num­bers of or­cas, which now seem to be com­pet­ing with po­lar bears for the top spot in the food chain in this re­gion of the Arc­tic. As the planet con­tin­ues to warm from the surge of heat­trap­ping emis­sions — mainly car­bon diox­ide, meth­ane, ni­trous ox­ide and hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons — pumped into the at­mos­phere since the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, cli­mate sci­en­tists say events such as these will only be­come more fre­quent and wide­spread. “With cli­mate change, you tend to get these run­away or snow­ball ef­fects, where you have an ini­tial change in the cli­mate sys­tem, then the im­pacts be­come greater and greater,” says Matthew Peros, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Bishop’s Uni­ver­sity who holds a Canada Re­search Chair in Cli­mate and En­vi­ron­men­tal Change, cit­ing melt­ing sea ice and thaw­ing per­mafrost as ex­am­ples. “It’s not just cli­mate change it­self. It’s the com­bined ef­fects of hu­man im­pacts, such as de­for­esta­tion, and nat­u­ral pro­cesses, such as dis­eases on forests, which can be­come that much more se­vere be­cause of the ef­fects of cli­mate change.” Ac­cord­ing to the 2013 Fifth Assess­ment Re­port of the UN In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, ir­re­versible changes to our planet’s at­mos­phere, wa­ter and ecol­ogy have al­ready oc­curred. Peros, how­ever, re­mains op­ti­mistic. “We can still do some­thing about it,” he says. “If we act de­ci­sively now, both lo­cally and glob­ally, a lot can be done. It’s not just a prob­lem that’s hap­pen­ing ‘over there.’ It’s hap­pen­ing here in Canada.” The fol­low­ing im­ages of­fer a glimpse at how cli­mate change is al­ready trans­form­ing Canada.

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