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Presentation on climate change

The One Tonne Challenge

Sustainable communities and climate change (second session)

The Top Ten Weather Stories for 2002 (Environment Canada)



Nature of
Since 1990, we often hear the words climate change, global warming and greenhouse effect. In fact, scientists predict that the global temperature will increase during the next century. Humans, animals and plants will feel the impacts of climate change. These impacts will mainly be caused by global warming, a result of human activities.

Source : Environment Canada

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Climate change is mainly caused by five different factors :

Fossil fuels: since the 18th century, humans have become more and more dependant on fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) to heat their homes, as a source of energy and for their transportation. The production of fossil fuels emits methane and carbon dioxide while the burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide;

Deforestation: trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide, but when they are cut down, they no longer remove the carbon dioxide. This is how deforestation contributes to the production of carbon dioxide. More land has been uncovered in the last one hundred years than had been in the entire lifetime of humanity;

Old landfills: these release methane;

Refrigeration systems and air conditioning: these systems release halocarbons. Certain halocarbons are ten times more powerful than carbon dioxide;

Population growth: the number of people living on Earth increases the pressure on the environment because of the demand on the energy, resources, agricultural lands and space.

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At present, four signs are an indication to scientists that climate change is really happening (Government of Canada, 1999):

  • increase in global temperature during the last century,
  • melting of the glaciers,
  • rise of the global sea level,
  • longer and more frequent extreme weather events like heavy rains, floods, droughts, winter storms and tornadoes.

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· Impacts of climate change on terrestrial and marine biodiversity, including landscapes, ecosystems, species and genes

· Impacts on isolated populations and ecosystems, such as protected areas

· Impacts on migration of species

· Impacts on native species due to invasion/migration of alien species without natural controls


· Impacts on crops due to drought and changing precipitation patterns

· Impacts due to longer growing season

· Impacts from changing pest and disease regimes

· Impacts on diversity and types of crops able to be grown


· Impacts of changes to ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current

· Impacts on land-sea interactions, such as impacts on river habitats of migratory fish

· Impacts on physical and chemical regime of oceans (thermal, currents, salinity, chemical)

· Impacts on social and economic enterprises such as fisheries, tourism, oil and gas, marine transportation


· Impacts from extreme weather events

· Impacts from vector-borne disease

· Impacts from air pollution combined with higher temperatures

· Impacts from heat waves and vulnerability to drought


· Impacts on the natural disturbance regime, pest cycle, and rate of infestation

· Impacts on harvesting processes

· Impacts on forest dependent communities

· Impacts on forest structure, composition, productivity, and regeneration


· Impacts from more frequent extreme weather events (safety of population, coastal and inland flooding, erosion, insurance and property value)

· Impacts on settlement patterns and land-use planning

· Impacts on transportation (infrastructures and patterns, cost of maintenance)

· Impacts on buildings (infrastructure) and building code criteria


· Impacts on the variability of the quality and quantity of regional water resources (including, but not limited to winter ice regimes, hydrogeology, water chemistry, and hydro generation).

· Impacts on water supply, including issues around : energy (hydropower), domestic supplies, industrial supplies, agriculture, exports, and pollution dilution

· Impacts on communities due to a decrease in water quality (i.e. health problems)

· Impacts on water based recreational activities


· Impacts on coastal wetlands

· Impacts from erosion

· Impacts from flooding

· Impacts on human settlements and coastal infrastructure


· Impacts on Aboriginal gathering rights

· Impacts on treaty rights

· Impacts on Aboriginal rights


New Brunswick

· Climate warming will increase the number of bad air quality days in cities like Saint John because of smog events. Smog is a mix of pollutants which react together in sunlight to form ground level ozone. This will cause respiratory problems in humans.

· An increase in warm winter days could accelerate ice break-up and increase the risk flooding. On the Saint John river, this would cause flooding and damage human infrastructure such as buildings, highways and bridges.

· An increase in warm winter days would allow the survival of invasive insects and their reproduction. This could destroy forests and affect this important industry in New Brunswick.

· Longer and warmer summers could cause droughts which would affect agriculture in the province.

· Marine species will be affected by an increase in ocean water temperature.

· Coastal flooding will happen more frequently and cause erosion.

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Nova Scotia

· An increase in ocean water temperatures will affect marine species.

· Agriculture is an important industry in Nova Scotia. Droughts caused by an increase in temperatures could be disastrous.

· An increase in extreme weather events such as storms, hail, floods and droughts could affect crops, livestock and power lines.

· With climate warming, periods of bad air quality will increase in cities because of smog events. This could be harmful to human health.

· Increased winter temperatures would allow the survival and the reproduction of invasive insects. This could destroy trees and affect this industry.

· Climate change could change forest types in the province. With an increase in temperatures, the boreal forest could be replaced by the temperate forest.

· An increase in sea level will be caused by climate warming. Sea levels on the coast of Nova Scotia could rise by 70 cm by 2100. A great part of the coast of Nova Scotia is highly sensitive to sea level rise.

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Prince Edward Island

· Climate warming will increase the number of bad air quality days caused by smog events. This could be harmful to people with respiratory problems.

· Agriculture is the most important industry in PEI. Droughts caused by an increase in temperatures could be disastrous for the economy of the province.

· An increase in extreme weather events such as storms, hail, floods and droughts could damage crops and livestock as well as power lines.

· Aquaculture being an important industry in PEI, could be affected by an increase in water temperature. Also, storms could damage culture equipment.

· The coast of PEI is really sensitive to sea level rise. Rising sea levels and storm surges (when low pressure and strong onshore winds combine to raise the water level a metre or more above normal) could destroy beaches and dunes and damage human infrastructures.

· A storm surge of 4,2m combined with a 0,5m sea level rise would place over 300 properties in Charlottetown at risk.

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Newfoundland & Labrador

· Climate change may increase the number of icebergs. In the long term, the decrease in sea ice will increase the exposure of beaches to waves, produce erosion and coastal damage to human infrastructures.

· In Newfoundland and Labrador, hydroelectricity is an important source of power. Changes in annual precipitation would affect electric power systems without reservoirs.

· Increased water temperatures will increase the risks of contamination of drinking water by waterborne parasites.

· Marine species will be affected by an increase in water temperatures.

· Sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas and will increase erosion in sites such as the lighthouse at Pointe Verde.

· An increase in sea level rise, with storm surges will be able to flood areas never before flooded. Flood damages in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last 15 years have exceeded $40 million.


Reference : Climate Change - It matters

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Concrete Actions

Here is a list of actions we can do to reduce our production of greenhouse gases and to help the environment

- Turn off lights and computers
- Recycle
- Avoid wasting paper towels
- Recycle phonebooks
- Limit the use of paper by writing on both sides
- Write to government officials to work on reducing gas emissions
- Organize a nature walk
- Make sure the dishwasher is full before running it
- Reduce consumption
- Limit the number of times you open the refrigerator door
- Turn down the thermostat when no one is home
- Re-use
- Compost organic material
- Plant trees in the schoolyard
- Distribute trees to plant at home
- Plant your own garden
- Create a butterfly garden
- Take a "no garbage" lunch to school and encourage the students to do the same
- Travel by bicycle when possible
- Travel with others or by bus
- Calculate your CO2 emissions and encourage others to do the same. Then try to limit them. - Buy products with the least amount of packaging.
- Limit water use
- Adopt a forest
- Buy a smaller car
- Work at home instead of going elsewhere to work
- Install solar panels
- Hook up to wind energy

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Environmental Responses

Climate Change Adaptations

Even if humans limit their greenhouse gas emissions, global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are certain to keep increasing. Furthermore, even if the production of these gases stops, they will remain active for years and we will still have to face the impacts of climate change. Therefore, we need to help communities and infrastructure adapt to the possible impacts.

Adaptation refers to any adjustment that can respond to anticipated or actual consequences associated with climate change. Significant challenges exist in developing adaptation strategies due to such factors as uncertainties in climate change science, difficulties in ascertaining necessary timeframes for adaptation, the importance of the impact and its frequency…

Adaptation strategies can vary. We can try to limit non-climate change stresses on natural systems (such as pollution, habitat loss, and introduction of invasive species) to increase the natural resistance and resilience of ecosystems to the added stress of climate change. We can add, remove, move infrastructure, increase the flexibility or develop a land-use management plan to limit new construction along the coast.

Here are a few adaptation strategies to limit the impacts of climate change.

Fisheries and Aquaculture :

- Diversify economic activity in resource-dependent community (example: fish different species like lobster, crab and scallop).
- Develop fishing fleets capable of travelling greater distances, in deeper waters.
- Remove physical barriers to fish migration, minimize water pollution...
- For aquaculture, expand the number of species and increase the area in which operations can be located.

Sea level rise:

- Be ready to relocate homes, business…
- Establish a land-use development management plan for coastal areas (limit house construction, new infrastructure like wharves, roads and bridges…).
- Design new construction so that they can be easily moved and are resistant to impacts of climate change.
- Relocate buildings and infrastructure that are endangered or that may become endangered.
- Protect sensitive areas by raising or constructing sea dykes or breakwaters
- Nourish or replenish beaches.
- Clean up and move waste facilities.
- Move drinking water away from possible saltwater intrusion.
- Maintain buffer zones around water bodies and along the coast.
- Establish contingency plans for extreme weather events.
- Preserve and restore wetlands and estuaries.

Tourism and Recreation:

- Provide tourism attractions that can survive in spite of climate change impacts.
- Restrict usage of national parks (number of visitors per day).
- Restoration and creation of dunes.
- Relocate vulnerable infrastructure (coastal roads, railroads, bridges…).
- Improve drainage systems for coastal infrastructure threatened by flooding (roads, bridges, wharves…).
- Protect small harbours with breakwaters.
- Raise and strengthen quay walls and other port facilities.
- Enhance weather monitoring and search and rescue capabilities.

There are many other adaptation strategies. To learn more, visit the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network's website at: http://www.c-ciarn.ca/index_e.asp.

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Isabelle Levesque
Productions Multimédia MANA-i.net
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