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.

Just Posted

Okanagan principals told to confiscate vaping products from students

Vaping is up 74 per cent in youth over the last two years, according to one Canadian study

Part of a larger syndrome

Editor, The Times:

Love and Power Retreat weekend almost here

Finding peace, beauty, and acceptance

Back in Time

Historical Perspective

VIDEO: Trudeau plays defence in Maritimes today while Scheer fights for seats in Quebec

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party has been on the rise in recent polls, is campaigning in Toronto

‘Rather mild’ winter expected in B.C. this year

Northwestern B.C. will be the worst hit

Court action in Trail acid spills may take years

B.C. court case involves a number of defendants and a number of plaintiffs

In the news: Sprinting to the election finish line and anger amid Manitoba storms

First Nations residents forced to evacuate their Manitoba homes after a recent snowstorm

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years on B.C. central coast

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

Most Read