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Are we seeing the effects of climate change?

Bill Fox

Bill Fox

By Bill Fox/Columnist

I think activist Greta Thunberg sparked my recent interest in Climate Change. Climate concerns have been fuelled by recent changes we have seen in the past few months in Canada’s climate. In early May, my wife and I were at a family cottage near Renfrew, Ontario, and the temperature with the humidex bordered on 38C (100F). As an asthmatic and diabetic, we had to cut our trip short so I could return to our air conditioned apartment.

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, as seen in B.C. and the northwest of the USA. Who will ever forget the first time we ever heard of Lytton in British Columbia? One day after setting a further record as the hottest spot in Canada, virtually the entire Village of Lytton burned to the ground!

It is predicted that there will be longer periods of drought in some regions, particularly in the U.S., and there will be an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms. Recently I saw that water reservoirs in California are at an all-time low with some below their 40 per cent capacity. So severe is the drought now in California that with the water levels dropping, some hydroelectric power plants will soon have to be idled. Last summer during an extreme heat wave, California was forced to have rotating blackouts to conserve energy. Of course, the hotter it gets, the more the population depends on air conditioning and fans to cool their homes and workplaces. What will they do?

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. The effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. Scientists predict that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.

Summer temperatures are projected to continue rising, and a reduction of soil moisture, which exacerbates heat waves, is projected for much of the western and central U.S. this summer. This may affect our food supplies! By the end of this century, what have been once-in-20-year extreme heat days are projected to occur every two or three years over most of our continent.

The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

It is projected that oceans will rise another one to eight feet by 2100. This is the result of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms.  In the future, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many regions.

As reported, over 800 deaths occurred in B.C. as a result of their recent heat wave. I recall a few years ago that my oldest son, now living just outside of Vancouver, had air conditioning installed in his home. At the time I really questioned the wisdom of this. Right now who is looking good?

Finally, CBC recently reported, “More than a billion seashore animals may have cooked to death in B.C.” Shoreline temperatures above 50 C and low tides led to mass deaths of mussels, clams, sea stars and snails, etc.

I can’t even get my head around that number! I’m still at trying to figure out if recent tornadoes in Barrie, etc. might be further signs that indicate that severe climate change is already here.