weather likely: UN
By SANDRA CORDON--
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA (CP) -- Unless we give up our
gas-guzzling SUVs and our appetite for disposable products,
Canadians will have to get used to the kind of severe weather
patterns seen in recent years, United Nations experts warned
The kind of sweltering, choking heat waves
hitting Central Canada and the droughts on the Prairies this
year are going to become a lot more common, they said in a
report entitled North America's Environment.
will be more extreme events, in terms of droughts and floods
and weather phenomena," predicted Ashbindu Singh, one of the
authors of the report which examines the state of the
environment over 30 years.
"We have to really look at
how to reduce our impact. . . . People are driving SUVs,
4-wheel drives where they don't need to."
Americans must accept more responsibility for environmental
damage and could start by curbing their energy demands --
which are linked to climate change, says the report.
Total energy use grew in North America by 31 per cent
between 1972 and 1997, according to the the report, which
comes as Canadians are complaining about unusually severe heat
and pollution, especially in population-dense southern
So far this year, there have been at least 22
poor-air-quality days in southern Ontario, hit hard by
pollution from across the border. By Wednesday, that was
expected to match last year's record-high number of 23
poor-air days between May and September 2001.
Meanwhile, parts of the Prairies and the midwestern
United States are facing their worst drought in 133 years,
posing a serious threat to the agricultural economy.
As a result of climate change, "there is greater
variability in our weather and we're getting more extreme
weather events and the report clearly documents (that)," said
Keith Robinson, deputy director of the UN Environment Program
for North America.
From the current drought conditions
in the West to the freak ice storm that crippled eastern
Ontario and Quebec in 1998, the costs of climate change are
severe and will only continue, he warned.
the trend seems to be . . . we need to change our behaviour,
deal with our issues," said Robinson.
The 200-page UN
report also examines the state of fresh water, forests and
marine life in North America as well as the impact of the
environment on human health.
The reviews are mixed:
North Americans have cut their use of substances that damage
the ozone layer, controlled acid-rain emissions and reduced
pollution in the Great Lakes, the report notes.
per capita annual gasoline consumption in North America is
nine times the world average, and the continent produces
one-quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions, even though it
houses only a 20th of the world's population.
that's setting the stage for much worse harm down the road,
the report warns.
The Ontario Medical Association has
estimated poor air quality already claims the lives of an
estimated 1,900 people a year in Ontario alone and costs the
medical system about $1.1 billion annually.
North America, 5.5 million children have developed asthma, a
respiratory disease that's growing fast due to air pollution,
indoors and out, says the UN report.
Canada and the
U.S. also lead the world is spewing municipal waste, the
Every Canadian produced 720 kilograms of
annual waste -- even more than the average American who
produced an annual average of 630 kilograms, according to data
from the mid-1990s.
Climate change will be on the
agenda in less than two weeks when Prime Minister Jean
Chretien and roughly 100 other heads of government meet in
Johannesburg at the Earth Summit.
The summit, which
begins Aug. 26, comes one decade after the groundbreaking 1992
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
use its influence there to push other countries to promote
environmental education and better use of renewable forms of
energy, said Claudia Octeau, with the United Nations
Association in Canada.
"If Canada is progressive and
played a leadership role as we did in 1992, it would look
beyond its never-ending need for more and contribute to more