Wednesday, April 3, 2002 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

Global warming about to get ugly

Anderson warns of serious effects

Peter Parsons / Herald Photo
Federal Environment Minister David Anderson speaks about global warming during an appearance Tuesday at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth.

By Lois Legge / Staff Reporter

Disease, insect invasion, storm surges that devastate coastal communities and air pollution so thick that children may not be able to play outside.

This may sound like a science-fiction movie.

But real scientists are predicting that the scenario could be part of the world's future if countries don't curb greenhouse gas emissions, federal Environment Minister David Anderson said Tuesday in Dartmouth.

Mr. Anderson was speaking at Bedford Institute of Oceanography during a national tour to increase awareness about global warming, believed to be caused by greenhouse gases that are mainly produced by burning fossil fuels.

Climate change has already affected Atlantic Canada, causing coastal bluffs to retreat as much as 12 metres in a year, he said.

Mr. Anderson said studies show things will get worse if governments, businesses and individuals don't address the problem.

A government fact sheet shows average summertime temperatures in the Atlantic region could increase by as much as four degrees Celsius over the next 80 years, causing oceans to expand and sea levels to rise.

Such levels would cause more flooding along coastal communities and disturb the habitats and life cycles of marine life, birds and other wildlife.

Mr. Anderson said warmer ocean temperatures would disrupt the fisheries, too, causing shifts in species' distribution and migration patterns.

"Since fish sizes change with water temperature, there will be variation in the growth rates of some species," he said. "We also expect changes in the ratio of deep-sea to groundfish abundance."

Mr. Anderson said studies, though still inconclusive, show there could be lower sustainable fish harvests in the Atlantic region.

Atlantic Canadian forests would be more susceptible to fire and insects, and more trees would be felled as storms intensified.

Canada is among more than 150 countries to sign the 1997 Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the government hasn't ratified the agreement, which commits countries to reducing emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

In Canada's case that amounts to a reduction of about 240 megatonnes of carbon dioxide.

Mr. Anderson said Prime Minister Jean Chretien has "talked of 2002 as being the year that he would like to see a decision made."

The government has budgeted hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce emissions, but he said Ottawa wants to consult with all territories, provinces, affected industries and the public before ratification.

The minister said the government also wants to ensure no region will be unfairly penalized by reduction targets.

But Mr. Anderson said governments can't tackle the problem without co-operation from individuals.

"The average Canadian can do a tremendous amount," he later told reporters. "They're each responsible for about six tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions." Mr. Anderson said simple lifestyle changes - not using cars for short trips, turning off lights when they're not needed and buying more energy-efficient vehicles - can all have a substantial impact.

Copyright 2002 The Halifax Herald Limited