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In recent years, many of us of a certain age have noticed things changing. The seasons are shifting, we say. The winters are rainier and windier than they were when we were kids. The winter ice isn’t as heavy and doesn’t last as long.
It’s easy to dismiss such thoughts as peering at the past through rose-coloured glasses.
But not so as far as climate is concerned. Scientists now say the evidence is convincing. Climate change is happening, and it’s probably too late to stop it. And your childhood weather reminiscences are right.
“You can clearly see the thermometer has changed in Atlantic Canada,” Environment Canada chief climatologist Dave Phillips told SaltWire Network’s Deep Dives team in a story last week. “It’s much warmer now, it’s not the same weather as our grandparents saw.
“Old-timers are right when they say the winters aren’t what they used to be. The winters have warmed up.”
Rising seas are even more threatening to Atlantic Canada. Most of us live near the coast; in Nova Scotia it’s 70 per cent and in Newfoundland it’s even higher, at 90 per cent. No one in P.E.I. is more than 16 kilometres from the ocean.
Winter temperatures in our region, Phillips said, are on average 0.6 C higher than in 1948. That doesn’t seem like much, but Phillips calls it a “profound” change.
In fact, a federal study released last week said Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. The report, called Canada’s Changing Climate, says northern Canada is warming even faster. Rising seas are even more threatening to Atlantic Canada. Most of us live near the coast; in Nova Scotia it’s 70 per cent and in Newfoundland it’s even higher, at 90 per cent. No one in P.E.I. is more than 16 kilometres from the ocean.
So it’s particularly alarming that sea levels are expected to rise higher in our neck of the seas than in the rest of Canada. One of the report’s authors, Thomas James, told SaltWire’s Andrea Gunn that sea level rises in Atlantic Canada will be compounded by the fact that our coasts have been slowly sinking since the end of the last Ice Age.
And since warming is shrinking Arctic ice, that means there will be less of the sea ice that fills the Gulf of St. Lawrence every winter.
That might seem like a good thing. Uh-uh. That ice serves as protection from shoreline erosion from those horrible nor’easters that tear through the region almost weekly this time of year. With less ice and more severe storms will come more erosion.
This all seems grim. It can’t be fixed unless governments worldwide work together, and they show no signs of doing so.
What can we do?
Well, Nova Scotia has new legislation that’s designed to prevent development near coastal areas that are prone to flood and storm damage. New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador should adopt similar legislation. We all share the same coastline and face the same problem.
We can’t stop global warming by ourselves, but maybe if we adopt a common approach we can make its effects a little less damaging.