Views on climate change vary

Temperatures may be rising but this doesn’t necessarily mean negative implications for all

The skating rink at Springer Market Square in downtown Kingston was closed earlier this week due to warm and wet weather conditions.
The skating rink at Springer Market Square in downtown Kingston was closed earlier this week due to warm and wet weather conditions.
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Since 1948, Canada’s national average temperature for winter months has risen by 3.2 degrees.

In his business, David Phillips, senior climatologist of Environment Canada, said that a temperature rise of 0.5 degrees is a large jump — something that 86 per cent of Canadians polled believe is down in part to human activity.

“[There’s] no denying that human beings have had a major part to play,” Phillips said.

He believes that no sector will go untouched by warming climates.

“When you live in a cold, snowy country like Canada, climate change doesn’t often strike fear in our hearts,” he said.

Phillips added that between now and 2050-2100 Canadians will probably see greater extremes of weather, including differences in water levels.

This could mean that shipping across the Great Lakes may be impacted if water levels decrease.

Last year, Lakes Huron and Michigan had to reduce cargo on their trading ships so that they could take lighter loads across the lakes.

“[It’s] clearly an issue for people by the water,” he said. “There will be greater beaches, but you might find yourself two streets [in distance] away from the water front.”

For Dean Foster, climate change means more positive ramifications, rather than negative ones.

The Picton farmer, who produces 1,500 acres worth of cash crops, is able to grow his crops up to a week and a half earlier when summers start sooner due to climate change.

“For me, it’s all positive,” Foster, who’s also a vendor at Kingston’s Springer Market Square, said. “As long as there’s water you can’t have nearly enough heat.”

He added that less rain can be compensated for by using irrigation to ensure that all crops are provided with water.

When spring came early in 2012, Foster said it was the only year that he’d define as “not normal.”

“I’m 55 so I’ve been farming here for a while and we keep records,” he said. However not every farmer experienced such fruitful benefits.

Soft fruit farmers suffer when temperatures rise early and then drop quickly.

“There were people that got hurt last year because the crops started to grow early and then we got cold again after that and then a lot of the blossoms were killed,” he said. “No blossom, no fruit.”

Drought can also be one of the problems that comes with warmer summers, but Foster has realized that drought has its advantages for his 7,000 maple syrup tree taps.

“We’ve found that after a drought … our sugar content [in the sap] is higher,” he said.

A higher sugar content in the maple sap allows for more syrup to be produced as less water has to be added to the sap.

“It’s a bonus this year,” he said. “[I attribute] it to the drought because there is more sunshine.”

Increased human activity and land use over the last 30 years could also be causing higher temperatures connected with climate change.

A warm spell this winter meant the early closure of the Springer Market Square skating rink.

Closing the rink early each year due to weather isn’t abnormal, but rising temperatures due to climate change may mean that the lifespan of the rink gets shorter each year.

The rink can see anywhere between 300-500 skaters in a day and, usually, the City of Kingston aims to have the rink close at the end of March break.

“When the sun is shining and there’s rain we can’t hold ice with that,” Luke Folwell, manager (Recreation Facilities), said. “We did everything we possibly could but we had to get out of there.”

Since 2009, the rink has closed between the 10th and 15th of March.

An exception to this was last year when the national average winter temperature was 3.6 degrees higher and the rink closed on March 7.

On campus, Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) wants to slow climate change by making campus more environmentally efficient.

In 2010, QBACC worked with Principal Daniel Woolf to sign the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada, which had a main target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

The Plan also aimed to install solar panels and make new and existing buildings on campus more environmentally efficient.

“QBACC is really happy that Queen’s is doing something, but there is room for improvement,” Eszter Gereb, director of media at QBACC, said.

She added that making campus more environmentally efficient is expensive and QBACC’s next step is to see that Queen’s will live up to what was defined in the Plan.

“Things could be sped along.”

Warmest years for Canadian regions since 1948

• Atlantic Canada - 2012

• Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands – 2005

• Northeastern Forest – 1955

• Northwestern Forest – 2012

• Prairies – 1961

• Pacific Coast – 1958

• North British Columbia Mountains/

Yukon – 2004

• Canada overall: 2012

— Source: www.climatechange.gc.ca

Human impact: what does the most damage?

• Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) accounts for 70-90 per cent of human emissions of carbon dioxide.
• Ranching, agriculture and clearing or degradation of forests also account for some of the remaining carbon dioxide emissions.
• Production and transport of fossil fuels are also primary sources of greenhouse gas emission, as well as waste management and
industrial processes.

— Source: www.climatechange.gc.ca

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