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An Alberta farmer looks over dry and dusty pastures east of Calgary on April 06, 2010. (Chris Bolin/Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail)
An Alberta farmer looks over dry and dusty pastures east of Calgary on April 06, 2010. (Chris Bolin/Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail)


Study seeks silver lining in climate change's clouds Add to ...

Sure, there will be drought in Saskatchewan and fewer fish in the Great Lakes. But look on the bright side: The cruise-ship season could expand by 50 per cent.

As the global environment warms through the course of this century, the Canadian climate will change in both bad and good ways, according to a new publication from the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy and the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

In fact, the study urges Canadians to start talking about what it calls "climate prosperity" along with climate change.

"There are risks to climate change, clearly, but there are also opportunities," said David McLaughlin, president of the NRTEE. That does not justify abandoning efforts to mitigate global warming, he said. But climate change "is happening, and we can deal with it, and we can gain from it."

While a warmer planet would make the Prairies a drier place, increase heat-related deaths in Ontario and submerge part of Halifax, other parts of Canada could substantially benefit.

Even if nations finally succeed in bending the curve on carbon-dioxide emissions, average global temperatures are expected to increase by two degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial-Revolution levels over the course of the century. The more governments fail to curb emissions, the warmer the planet will get. In that case, coping with change will become as important as preventing it.

This is what the study says Canada could look like, in a warmer world:

If temperatures rise by 2 degrees C

Hello to

» more cod north of the 60th parallel

» some crop yields expanding by 40 per cent

» a shorter winter road season

» a golf season that expands 7 per cent to 20 per cent

Goodbye to

» Prairie crops, as risk of desertification increases by 50 per cent

» healthy Great Lakes, which will suffer from less oxygen, lower water levels and fewer fish

» water, as the runoff in South Saskatchewan River basin declines

» spring skiing, as the ski season in southern Canada decreases 15 to 25 per cent

If temperatures rise by 3 Degrees C

Hello to

» a substantially longer growing season

» the tree line advancing north

» runoff increases in northern and eastern Canada

» easier access to northern oil and gas

Goodbye to

» western glaciers, which will diminish by 50 per cent, reducing runoff

» rain, as the frequency of Prairie drought doubles

» the Atlantic salmon habitat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and tail of Grand Banks, which will be wiped out

» previous records, as extreme rain events double

If temperatures rise by 4 Degrees C

Hello to

» farming and forestry shifting farther north

» a more easily navigable Northwest Passage

» a substantially earlier snow melt in southern Canada

Goodbye to

» the Halifax waterfront, as sea levels rise by one metre

» as much as 20 per cent of the boreal forest and 10 per cent of tundra

» forests, as the area burned by western wildfires increases by two to four times

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