By 2050, snowmobiling could be history in Eastern Canada, a quaint winter pastime from the days of yore. It will be just too warm to have reliable snow.
People who like skiing in Banff on real snow better get on the slopes now and enjoy it while they can. The ski season could become truncated, perhaps by as much as 14 weeks a year at higher elevations.
And consumers with a soft spot for California wine would also be advised to sip favourites now: the state could become too hot to support current crop yields.
Those are just a few of the many forecasts contained in the latest report on the impacts of global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-sponsored body that set more than 1,000 of the world's top scientists to work on what will happen as the planet warms.
The part of the report focusing on North America will be made public this week and some of its Canadian authors will discuss the findings at a news conference tomorrow in Ottawa.
A draft obtained by The Globe and Mail indicates that the entire human environment of North America is likely to be profoundly reshaped in a warmer world.
The draft also expresses concern about current effects of warming on wildlife, noting that Pacific salmon, a fish adapted to cold water, is now starting to appear in Arctic rivers, perhaps because its existing habitat in the Pacific is becoming too warm. Plants also appear to be affected; the draft says the spring bud burst of aspen in Edmonton is occurring about 25 days earlier than a century ago.
The investigation into the likely effects of climate change on North America follows the release in Brussels last week of an IPCC summary of the impact of global warming on the world as a whole.
The look at Canada and the United States forecasts a future far less benign than the current climate regime. In future, it will be hot, more polluted and pollen-filled.
Cities in the future are expected to sizzle through more frequent and intense heat waves, with Chicago forecast to have 25 per cent more. The effect in Canada will be most pronounced in Southern Ontario and parts of southern Quebec, which already experience a lot of hot, muggy weather.
The draft singles out the now greying crop of baby boomers as facing increased risks of premature death because of global warming, much like older people in France who died during the big heat wave of 2003. The draft forecasts that deaths from heat will double.
"Across North America, the population over the age of 65 will increase slowly to 2010, and then grow dramatically, as the baby boomers join the ranks of the elderly -- the segment of the population most at risk of dying in heat waves," it notes.
Pollen problems likely will become far more acute. A doubling of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations will stimulate ragweed pollen production by more than 50 per cent and, what is worse, the weed appears to grow faster, flower earlier, and produce more pollen in urban than rural locations, according to the draft.
Lyme disease, a debilitating illness spread by ticks, could be found in far more areas of Canada. It is now mainly a worry in southern B.C. and Southern Ontario. The tick can't withstand areas where the monthly average minimum temperature falls below -7 degrees. The range of the tick could shift 200 kilometres northward by the 2020s and as far as 1,000 km by the 2080s.
The draft suggests turmoil caused by global warming elsewhere could cause fallout in Canada and the United States: "In this interconnected world, it is possible that profoundly important impacts of climate change on North America will be indirect consequences of climate-change impacts on other regions, especially where people, economies, or ecosystems are unusually vulnerable."
Although a warmer world is expected to be a net plus for North American agriculture, a few crops are already exposed to about all the heat they can tolerate could be harmed. "Crops that are currently near climate thresholds (e.g., wine grapes in California) are likely to suffer decreases in yields, quality, or both, even with modest warming," the draft says.
One of the biggest economic impacts of global warming will be on winter recreation. Reliable snowmobiling is expected to disappear by 2050 across most regions of eastern North America that have developed trail networks. The industry is currently worth about $27-billion (U.S.) a year.
The draft notes that snow-making "substantially" lowers the vulnerability of the ski industry in eastern North America to climate change, but only if global warming doesn't turn out to be severe.
A warming climate will produce drier forests, promoting easier ignition of blazes and their faster spread. Researchers believe they are already seeing the signs of increased sensitivity of forests to fire.
Some forest industry officials think their business is in the crosshairs of global warming.
"Climate change is now," says Avrim Lazar, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada. "It's dramatic and it's trashing Canada's forests as the first act of its appearance."