Chapter 9 - Canada in an International Context

Key Findings

Climate change is already affecting the residents, economies and environments of all regions of the world through higher temperatures, sea-level rise, more frequent heavy precipitation events, more intense storms, more severe droughts, melting glaciers, changes to river flows, more evaporation, permafrost degradation, less sea and lake ice, and more heat waves. These impacts, mostly adverse, are expected to continue and intensify in the future.

The impacts of climate change and the adaptation measures that other countries take to respond to them can affect Canada in a number of ways. The effects on Canada arise from impacts that occur elsewhere in North America, the surrounding oceans or globally.

NORTH AMERICAN ISSUES

  • An increase in health problems and mortality is associated with ozone precursors and small-particle emissions, with extensive transborder effects. Although longer and more intense heat waves are likely to result in the intensification of smog episodes, further reductions of these emissions in both the United States and Canada would help reduce health risks.
  • Declining flows in many southern Canadian rivers are resulting in increased problems over sharing and quality of water along the Canada -United States border, including the Great Lakes.
  • Growing air conditioning loads, and probable reduced hydroelectric supply in the United States and some regions of Canada, are changing transborder transfers of electrical energy.
  • With increasing drought projected for the southwestern United States and Mexico, growing demands for export of Canadian water can be anticipated.

OCEAN AND COASTAL ZONE ISSUES

  • Warming of the Arctic will result in reduced sea ice and increased marine traffic and development activity in Canadian Arctic waters, likely increasing the resources needed for continued protection of Canada's safety, security, and environmental and Inuit interests in the Arctic.
  • Rising sea levels, increased storminess and reduced ice cover regimes increase shoreline erosion and require adjustments to road locations, port facilities, navigation systems, vessels and search-and-rescue capability on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts.
  • Impacts on fish distributions and foreign fishing patterns are poorly understood but potentially of major significance to Canadian fishing communities, thereby representing a key knowledge gap.

GLOBAL ISSUES

Health

  • Diseases currently prevalent in warmer climates will become increasingly greater threats in Canada as a result of greater incidence of disease and vectors in countries that are involved in trade and travel with Canada.
  • Increased transmission of persistent toxics and pollutants to northern Canada will occur as more chemicals are volatilized from warming lakes in Eurasia and North America, thereby affecting the health of northern residents and ecosystems.
  • Increased international assistance to developing countries will be needed for safe water supplies and food handling, in order to reduce deaths and illness due to diarrhea and other diseases.

Population Movement

  • Many people will be forced to relocate internally within countries and internationally due to sea-level rise and growing water and food shortages in many countries, with implications for Canadian policies and activities related to aid, peace-keeping and immigration.

Increased Disasters

  • Weather-related disasters, including drought, are projected to continue to increase in frequency and severity worldwide, resulting in increasing need for disaster relief and assistance from Canada, and losses for those Canadians with business and property abroad.

Canadian Tourism

  • In the longer term, prospects are for greater warm-season tourism in Canada. Significant adaptation by winter tourism facilities will be needed for them to remain viable.
  • Less travel by Canadians to warm destinations is projected because of longer warm seasons at home. Canadian Trade
  • Increased global forest productivity could contribute to lower prices for Canadian wood products if fire and insect infestation effects abroad are minimized.
  • Canadian exports of grains and corn could find greater markets, and imports of fruits and vegetables could be reduced.

Canada is in a position to - and has an obligation to - assist developing countries to adapt to climate change. Canada, together with other developed countries, has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, assist developing countries with adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change, and assist transfer of environmentally sound technology and know-how. Canada's participation in international programs in natural and social sciences related to climate change contributes to international understanding and to Canadian science assessments. The knowledge gained by Canadian experts through this participation also benefits the development of domestic policies and programs.

Understanding these international issues contributes to development of Canada's foreign policy, stimulates and protects international trade, and protects Canadian resources, environment and health. The potentially significant effects and requirements need to be taken into account by all orders of government and by many businesses. Little research has been undertaken on these issues from a Canadian perspective, although studies elsewhere, including those cited here, have important implications for Canada.