In fact, it was minus 37 degrees Celsius this morning when I called for a cab and minus 52 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. So I'm enjoying the balmy weather in Ottawa; therefore I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to visit Ottawa again and to have some other meetings at the same time.
I represent an organization called the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, which was created to inform decision-makers in the prairie provinces about the consequences of climate change.
The previous speakers have provided the strong scientific arguments for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. I will speak to the other scientific underpinnings of Bill C-377; that is, the statements in the preamble that refer to the scientific evidence for the impacts of increased levels of greenhouse gases and for the threats to the economic well-being, public health, and natural resources and environment of Canada.
A large number of facts and figures are available in the fourth assessment report of Working Group II of the IPCC in support of these scientific underpinnings. However, this IPCC report defines the scope and severity of the global problem; for a Canadian perspective, Natural Resources Canada has led, for the past two to three years, a major national scientific assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation. Within weeks, the Government of Canada will release this major scientific report that presents the synthesis and interpretation of more than 3,000 studies by more than 110 authors.
As the lead author of this report, and with the knowledge of the secretariat in Natural Resources Canada, I am able to report today that this assessment report makes it clear that significant impacts are occurring in all regions of Canada and that the number and severity of the impacts will continue to increase.
In addition to the urgent action required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of climate change, the national assessment notes the critical importance of adaptation.
Allow me to give just two examples, from the prairie provinces, of the consequences of climate change for two fundamental Canadian natural resources: trees and water.
With the recent and inevitable warming, Canada's boreal forest will change dramatically as a result of increased disturbance and moisture stress. In fact, as a result of global warming, the boreal forest has begun to change, impacting the communities and economies that depend upon it.
It's likely that the institutions of Canada have enough capacity to manage a forest that has undergone moderate change; however, without deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, scientific studies indicate that we will entirely lose the southern boreal forest. It will disappear, along with the economies that depend on it.
But the major concern for western Canadians is the threat of global warming to water supplies. With recent warming, water supplies in the summertime have begun to decline as runoff from snow melt has declined and shifted earlier into the spring and as summers have become longer and warmer.
Once again, some change is manageable. In fact, in some parts of western Canada where there are reliable water supplies, farmers have begun to capitalize on the longer, warmer summers. However, rising greenhouse gas emissions will cause regional warming and impacts on water resources that quickly create major challenges for sustaining the economies and communities of western Canada.
With the projected and recent increase in population and industry, especially in Alberta, the demand for water will soon exceed supplies from the conventional source of water, which is snow melt runoff from the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies.
The tipping point is very close. Climate change is closing the gap between water supply and water demand. In fact, in some river basins in southern Alberta, the water supplies are now fully allocated.
The most costly natural hazard in Canada is prairie drought. Of the five most damaging climate events in Canadian history, four are prairie droughts. The other is the ice storm of 1998. The most threatening scenario for people, especially on the prairies, is a prolonged drought, and as the climate warms, this scenario becomes increasingly probable.
Some government and industry leaders believe or have stated that taking strong action to reduce greenhouse gases will devastate economies. In fact, we heard just a couple of days ago from Premier Stelmach that reducing emissions in Alberta will shut down the oil sands. I would like for once to see the scientific evidence of this. I would like to see the factual support for this argument. It seems to be lacking.
In fact, careful studies have derived estimates of the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Credible studies estimate the cost of stabilizing greenhouse gases is something on the order of one half to one and a half per cent of global GDP per year. I can refer you to one such study entitled A cost curve for greenhouse gas reduction, a global study of the size and cost of measures to reduce greenhouse gases by some consultants from Norway whose clients include 70% of Fortune magazine's most admired companies.
Although deep emission cuts will have economic, social, and perhaps political costs, the actions proposed in Bill C-377 are critical in terms of preventing a possibly devastating degree of climate change. Climate change and its consequences will almost certainly accelerate through the coming decades. We urgently need your leadership and federal policy to enable individuals, institutions, and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change because already we are locked in to increasingly serious impacts in the immediate future.
A comprehensive climate change strategy is required to avoid the adverse consequences of climate change and to address the influence of human activities on the climate of Canada, the impacts, the risks and opportunities, and the necessary adjustments to public policy, resource management, engineering practices, and infrastructure design.
Public policies must be developed to enable adaptation, to discourage maladaptation, and to build adaptive capacity. Already the provinces are developing and releasing climate change plans and announcing targets. Yesterday in Vancouver, I read today, the western premiers signed an agreement for collective action to deal with climate change impacts on Canada's water and forests.
Also, some local governments, and industry and communities, are taking aggressive action. The federal government must play a crucial coordinating and enabling role. Without decisive national action and policy, there is the risk that federal politicians will lag far behind. Federal policy-makers are at risk of failing us at every level, regional, national, and on the world stage, and in the meantime the provincial governments are taking action.
I speak for many scientists when I conclude that Canada can and must take action now on climate change. Thank you.