(Mar 11, 2008)

A new national report says Canadians better start planning to adapt to effects of global warming because they're real, happening now and will get worse no matter what we do to limit emission of greenhouse gases.

The study, the first comprehensive cross-Canada look at the impact of climate change in more than a decade, was quietly posted on the Natural Resources Canada website shortly after 5 p.m. Friday. It had been ready for release for several months.

Quentin Chiotto, one of two lead authors of the Ontario chapter, told a Hamilton audience late last month that fighting climate change "calls for an effort equal to dealing with global world war," but said current efforts fall far short.

The tipping point will come in about 15 years, said Chiotto. We should start now to make tough decisions on how to deal with lower levels on the Great Lakes, inland water shortages, heat waves, more smog, intense storms and flooding.

Climate Action Network Canada said the report provides dramatic evidence of the costs of climate change and the need for urgent action.

"This report is yet another wake-up call for a government that has not yet produced a meaningful climate change plan or passed any legislation to protect Canadians from global warming," said the network's Graham Saul.

"Canada is paying the environmental and economic costs of climate change already, and unless the government acts immediately, the future impacts will be catastrophic."

The Ontario chapter contains both good and bad news, and while the authors feel the province has the potential to adapt, they say, "It also is possible that some changes in climate may occur too rapidly for ecosystems, social systems and industry to adapt effectively."

John Bennett of ClimateforChange.ca said in response, "An adaptation strategy that protects Canada's environment and economy must become a government priority."

The report says northern Canada will feel the greatest impacts and is less able to adapt than other regions. But it pulls together data indicating that southern Ontario -- with a burgeoning population -- will also have to scramble to cope.

It foresees lower Great Lakes water levels limiting cargoes ships can carry, making it more expensive to ship coal and iron ore to Hamilton steel mills, reducing hydroelectric power production and drying up wetland fish and water bird habitat.

With water in the lakes warming, toxic blue-green algae and invasive species from warmer climates will flourish, while lake trout will become scarce.

The growing season for grapes and other fruit may be longer, but icewine production could drop. Ice fishing is already in decline, but the golf season could be longer by the 2020s.

To read the full report titled From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007, go to: http://adaptation.nrcan.gc.ca/assess/2007/index_e.php.