Russia’s problem is our problem

My Clean Break column today draws attention to the record heat wave in Russia, as well as flooding in Pakistan and other extreme events in other parts of the world. It may seem like a world away, but we have to keep in mind: it could just as easily be happening here, whether it be cottage country in Ontario or in West Vancouver or Halifax, or wherever. I think the media in North America are doing a terrible job of making the connection with climate change, and that’s partly because they don’t want to be knee-jerk and partly because they don’t understand that climate change is about extremes, not just gradually higher temperatures over time. They don’t want to make the connection between high wheat prices and climate change, and how this is a perfect example of the economic costs that will increase over time.

Shortly after my column appeared online this morning, I got an e-mail from a scientist at Environment Canada who wanted to point me to some information on the government’s Web site that, while not easily accessible or promoted as being available, is there nonetheless. “We may be muzzled,” wrote this scientist, “but there is still a lot of climate science material available on Environment Canada Web pages.”

He said “government scientists were very unhappy” that this science, funded by Canadian taxpayers, was not being made known and easily accessible to the general public.”And yes, I fear reprisals if my name is attached to anything,” he wrote.

Here are two links he provided. The first shows graphically how temperatures are expected to rise between now and 2100 in Canada and throughout the rest of North America. The graphic simulation is based on the Canadian Global Climate Model, and it’s shocking to watch as mean temperature climbs by 4.5 degrees C across much of Canada. The second shows that the national average temperature in Canada this spring was 4.1 degrees C above normal, “which makes this the warmest spring on record since nationwide records began in 1948.” The previous record was in 1998, which was 3.2 degrees C above normal. “This is the second season in a row to set a record for above normal temperatures.”

This data, against the backdrop of the Russia heat wave and Pakistan flooding, should be front-page news.

9 thoughts on “Russia’s problem is our problem”

  1. I am continually saddened and frustrated by the Harper government’s inaction and lack of priority given to environmental issues.

    I would ask everyone to check out the Green Party of Canada’s website. They are not a bunch of tree-hugging hippies as some seem to think, in fact they have some very sensible policies regarding almost every facet of government, including the economy, our electoral system, and most importantly, the environment.

  2. I am astounded by your information about Lake Baikal. This lake is almost 5400 feet deep and over 12,000 square miles in area. Since it says in The Star that one third of the lake was lost in one month, it would mean that it either lost 1800 feet of depth or 4000 square miles of surface area.
    Do you have a reference to this?

  3. Yes, big sloppy mistake on my part. I took that reference from an article published by China’s Xinhua news agency. I e-mailed the editor of the agency to get that story’s original reference but haven’t heard back. I have subsequently scoured the net and haven’t found any backing information to support the claim, so not sure where Xinhua got it. I’ve had the sentence regarding Lake Baikal removed from my story until it can be verified, and looking back, I agree, it’s an astounding bit of information that’s unlikely to be true. It should have been properly attributed to Xinhua in my column.

    Apologies. I should have known better.

  4. harper is an economist. he likes numbers. he wont like the numbers when a oil sands tailings pond dike breaks and the athabasca jumps its banks.

    he wont like the numbers when water dries up in saskatchewan or the pine beetle devastates our whole boreal forest. he doesnt seem to be a very big picture kind of guy.

    it appears the only numbers he seems to care about are the polls and they dont look good big guy.

  5. Great perception and summary Tyler.

    It is distressing to read that good scientists and others in the Federal Service are being muzzled when theirs is the only real work and discovery being done. The rest is spin and playing for advantage in the politics of the day.
    We need more grounded policy based on facts and experience, not dumbed down, sugar-coated spoon-fulls of opportunism which degrades the Canadian franchise, once admired by the rest of the world.
    I hope we remember the long list of these transgressions and do something about it at the next Election.

  6. Certainly Russian’s fire is a big problem for all of us. They have a ban to export field crops, the prices then dramatically rose up on the markets. German’s meteorologists issued a warning that the fume may bring some radioactive parts on the East coast of Germany in following days. But worse then that is a human life is in danger. Russian’s peats and forests suffer from fires in mid summer almost every year, but it has never been in such proportions before. Our government should take a lesson out of it and not to behave like an ostrich…

  7. The one line about losing “one third” certainly seemed like something got lost in translation. This story got picked up on Joe Romm’s http://www.climateprogress.org site as well. There, people wondered what might have dropped by 1/3 lately – perhaps the runoff feeding into the lake? That would at least be physically possible (consider what happened to the Aral Sea…)

    Thanks again Tyler for keeping these issues in front of the public.

  8. Tyler, could you pass a suggestion on to the Env. Canada person who pointed this link out to you?
    On the EC page, the map of projected temp. changes for Canada is an animation that loops forever; there is no place to click to pause or step more slowly. It would be really nice if the graphic had some standard controls for start/stop animation, go one frame forward/back, and go to first/last frame. (Another EC page, weatheroffice.gc.ca/radar has all that for the weather radar maps, for instance – maybe they can reuse some of that code)

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