Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Climate Change September 28, 2012 - 7:33 am

The cost of climate change on people, global economy will be high: new report

“It is already a significant cost to the world economy, while inaction on climate change can be considered a leading global cause of death"

JANE GEORGE
Is the future of the Arctic wet and warm, as seen here this September in Cambridge Bay? A report shows how the warming of the Arctic also carries disastrous consequences for the global economy and people. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Is the future of the Arctic wet and warm, as seen here this September in Cambridge Bay? A report shows how the warming of the Arctic also carries disastrous consequences for the global economy and people. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY — A wetter and warmer Arctic may mean disaster worldwide, says a new report on the global impact of climate change.

On Sept. 27, the high and low temperatures in Cambridge Bay hover at more than six degrees above average, while rarely seen killer whales and narwhals swim around in the ice-free bay outside the community, so it’s easy to believe the Arctic world is changing.

People here are enjoying the warmth. Daytime temperatures also reach nearly 7 C on Sept. 28, that’s more than nine degrees above the normal high, with a low of 4 C — that’s 13 degrees above the average low.

These temperatures mean that, for now, people can leave their heavy down parkas at home and kids can continue to race around on their bicycles and play basketball outside.

But everyone in this western Nunavut community knows this late September weather is unusual —  it’s nothing like the conditions here on the same date in 1980 when the temperature was -14.5 C or in 1960 when 10 centimetres of snow already covered the ground.

And the warm weather now follows a summer that was warmer and wetter than average, according to Environment Canada.

This past summer it was the same story in the Nunavut communities of Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, which received almost twice as much rain than usual this summer.

And in the High Arctic community of Resolute Bay, record warm temperatures were set from June 28 to July 2. In Resolute, July 1 temperatures reached a high of 18.8 C, breaking an all time record for the community, then broke that new record on July 2, when the temperature reached 20.1 C. 

Northern Quebec also experienced higher-than-normal temperatures this past summer.

As for the larger picture, on Sept. 26, far to the south, the report, called “A guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet,” produced by the humanitarian group DARA, shows the global impact of what people in the Arctic are seeing.

The report, commissioned by 20 governments, points to “unprecedented harm to human society and current economic development that will increasingly hold back growth” if the world doesn’t take action to curb climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions and hold down the planet’s temperature.

The report says climate change has already held back global development.

“It is already a significant cost to the world economy, while inaction on climate change can be considered a leading global cause of death,” states the report.

Not just the Arctic is touched by climate change, the whole world is affected, the DARA report says: “250 million people face the pressures of sea-level rise; 30 million people are affected by more extreme weather, especially flooding; 25 million people are affected by permafrost thawing; and five million people are pressured by desertification.”

So the warmer weather in the Arctic carries a lethal impact, with the report predicting 100 million people worldwide will die as a result of climate change by 2030 if nothing is done to curb climate change.

And coping with climate change will cost the global economy trillions of dollars.

The first DARA report was launched in 2010 to assess the effects of global climate change on nations up to 2030.

The new report focuses on large-scale increases in fossil fuel consumption which are likely to carry “enormous human and developmental consequences.”

The report’s findings may not come as a complete surprise to some researchers who appear to have already known about these consequences, before the public and political debates around climate change started.

In 1999, plant phsyiologist David Vann from the University of Pennsylvania, who was involved in the excavation of Axel Heiberg’s 45-million-year-old fossil forest by an American team of scientists, said, that project’s findings about the forest, a relic from an ancient, warmer era, would likely show that the end results of global warming could be positive, despite rising sea levels and catastrophic storms.

“It would reassure people that when it’s all done, the world would be a nicer place,” Vann said.

There is increasing concern about the speed of global climate change, with some scientists suggesting that the change could occur within a period as short as 20 years and could wipe out billions of people, he told Nunatsiaq News at the time.

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