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‘Oy Canada’: Imagine our northern neighbor in 2050

Prime Minister Harper on Hurricane Igor: “I have never seen damage like this in Canada.”

CONTEST: Describe Canada in 2050, assuming we listen to folks like John Allemang, feature writer for The Globe and Mail, and keep doing not bloody much to restrict CO2 emissions.

In what appears to be a mostly serious — and thus mostly dreadful — article, “Canada in 2050? Future’s so bright . . . you know the rest,” John Allemang embraces human-caused climate change.

Perhaps I am missing something from the Canadian dry wit, since the column is printed with the above cartoon and opens with this mashed up intentional (and, I think, unintentional) humor:

I’d like to go all sci-fi on you, I really would. It’s 2050, climate change happened, and this should mean the world is following the post-apocalyptic Hollywood horror script you environmentalist doom merchants wrote in the early 2000s.

You know what I’m talking about: floods, famine, infestations, solar death rays, endless riots, maybe even a few mutant attacks. Well, sorry to disappoint, but things have turned out not too bad. At least up here in Canada.

There’s no Hollywood horror show, and not just because there’s no Hollywood — as the rest of Los Angeles dried up and overheated, it just made sense to bring what was left of the movie business up to Vancouver and Toronto. The most unbelievable thing about 2050 is that the grande dame of the Canadian stage, Miss Lindsay Lohan, is still alive and kicking butt at the Iqaluit Panarctic Shakespeare Festival — so you got her wrong too. The Russians, bless their cultured souls, are serious fans and hover all the way from Murmansk for a matinee of her Queen Lear. But I digress.

If those sci-fi stories really had come true, I’d be teleporting this message to you just so you could see the future for the rosy thing it seems to be. Granted, I’m wearing rose-coloured glasses, standard issue for us senior analysts at the Fort McMurray Utopia Institute. But when I look back at the projections you guys conjured up back in the dark days of eco-prophecy, with your scare stories that made the Book of Revelation look like Goodnight Moon, I pride myself on my more optimistic fashion sense.

I can’t time-travel my hopeful truths back to you, and yet I feel your fears for a future you refuse to see. So all I can do is record my thoughts here on the off chance that sci-fi will eventually come to the rescue and figure out how to transcend the laws of time and space long enough for you to hear what I’m saying and come to your senses.

As if. But stranger things have happened, as your children will soon discover. Canada in 2050 isn’t utopia — not yet, though we’re working on it. With that said, I think you’d find it pretty incredible.

The country is warmer, it goes without saying. And, big surprise, the resilient Canadian people (the very same ones who once learned how to wear tuques and long johns) figured out how to adapt. Couldn’t folks in the early years of the 21st century understand why a little more heat might just be a good thing? But you were so fixated on seeing the negatives, on fearing change rather than making it serve you, on feeling globally without thinking locally. And so you took your eye off the prize and almost knocked Canada off the podium that was ours to own.

For example, look at the Arctic, where we’re born to rule….

The unintentional humor bites, literally.

Canada is already victims of the most famous warming-driven infestation (see “Climate-Driven Pest Devours N. American Forests” and “Nature on stunning new climate feedback: Beetle tree kill releases more carbon than fires”). “The pine beetle infestation is the first major climate change crisis in Canada” noted Doug McArthur, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in a 2007 article that pointed out,” In some areas of the BC interior, almost 80 percent of the lodgepole pines will have been devastated by the beetles within 10 years, resulting in widespread economic consequences, according to resource experts.”

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“We’re seeing changes in [mountain pine beetle] activity from Canada to Mexico,” said Forest Service researcher Jesse Logan in July 2004 (here), “and the common thing is warming temperatures.” A July article in the Vancouver Sun notes that for all of BC, “By 2024, it is projected that 68 per cent of mature pine stock will have been destroyed by the beetle, 20 per cent of the total timber harvest land base” and over that tim, “the forestry supported population in the B.C. Interior districts affected by the epidemic will decline by 28,700 people, and occupied housing will fall by 11,500 units.

Good times, eh!

As for floods, Canada.com reported last week:

Calling the devastation caused by Hurricane Igor the worst he’s ever seen in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday the Canadian Forces will be deployed to help affected communities.”I have seen flooding, but I have never seen anything like this,” said Harper, surveying the damage Friday in Trouty, one of dozens of towns coping with flood waters, downed power lines and washed out bridges and roads after Igor blew through on Tuesday with winds up to 170 kilometres per hour and rainfall in some place more than 200 millimetres.

“I have never seen damage like this in Canada. Where we were standing at one point, the water would have been over our heads here,” he said.

On the other side of Canada, CBC reports:

Residents of B.C.’s Central Coast and northern Vancouver Island are bracing for more flooding as forecasters predict 40 to 70 millimetres of rain could fall across the region by Tuesday.

A weekend deluge washed out roads and cut off several communities near Bella Coola and Port Hardy after more than 200 millimetres of rain fell on some coastal areas north of Vancouver, creating some of the worst flooding on record.

At least 120 people were still out of their homes on Monday morning and as many as 600 remained stranded by the floodwaters, said Steven Waugh with the Emergency Operations Centre in Bella Coola….

Waugh said they had expected heavy rains, but the flooding took them by surprise.“We had no snow in the mountains whatsoever and our rivers were low. They’re very empty because it’s been so dry. So I believe that there may well be a factor in that the forest fires and the mountain pine beetles have dropped the water-holding capacity of the soils, reduced that in the upper slopes. So we’re getting more water down in the valley than we have in the past,” he said.

This notion that human caused global warming is going to be good for northern countries is something I thought would have died with the Moscow meltdown:

Even a hard liner and former skeptic like Medvedev said:

“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.”

But I guess Allemang couldn’t be bothered with that reality after he figured out fanciful stuff like this to write:

Fortunately, the corresponding hot-weather spike in death caused by climate change isn’t high enough to nullify the gains — we can still afford air conditioning in a relentlessly prosperous country like ours, we’ve learned to cool our overheated cities with plantings and water features and white-coloured roads, disease and disaster are no worse than what they’ve been over the previous centuries of Canada’s history. And admittedly, we’ve developed a bit of a laissez-faire attitude toward the more beleaguered parts of the world, because they need what we’ve got: water, food, jobs galore in the oil sands, which are now 10 times larger than in your time. For which, like the great industrialists of the Victorian age who saw prosperity in their belching smokestacks, we make no apology. Business is its own kind of benevolence, in the end….

Caviar — do I sound callous? But you have to be in this business sometimes: Climate change forces decisions, upsets the established order, makes you choose between losers and winners. We may have become a less sensitive people, it’s true, somewhere between 2010 and 2050. Am I a sellout, by your safe and exalted standards? Yeah, maybe. But believe me, I’m the one who kept it real. It’s you, with your prophecies of gloom, with your denial of prosperity, who is living in the fantasy world. There are no votes in despair, no profits in pessimism. The future, sad to report, turns out to be happy-faced. And remember what they say, or what they will say once you start coming to terms with your good luck: The 21st century belongs to Canada.

If this is broad satire, it misses by a kilometer and was lost on most of his commenters too. Here’s climate blogger Alan Burke:

This is one of the most irresponsible, reprehensible and distortive articles about climate change in Canada that has ever been published, ignoring the overwhelming evidence provided by verifiable and reputable scientific studies showing the probable consequences of inaction in dealing with human-caused climate change.

I urge readers to look at the reality rather than this tripe, including studies by Natural Resources Canada, Health Canada and the Ontario College of Family Physicians, among many others.

These are but a few of the studies which I describe and point to on my page “Impact and Adaptation” at http://climatechange.dynalias.com/Adaptation.aspx.

There remains I think a very deep confusion about human-caused climate change, that we are just going to slowly drift into a moderately different state and then stop and “adapt” (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery for billions” and “Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future [Not!].”

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In fact, the opposite is far and away the most likely scenario if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path: Our slow climate change will accelerate us into a dramatically different climate — and then just keep changing, as, say, sea levels rise 6 to 12 inches a decade by century’s end and keep doing so for centuries on end (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100” and “New study of Greenland under “more realistic forcings” concludes “collapse of the ice-sheet was found to occur between 400 and 560 ppm” of CO2“) — with the occasional big jump in sea levels (see “West Antarctic ice sheet collapse even more catastrophic for U.S. coasts”). And the oceans will become hotter, more acidified, ever-growing dead zones (see Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century” and 2009 Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”). And let’s not forget those multiple Dust Bowls (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

By the second half of the century, much of Canada and Russia and Alaska could well experience see rising 1°F a decade for a long, long time (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).

No country is going to benefit from humanity’s self-destruction. I should probably do a post on the special Hell (and High Water) every major country will experience. But let’s start with our neighbor to the north.

The contest is to imagine Canada in 2050 assuming the anti-science, pro-pollution disinformers and their dupes in the media triumph. Winner gets a post on Climate Progress — woo-hoo!You may find some useful science here: