Climate change affecting Canada’s northern forests ‘faster than the global average,’ says government reportPosted by Jim at Thursday, October 02, 2014
By Tim Naumetz
30 September 2014
PARLIAMENT HILL (Hill Times) – One day after a world conference on climate change in New York City last week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined to attend, his Cabinet minister for natural resources quietly tabled a report providing detailed background on the effect climate change is wreaking on Canada’s forest, and fingering the oil and gas industry as the only growing source of deforestation in the country [The State of Canada's Forests. Annual Report 2014].
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford (Kenora, Ont.) tabled the report from his department during routine proceedings after the daily Question Period on Wednesday, Sept. 24, shortly before Conservative MP Tilly O’Neill Gordon (Miramichi, N.B.) introduced a bill on behalf of the Senate calling for a National Fiddling Day.
Mr. Rickford’s report on the state of Canada’s forests contained the most detailed data yet on climate change and the effects of extreme weather and regional temperature shifts on forests went by with little notice, tabled as it was in the late afternoon after members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery had filed outside the House to scrum MPs in the foyer fronting the Commons Chamber.
At the time, the opposition parties were already raising alarm at the fact Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) had not attended a UN climate change summit in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 23, even though he had arrived in the city in time to take questions at a business forum the next day, the day Mr. Rickford tabled his report, and to attend an emergency UN Security Council on terrorist militants in Iraq and Syria that afternoon.
Among other things, Mr. Rickford’s report revealed that Canada’s managed forests were a net carbon source for the year 2012, despite the vital role forests play in taking carbon out of the atmosphere as one of the Earth’s largest natural ways of reducing the air’s share of carbon dioxide.
The report said although the “overall forest area” is expected to remain “generally stable” in Canada—which has 24 per cent of the world’s northern boreal forests—“some shifts resulting from a changing climate, such as the northern migration of the northern tree line and the loss of aspen (softwood trees) along the southern edge of the boreal forest, may lead to change in forest area distribution across the country over the long term.”
Under a “Spotlight” chapter on the impacts of climate change on Canada’s forests—the most attention climate change has received in archived publications of the yearly sum-up—the report said climate change models suggest the climate of boreal northern latitude forests in Canada and other northern countries “is changing faster than the global average.”
“Canada’s forests and forest sector are likely already subject to diverse consequences of these changes,” the report says.
“Forest operations are already being impacted by changes in climate,” the report says. “For example, mid-winter thaws are shortening the season for winter harvesting and transport activities. Many areas have also seen forest fire seasons start earlier, with possible increases in management costs.”
The Northwest Territories last summer experienced its worst forest fire season in recent history, possibly ever, national news reports over the summer explained.
“Larger rainfall events are forcing operators to increase culvert sizing. Over time, climate change is projected to bring even more changes to forest operations across the country,” the report said.
“It is, however, through disturbances that climate change will have its greatest impacts on all aspects of the forest sector,” it says. “Natural disturbances such as fires and insect outbreaks are necessary agents of forest renewal, but they also have major impacts of the economies of communities through the cost of lost timber volumes, decreased forest growth and increased protection needs.”
The report noted large windstorms are the dominant disturbances in the Maritime provinces “and their frequency and levels of damage to forests have been increasing over the past few years.”
“Climate change is affecting all of these natural disturbances,” the report says. “Forecasts using climate change scenarios suggest that fire activity will increase across much of Canada’s forests, as will potential for pest outbreaks to expand into areas previously climatically unsuitable for certain insects and diseases.” [more]