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Global Warming: A Look at the Debate and Its Effects on the Canadian Region

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Global Warming: A Look at the Debate and its Effects on the Canadian Region

Introduction

Though global warming potentially affects everyone in the world (Bradford, 3), reports offer evidence that specific regions have been hit harder than others, and Canada, a land with unforgiving winters and winds, as well as unscathed beauty, is one such region that has felt the consequences of global warming (Ljunggren, 1). An international team of scientists discovered in 2004 that the average winter temperatures have increased approximately 3 to 4 degrees in Celsius over the past sixty years (Bradford, 22). Climate change such as the one noted here has serious consequences on weather (snowfall and precipitation), and can also lead to the thawing of permafrost, a rise in sea levels, and other related consequences that are arguably unconstructive to the environment and to the Canadian economy. Given the mounting literature which suggests that global warming is seriously affecting the Canadian environment, this discussion provides a background of the situation, explores the dynamics of global warming, in terms of how the issue has changed and will change in the years to come, and offers potential solutions.

Background

Even those entirely unfamiliar with the complexities of global warming are likely to conjure certain poignant images when the term is uttered: large glaciers buckling under the sun's power, huge bodies of water receding from the land or disappearing all together, the vanishing of animals and their habitat, heat waves, and infectious diseases; the list can go on and on, but it is clear that, overall, global warming elicits a graphic picture of the sluggish death of the earth and its inhabitants.

However, although the topic of global warming is well-known, widely discussed and debated today, it was not until the 1980s to the 1990s when scholarly and scientific literature on the subject emerged from different fields, including oceanography and several of the Earth sciences (Johansen, xv). The issue as it pertains to Canada became increasingly visible during the latter part of the 1970s. As a point of fact, it was Canada that led that first world summit on climate change, known as the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, during a very warm summer in 1988 (Page, 143). The Toronto Conference brought scientists and policymakers together from over forty countries, but more importantly the Conference called for a "comprehensive international framework that can address the interrelated problems of the global atmosphere" ("Climate Change Resource....," 1) while delegates resolved to reduce emissions by 20% (Page, 143). Since that time, international bodies such as the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization have worked with the Canadian government, policymakers, scientists, and other experts in fields to resolve the glaring problem of global warming.

A number of significant developments have taken place. After several round table sessions helmed by the United Nations in the 1990s, Canada succeeds in ratifying Framework Convention on Climate Change, a (1992) proposal that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; two years later, the Climate Change Task Group was formed to aid the nation in meeting its goals; in 1997, after some cities like Alberta took its own initiative to address the issue of global warming, evidenced in Alberta's Clean Air Strategic Alliance, Canada adopted the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to the "legally-binding target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 per cent from 1990 levels, on average, during the five-year period 2008-2012" ("Climate Change Resource....," 1). Other initiatives, such as an the increase in governmental budget--approximately $50-million per year for a period of three years to establish the Climate Change Action Fund, the establishment of federal climate change secretariat, and the continual monitoring and reporting of climate change ("Climate Change Resource....," 1), are all significant steps in curbing and tracking the progression of global warming in Canada.

The Dynamics of Global Warming

Although there have been notable developments made with global warming, there is certainly not a panacea solution. Global warming still persists, and the damaging effects are apparent in scholarly, popular, and scientific literature. Given this, the following section helps to elicit how global warming has changed in Canada and will change in the future.

One consequence of global warming is its damaging effects on biodiversity and animal life in the Canadian region. According to recent reports, a large population of seals is diminishing in startling numbers due to a loss of habitat. Rebecca Alderworth, director of Canadian wildlife issues for the US Humane Society, notes that approximately 260,000 seal pups have died due to these environmental alterations, as well as climate change (Comte, 1). Other reports emphasize the extent of global warming to this end, suggesting that the behavior of the polar bears have changed because they now have to wait for ice to freeze in order to walk on to the ice. A local who resides in Canada's High Arctic tells journalist David Ljunggren that "There is quite a lot of change in the bears' behavior. They hang around a lot longer than they usually have", which has a dangerous consequence for the people who live there. And although there is little evidence to suggest that the polar bear population is in decline overall, researchers do suggest that there is a trend. Out of the thirteen polar bear populations that exist in Canada, at least two are in decline (Langan, 2). Moreover, the same report notes that the number of polar bears along the western region of the Hudson Bay has dwindled down by 22 percent over the last decade (Langan, 2). If there is not enough legislation and protective measurements to help the animal population and curb the loss of habitat, it is unquestionable that the animal population will continue to decrease, respectively, and the loss of land and habitat will continue to decline.

But besides its impact on the animals, global warming will inevitably hurt the people in affected areas, too. Paul Attagootak, who lives some 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, commented "Things getting warmer is not good for the animals, which are our food. We still eat them. We worry about them" (Ljunggren, 1). Indeed, as this author readily points out, the entire Eskimo population is dependent on them for survival, and their entire way of life is based on the cold. And yet the cold is not the only thing Canadians have to worry about. Even in the greener, luscious areas there is evidence

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