McGuinty Government Helping Ontarians Understand The Potential Impacts Of Climate Change

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McGuinty Government Helping Ontarians Understand The Potential Impacts Of Climate Change

Invests In Interactive Website, Polar Bear Research TORONTO, July 19 - An interactive website that shows the impact greenhouse gases could have on our climate and additional research into polar bears and their threatened habitat will help to drive home the impacts of climate change, Minister of Natural Resources David Ramsay said today. "We all know that climate change is having an impact on how and even where we live," said Ramsay. "This website will give people a clearer picture of the changes in climate we can expect, which is the first step in understanding the impacts of climate change if we continue on our current path, and how our actions can diminish its effects." The new website is an educational tool that shows how Ontario's climate may be very different in the future if we do nothing, compared to how it might be if we all do our part. The site gives a glimpse into how Ontario's future climate could be, based on two climate scenarios, and shows possible outcomes, not predictions. Climate maps show projected summer temperatures, winter temperatures, and precipitation from April to September and from October to March. Visit gogreenontario.ca and click on the Climate Change Projections for Ontario button to see how your actions can make a difference. The government is also investing $315,000 in the first year of a three-year polar bear research project that will provide a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on the health of Ontario's polar bear population. The project will monitor seasonal movement patterns of Southern Hudson Bay polar bears, as well as the numbers of polar bears, their body condition and the habitat where female bears build dens to give birth. The climate change website projects that polar bear habitat in southern Hudson Bay would experience the greatest warming of any place in Ontario. The Minister of Natural Resources is also putting polar bears on the priority list for scientific assessment by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario under Ontario's new Endangered Species Act. "To tackle climate change, governments, businesses and individuals all need to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Peter Ewins, Director of Species Conservation at World Wildlife Fund Canada. "Polar bears are under increasing threat around the world as their essential habitat warms faster than any other place on the planet. This research project will help us better respond to the disruption melting sea ice poses to Ontario's polar bears and the communities that share their ecosystem." "We are supportive of this research project dedicated to understanding polar bears and the impacts of climate change," said Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS-Wildlands League. "The results will be useful in planning for the future in fragile ecosystems." In addition, the Ontario government has appointed two co-chairs for a new Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation. Dr. David Pearson is Professor of Earth Sciences at Laurentian University and Dr. Ian Burton is Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto and Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report. The panel has been asked to develop adaptation strategies for Ontario and will provide recommendations to the minister. Additional panel members and further details of the panel's work will be announced shortly. Adaptation is how living things cope with environmental stresses and changes and is a key part of addressing the impacts of climate change and global warming. Helping Ontarians understand climate change is just one way the McGuinty government is achieving results in ensuring a healthier natural environment and mitigating the effects of climate change. Other initiatives include: - Making $220 million in loans and grants available to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving and retrofitting buildings - Setting ambitious but realistic targets to reduce greenhouse gases below 1990 levels - six per cent by 2014, 15 per cent by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 - Launching a $650-million fund that will help secure the next generation of high-paying jobs for Ontarians by developing new clean and green technologies. Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr gogreenontario.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECTIONS FOR ONTARIO Contact Info The McGuinty government is launching a new website that allows people to see how different Ontario's climate may be unless we all do our part to control greenhouse gas emissions. The website was prepared jointly by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Forest Service. The goal of the website is to help Ontarians understand climate change and the effects it may have on the province's forests, fish and wildlife, as well as our communities and people. An understanding of how increased levels of greenhouse gas will change the Earth's temperature and precipitation is critical to helping Ontarians envision the potential impacts of climate change on people, infrastructure and the environment. The website uses specific scenarios to show projections only, not predictions, since the amount of greenhouse gas in the future will depend on many factors such as global population, human behaviour, changes in technology and how much carbon the Earth's lands and waters will absorb or release. Details of the website The website projects possible future climates for three time periods - the early, middle and late 21st century - under two scenarios, representing two different levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere. The "A2" and "B2" scenarios of greenhouse gas concentrations are considered intermediate scenarios and have been approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The A2 scenario assumes higher greenhouse gas emissions than the B2 scenario. The scenarios were input into a climate model to produce the climate projections. The climate model is Version 2 of Environment Canada's climate simulation model, the Canadian Coupled Global Circulation Model and procedures approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate models are used for climate prediction, the study of climate change and variability, and to better understand the various processes that govern our climate system. The projections will be especially useful for people doing strategic planning, adaptive management and resource forecasting. Similar projections have been done on a global scale. However, the information provided by global maps does not provide enough detail to be useful for individual countries or provinces. What the website shows The two scenarios used project significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns throughout the 21st century and show that higher greenhouse gas emissions result in greater projected changes in climate. In the scenario with higher emissions ("A2"), before the end of the century average summer temperatures in most of southern Ontario will be four to five degrees Celsius hotter, and 20 per cent less rain will fall from April to September compared with the period 1971 to 2000. Winters in some southern Ontario locations will be up to six degrees Celsius warmer, with 10 to 20 per cent less precipitation from October to March. Under this same scenario, in northern Ontario temperatures would be up to 10 degrees Celsius warmer in winter and six degrees Celsius in summer, with the greatest warming next to Hudson Bay. Large parts of the north would receive less precipitation, especially in winter near the Manitoba and Quebec borders. By the end of the century, up to 20 per cent less precipitation would fall in summer in the western half of northwestern Ontario. In the scenario with lower emissions ("B2"), the rate of climate change will be significant, but less. In the last decades of this century, temperatures would be two to four degrees Celsius warmer in southern Ontario in summer and three to five degrees Celsius warmer in winter compared with 1971 to 2000. Most of southern Ontario would receive up to 10 per cent less precipitation in summer and up to 20 per cent less precipitation in winter. Under this second scenario, northern Ontario's summers in 2071 to 2100 will be two to four degrees Celsius warmer while winters will be four to eight degrees Celsius warmer compared to 1971 to 2000. Temperature increases will be greatest in the far north. Much of northern Ontario will be much drier than in 1971 to 2000. Annual precipitation will be reduced by up to 10 per cent in much of the northwest and some areas will receive up to 20 per cent less cold season precipitation. A Ministry of Natural Resources/Canadian Forest Service joint project This website was prepared jointly by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Forest Centre of the Canadian Forest Service. Dan McKenney, at the Canadian Forest Service, calculated the more detailed climate data for Ontario. The data were mapped by the project team using Geographic Information Services technology at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Contacts: Dr. Steve Colombo Dr. Paul Gray Applied Research and Applied Research and Development Branch Development Branch 807-343-4020 705-755-1967 Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE: RESEARCH ON THE POLAR BEARS OF SOUTHERN HUDSON BAY Polar bears are part of our Canadian heritage and culture. The polar bear research being undertaken is the latest in a long series of research projects conducted over the last 20 years by the Ministry of Natural Resources on the impacts of climate change on Ontario's forests, fish and wildlife. The new research will help scientists better understand how climate change is affecting Ontario's polar bears today and how it is likely to affect them in the future. Additional information on the seasonal movement of polar bears, their number and body condition and the habitat where females give birth will support better decision-making. Polar Bears of Southern Hudson Bay - The Ontario population of polar bears consists of about 1,000 animals living on and off the southern coast of Hudson Bay. Ontario polar bears are part of a shared population. Actions regarding their management involve consultation with the governments of Nunavut and Quebec, and Inuit and First Nation communities. - Polar bears are the largest four-legged carnivores in the world. Adult males can weigh up to 700 kilograms and adult females up to 400 kilograms, depending on the time of year. Their normal life span is 25 years for males and 30 years for females. Females normally give birth to one or two cubs every three years. - Polar bears mainly eat marine mammals such as seals. The bears break the ice to catch young seals in their birth lairs, wait for seals to surface at their breathing holes in the ice, or stalk them on the ice. About 95 per cent of the Southern Hudson Bay population of polar bears summers on land in Ontario. During this time they fast, living off the body fat they have stored during the time they are able to hunt on the ice. - Southern Hudson Bay and Akimiski Island on James Bay are the southernmost locations inhabited by polar bears. - Polar bears are currently designated as species of Special Concern on both national and Ontario lists of species at risk. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is currently having an updated status report on polar bears prepared; it is expected to be completed in 2008. The status of the species will be reassessed in 2008 by COSEWIC. The Minister of Natural Resources is also putting polar bears on the priority list for scientific assessment by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario under Ontario's new Endangered Species Act. Polar Bear Research Projects The Ministry of Natural Resources is funding three polar bear research projects. All three studies will be used to assist other jurisdictions, including Nunavut, Quebec and Manitoba, in their work to assess the status of polar bears in Canada. Wildlife conservation organizations have contributed funding to assist in the purchase of satellite radio collars equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to be used to track the bears. Impacts of Climate Change on the On-Ice Movement Patterns of Southern Hudson Bay Polar Bears This project will assess the seasonal movement patterns of polar bears on the ice along the northern James Bay coast and the Hudson Bay coast of Ontario using data from GPS satellite radio collars. Ten GPS collars will be placed on adult female polar bears accompanied by yearlings in each of 2007 and 2008. The study will evaluate the effects of projected changes in the quality and distribution of sea ice on the bears' access to mating areas and on the genetic exchange among neighbouring polar bear populations in Hudson Bay. Impacts of Climate Change on the Body Condition of Southern Hudson Bay Polar Bears This project will continue to monitor body condition in polar bears through the live capture and release of 100 animals a year. A body condition index based on the relationship between weight and body length provides good evidence of the general health of polar bears. Data from 2007-09 will be compared to data from 1984-86 and 2000-05 and information on ice conditions will be related to annual variations in body condition. This study will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. W. Gough, University of Toronto and Dr. M. Cattet, University of Saskatchewan. Impacts of Climate Change on Polar Bear Habitat for Maternity Dens Palsas - low circular or oval mounds in the permafrost consisting of a core of ice covered with peat - are used by polar bears to construct maternity dens. This project will map existing areas where palsas are common, survey for polar bear dens and monitor the annual variation in depth of the active layer of permafrost, providing increased understanding of the future implications of climate change in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. This study will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. W. Gough, University of Toronto. Previous research on Southern Hudson Bay polar bears The Ministry of Natural Resources began monitoring the Southern Hudson Bay population of polar bears in 1963 and conducted annual late summer aerial surveys to monitor population size until 1996. Winter aerial surveys were conducted periodically in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to observe family groups returning to the ice and count the number of cubs born. The first intensive polar bear research involving capturing, assessing and marking bears and then recapturing them in subsequent years was conducted in Ontario from 1984 to 1986. The study established a population estimate of 1,000 for the Southern Hudson Bay population. Further intensive research on the population began in 1997 in collaboration with Nunavut. Satellite collars were placed on adult females to help define how far the population ranged and provide information on habitat where female bears build dens to give birth. A second intensive mark-and-recapture study was conducted from 2003 to 2005 in collaboration with Nunavut, Quebec and other funding partners. The study showed that the population size is unchanged from the mid-1980s. Additional research from 2000 to 2005 documented significant declines in the body condition of Southern Hudson Bay polar bears since the mid-1980s, especially for pregnant females and young bears aged four years or less. Contacts: Dr. Martyn Obbard Dennis Donovan Dr. Paul Gray Wildlife Research and Wildlife Research and Applied Research and Development Section Development Section Development Section 705-755-1549 705-755-2273 705-755-1967 Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- EXPERT PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: CO-CHAIRS Dr. Ian Burton and Dr. David Pearson, both accomplished and respected professors of science and leaders in their respective fields, have been appointed as co-chairs of Ontario's new Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation. Adaptation is a key part of a successful climate change plan. While Ontario is actively cutting its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the GHGs already in the atmosphere will still affect our climate; we need to prepare for how to cope with that change. The Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation will provide the province with adaptation strategies to address the impacts of climate change in our communities and our ecosystems. Dr. Ian Burton is Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto and a Scientist Emeritus with the Meteorological Service of Canada's Impacts and Adaptation Research Group. He is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report, Working Group II, and has recently served as a consultant with the World Bank and the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Dr. Burton has authored and co-authored several books and over 150 professional papers. His main work now deals with the role of science in the policy process. Dr. Burton has also served as senior advisor to the International Development Research Centre and as a consultant to UNESCO, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, US-AID and numerous Canadian government agencies and engineering firms. He has worked for the Ford Foundation in India, Sudan, and Nigeria and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. David Pearson is Professor of Earth Sciences at Laurentian University and member of the Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit at Laurentian University with an interest in Sudbury lakes, and Co-Director of the Laurentian University/Science North Graduate Diploma program in Science Communication. From 1980-84, Dr. Pearson was the Project Director for Science North, the science centre in Sudbury. He has also hosted two TV series: "Understanding the Earth" (TV Ontario) and "Down to Earth" (MidCanada TV); and was the scientist for CBC Northern Ontario's weekly "Radio Lab" program from 1981 to 1995. In 2000, he was awarded the Ward Neale Medal by the Geological Association of Canada for his contribution to public awareness of the geosciences in Canada. In 2003, he was awarded the prestigious McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science by The Royal Society of Canada for extraordinary achievement in communication of science to students and the public. Contacts: John Steele Sandra Watts Ministry of the Environment Minister's Office (416) 314-6666 (416) 314-6739 Disponible en français Contact information for the general public: 416-325-4000 or 1-800-565-4923 www.ontario.ca/environment For further information: Media Calls Only, Minister's Office, Anne-Marie Flanagan, (416) 327-0654; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications Services Branch, (416) 314-2106 HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 For further information: Media Calls Only, Minister's Office, Anne-Marie Flanagan, (416) 327-0654; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications Services Branch, (416) 314-2106