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Climate change will rattle economies to their core. The North included.

Climate change will rattle economies to their core. The North included.

The North relies on supply chains originating in the south. They are vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. It’s time for us to invest in self-sufficiency.
By Don Jaque
Nov 27
2019

The lobster fishery in Nova Scotia is booming as those critters with the sought-after tails gather at a sweet spot of perfect temperature off Canada's east coast while waters elsewhere are rapidly warming. With lobster prices triple what they were a decade ago, it is a bonanza for the hardworking fishery there.

Meanwhile, the opposite is happening on the Pacific coast. The salmon fishery is in big trouble. Species of most saltwater fish are in decline globally as oceans suffer an aquatic heatwave. At the same time, the great expanses of water suck up greenhouse gases causing a change in acidity. Both impact fish populations. Parts of Canada’s west coast salmon industry are suffering their worst seasonal catch in more than 100 years. The cascade effect into processing plants will result in mass layoffs and demands for government compensation throughout the industry.

British Columbia’s forest industry is also having a very bad year with mill closures too common and thousands of layoffs. Low lumber prices bring demands for an end to the carbon tax. Meanwhile, forests are being devastated by wildfires and pine beetle infestations leading to shortages of timber supply, all due to global warming. What a quandary for governments!

Central Canada is taking it on the chin too, with severe drought in Manitoba.

Their situation is so difficult cattle ranchers and grain farmers are asking for a declaration of a “state of disaster” with demands for feed and freight subsidies and financial relief.

After a spring and summer of flooding across the country—with severe storm damage in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and, thanks to the visit by the last big hurricane, all the maritime provinces—the federal government is being called on to cough up compensation dollars. That is a big drain on the treasury at a time when huge cash incentives are needed to move industry and homes off oil in Canada’s effort to deal with the climate change crisis. Our country is wealthy, fortunately, so at least we can help those in need—at least for the time being.

Our planet is in trouble. Big coastal cities on all continents will face flooding as sea levels rise. Severe storms will routinely inflict catastrophic damage pretty much everywhere. As populations grow rapidly, food supplies are being challenged. Climate refugees will join those displaced by politics, in vast numbers. We can predict now that things will likely get worse as the atmosphere continues to warm up. The new normal is, there is no normal.

Northern Canada’s reality is that climate change is happening here faster than anywhere else. We are foolish not to act. It is unlikely climate change will benefit the North as it has the Nova Scotia lobster fishers; indeed, we have to assume we may face calamity. To start, we have to do our utmost to alleviate the threat of wildfires on our communities in the boreal forest. And deal with the impacts of melting permafrost on infrastructure. What else?

A worst-case scenario, which we have to consider, is that not too long from now, global supply chain disruptions are likely. Possibly whole economies will tank, send- ing reverberations around the globe. Things could get dire. We in the North are dependent on the outside world for pretty much everything, especially with the loss of caribou herds, so it would be wise to prepare for the worst—to develop local food supplies and foster independent community economies as fast as we can. Sorry to be such a worrywart, but that is just the way things are.

We are caught up thinking about other pressing climate change matters like the advent of the Northwest Passage opening to commercial traffic. There's also the need to police and maintain Canada’s territorial rights, especially with incursions of the Russians and Americans challenging our Arctic sovereignty. And we need to take advantage of the potential economic benefits of any new Northwest Passage traffic, too. But most of all we need to keep our eye on that elephant in the room. Nothing should get in the way of facing the reality that we are very, very vulnerable to climate change impacts, and do our best to be ready. Our people’s lives have to come first.