A recent poll shows that Canadians are seriously concerned about climate change. 65% believe that we have reached the tipping point and we need to act quickly. Some even believe that the time to take substantive action has already passed. Despite that a great number of Canadians take climate change very seriously, the topic did not receive the attention it needed in the last federal elections. Plans were discussed but no details were given. And different parties suggested different plans. What needs to be discussed now is whether it is too late or not. This perhaps will be discussed globally as late October is when different countries will gather in Scotland to talk about climate change for the first time since the 2015 Paris Agreement (with a 1-year delay due to the pandemic). Many believe that industrial countries, including Canada, are not doing enough to fight this crisis. This might be true as some goals are not being met; however, it must be emphasized that even though there is not much time left, it is never too late. Recent NASA research shows that carbon-reducing actions can have a significant impact on extreme weather conditions. It is known that the western United States is prone to droughts. According to this NASA research, climate change adds fuel to this problem which existed even before climate change. Climate change intensifies isolated peaks in drought periods. This research shows that by reducing emissions, the chance of having those peak droughts will be reduced from more than 35% (high emission scenarios) to less than 20% (low emission scenarios). While the NASA researchers believe that it is not too late to act and curb the impacts of climate change, a new normal is expected. Even though this NASA research was about drought, it might be reasonable to assume that reducing emissions can help control adverse effects of climate change, e.g., flooding events, wildfires, heat waves, here in Canada. That will be our role, and with the previous government being recently re-elected, we can be hopeful that the incomplete climate change missions of the government will now move forward.
It is a great piece of news to learn that even in the middle of a pandemic, the Federal Government recognized the priority of fighting against climate change by allocating billions of dollars and developing practical strategies. This is the right thing to do to make Canada a vivid, affordable, and resilient place to live for future generations. Understanding the measures taken/to take by the government helps citizens to better plan for the future. Here, a brief explanation of the government action, A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy, is reviewed.
One of the main focus areas of the government is energy saving. The government is looking at a variety of solutions to declining energy consumption generated by fossil fuels. Not only this results in a more affordable life for us and our kids and grandkids, but it also reduces air pollution. Air pollution, despite being a regional problem, can affect a large area. Using new technologies to generate clean power creates new job opportunities too. For these key benefits, the government is investing in free energy assessments to encourage homeowners to conduct energy audits. This confirms that homeowners know possible opportunities to save energy. Green community centers are also a target of governmental investments. The benefit of a green community building is twofold. Not only they can reduce unnecessary travel, but a green building also saves on its energy usage and can be an inspiration to the community. The government is planning to invest $2 billion to help large-scale commercial buildings retrofits on energy. Canada Infrastructure Bank is investing $2.5 billion in clean power and $1.5 billion in Zero-Emission Buses. In addition to that, the government is working with the building material sector to ensure Canadians have access to low-carbon cement and high-efficient windows and insulations. Using these incentives is a great opportunity to ensure the energy efficiency of our homes and to take necessary actions. In close collaboration with provincial governments, the federal government is looking for strategies to specifically focus on the energy retrofit programs for low-income families.
A second key topic is the transportation sector that counts for more than 20% of emissions. The concern of the government in this sector is to make communities connected together through clean public transportation or at least using electric vehicles (EVs) or low-emission cars. As residents of Bonfield with no public transport, this challenge can be better understood by us. To overcome this challenge, the government continues to incentivize low-emission cars (the Province of Quebec offers the highest provincial incentive). Along with this incentive to encourage purchasing EVs, the government is investing in installing charging stations to further promote using low-emission cars. To ensure that the pollution costs, the government is continuing charging more and more for emitting harmful greenhouse gases. The carbon tax is an example of this approach. This increasing gas price along with incentives for EVs and emerging new charging stations makes purchasing a low emission car a reasonable decision even for a rural environment like Bonfield.
There are various other promising investments by the Canadian government toward a country with sustainable clean water and air e.g. investment in a cleaner agriculture sector, in a more efficient power distribution sector, and so on. All these incentives and measures by the governments at all levels can lead to a successful fight against climate change only when the citizens engage in the programs and actively participate in a global fight against climate change. Both the government efforts and the commitment of people in Canada are becoming more serious since the pandemic. This is an excellent way to start a new chapter after the pandemic which is hopefully approaching its end. The Township of Bonfield on the other hand is looking for possible solutions to improve/create green infrastructures such as installing charging stations, increasing energy efficiencies at buildings, and offering local services as much as possible to reduce travels to neighboring municipalities.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the surveys, most Canadians were seriously concerned about climate change. Our survey in Bonfield ended with the same results. However, right after the pandemic, the number one policy issue for the majority of Canadians changed to public health and the economy. Public concerns are dynamic and change rapidly. This change has been tracked closely in the last year. Since last summer, one out of two Canadians believes that this is the right time to invest in climate goals rather than an OK time or a wrong time. This was confirmed after repeating the procedure.
After achieving consistent results, the University of Ottawa researchers started digging deeper to learn more about the causality behind the results of this survey to understand the motivation of citizens. The pandemic helped Canadians think about the urgency of climate change. At the beginning of this survey, 21% of Canadians believed that actions had to be taken immediately. Now, this number has grown to 39%. This indicates that the risks of inaction in a crisis are better understood these days. Despite this growing concern among Canadians, not everybody has the same idea. After several repetitions, it was found that more than one-third of Canadians either extremely agree or disagree about climate change. This suggests a pattern of polarization in Canada which potentially puts the politicians in a difficult position as either of these groups might not be open for discussion and negotiations. Another key question in this survey was the source in which Canadians trust the most about climate change. Similar to the findings of the survey in Bonfield, the number one source of trust was academics followed by environmental agencies and media. This can help politicians to select a proper approach in raising public awareness to gain buy-in. While the ambition for climate change action in Canadians has been relatively consistent, many citizens have recently changed the level of urgency in their minds. They want the government to take the required measures and are ready to participate in a fight against climate change. This is a necessary step toward the climate goals. What maintains this momentum is a mobilization at the community level which seems to grow even more recently. This is the time to reshape the future of Canadians.
Many activists, scientists, and politicians have tried to answer this question. What is written in the following lines is inspired by the answers of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, to the above question. Bill Gates has funded many projects in fighting climate change and has recently published a book about it.
Bill Gates believes that fighting against climate change has multiple aspects and demands global cooperation. Politicians may have differences about the solutions, but the goal – fight against climate change toward net-zero in 2050 – must be agreed upon. People are not powerless; they have their responsibilities. Scientists have also key roles. He believes that advances in innovation and technology are also required to decline harmful emissions. One of the key areas that needs immediate advance is battery technology. Without powerful batteries that can store a great deal of energy for long times, it is difficult to count on reliable new energies as a stand-alone power source. Despite promising signs of progress in this field, there are still challenges to be resolved. Meanwhile, fossil fuel powerplants should be replaced by nuclear ones to avoid introducing more greenhouse gas emissions from power generation. Even though nuclear powerplants have environmental concerns, Bill Gates believes that new generations are less prone to catastrophic accidents. In addition to these large-scale mitigation measures against climate change that are to be managed by policymakers, a commitment from the public is required to ensure the harmful emissions are declining as much as possible. This happens only when green premium becomes affordable. Climate prime is the extra cost of goods that are produced with minimal damage to the environment e.g., local products and goods produced by green companies. As an example, Bill Gates explains how cement production needs this evolution. Cement production consumes lots of energy and the process emits carbon dioxide. Therefore, the production introduces harmful emissions to the atmosphere through two sources. There are green types of cement; however, they cost nearly double. Development can’t be stopped as the population grows, and the economy depends on development. Therefore, the only solution is to make green types of cement (and other goods) affordable so that traditional ones can be replaced by more sustainable products.
As can be understood from the above-mentioned examples, Bill Gates is optimistic that climate crisis can be managed, and this would be the greatest achievement of human beings. And 30 years is enough time to reach this goal if we start today.
At the beginning of the pandemic, some promising signs of fighting against the climate crisis were observed. The pandemic caused a reduction in the emissions due to the declining trend of transportation both at the local and global levels. This was much less than the required reduction to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement, but yet an encouraging sign. As time passes, it turns out that we are falling behind schedule. Also, some promised mitigation measures are being missed.
In Poland, near the German border, there is a massive lignite coal mine. With a history that goes back to the 17th century, the mine has sufficient coal to be extracted for the next three decades, but the EU is not content with a renewal of a permit of this mine, for environmental reasons. The sudden closure of this mine, an income resource of several generations, can cause a domino of problems. Thousands of workers and engineers are directly employed by this mine. The mine already experiences difficult days as it is not easy anymore to find coal buyers. An engineer working on this mine for two decades is concerned about the future of his employment. He believes that he has other job opportunities, but local contractors strongly depend on this mine. Without this mine, they hardly hire new employees. Should he and his family move elsewhere? The mayor of the city hosting this mine believes that the mine will get closed eventually, it is just a matter of time. However, a gradual planned closure makes the community ready to lose more than 10,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, which rely on the mine. Planned and sufficient funding is needed from both the government and the EU to make this closure happen smoothly. The EU is not willing to fund this smooth closure as the mine is planning to expand even further. At the same time, a Polish government official stated that coal will phase out finally, but that most likely will happen between 2050-2060.
The situation is not much different here in Canada. The Province of Alberta is investing more than $ 1 billion on a new pipeline. Residents in Fort McMurray depend on this industry. An indigenous resident who owns a contracting business explains that it is their right to harvest. Just like fishing and hunting. Over a decade ago, he and several other indigenous leaders founded an association to promote the rights of indigenous communities. This is a commitment to the community where he was born and grew up. He believes that working in the oil industry is a good fit for them. he believes that before stopping the oil industry everybody should take other actions: using bikes, turning down the heat and grabbing a sweater, etc. Are people ready for that?
Another oil industry worker in Fort McMurray, following a recent massive wildfire and a huge flood, believes that if the oil industry needs to shut down, everything should go green e.g., our laptop, cellphone. Unlike some indigenous communities that protest to stop new pipelines, some communities support a new pipeline which helps them economically grow. Supporting new pipelines is not the current policy of the Federal Government but in-line with the Provincial Government. The Provincial Government funds technologies that help reduce emissions – though the fund is much less than the investment for the new pipeline. The Government of Alberta believes that there will be a demand for a sufficient long-term future that makes new investments in the oil industry justifiable. While Canada is trying to reach net-zero in 2050, the oil might still be exported to other countries. This seems to contradict the fact the climate crisis as a global problem needs globally coordinated solutions.
These are just two examples of many. Nobody is totally right or wrong. The fight against climate change is not straightforward but it is not impossible either. It needs collaboration, coordinated activities, mutual understanding, and commitment of politicians to the targeted goals. What makes this commitment is the engagement of people plus by their continued interest in declining harmful emissions.
The fact that you are currently surfing the internet and reading the official website of the Township of Bonfield implies that you are an internet user. Reading news on the internet is greener than having everybody purchase newspapers. However, it has some environmental costs as well. Some carbon dioxide is released to power our electronic devices. On the other end, some energy is required to run data centers. More than half of the global population are internet users. These users, all together, produce as much carbon dioxide as global air travel. This will be doubled in 5 years as online activities grow. An email with attachments can add up to 50g of carbon dioxide to the air. This number in a year can be comparable to more than 300 km driving of a family car. This article does not mean to invite readers to decline sending emails and happy new year messages. The idea is rather to encourage reducing waste. One less “thank you” email in the UK equals declining more than 3000 cars in a year (text messages are greener).
Another aspect of carbon emission while using the internet is live streaming. Hit songs – several billions of views – consume as much energy as Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic in one year. Five countries versus a song. US online gamers consume more energy than freezers and washers. These activities can’t be stopped. They can rather be re-formatted. For example, one way is to enjoy our movies/games together rather than individually so that less energy is required for the joy of the same group of people. While the IT industry is projected to produce 14% of emissions in two decades from now, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union targets a 45% emissions reduction in the next decade. This 45% is ambitious but achievable. There are some disagreements on the extent of actions that leads to declining emissions (e.g. should I be careful about sending emails?); however, proper education can mobilize everybody to play a role in the climate crisis. Every day new mitigation measures are introduced that can be followed by individuals according to their business, location, age, etc.
Enjoy Christmas, cast hope, and take care of the environment by smart usage of resources.
Several factors are playing key roles in producing carbon dioxide. These factors are industrial activities, population, the geography of a country, etc. China is the number one producer of carbon dioxide in the world. 25% of Chinese cities receive acid rain, 75% of lakes are polluted, and 1.6 million premature death in China is related to air pollution. On a global scale, less than one-third of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion is released in China.
Knowing these facts, the academic community of China, the public, and the government are working together to initiate mitigation activities to reduce harm to the environment. In 2009, China announced its intention to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 40% in 2020. Later, during the Paris Agreement negotiations, China agreed to reduce the emissions by at least 60% by 2030. This demands huge investments; which China is committed to undertaking. Last month, President Xi announced that China is targeting carbon neutrality before 2060.
One of the key actions that China initiated is afforestation i.e. recovering damaged forests or creating forests on lands that were not originally forested. In recent decades, China has planted billions of trees, which is seven million hectares of forests per year. This makes China the leading country in afforestation. More than one-fifth of China is covered by forests. According to recent research, in 2014, more than 10% of the carbon released in China was stored (sequestration) in forests. With the trend of China for planting trees, it is predicted that by 2033, an equivalent of a decade of carbon dioxide release will be stored in forests in China. This is a promising piece of information knowing the fact that China is investing in clean energy industries as well. Even a recent study has reexamined the efficiency of the recent afforestation in China to find that the power of forests has been underestimated. According to this research published in the Nature, around 36% of carbon released in China can be absorbed by the two massive carbon sinks in the southwest and northeast of China. Any single tree counts, even in green regions. Therefore, the continuation of the afforestation project along with the sustainable development followed by China can be a leap forward to fight against climate change and can be a good initiative for other countries with large carbon contributions.
More than 6 million acres of American forests burned in 2020. California is still burning. Each acre of forest can absorb around 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Not only is this natural carbon absorption tool now gone, but tons of carbon dioxide are also sent back to the atmosphere. Smoke and ash resulting from wildfires intensifies climate change as they act just like another layer of blanket that prevents the heat from the Earth from escaping. Can this be attributed to climate change?
Wildfire occurrence depends on several factors including temperature, moisture, wind, and the presence of fuel e.g. loose trees and shrubs. These factors can change as climate changes. A higher temperature reduces moisture and extends the warm season which can worsen wildfire. Large fires have doubled in the western USA between 1984-2015. There are indirect influences as well. Higher air temperature results in a rise in the insect population. They damage forests more and more which creates fuel for wildfires. This is perhaps where forest management plays a key role. Loose trees – natural or pest infected – can be removed from forests to reduce the development of wildfires. But the extent to which climate change can be blamed for wildfires is yet to be discussed. A new field of science addresses this question: extreme-event attribution. This field tries to find credit for climate change in risks and extreme events. By running mathematical models, scientists analyze the occurrence of events if global warming was not present today. According to one of these studies in 2016, half of the dryness – as a key variable in a wildfire – in the western USA forests is due to climate change. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that climate change, at least, accelerates the rate at which we are losing our natural assets. The wildfires are not a problem threatening only California. According to new research, even colder areas in the mountains, for example, tend to receive less snow as winters warm up. Snowpack is just like a water tank that adjusts the moisture of the soil by a gradual release of water. A thin snowpack leads to a fast discharge and dry soil which is favorable for a wildfire. This linkage can be seen in other natural phenomena as well. A researcher at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) believes that the link between climate change and recent hurricanes is just like smoking and lung cancer. While not all smokers suffer lung cancer, with smoking the probability of lung cancer increases. A warmer ocean causes hurricanes to be more intense; however, the frequency of occurrence is yet to be analyzed further. But for the moment, it is fair to conclude that without climate change, natural disasters were far less damaging.
The arctic is experiencing hot days. This is not uncommon. The arctic had hot days previously as a natural part of the annual climate cycle. But what makes this summer special in the arctic – and perhaps in the Earth – is the extent and frequency of these days. The arctic sets a new record each year since 2016, with 2020 expected to follow the same trend. A few weeks ago, a small Siberian town set a new record of 38 oC. This is 10oC above the average for the area. This abnormal temperature causes numerous consequences for both the residents in the area and elsewhere. The frequency and extent of wildland fire has increased in Siberia – this year is 10 times larger than the same time last year. Starting one month earlier this year, more than 1 million hectares of Siberian forests have burned since June, and it releases as much as carbon dioxide than an industrialized country like Switzerland does in a full year. This, in turn, causes permafrost thaw. In the previous posts of climate change awareness, the undesirable consequence of permafrost thaw was discussed. Briefly, permafrost, frozen soil in the arctic, holds carbon and methane. When the thaw occurs, the trapped greenhouse gases are sent back to the atmosphere. And finally, the warming trend in the arctic accelerates melting the snow cover. Therefore, the capacity of the Earth to reflect the heat reduces – soil is dark compared to the snow. One may argue that warming can be a natural part of the arctic climate cycle. The arctic has been hot before, and maybe after a few years of abnormally hot summer, the trend reverses in the short future. With recent research studies, it is almost evident that the sequential record-breaking hot days in Siberia is caused by man-made climate change. A multinational team of scientists has recently conducted an attribution study. Attribution studies aim at analyzing climate with and without the recent warming trends. In other words, using computer simulations, scientists try to learn whether a specific event, e.g. an extreme rainfall or heatwave, could have occurred if the warming trend is removed from the Earth. Recent results made it clear that it is almost impossible to have these abnormally hot days without human input to the atmosphere. Without the recent warming trend, such hot days would occur once in 80,000 years. Global warming has made this 600 times more likely i.e. once in 130 years. Therefore, the problem is not only the magnitude of these hot days, but the frequency is also excessively large and imposes a series of undesirable impacts on the Earth. We are experiencing events that almost had no chance of occurrence without our impact on the global climate. The only thing that can be done (and should be done) is to commit to the Paris Agreement and even aim at larger goals to reduce the carbon dioxide to half by 2030.
By Andree Gagne | July 27th, 2020
We have heard that planting trees – reforestation and afforestation – can control the adverse effects of climate change. Reforestation refers to replanting trees in a forest after a fire, development, and so on. Afforestation is the process of planting trees in the areas that were not previously forested. Trees inhale carbon dioxide, store it, and convert it to carbohydrates. Therefore, trees are natural carbon sinks. There are many campaigns to plant trees to mitigate climate change e.g. the campaign led by Greta Thunberg, Plant a billion trees, and Green belt movement, just to name some. Even some governments and jurisdictions support these campaigns. The UK has planted millions of trees recently, planning to plant another million until 2024. Besides climate change control, planting trees improves landscapes and biodiversity.
Recently, there have been arguments about the efficiency of planting trees to fight the climate crisis. In 2017, deforestation contributed to 10% of total emissions. Once a tree falls, all carbon stored in leaves is sent back to the atmosphere. Therefore, perhaps, stopping deforestation is a more efficient way to mitigate climate change rather than reforestation. Another argument is the net effect of trees. Trees are dark objects, at least compared to grass. We know that dark objects tend to absorb heat rather than giving off. Replacing bright lands, e.g. grasslands or snowy areas with forests could harm the environment by absorbing more heat. Therefore, selecting the reforestation sites should be a careful process. One more recent question that was brought into attention by the researchers of the University of Leeds, was about the maximum capacity of the Earth for afforestation and reforestation. When we walk in the woods, we sense the pleasant and natural smell that comes from the trees. This is, in fact, chemical aerosols that are suspended in the air. These particles react with the other particles including greenhouse gas particles to even intensify climate change. The net result might not be what we expect from the forests. Therefore, there should be a fine balance in the afforestation process.
As we see, there seem to be lots of questions and uncertainties in planting trees. To be efficient, it has to be done right. But this is not the main concern! The main concern is social and political inconsistencies and uncertainties. In many regions, e.g. the Welsh hills, the deforested land is occupied by industries such as farmers. It is hardly possible to relocate residents and plant trees in those lands. This problem can be found almost everywhere. Free idle lands ready to be forested are not available, and therefore, policies are required in addition to community engagements for afforestation in the right place with the right intensity.
All these uncertainties and challenges do not change the bottom line: climate change is a crisis. There are various ways to mitigate it, and one powerful solution is afforestation and reforestation. All possible ways including these two should be implemented with the recommendation of experts rather than sporadic unstudied actions. A synergy between governments (at different levels), experts, and residents can certainly reduce the adverse effects of climate change. It is time to ask for this synergy as we plan to recover and to build a better society after COVID-19.
- K. Sporre et al., 2019. BVOC–aerosol–climate feedbacks investigated using NorESM. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Volume 19.
- Bala et al., 2007. Combined climate and carbon-cycle effects of large-scale deforestation. PNAS Volume 104
We have seen that outcomes of global warming impact different spots of the Earth differently. Despite this divergence in the outcomes, yet it is called global warming. Why? How are the outcomes globally interconnected?
Recently, Harvard researchers found that even global sea-level rise could be sensed differently around the Earth (1). This can be explained simply by the gravitational law of Newton. According to this law, objects attract each other. As such, the Earth attracts us and we attract the Earth but since we are lighter, the Earth never visibly moves when we jump off from a height. With the same reasoning, once an ice sheet melts, the attraction between this object and the surrounding water dissipates. Therefore, the sea-level in the very same place that the ice sheet used to stay, goes down temporarily. At the same time, the sea-level rises far from the ice sheet because more water has been added to the ocean. For this reason, if Greenland melts down, Newfoundland will be flooded while the sea-level at Greenland reduces. That is how global warming causes a domino of interconnected problems that are being unfolded every day. Some of these global-scale outcomes are counter-intuitive but they have a scientific reason. These non-uniform outcomes of global warming cannot be excuses to deny climate change. While on one coastline sea-level rises, in another coastline it might decrease. Consequently, the climate of Greenland matters to Canadians!
Another example is the recent behavior of Arctic watersheds. While previously forest fire occurrence was every hundred years, recently forest fires are observed almost every year. Once a forest fire occurs in the Arctic, the chemistry of streams in the area changes. The concentration of carbon and nitrogen depends on the dissolved particles in the stream which can dramatically change when trees are burnt. This effect can remain in the area for several decades and it impacts not only the residents of the Arctic but the residents that live far from the Arctic. The streams starting from the Arctic finally drain to water bodies that are the main source of drink water for many people. Therefore, a forest fire kilometers away can alter water qualities (2).
As we see, global warming is really a global problem. A global problem can only be solved by global cooperation between nations, governments, and organizations that are active in the fight against climate crises.
We have been informed about saving energy decades ago. It started with turning the extra lights off. Many still practice that, which is good! But that is not enough. According to new research in the USA, many people have a hard time understanding details about energy usage. What is the difference between the energy consumption of a laptop and light, and an air conditioner? Are we investing our green effort in the right device? What does energy star mean exactly? Have we been properly informed?
Perhaps many people know that large appliances such as a washer consume more energy than a mini mixer, but how to go greener is still a burden. This burden has several reasons. Green efforts are sometimes miscommunicated and confusing. On the other hand, there is always a “status quo bias”. This difficulty to change is not related to political views. Both conservative and liberal people see the 2050s to be dominated by renewable energies. This is unlike the general perception but, most people predict that and want that. The key to reaching the goal of being green in the 2050s is a triangle of synergy: individuals, society, and government. Individual activities, although being necessary, is not enough. Our social task to fight climate change is to share this concern and encourage others to join the campaign. Just like what we saw in the current pandemic. We cannot save ourselves by only washing hands. It must be accompanied by social distancing.
On the other hand, the government needs to lead the campaign with proper communication. What is proper communication? According to the research mentioned earlier, influencers such as leaders, climate scientists, and communicators should be sufficiently committed to the green movement to gain buy-in from the citizens. However, being much different from ordinary people might have an adverse effect. One approach to resolve this challenge is having climate communicators from diverse backgrounds to address diverse audiences. The pandemic has changed many things so far, and we can resume many of our activities differently. COVID-19 taught a lesson that can be adopted for this situation. Behavioral change is quite possible. Even a fast change is possible and can outweigh that bias mentioned earlier. All we need is I) being clearly informed, and, II) synergy.
And finally, where are we in climate change fight? Are the goals too far? How much effort do we need to totally offset the carbon we have made so far? If the emission drops by 5% in 2020 because of COVID-19, such reduction is needed every year to reach the net-zero in 2050. But this cannot be reached by an annual lockdown program. A policy is required to secure this goal. The fact that the lockdown of New York reduced the emission by 10% suggests that individual efforts should be accompanied by policies and all entities should work together against climate change.
Permafrost is a land – including soil and rock – which does not go above freezing temperature (0°C) for at least two years . Arctic hosts permafrost regions. As the global temperature rises, permafrost start to thaw. That unveils plants and animals that froze before being decomposed. This has several negative consequences. Perhaps the first one would be an increase in global sea level. Canada is blessed with abundant water resources and is surrounded by oceans. This is of particular risk for Canada. Frequent flooding events that are increasing from year to year should be partially attributed to this fact . Another consequence of permafrost thaw is the disturbance of the ecosystem of that area which is home to many precious species. The photo below shows a hungry polar bear in Canada. This can be extended to many other animals as well. Other consequences include land erosion already observed in Manitoba, Alaska, and Siberia.
Another recently found undesirable outcome of permafrost thaw is releasing methane to the atmosphere. Methane is hundreds of times more powerful in rising global temperature than carbon dioxide. Carbon is stock in frozen layers of soil for many years. As temperature rises, these frozen layers begin to thaw. This makes carbon available as food intake for microbes that live there. They produce methane in their normal life cycle . This methane is then released into the atmosphere. A group of NASA researchers has detected around two thousand methane hotspots in northern permafrost. They learned that these hotspots are mostly very close to water bodies. This observation led them to understand that these hotspots are found wherever layers of frozen soil are melting and making rivers and ponds. Thaw of permafrost – which is caused by climate change in the first place – accelerates climate change by adding more and more methane to the atmosphere. The extent of this added methane into the atmosphere is yet to be discovered; however, this observation indicates how undesirable climate change outcomes boost climate change in a vicious cycle.
By Andrée Gagné | February 25th, 2020
According to new research, the peak year in producing carbon dioxide per capita was 2012. It means that while since 2012 the total amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere has increased, the share of each of us has declined. Therefore, we, as individuals, have had some positive impacts. Could have we done better? Maybe! But what matters is the fact that we have less carbon footprint than the last decade. Considering that the total population has always increased and is expected to grow, the only way to decarbonize the environment is by focusing on the individual footprints. This is specifically crucial to know that we have less carbon footprint today. If you think carefully about your lifestyle, you see that the trend is towards using more and more energy: larger refrigerators, more and more cellphones, larger houses, and so on. The other side of the coin is we have our windows better insulated, many of us ride on electric cars, many of us do not use disposable bottles and so on. According to research, the latter outweighs the former modern lifestyle. Please see the figure below that shows how individual carbon footprint has declined since 2012.
Figure 1: carbon dioxide per capita since 1970. Credit: www.forbes.com
As you can see in the figure, the carbon dioxide per capita can be projected towards the future. This is done in some scientific centers, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Different reasonable scenarios (not predictions) for the future can be defined. These scenarios are based on our current status and likely trends in the future. For instance, in this figure, the red line is a scenario that is based on “business as usual” mindset. This means that governments take no action to control climate change. The green line is the scenario based on the fulfillment of the commitments promised by governments (such as the Paris Agreement). As can be seen, even the red scenario projects a peak as large as the 2012 peak after two decades from now. This means that even with minimal contribution from governments, we can play a key role in declining carbon footprint.
There are many other possible scenarios as well. Some of these scenarios have different projections. They indicate a significant increase in per capita carbon footprint. Currently, it is hardly possible to rely on one single scenario even if most scenarios are leaning towards an increase (or decrease) of carbon dioxide. That is why an ensemble of scenarios should be used in scientific analyses. However, the fact that observations (not future scenarios) show that from 2012, our carbon footprint has declined is good news and we should hope that with adopting (or keeping up) a green lifestyle, the per capita carbon footprint continues to decline which means a step forward towards controlling climate change effects.
By Andrée Gagné | February 4th, 2020
While the Township of Bonfield is working on developing a climate change adaptation plan, there are some actions that can be taken by the residents to reduce the release of greenhouse gases. These suggestions have proven to be efficient. The suggestions demand a diverse range of effort and investment. Readers are encouraged to benefit from the ones that are practical for them. In the future, more practical suggestions will be shared.
Use cruise control - Depending on the road and speed, using cruise control can reduce your fuel consumption by around 20% (according to Natural Resources Canada).
Home insulation - If you have not done this already, it is suggested you consider sealing and air tightening your residence. That reduces around 11% of energy costs (according to the Environmental Protection Agency).
Turn down the water heater - Setting your water heater to 49oC (120 F) reduces greenhouse gas emission up to ~250 kg (550 pounds) per year (source:www.manofmany.com).
Switching to LED lights - IF not done yet, please consider using LED rather than traditional bulbs. That can save 100-150$ in a year on the hydro bill.
Use drip irrigation - Inefficient irrigation causes up to 50% of water waste. Moreover, drip irrigation saves fertilizer as well (according to the American Society of Landscape Architects).
Drive slowly - Aside from safety, going from 50 mph (~80 kmh) to 70 mph (112 kmh) increases fuel consumption by up to 25% (source:www.theguardian.com).
Using solar batteries - Using solar power is not a luxury option anymore. It is an affordable investment. If you have a remote cabin, this green choice is suitable for you. With less than 1500$ you can have sufficient power (a variety of choices are available from private vendors).
Use the library - We have a wonderful library in Bonfield. Almost any book that you need can be borrowed here. This is an excellent opportunity to save paper (source:www.theguardian.com).
By Andree Gagne | January 14th, 2020
Ticks can be found everywhere , however, they need certain environmental conditions to flourish that are warm and moist. . Study about ticks’ dates to the early 1900s. It is now well known that not all bites cause serious disease. Even sometimes you may not notice being bitten. However, pain and a rash will occur if you are allergic . If the tick carries disease, it can be transmitted to the host e.g. human. In this case, you may feel weakness, fever, and neck stiffness . Among diseases that can potentially be passed to humans from ticks, is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is becoming more and more common in North America. If not properly treated after being infected, Lyme disease can result in serious complications. It must be stressed that even being bitten by a tick that carries the bacteria causing Lyme disease, does not necessarily result in you being infected. Unlike other insects e.g. bed bug, flea, and mosquito, ticks do not bite and leave. They remain on the host for up to 2 days. Therefore, it is possible to prevent being infected since a single bite does not necessarily transmit the disease . A proper investigation of the skin can reduce the chance of having ticks hanging out on the host’s skin (human, pet) for a prolonged time. There is a seasonal and a geographical trend of the deer tick – also called black-legged – distribution, which is the tick responsible for the Lyme disease. This means we are not necessarily at risk for Lyme disease all the time and everywhere. On top of that, a young tick is less likely to feed on a human. A deer tick has a three-stage life cycle, as can be seen in the figure below.
Figure 1: the life cycle of deer tick 
In the larvae stage, they are less likely to attach to humans. Small rodents and birds are the best hosts for them. The larvae that survives the winter are nymph once the spring arrives. A nymph can potentially transmit the Lyme disease to humans. After sufficiently being fed by the host, the nymph undergoes the second hibernate period of the tick life cycle. In the spring, the grownup nymph that is an adult (that feeds on large mammals such as deer) now is ready to lay eggs . It must be stressed that larvae are not being naturally born with the risk of transmitting the Lyme disease to us (or it is very rare). It depends on the environment. For example, the larvae that are neighboring with certain kinds of mice are more likely to cause Lyme disease if they bite humans . Approximately, only one-third (tested in Ottawa) of deer ticks cause this infection . As mentioned previously, timely treatment can control this epidemic disease. But what is the role of climate change in the Lyme disease?
The role of climate change here is two-fold: climate change can boost the Lyme disease by affecting both the seasonality and the geographical distribution . Deer ticks need a certain number of warm days to survive . Climate change gives the ticks this opportunity. Moreover, in a warmer environment, ticks are more likely to find a perfect host, including humans. Naturally, we have more outdoor activities in warmer months. That is why most infections of Lyme disease occur in July . On the other hand, climate change extends the frost-free season and adds new territories as desirable locations for deer tick activity. This is why Lyme disease is now a serious problem in Ontario while this was not the case a few decades ago. To shed more light on the effect of climate change on Lyme disease, please see the table below.
Table 1: number of probable and confirmed Lyme diseases in Ontario, 2017 
|Public Health Unit||# of cases||%||5-year average
|Incidence per 100,000|
|North Bay Parry Sound District||1||0.1||1.3||0.8|
As can be observed, the south of Ontario is a better environment for deer ticks. This trend has increased seriously in recent years, all over Canada including Ontario. The number of Lyme disease cases in 2017 is more than 3 times as much as the 2012-2016 average across Ontario . This increase is more pronounced Canada-wide. In less than 10 years, reported Lyme disease cases increased 15 times . Now we know there are certain connections between Lyme disease and climate change. Bonfield is not among risk areas as it is obvious from Table 1; however, some precautions can minimize the risk even more: keep the grass short and store wood logs in a dry place  as ticks are mostly found in grassy and wooded environments . Shower after outdoor activities so that ticks can be found and removed from the skin . Cover the skin and clothes with repellent . Finally, long sleeves and long socks can reduce exposure to deer ticks [4,11].
In the end, remember that even being bitten by a deer tick – that carries disease – does not mean that you are now certainly infected by Lyme disease. However, if you suspect that you are, promptly visit a doctor for proper treatment. The Township of Bonfield, in collaboration with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, is in the process of raising awareness of the residents about vector-borne diseases and climate change.
 L. Magnarelli, 2009, Global Importance of Ticks and Associated Infectious Disease Agents, Clinical Microbiology Newsletter V31
 G. Nutfall, 1904, Ticks and tick-transmitted diseases, Transactions of the Epidemiological Society of London
 I. Dumic and E. Severnini, 2018, “Ticking Bomb”: The Impact of Climate Change on the Incidence of Lyme Disease, Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology
 M. Kulkarni et al., 2018, Ixodes scapularis tick distribution and infection rates in Ottawa, Ontario.
 M.P. Nedler et al., 2018, The continued rise of Lyme disease in Ontario, Canada: 2017. Canada Communicable disease report, climate change and Lyme disease
 N.H. Ogden, 2019, What is the real number of Lyme disease cases in Canada? BMC Public Health
By Andrée Gagné | December 6th, 2019
Climate change deniers, why and how this community was formed?
Climate change has been a public concern since years ago, maybe more than a decade. It gradually became a serious stressor and led to the Paris Agreement signed in 2016. The fact that there are serious criticisms about the sufficiency of the Paris Agreement and the fact that some countries left or did not sign the agreement is not subject here. The agreement set the goal to limit the average global temperature rise to 2 oC above the average global temperature of the pre-industrial era and try to keep it at 1.5 oC (www.unfccc.int). As a matter of fact, right now, a 1 oC rise in average global temperature is confirmed based on observed evidence (www.climateatlas.ca). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC – 2 oC is a borderline beyond which catastrophic outcomes are expected (www.ipcc.ch/2019/). This includes floods, seriously damaged ecological systems and so on.
The reason for the rush to reach the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level at or below the pre-industrial era is, in fact, threefold. First, already some irreversible damages have happened. Second, there is a tight schedule to reach the climate goals and it demands quick and pragmatic action, rather than policies, resolutions, and aspiratory promises. The timetable set, for example in the UK, is zero GHG emission by 2050. However, those who protest these days, ambitiously want to reach this goal by 2025 or it is too late. Third, there are pollutants that are called short-lived pollutants, such as methane that is naturally produced in landfills and cattle farms. These pollutants could be a hundred times more damaging to the Earth in terms of boosting global warming. There are fewer amounts of these pollutants emitted compared to the CO2, but they are harmful. As the name suggests, the effect of these pollutants can be dissipated faster than, for example, CO2 which stays in the atmosphere for years. Both these pollutants need to be controlled. As a matter of fact, getting rid of short-lived pollutants is easier as they can disappear fast – if not reproduced again! – and stop contributing to global warming. These are pressing issues for people. What they need to know is the truth and real action. This article does not suggest joining the so-called “Extinction Rebellion”, a movement in the UK, New Zealand and elsewhere. It is a personal choice. However, it should be stressed that enforcing unfair regulations (under pressure of the public movement, the Paris Agreement or simply because of lack of knowledge) can have serious adverse results. Last week the Netherlands saw the largest ever traffic jam in its history, more than 1000 km. It was because the farmers protested confining climate regulations against them. They believe that while their contribution to GHG emission is modest, they are much more affected by regulations compared to major industrial GHG emitters. Almost 90% of the Dutch supported their farmers. It is soon to judge, but perhaps from now on the Dutch government would have difficulties to justify new climate regulations. In other words, any new climate regulation, while being practical and efficient, needs to apply in a manner that does not cause an unexpected serious limitation to stakeholders. Therefore, while really quick actions are required, the balance should be paramount. That is the key to mobilize people with delicately reflected new climate regulations.
Wetlands are lands which are either covered by shallow water or have a water table close to the ground. Wetland has a vegetation cover that is water-loving or tolerates water, see Figure 1. Wetlands could be permanent or seasonal. These water-soaked areas are usually connected to a water body such as a river or a lake. Wetlands are of special importance because:
- They can reduce the damage caused by floods,
- They can be used for recreational activities,
- They can be used for timber collection,
- They play a key role in local ecosystems, and,
- They can inhale carbon dioxide in the air.
In Ontario, there are more than 35 million hectares of wetlands. Nipissing University offers a course called the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System. Climate change is expected to be negative feedback for the wetlands as they dry in a warmer environment. Toronto has lost 85% of its wetlands (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority). As such, the government of Ontario offers grants and incentives to encourage the residents to preserve wetlands (Government of Ontario, Wetland Conservation Strategy 2017-2030). Why does it matter so much for the government and the researchers?
Figure 1: Wetland in Ontario (credit: www.ontariowoodlot.com)
Wetlands are among major players in the carbon cycle. Wetland vegetation cover inhales carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Along with water and sunlight, plants make their food out of these three. That is called photosynthesis. The difference between a wetland and other green areas (such as forests) that also perform photosynthesis is that a wetland ecosystem has a large capacity to store carbon that is 700 kilograms per hectare per year (3). Wetland plants have long roots and even can incorporate carbon into their leaves. Unlike forests, fallen plants do not quickly release carbon back to the atmosphere (www.eos.org). Northern wetlands are of special interest not only because Canada hosts lots of them, but because freezing cycles decrease the decomposition rate of wetland (www.asknature.org). This means that boreal wetlands can live for centuries and serve as natural weather purifiers (1). That is why more than 450 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in North American wetlands (2). But what happens when a wetland is disturbed/dried, either for a nice cottage or as a result of natural wildfire? Not only the wetland is not there to act as a carbon sink, but the stored carbon will also be released back to the atmosphere (4,5). For example, a fire in Indonesian swamps sent 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per day (www.iucn.org). Therefore, the damage is two-fold. So, a powerful yet simple solution to regulate the climate is just let the wetlands be!
1) P.F. Sirin et al., Assessment of peatlands, biodiversity, and climate change, Published by the global environmental center (Kuala Lampur) and wetland international (Wageningen), 2008.
2) E. Gorham, Northern Peatlands: Role in the Carbon Cycle and Probable Responses to Climatic Warming, Ecological Applications, 1991
3) F. Pearce, Peat bogs hold bulk of Britain’s carbon, New Scientist issue 1952, 1994
4) V. Burkett and J. Kusler, CLIMATE CHANGE: POTENTIAL IMPACTS AND INTERACTIONS IN WETLANDS OF THE UNITED STATES, Journal of American Water Resources Association, 2007
Australian Government, Wetlands Australia, National Wetlands Update, September 2012, Issue 21
Globally speaking, the average annual temperature has increased in recent years. A recent report from National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – states that 9 out of 10 hottest Junes ever have occurred since 2010, and Canada has a significant contribution in this trend (www.noaa.gov). Since 1880, the Earth has warmed up 1°C (www.glimate.nasa.gov). This rate is different in various areas around the globe. However, Canada has shown to be among the countries that are warming up faster than others (www.climateatlas.ca). Canada has warmed up 1.7°C since 1948, which is two times faster than the global rate (Canada’s changing climate report – CCCR -, 2019). The situation in Northern Canada is even more serious, as the Northern areas are warming up three times faster than the global rate (CCCR, 2019).
In order to mobilize the public to cooperate in controlling the climate crisis, it is necessary to let them know how serious and fast the climate has evolved recently. To that end, the recent behavior of climate in Bonfield can be demonstrated using the long-term weather records of the North Bay airport. The analysis has been conducted in the Nipissing University. Moreover, climate change studies were performed by an external party for the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority – NBMCA -. According to these studies, the temperature has followed an increasing trend, as can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Mean annual temperature in North Bay Airport. Credit: Integrated Watershed Management Strategy, produced by Stantec for NBMCA, 2013
Obviously, since 2000 mean annual temperature values are larger than the rest of the recording period. The average annual temperature has topped 5°C nine times, eight of which happened since 1998 (Nipissing University Report, 2017). This is in accordance with the fact that 17 out of 18 global warmest recorded years have occurred since 2001 (www.climateatlas.ca). A similar increasing trend has been observed for annual precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) as well. Only four years displayed annual precipitation more than 1200 millimeter, all after 1997. According to the report prepared by Stantec (engineering services) for NBMCA, precipitation trends higher around 2.4% per decade since the 1950s.
All these observed trends suggest an increasing trend in both precipitation and temperature in North Bay. These trends can be transferred to Bonfield as Bonfield and North Bay have a similar climate. What does the climate in Bonfield look like? Can we project these trends to the future?
These questions will be answered in future updates. Now, you are invited to enjoy this music while reflecting on climate change:
By Andrée Gagné | July 24th, 2019
Q: Why is Bonfield susceptible to climate change?
A: Bonfield is vulnerable to climate change because:
- A1: Bonfield is a rural community, where the residents use resources much more than an urban community. For instance, the way that the farmers of Bonfield count on and need the natural resources e.g. land, rainfall, is different than the residents of Toronto.
- A2: Bonfield is blessed with abundant water bodies situated in the area e.g. Kaibuskong River, Nosbonsing Lake. Water is a vital resource and is a carbon dioxide sink, but it can elevate the risk of flooding events. That is especially true when paying attention to the fact that extreme rainfall events in Bonfield are expected to follow an increasing trend.
- A3: Bonfield has a mid-high latitude (~46o). It is known that climate change is more critical in the northern areas (Environment and Climate Change Canada). In that sense, Bonfield needs to be prepared for climate change impacts.
- A4: 30% of Bonfield is composed of seniors and children (www.statcan.gc.ca), who are more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Q: How Bonfield can be impacted by a new warmer climate?
A: The rainfall pattern is expected to change in Bonfield. Generally, extreme events are expected to be more severe and more frequent. As well the annual temperature is expected to increase. This new pattern of temperature, rainfall and snowfall can cause flooding events, heatwaves, disturbed farming activities, a different pattern of energy demand, and climate-related diseases (warmer lakes are better hosts for bacteria).
Q: Can we make a climate-proof Bonfield?
A: Hopefully, we can. Bonfield should be resilient. This means that Bonfield, i.e. the residents and the infrastructures, should be able to absorb climate-related shocks and return to normal life in a reasonable amount of time. This does not mean that no disaster will be a threat to Bonfield. Rather, it means that, if a disaster happens infrastructures can tolerate it. And properly trained residents in Bonfield can withstand the disaster, learn lessons from it and reach a balanced life again.
Canada is a country which is vulnerable to climate change, as the high latitude areas face faster warming due to climate change impacts (source: www.ec.gc.ca). The Government of Canada, along with the academic community of Canada, pays a great deal of attention to climate change and invests in this area. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) provided a grant to the Township of Bonfield to analyze climate change impacts on the infrastructures of this Township, roads, bridges, culverts and buildings, and on the residents. In the framework of this grant, a climate change adaptation plan, tailored to the circumstances of Bonfield will be developed. This blog, along with other media, is meant to promote communication between the residents of Bonfield and the climate change specialist of Bonfield. Please check here often for monthly updates
• What is the goal of this project?
The goal of this project is to integrate climate impacts in the long-term asset management plans of the Township of Bonfield. Moreover, this project will address concerns of the residents and the stakeholders in the Township of Bonfield. These concerns include climate change-related health issues (e.g. air quality, heat wave), farming activities under climate change conditions, and recreational activities under climate change conditions.
• What do we need from the residents?
This project can only be successful if a meaningful collaboration is established between the residents and the Township of Bonfield. In the course of this project, the Township will communicate with the residents via various media, including this blog. On the other hand, the Township invites residents to actively promote climate change actions and work with the Township in the adaptation plan. Communication with the residents ensures the Township that all possible climate-related risks are addressed, and both the residents and the Township can make informed decisions. Moreover, this will assure the Township that the residents are appropriately aware about the new possible climate changes.