The Great White North seems to be melting.
According to a new study by the universities of British Columbia, Victoria, Iceland, and the University of Northern British Columbia, 70 per cent of western Canada’s glaciers are set to disappear by the end of this century. That means by 2100, our mountain ranges could start looking like the ones you’d find in beach-ridden California.
Except this isn’t a surge of warmth you should be excited about.
“These glaciers act as a thermostat for freshwater ecosystems,” Garry Clarke, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC said in a statement. “Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change fresh water habitat. We could see some unpleasant surprises in terms of salmon productivity.”
But that’s not all we have to worry about. There are currently 200,000 glaciers on Earth, about 17,000 of which are in B.C. (800 more are in Alberta). Those glaciers help control water flow to hydroelectric power plants, replenish freshwater supply essential for drinking and agricultural industries, regulate ocean circulation patterns, and manage sea levels. Just imagine what will happen when they all melt.
The issue is even raising eyebrows south of the border. Canada’s melting glaciers were slammed in a U.S. National Climate Assessment, which also helped shed light on how the rest of the country could be impacted.
In short, nobody is safe.
Ice loss projections over the next century.
The Maritimes and Quebec have already been grappling with rising sea levels (Halifax officials are already taking inventory of property along the coast, assuming it will soon be swallowed by the ocean). With glaciers shedding about 22 billion cubic metres of water every year (an average Olympic swimming pool contains 2,500), those oceans are going to start rising a lot faster. And once they do, other climate systems will continue to be thrown out of whack.
Ontario and Manitoba have recently been battling a mixture of extreme weather patterns ranging from flooding to ice storms, which the assessment blames on global warming. Water-hungry Saskatchewan and Alberta, meanwhile, may see an increase in competition for precious blue gold after the area’s remaining glaciers evaporate away for good. As for the Arctic regions, they’re warming faster than the rest of Canada.
So what can you do to help keep Canada cold?
Researchers blame the melting of glaciers primarily on greenhouse gas emissions.
“Increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, released from fossil fuel combustion, is the primary factor that will cause increases in surface air temperatures in the decades ahead,” said a statement released by UBC.
Essentially, that means you can stop driving and turn down the heat. But this is one problem where, unless governments and corporations start getting involved soon, there just isn’t much we can do.
Then again though, there’s always voting.
The study’s authors did not respond to TheLoop’s request for comment.