Board of Directors
President David Stringer
- Vice-President Christine Trudeau
- Treasurer Jean Kronberg
- Secretary Mary Higginson
- Director Joëlle Claudon
- Director Linda Bennett
- Director Lucia Trommer
- Director William Spekkens
- Director Daniel Cloutier
- Past President Patti Hennessey
Dear Members of the Nature Society
I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let’s hope for a better future for the environment and for a better control of climate change.
The past decade has seen an astonishing run of record-breaking hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, heat waves, and floods around the world. It has occurred with just a 1.0 degrees Celsius increase in global warming. But much of these events, linked to climate change, will get substantially worse if global warming reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius. This increase could be reached in as little as 11 year without major cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Roughly 30 percent of the solar radiation directed toward the earth is reflected directly back into outer space. The remaining 70 percent is absorbed by earth and re-emitted outward as long-wave, or infra-red radiation. While transparent to incoming solar radiation, certain gases, notably carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons absorb, or “trap,” this outgoing infra-red radiation near the earth’s surface, producing an increase in temperature. This is the so-called “Greenhouse Effect”.
There are those who argue that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon. This is true as it is well-known from studies by paleo-climatologists that the world can warm and cool, without any human interference. For the past million years this has occurred over-and-over again at approximately 100,000 year intervals. This natural cycle of global warming and cooling is range-bound and is well understood. It is caused by the changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The mass and movements of other planets in our solar system have a major affect the Earth’s orbit.
As the Earth’s orbit changes, the amount of sunlight which falls on different latitudes also changes. From evidence found by scientists it appears that one hundred million years ago, the Earth was in the grip of an extreme Greenhouse Effect. The polar ice caps had essentially melted. In Antarctica, the evidence suggests that rainforests, possibly inhabited by dinosaurs, existed in place of the ice caps. One of the first people to uncover evidence for a once-greener Antarctica was the explorer Scott where, in 1912, he found fossil plants on the Beardmore Glacier at 82 degrees south. Similar conditions of forests have also been found in the Arctic regions. If global warming continues unabated, could these ancient forests and the resulting rise in sea levels be a taste of things to come?
Where are we currently in the natural cycle of global warming or cooling? Right now The earth is in a cooling trend of the natural cycle. This cooling would continue for thousands of years into the future if all else remained the same. But starting with the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, the CO2 content of the atmosphere has deviated from the natural cycle. Instead of decreasing per the natural cycle, the CO2 in the atmosphere has increased because of the fossil-fuel burning. Methane and nitrous oxide have also increased unnaturally because of agricultural practices and other factors. So due to human activity we are now deviating from the natural cycle and the world has warmed unnaturally. In fact, what is especially alarming, is that global warming is now deviating exponentially from the natural cycle.
So what can be done to rectify the situation? Governments play the key role in ensuring that the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius is met. 195 countries signed onto the agreement but to-date only seven relatively small countries are on-target in meeting the agreement. Canada and China are listed as highly-insufficient and the USA and Russia are listed as critically-insufficient in meeting the agreement. This information is extremely concerning. Economical concerns appear to over-riding concerns regarding the protection of our planet. This is a very short-sighted outlook by governments. We know that the balance of nature is very delicate and we know the steps that must be taken.
As individuals, there are steps we can take in reducing CO2 emissions. These include: