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Harper government acknowledges climate change in new report

The world is 0.78°C warmer than it was prior to the industrial revolution, according to a report being released today by a Canadian government initiative.

David Johnston, the Governor-General appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is scheduled to speak at a reception this evening to mark the release of the report. Environment Minister Jim Prentice will also speak.

The report, entitled "Degrees of Change," describes how global warming would affect Canada. It is joint project between the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy -- of which Johnston is the founding chair -- and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

"Climate change is not just a theory. It's taking place now," Robert Page, the round table's current chair, said in a statement. "That means we must go beyond cutting carbon emissions. We must start adapting our behaviour, our communities, and our economic activity to the emerging reality of climate change."

An interactive website features a diagram that lays out the likely consequences that one- to five-degree rise in temperature would have on ice, ecosystems, water resources, human health, infrastructure, industry and security. The government-funded report is based on a documented body of previously published scientific information.

The report notes that Canada and other G8 nations have promised to take measures to limit global temperature increases to no more than two degrees Celsius. (A promise that critics warn Canada has made no effort to keep.)

The report suggests that a two degree rise would make shipping through St. Lawrence Seaway more expensive (due to lower water levels), and would significantly reduce the availability of water to communities in the South Saskatchewan River basin. Recreational pursuits such as skiing would suffer.

On the other hand, northern ocean shipping would become easier as a result of melting Arctic sea ice. The timber might benefit from faster tree growth in some northerly locations. There could be greater access to northern oil, gas and mineral resources. And, according to the report, golfers could benefit.

The two organizations are hosting a series of panel discussions with Canadian experts over the next two weeks. The first takes place today. Regional sessions will take place in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, and Vancouver (on Oct. 20th).

Monte Paulsen reports on carbon shift for The Tyee.

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