Nature Canada Nature Canada
Climate change is changing you
News

Climate change is changing you

This blog was written by Luca Bonaccorsi and published by our partners at Birdlife International the week of November 11, 2016. This piece was further edited by Sam Nurse. A new study reveals ongoing alterations in shape, size, sex and distribution of animals and plants are due to man-made warming.  Paolo lives in an area that is getting hotter. He must have noticed that his children are smaller than they should be. And not just in stature – their arms and legs are proportionately smaller than you'd expect.  Mohamed lives in an area increasingly susceptible to drought. He has noticed that his skin is growing thicker and lucid and waterproof, increasing substantially his water retention. In Lola’s village there used to be about one man for every woman. Now, men are hard to find. [caption id="attachment_26344" align="alignright" width="247"] Red Knots in flight[/caption] It’s what you would actually see if we could firstly, fast forward time and secondly, limit the level of insulation of the human species from changes in the environment due to progress and technology. How do we know for sure? Because when it comes to animal and plants, things are no different. The scary processes described above are in fact documented trends affecting our fauna and flora. These are the new findings revealed by a study led by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, BirdLife International and other institutions, published this week in the prestigious journal Science. The study contains a vast number of unsettling data. Some salamanders have shrunk in size by some 8% over the past 50 years (equivalent to the average human becoming 15 centimetres shorter). Over the same period Red Knots have had smaller offspring with shorter bills (not as good for foraging hence affecting negatively their growth prospects). The opposite is happening to some mammals in colder area where warmer weather means more food: American Martens and Yellow-bellied Marmots are getting bigger. Likewise, melanism (such as that witnessed in black panthers or crows) is decreasing as it does not favour thermoregulation. And species whose sex determination is affected by temperatures are witnessing changes in the sex ratio of their population: some species of lizards are creating increasingly more males, some turtle species more females. [caption id="attachment_16894" align="alignleft" width="203"]photo of young snapping turtle. Snapping turtle hatchling. Photography by Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl[/caption] “We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems” says study lead author Brett Scheffers. Researchers discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change. Bird science is proving, once more, very important in understanding the consequences of global warming. According to Stuart Butchart, Chief Scientist at BirdLife International:

“Some of the best data on climate change impacts come from birds. For example, bird population trends in North America and Europe show a clear signal of climate change since the 1980s. While some species have benefited, many more have undergone declines.”  
Until now, the narratives around climate change had failed to convey how pervasive the impacts could be. Drought, wildfires, rising sea levels and extreme weather are all phenomena portrayed with accuracy in the climate action camp. This new publication adds a new, hugely unsettling, dimension to the concept of climate change”. This change does not simply exist 'outside' of us in the form of weather phenomena. Instead, it is inside all of us, changing the very alphabet of our identity: our genetic code. To read the full article from BirdLife International, click here.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

The Paris Agreement – What does it really mean for Canada? 
News

The Paris Agreement – What does it really mean for Canada? 

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] The Paris Agreement signed Saturday by virtually all the countries of the world is truly a major success.  Congratulations to Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister McKenna for playing such a constructive role in the negotiations. But let’s also thank Louise Comeau, Steven Guilbeault, Elizabeth May and the many other environmentalists who kept hope alive--pushing for an international agreement despite 10 years of obstructionism from the previous government. The Agreement commits governments to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. A fund of at least $100 billion to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries is established. Governments are called upon to conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases (such as forests and grasslands).Image of caribou Implementing the Paris Agreement is a huge challenge for Canada let alone less-developed countries. In effect, implementation means that fossil fuel production would be phased out globally in the coming decades and replaced by renewable energy sources and much more efficient use of all energy supplies. So for Canada, one question is: should any new oil, natural gas, or coal infrastructure (e.g., mines, pipelines, tanker terminals)  be approved for what are in essence sunset industries?  If Canada is serious about meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement, shouldn’t the billions of dollars needed to build the proposed Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain and Energy East projects be redirected to financing low-carbon renewable energy projects and to improving the energy efficiency of our homes, industries and vehicles?  Shouldn’t the pro-fossil fuel regulatory boards such as the National Energy Board and the offshore boards be replaced by boards with a low-carbon mandate? Shouldn’t all subsidies and export development financing to the fossil fuel industry be cancelled?  The benefits to nature of avoiding the negative impacts of fossil fuel megaprojects would be enormous. Finally, shouldn’t all government be making every effort to protect and grow forests and grasslands, which we know are critically important sinks for greenhouse gas emissions—as well as for wildlife and nature? Email Signup

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.

Donate