As smoke from the raging forest fires seen across Canada is blanketing our skies and casting an orange hue on the sun, the old adage “where there’s smoke there’s fire” perfectly captures the severity of climate change and its close-to-home yet far-reaching impact.
That severity was reinforced and highlighted by the United Nations (UN) in August, with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1 declaring the crisis a ‘Code Red for Humanity’ with the release of their latest report.
“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at risk,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many changes becoming irreversible.”
The report serves as a stark reminder of the changes occurring in the earth’s climate. Changes that are unprecedented in thousands and even hundreds of thousands of years, are striking across the globe and the impacts can be felt in communities across Canada.
As outlined in the report, climate change is:
- Intensifying the water cycle – Bringing intense rainfall and flooding to some regions and more intense drought in others
- Changing rainfall patterns – Notably in regions of high latitude precipitation will likely increase
- Raising sea levels in coastal areas – Sea levels will continue to rise, leading to increases in flooding of low-laying areas and costal erosion.
- Increasing melting and thawing – Permafrost thawing will increase as will the melting of ice sheets and glaciers.
We are witnessing “once-in-a-century events” happening with greater frequency.
Unfortunately, some of the changes that have taken place in our climate are irreversible, such as the continued rise in sea levels. However, it is important to remember that there is still time to take action, to turn the tide and correct the course our planet is on.
Forests and the forest sector have and will continue to play a major role in fighting against climate change. At the Canadian Institute of Forestry/Institut forestier du Canada (CIF-IFC), we will continue to advocate for sustainable forestry as a critical solution in mitigating climate change.
The CIF-IFC is the oldest forest society in Canada, and for over 100 years we have been the voice of forest practitioners.
Forests, which provide multiple environmental benefits, have already proven to be effective in helping combat climate change.
Forests regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and play a key role in the earth’s carbon cycle. In addition, they support the livelihoods of many individuals and communities and create and maintain sustainable growth.
As IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai stated: “Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions…limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants… could have benefits for both health and the climate.”
Forests and sustainable forest management practices reduce the impact of greenhouse gases, as growing forests sequester atmospheric carbon. Worldwide, forests absorb 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a third of the CO2 that comes from burning fossil fuels. In addition to providing clean air, forests also provide clean water and healthy habitats.
We are proud that Canada has taken a lead role in sustainable forest management, protecting, and conserving our forests.
Canadian forestry has a strong track record with high levels of forest renewal after harvesting, adherence to government rules for levels of harvesting and forest renewal, and a large proportion of forested land with third-party certification of sustainability of forestry operations.
With a global focus to keep forest landscapes intact, manage forests more sustainably, and restore forest landscapes that have been lost, Canadian forestry has set a great example for the world to follow.
According to Natural Resources Canada’s The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report 2020, Canada has a total of 347 million hectares (ha) of forest area. This number has remained stable for decades with a decrease of only 1% from 1990 to 2017, and only 0.01% of Canadian forests lost to deforestation each year.
Through using sound science to consider biodiversity, wildlife habitat supply, ecosystem processes, and natural disturbance emulation, Canadians should be proud of our forests and their role in decreasing the effects of climate change.
Canadian scientists, provincial and federal governments and forest industry are finding new solutions, technologies and strategies to prepare for future climatic challenges. The stresses of climate change on our forests are great and will call for creative and adaptive solutions that go beyond current management.
As Secretary-General António Guterres stated: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”
Canadian forestry has answered and will continue to answer this call to action.
Forest Communications Advocate
Canadian Institute of Forestry
- Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity’
- Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying – IPCC
- Forests and climate change | IUCN
- IPCC Sixth Assessment Report
- NRCan’s The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report 2020
- Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Climate Report ‘Code Red for Humanity’, Stressing ‘Irrefutable’ Evidence of Human Influence