Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 2 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 21, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 8:30 a.m. to examine the impact of
climate change on Canada's agriculture, forests and rural communities and the potential adaptation options focusing
on primary production, practices, technologies, ecosystems and other related areas.
Senator Donald H. Oliver (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: I would like to call this third meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
to order. I would like to welcome all senators, and I would like to particularly welcome senators to the beginning of our
study into the impact of climate change and the necessary adaptation that will be required. I would like to welcome
Canadians watching and listening to our hearings in Ottawa on CPAC and on the Internet.
On October 31, this committee received a specific mandate from the Senate of Canada to review the impact that
climate change is having on Canada's agriculture, its forests and its rural communities.
Over the last few years, we have seen clear and sometimes dramatic evidence that our climate is changing.
Unfortunately, climate change is here and will be with us for a very long time.
This committee is now undertaking an intensive study on how our farming and forestry practices across this country
must adapt to such potential effects as less rainfall, longer growing periods and much hotter temperatures. We will
examine the potential adaptation options, focusing on primary production, practices, technology and ecosystems.
As we continue our examination, with our given mandate, other issues may also require a closer look. The
committee is to table its final report at the end of December 2003. This is not a study of the Kyoto accord. Our study
goes beyond the scope of one international treaty. As a country, we need to examine the impact of climate change, and
the adaptation to it, not just in 10 years, but 20 and 50 years, for farmers and those involved in forestry.
What needs to change today in order to sustain our industries and our communities tomorrow? We will be inviting
experts, practitioners, community leaders and other interested parties to hear our views.
Since our time is limited during our hearings, I encourage Canadians to participate in this process by making their
views known to us. Their opinions and views can be expressed by writing to the committee members by way of
electronic mail at email@example.com. For those who use conventional mail, they can write to us at the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, the Senate, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A OA4.
Honourable senators, our witness today is Mr. Henry Hengeveld, senior science adviser on climate change from
Environment Canada. He is a graduate from the University of Toronto in the fields of mathematics, physics and
meteorology, and he has published numerous reports on the science of climate change.
I would like to advise senators that next Tuesday, we will hear from the assistant deputy minister about government
Mr. Hengeveld will speak to us today on the scientific questions of our changing climate. Welcome.
Mr. Henry Hengeveld, Chief Science Advisor, Climate Change, Environment Canada: Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure
to be here to testify on the science of climate change. I think anyone who has read the media accounts on the science of
climate change recently will appreciate that it is very complex. I just want to spend a few minutes talking about the
nature of the science to put that issue into context.
First of all, I think trying to understand how the climate system works is a little like trying to understand how the
planet ticks. It is somewhat arrogant to suggest that we will ever fully understand that, but it does mean that it involves
many different scientific disciplines, almost all the science disciplines under the sun. It also means that there are many
scientists involved and that many science papers are published. In fact, at the moment there are several thousand
papers published in peer-reviewed journals every year. The total science research package is estimated globally to be
U.S. $3 billion a year, partly because of the costly effort of monitoring the climate system through satellites and other
I draw the analogy that trying to understand climate change is abit like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle. If we
think of each paper as one piece in the puzzle, this is a jigsaw puzzle with 10,000 or more pieces, with each scientist
having a few of the pieces to bring to the table. It means that no single scientist can hope to give you the picture. It
means there is a need for collaboration among scientists to do comprehensive international assessments involving all
the disciplines, involving all the historical research, as well as the more recent, to put the picture together, much like we
might want to do with a very large jigsaw puzzle.
The United Nations General Assembly already recognized this need in 1988 and at that time asked two of its science
agencies to put together a process that would allow the scientists from all the different disciplines to do this. It is a
process known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which issued its first report in 1990. It was a rather
cautious statement about what we do and do not know about climate change.
Within two years, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted at Rio. There is a connection in that
the sound science from the first report was a significant input into the political process that led to the Framework
Convention on Climate Change. Through the second and third report, confidence increased, both because we acquired
thousands more pieces to the puzzle in the 10-year time lapse and because we have watched the climate evolve for 10
more years. Therefore, by the third report, which was released almost two years ago, there was increasing confidence in
our knowledge. We can also see a parallel progression, not unlinked, on the political side in terms of developing the
Kyoto Protocol and, more recently, some of the processes for implementing it.
There are, of course, skeptics and critics of the IPCC process. It is not surprising that science, by its nature, is
adversarial. It is like courtroom law, in that scientists are trained to try to pick holes in each other's theories. Therefore,
there will always be those, especially when you deal with several thousand scientists, who say, ``I do not believe it.''
This also happened with IPCC's third report. Different groups advised President Bush of the U.S., for example, that
he should not believe the IPCC report. The President therefore asked the U.S. National Research Council, under the
National Academy of Sciences, to do its own assessment and to comment on the IPCC report.
It came back with a rather ringing endorsement, referring primarily to this volume, which is the first part of the
report. You can see that there has been a lot of effort. This is like a Senate report. A lot of work goes into it. They
concluded that this was an admirable summary of research activities in climate science.
Around the same time, 17 academies of science from 17 other countries also came onboard and said the work of the
IPCC ``represents the consensus of the international science community on climate change science. We recognize IPCC
as the world's most reliable source of information...and endorse its method of achieving this consensus.'' Clearly, the
science community believes that this, while imperfect, is still the best source of information available. It will be the
primary source that I will use to present some of the fundamental, underlying facts about climate change science.
The first one we need to understand is the very principle of the greenhouse effect itself. This was already
hypothesized in 1827 by a French mathematician, Jean Fourier, who pointed out that trace gases in the atmosphere
work, in his view, like the glass in a greenhouse. Perhaps more relevant would be comparing it to an insulating blanket
around the planet that prevents heat from escaping into space.
The atmosphere is a very valuable resource. It is a significant part of the life support system of the earth. First of all,
it contains the air that we breathe, which is 21 per cent oxygen. Very few other planets have that. It is one of the
reasons why life can exist on earth. It also has a stratospheric ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays
from the sun, which is why we are concerned about the depletion of the ozone layer. Finally, it has a suitable, stable
climate and weather on which we rely. It is the latter that we want to focus on today.
If we look at the vertical profile of the earth's atmosphere and try to understand how this natural greenhouse effect
works, we can look at it as the sun providing the energy that drives this climate engine. It is incoming solar radiation
that provides the heat that drives photosynthesis and evaporation, warms the earth's surface, and drives the winds and
ocean currents. That is the energy that drives the climate system.
About 31 per cent of the sun's incoming energy is reflected back into space by clouds and aerosols, and by reflection
from the surface of the earth itself. However, we cannot just keep pumping more energy into a system without releasing
energy, because then we would have an overheating system. We must have a means of releasing this energy back into
space, and that happens through outgoing heat energy. It is here that the natural greenhouse effect becomes important
because greenhouse gases absorb much of the energy and re-radiate it in all directions, much of it back down. Without
this effect, the earth's temperature would be 33 degrees colder than it is today. It would be unliveable, so this is a very
critical aspect of the life support system and of the debate about climate change.
Greenhouse gas comprises a very low concentration of less than 1 per cent of the atmosphere. We can change this
concentration, which is like removing or adding blankets to our bed at night to affect the temperature underneath.
This is a graph that shows how the concentration of CO2, or carbon dioxide, one of the key gases, has changed over
the last 1,000 years. We can use ice cores that have fossilized air bubbles imbedded within them, representing
marvellous little samples of what the atmosphere has been like over the last 400,000 years. When we look at these ice
core records from Antarctica and Greenland, we find the concentrations of CO2 have been remarkably stable, at
slightly below 0.3 per cent of the atmosphere throughout the last 1,000 years. In fact, if we look at the 400,000-year
record, the highest concentration we can detect is about 300 parts per million; yet in the last 200 years, it has increased
to the point where today the concentrations are 31 per cent above pre-industrial levels. They are certainly the highest at
any time in the last 400,000 years and are likely the highest they have ever been in the last 20 million years. There is a
clear indication that humans have caused the change in concentrations.
In 1957, a few scientists first raised the alarm about this, saying that we are conducting a huge geographic
experiment with the planet Earth, and it is the only planet we have. This was the initial warning from the science
community that we needed to understand this issue much better, and it has precipitated quite intense research over the
last 45 years.
The first thing that we need to ask is, if we have already seen a large increase in CO2 and a number of other
greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, where is the evidence that this is beginning to affect the climate?
There are two factors here. One is that the climate is naturally very noisy. There are a lot of oscillations and
fluctuations. We see that year to year and decade to decade, and there is evidence that this happens on longer time
We have to have a signal, if you will, that is loud enough to get beyond the background noise. It is like trying to
listen to Bach when your son is playing rock music next door. If he has the rock music turned up, you have to crank up
your Bach signal. That is what we are doing here. The other issue, of course, is that there is a lag in the system. It takes
a long time for the oceans to warm up and respond to the pressures toward higher temperatures that are occurring.
Despite this, when we look at all the different temperature records and ocean data over the last 140 years, we do see a
consistent warming pattern that suggests that the earth has warmed by about six-tenths of a degree over the last
century. There is some uncertainty because of potential error in the data, so the range is somewhere between 0.4 and
0.8. Again, uncertainty works both ways, in the sense that we may have underestimated as well as overestimated.
There are those who will argue that this may be part of a natural trend, whereby we see climate variations on
century time scales, so the science community has also looked at possible factors that may have caused it. First of all, if
we look at the last 140 years, there are natural sources like changes in the intensity of sunlight reaching the earth. We
talk about a ``solar constant,'' but the ``constant'' is not quite constant. It does fluctuate. On top of that, we have
volcanic eruptions putting dust into the air and increasing the amount of sunlight that is reflected back into space.
When we look at these two factors over the last 140 years, we see that, based on model projections of how the climate
system should have responded to these natural forces, with the observed shown in red in this diagram and the model
results in grey, some of the changes in the first part of the 20th century could be explained by solar and volcanic
eruptions, both because the solar intensity increased and the number of volcanic eruptions decreased, putting less dust
into the air. In the last 50 years, however, the reverse is true. Increasing volcanic eruptions have added more dust to the
air and the climate system should have cooled, based on those two factors alone. Instead, it warmed quite rapidly.
If we add the human element into it and the change in greenhouse gas concentrations, when the model looks at all
three of these factors, volcanic, solar and human, we find a very good reproduction of what is actually observed. That
suggests that what we are seeing is consistent with human influences that have been very substantial in the last 50 years.
The final factor is that when we look at the recent changes in comparison to reconstructed climate over the last
millennium, we find that the 20th century was the warmest of the millennium. The 1990s was the warmest decade and
1998 was the single warmest year. 2001 was the second warmest, and 2002 will likely be between the two. The three
warmest years will probably be within the last five years.
There are also many other ways, other than temperature, in which the world's climate is changing quite
dramatically. We are seeing receding glaciers all over the world. I just saw a paper a couple of weeks ago stating that
Mount Kilimanjaro, which has had ice caps on it for the last 10,000 years, will likely have no ice on it within 20 years.
That is just one example. There are tremendous changes in glaciers in Europe, Asia, the Himalayas and North
We also see sea levels rising, although not dramatically yet. It has been about 20 centimetres over the last century,
but we are seeing evidence in certain areas of the world of crumbling coastlines. We also see a dramatic retreat of Arctic
Sea ice, where the coverage of multi-year ice in the Arctic is about 13 per cent less now than it was 30 years ago.
These are all trends — although fairly short term, so we need to be careful how we use them — that are consistent
with the concept of a warmer world. This led the IPCC to conclude in 2001 ``that there is now new and stronger
evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activity.''
That tells us a little about what has happened until now. The main concern is what will happen over the next
century. It is here that the science gets a little more uncertain, because we now have two problems with which to deal.
One is predicting future human behaviour and how that will affect greenhouse gas emissions. That is not a scientific
uncertainty; it is a demographic one related to population changes, how economic development and energy efficiency
in our society will change, and the kind of energy we will use over the next century.
Demographic, energy and other experts have gotten together and developed a number of plausible scenarios on how
that will evolve over the next 100 years. It covers quite a range, from a society that has modest growth and goes to a
green economy using renewable energies, to a society that has more rapid growth and sticks with a coal-based
economy. You can see that the emissions would be very different.
In addition, there is some uncertainty about how sensitive the global climate system is to changing greenhouse gas
emissions. When we add these together, the IPCC estimated that we would almost certainly see a warming of at least
1.4 degrees Celsius within the next century. We could see something in the order of 5.8 degrees. That range sort of
captures the combined uncertainty about human demographic changes, as well as the scientific uncertainty inherent in
An increase of 1.4 degrees would be unprecedented in human history. At a minimum, we will see something that is
unprecedented in at least the last 10,000 years. At the upper end, we will see something comparable to the change
between the last Ice Age, when there were several kilometres of ice over this spot, and today, except that the process of
deglaciation took 5,000 years and this will happen in 100 years. The rate of change is far more dramatic than anything
that humans have been exposed to in the past. That raises huge concerns.
The Canadian model projection of how the climate will change year by year over the next century is one of the most
respected in the world. About five years ago, when the Americans decided to do an impact assessment of their country
in terms of climate change, they selected two models to use for the scenario: the Canadian model and the United
Kingdom model, even though the Americans themselves have three modelling groups. That is a testament to the
quality of the Canadian model.
There are many differences among models as to the details in the projections, and hence some of the uncertainties
related to local climate change. However, there are common features that all of the models show. Land will warm more
than oceans. That is simply because oceans are tremendous heat sinks and take longer to warm up. It is no different
from pouring a glass of water and leaving it in this room and watching how much longer that would take to warm up
than the air around it. The warming will be far greater in high latitudes than low latitudes, particularly in the winter
season. The explanation for this phenomenon is that as we warm the system, we melt the snow and ice. When we melt
the snow and ice, we change how much sunlight is reflected back into space, and the sunlight is amplified. There is a
significant amount of noise in the system. The climate system is noisy. Thus, we will have natural fluctuations
superimposed on an underlying upward trend. While it shakes back and forth, there is a progressive change in colour in
There will also be large changes in precipitation. However, the confidence here is far less than on the temperature.
Greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect cause changes in temperature, but it is non-uniform. That then changes
wind circulation, and that changes where our rain goes. We then have multiplying uncertainties. The uncertainty and
disagreement among models on precipitation are far greater than on temperature. However, this model suggests that
the world in general will have more rain because we will have more evaporation, and what goes up comes down. The
model also suggests that some parts of the world will see less rain. Add that supposition to the increased evaporation,
and we will see a significant drying out. One of the reasons why some Americans do not like the Canadian model
results is that Florida is shown as drying out tremendously. That is a greater challenge to Americans than anything that
armed countries around the world might throw at them.
Ironically, the U.K. model shows an increase in precipitation. That is a reminder that we still must be very cautious
about the regional impacts. In general, the model shows that interior parts of the continents of the northern
hemisphere will become dryer in the summer. That is a key piece of information to keep in mind.
Climate change will also change the kind of weather we can expect. One of the most robust conclusions that we can
draw is that the frequency of extremely cold days will decrease. For example, if we look at the frequency of what we
now consider the one-in-ten-year extreme cold event in Canada, on average, in the 1980s, that was somewhere around
minus 33 degrees Celsius; if we project to the 2050s, that temperature is approximately minus 26, and by the 2080s it
would be minus 18. We expect the climate to become less cold. The extremes would become less severe.
That change has both benefits and adverse effects. For example, some crops will survive better in the wintertime if
we do not have extreme cold. On the other hand, extremely cold temperatures in the winter also kill many pests. We see
that with the mountain pine beetle in B.C., where the lack of cold winter days has caused major infestations.
The reverse scenario is true in the summertime: The extremely hot days will become hotter. Again, this is the one-in-
ten-year extreme event that in the 1980s was around plus 31.5 degrees; by the 2050s, it is around 34 degrees; and by the
2090s, it is a little over 35 degrees.
Not only would the number of hot days become more frequent, as we saw in Ontario this summer, but we would
also expect the intensity to go up as well.
The other factor that is important to both agriculture and forestry is precipitation. Again, it is not the averages that
count; it is the extremes. A good comparison is what happened this summer in Alberta or in Western Canada. On
average, we saw more precipitation than normal on the prairies. However, many of us would understand that that is
not the way the farmers see it. Lethbridge got a tremendous downpour in the early part of the summer, and other parts
of the prairies dried out. Averages hide many facts that are very important to ecosystems. One of those factors is
intense precipitation and the other is intense drought.
One of the studies that the British did with their model shows that for central North America, the extreme drought
events that today might happen once in 50 years — and this is where a large area of the central part of the continent
would have 30 consecutive days in the summer without rain — would happen about once every 17 years by 2070.
When we get drought, we can expect it to be more severe, partly because when you do not have rain and you have
higher temperatures, whatever moisture is in the soil will evaporate more quickly.
On the other hand, when it does rain, we expect it to be heavier rain. Again, we need to look south of us to see the
kind of rain they get in Texas or in the southern U.S. today. A thunderstorm with several inches of rain is actually quite
a common occurrence in those areas, much more so than in Canada.
For example, the extreme event that now happens once every 80 years would happen about once every 50 years by
2050 and about once every 25 years by 2090. Likewise, the event that happens once every 40 years would happen about
once every 23 years or so by 2050 and once every 14 years by 2090.
Ironically, we would have both more frequent intense droughts and more frequent intense precipitation. That means
that coping with precipitation variability becomes a bigger challenge.
Then there is the issue of many other kinds of extreme events. There is much more uncertainty about these events,
particularly when it comes to individual storms. This is now beyond where models are capable of doing good work.
However, independent studies show linkages between climate conditions and extremes that suggest that there are likely
to be, certainly for some kinds of extreme events, more frequent occurrences. For example, studies suggest that
lightning will become more frequent as the temperature goes up. That is partly because the thunderstorms become
more intense. Likewise, in parts of the country, we might expect more frequent tornadoes because the climate that we
will experience will be more like the one we now see to the south of us today.
Certain studies also show an increased risk of forest fires because of the drying out during the drought spells.
Honourable senators will hear more about this next week when other witnesses will discuss impacts and adaptation.
I would be happy to entertain any questions that honourable senators may have.
Senator Wiebe: I have three quick questions. The first may be difficult for you to answer. To give you a bit of
background to the question, IPCC was formed in 1988 by the world meteorological organizations and the United
Nations environmental programs. The reason I mention this is that our committee will be hearing a tremendous
number of witnesses in the next six months. We will have a lot of interested groups wanting to appear. There will be
many scientists involved and scientific reports prepared by people with special interests. Which ones do we believe?
That is the difficult question. Can you give us some insight?
Mr. Hengeveld: I am delighted to respond to that question because it is a key one. I believe it is no different than
when we ask whom to believe on many other issues. First, we have to ask what are the credentials of the witness?
Because we are dealing with complex science, most witnesses, and I include myself in this, tend to come from a
particular discipline and a particular expertise area. It is one of the reasons the IPCC process has been so critical in
terms of putting the puzzle pieces together, because if you have just one witness who has a few puzzle pieces and tries to
paint a picture from those, you will not get the right picture. In general, the science community says one of the first
criteria is that you have done research and published it in peer-reviewed literature. That is the first question we need to
ask, has this individual published in the peer-reviewed literature on the topic he is speaking on?
The other problem we often run into, and it is a temptation we all experience, is that many of them speak and
critique outside of their own expertise area. It is like taking the opinion of a gynecologist about your brain tumour
versus that of a neurologist. They are both experts and they are both doctors. I think we need to put witnesses into
The other thing that we must be cautious about is that every time someone waves a paper and says, ``This one does
not agree,'' he is waving one puzzle piece. We must put that paper into the context of the greater mass of information. I
have been studying this for 20 years, and I am still learning. That is why you need a process like the IPCC to put it all
together. Some will argue that IPCC was influenced by politics. I have been involved with all three assessments. At the
science level, what they do is ask the lead experts, based on their publication record, to write the documents with other
lead experts, invite input from experts who have something to contribute on that particular topic, and then submit the
paper to extensive peer review twice. It is the most extensively peer-reviewed document.
This report was submitted to the panel as evidence not to be tampered with, so the panel accepts this as evidence. It
does not change it. The panel, working with the scientists, then develops a summary for policy-makers that attempts to
bridge the gap between their language and the language of scientists. It is here where you have the potential influence
of vested interests, but it is also here that scientists have the veto power to accept certain kinds of work.
In the three processes I have been through, the only lobbying I have seen has been from lawyers from Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait. They were not lobbying for stronger language; they were lobbying for weaker language.
Senator Wiebe: Thank you for that explanation. It provides me with more comfort as to what direction to go.
For my next question, I would like to refer to slide 13. In there, you state:
There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to
I have no argument with the statement. The argument I have is with the word ``human,'' because the general public
has a tendency to think that means what you and I are doing, but that definition also includes industry. Does it include
livestock, this kind of thing?
Mr. Hengeveld: Indirectly, yes. It implies human activity, directly and indirectly, which includes agriculture, mining,
driving cars and deforestation. If humans were not there, the IPCC is saying, we would not have seen these effects.
It is not a major contributor, but one source of methane is belching cows, and the cattle population has increased
tremendously. Another is rice paddies in Asia and other tropical regions. Agriculture is certainly not the largest part. It
is one of the stakeholders. The most significant contributor is still the combustion of fossil fuels for energy.
The Chairman: On a supplementary question, on page 7 of your report, you say:
There is clear evidence that these increases are due to human emissions, primarily from combustion of fossil
fuels for energy purposes and due to deforestation.
You did not mention the clear evidence of that.
Mr. Hengeveld: Again, it is a convergence of evidence. There are a number of pieces of evidence, but much of it deals
with the isotopes of carbon. Carbon has three isotopes, carbon 12, carbon 13 and carbon 14, which relates to the
number of neutrons in the carbon atom.
Carbon 14 is a radioactive carbon that decays with time, and so fossil fuels, which have been in the crust of the earth
for millions of years, have no carbon 14. One of the pieces of evidence we have is that there has been a decline in carbon
14 concentration in the atmosphere over time, which is consistent with us putting fossilized carbon without carbon 14
into the atmosphere. Another piece of evidence is the ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12, which varies in ocean waters
versus in land biomass versus in carbon fuels. Again, these are consistent with what we would expect to happen as
humans are releasing fossil fuels.
The third piece of evidence is the relevant concentration of carbon dioxide in the northern hemisphere versus the
southern hemisphere, suggesting that the primary source of added carbon is in the northern hemisphere, where most of
the emissions occur.
Those are just three. This is not a debate in the science community. It is universally accepted.
Senator Wiebe: This is my final question for the first go-round. Many have suggested, and I think you suggested
here, that climate change might not be all that bad. I should not use the term ``all that bad.'' I should say that not
necessarily all regions in Canada will be equally affected by climate change. As it relates to agriculture, some regions
may experience net gains, while others will experience net losses. I take my own province as an instance. I farm in what
was known as the Palliser Triangle, which was declared a desert at one time. Yet, this year we had more rain than we
have had in 30 years. However, 20 miles north of me, the prairie fields were as bare as the top of this table. The farmers
in Central Saskatchewan are telling me that this is the first crop failure they have ever had.
Are there ways in which we can predict what will be happening within a short period as a management tool for
farmers? Will there be a gradual change, or is it just the extremes in weather that we will be experiencing during the
next 25 to 30 years?
Mr. Hengeveld: Honourable senators will be hearing more about the issue of adaptation in future sessions with other
witnesses. This is a very important question. Climate change does not need to be bad. We have seen a global warming
of 0.6 degrees and we have done all right. Warmer temperatures in a country such as Canada that has cold limitations
has positive implications: Longer growing seasons mean higher CO2, which has benefits for plant nutrients. If we can
keep climate change down to a moderate rate, the ability to adapt is something that may allow us to take advantage of
the benefits and to help mitigate some of the negative aspects.
The concern arises when the change happens rapidly, which does not allow for the time to adapt. Both the
ecosystem and the human infrastructure take time to change. Climate change shakes up the weather basket; it sends
everyone the wrong weather. In a sense, we see examples of that during extreme El Niño years when the average
weather around the world has not changed that much. However, suddenly people who are used to having dry weather
get wet weather and those who are used to having wet weather get dry weather.
In a sense, that is what climate change will do. If it happens slowly we can adjust. However, trees cannot get up and
move. When this change happens rapidly there will be a mismatch between the climate in which that those trees can
grow well versus the climate that they are getting. In certain areas, you will see dieback.
I believe that the biggest stress for Canada will be changes in precipitation and extreme events. Warmer, longer
growing seasons and more CO2 are fine for crops, but they would much rather have enough water. If they do not get
enough water, those other benefits will not help.
In many respects Canada is trying to become more resilient to extreme weather. That helps us today, in terms of
coping with the extreme weather we have today, but also it will certainly help prepare us for the future.
In regard to the global community, the concern is that poorer countries in tropical regions where there are no
benefits from warmer temperatures, will see the most negative impact. These countries have the least ability to adapt
because they do not have the resources. They do not have insurance companies to help protect them.
Even a one-degree change will be problematic for those countries. Canada may not hit real trouble until the change
is two to three degrees. We hope that we will never get to a change of four to five degrees. However, it will likely be
decisions by politicians and human beings that will determine whether we will see a change of that magnitude. At such
a point, we would move into areas of potential catastrophe that would have major implications for future generations.
Senator Gustafson: The impact of this study is climate change on agriculture and forestry.
Things are happening on the Prairies. On our farm, we have gone to continuous cropping in quite a massive way.
We do not have the summer fallow and black on the ground that draws the sun. In your opinion, is there an advantage
in continuous cropping, or is there a disadvantage?
Mr. Hengeveld: The main concern about summer fallowing versus continuous cropping is the loss of carbon from
the soil, which is then a source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Farm management techniques that would help
build up carbon in the soil that would be good for the soil would also be good for the climate system.
Senator Gustafson: You would support continuous cropping; is that correct?
Mr. Hengeveld: Yes, I would also support minimum tillage.
Senator Gustafson: My second question relates to urban sprawl. We find that we are talking about global warming
and in many cases we are not doing much about it.
The Americans, for instance, are dealing with urban sprawl. In fact, a good deal of the $190 billion additional
support to farmers deals with urban sprawl. People are moving out of the cities, buying 10 or 15 acres, and farmland is
lost. The same thing is happening in Canada to a certain extent. Do you have any comment in that regard?
Mr. Hengeveld: This matter goes beyond science, but certainly from the perspective of reducing human emissions of
carbon dioxide per capita, transportation is a key. Urban sprawl increases demand for transportation. From an
emissions point of view, increasing urban density and reducing urban sprawl would be good.
Senator Gustafson: My third question relates to water. There is a significant amount of discussion about water. How
does water impact a country like Canada? Does the water that we use come back into use again or are we losing water?
Mr. Hengeveld: Future witnesses will talk about the impacts and adaptation of water. However, much of the water
we use is in an active cycle. When we use the water and return it to the system, as long as it is not too contaminated, we
are not displacing water. However, we must become more conscious, as some other countries, in terms of using water
wisely in terms of competing interests. This is particularly so if resources become less abundant in the future.
Senator Gustafson: As a scientist, do you think there is a clear indication of the universe evolving and changing, or is
it all human impact?
Mr. Hengeveld: The 400,000-year-old ice core records provide us with a good book on how the universe has behaved
in the last 400,000 years. That is only a very short part of the total history. For our purposes, time scales of centuries
and millennia are probably long enough to consider. These indicators suggest that, over the last 10,000 years, our
global climate has been remarkably stable. The concentrations of greenhouse gases have been remarkably stable. We
expect this current interglacial period to last for at least a millennium longer. We would expect under natural
variability and evolution to see what we have now in the last 10,000 years.
Senator Gustafson: I have one more observation. I called a gentleman in Assiniboia. He said that from the end of
July to the harvest time they received 26 inches of rain. That is twice the normal amount.
In the Medicine Hat-Lethbridge, which is a very dry place usually, they had as much rain as they had had in the past
five years. The extreme is certainly there. At Assiniboia, they were gutting stuck with their combines, they could not
harvest. Just north of them, as Senator Wiebe said, it dried right out. There certainly have been extreme cases.
Mr. Hengeveld: I would point out that the weather we have had in the last 100 years is not necessarily representative
of natural variability. When we look at the evidence from lake sediments on the kind of climate we have had in the
southern Prairies over the last 2,000 years, there have been periods when there have been far more intense droughts
than we have had in the last 100 years. There is also evidence that extreme wet periods can be more frequent.
On the one hand, we must be cautious about attributing these extremes to anything but natural variability. On the
other hand, in many respects, they are consistent with what we have been suggesting will happen more frequently under
a warmer climate. In short, maybe but not necessarily.
The Chairman: I have a follow-up question to one of the three questions Senator Gustafson asked about water. He
asked about rain and how some of that rain goes back into the clouds, then comes back as rain again. You said that
cycle takes place, provided the water is not too polluted. He then asked if there is a concern that we will start running
out of fresh water and your response was perhaps, as resources become less abundant in the future. To what resources
were you referring?
Mr. Hengeveld: On a global scale, we will get more evaporation and more precipitation. Everyone has agreed to
that. We will also get a change in the distribution of precipitation. The models disagree somewhat on the details of that,
particularly when you get into the regional scale. In general, in Canada we will likely see more precipitation in winter
and less in the summer, at least in the interior part of the continent. Sorry, I should not say necessarily less
precipitation, but the increase in precipitation will not be enough to offset the increase in evaporation. You could get
increased precipitation, but you may end up with fewer water resources.
Again, I think to protect us against problems we can have today due to natural variability and against what we
might expect in the future, wise use of water is the prudent response.
The Chairman: Where do the water resources you refer to come from? Is it groundwater, water from brooks and
streams or water from other sources?
Mr. Hengeveld: It is mainly water from the clouds, from the active hydrological cycle. The U.S. does use ground
aquifers for their water resources, but I do not think we do a lot of that in Canada. In the case of aquifers, you are still
mining water so this is not part of an active cycle. The active cycle will continue. If, on a local scale, we use more water
and return it to the system, we are not removing it from that active cycle. However, if the climate system were to
change the distribution of water, then we would have another concern. I guess it is the difference between our human
use of water and the cycling versus what nature will do as well. I am not sure whether that is clear.
Senator Gustafson: As a supplementary to that question, in Arizona, I am told that, because of irrigation, the water
level has gone down some 40 feet. Is there any indication of that happening anywhere in Canada?
Mr. Hengeveld: I am not sure. I am not an expert on ground hydrology, and I would have to defer that to other
Senator Wiebe: Am I safe in assuming that, as far as the globe is concerned, we are not losing any water? If we are,
where is it going? Secondly, the problem will be in areas where we used to have water and not as much heat to
evaporate it, other areas will be having an excess of water. In other words, is our planet losing moisture and if it is,
where is it is going?
Mr. Hengeveld: The planet is not losing moisture. The oceans have a tremendous amount of moisture. The
distribution between land and ocean may change, where more of the moisture may fall in the oceans. The concern
about precipitation is both the regional distribution of moisture, where some regions will get more than they have now
and others less. There is also concern about the timing. I think that the example is this summer in Lethbridge, where
that rain that fell happened in a very short period of time. That is not always helpful.
The Chairman: With that response, we will turn to someone from Lethbridge.
Senator Fairbairn: I have been listening carefully to what you said. For those of us who are not scientists, this is a
very difficult issue to understand. I will use Lethbridge as an example, as it has a semi-arid history that has been
changed profoundly by irrigation in the last century.
At the farm level, there are always two areas of thought, the first being that something terrible is happening in terms
of our climate and the second being that this is just part of the great web and this is the regular cycle. I am no spring
chicken and, based on my lifetime, what is happening now has not been the regular cycle we have gone through. In that
area, there were four years of incredible drought. When the scientists from the research station were doing the
hydrology tests to see where there was any water, there was none. It came up dust. That was not so far off from what
happened in the middle of the 1980s. It is compacting, it would seem, in its time frame. Then the rain came suddenly
this year, but it came at peculiar times and the heat that we usually have was not there for that final push of the
growing season — particularly for some special crops like corn or sugar beets. Although the reservoirs filled up, there
was yet another unfortunate fallout from that.
We have also heard, and this has been painfully reflected on television and newspapers in recent weeks, that while
we have been focused on rain and crops, we are looking this year at the tremendous difficulty for our ranchers, who
have been in large numbers having to get rid of their herds and now their horses.
For someone who is trying to decide whether or not to stay in business or the other point that all of this reaches to,
to stay in town, how can we have a sense of anticipation to keep those extremes from happening? We are talking about
not just our farms, not just our agriculture and water; we are talking about the very existence of our rural towns. In the
middle of this larger web of scientific and climatic history, we have a very person-driven history.
How do we plan? Can we plan better? Some of your numbers are quite disturbing over a length of thousands of
years, but there have been quite disturbing figures over a short period of time. How do we protect against that? How
do farmers themselves anticipate a Lethbridge of two years ago, which was evidently the worst in anyone's memory, or
a Lethbridge of this year, where the rain came in some cases so heavily and at such times that it created its own
It is a conundrum, whereas people who had not been in the drought cycles in the other parts of Lethbridge Centre-
North have had one the worst droughts ever. That is a short period of time and a short sense of the distance in which
Mr. Hengeveld: There is no simple answer. I think I have already alluded to the fact that the predictions or
projections for future climate are the least confident when it comes to the details of precipitation. There is evidence to
suggest that both drought and extreme precipitation may become more frequent. That does not suggest that what
happened over the last couple of years in Lethbridge is already due to that phenomenon, although it could be. It could
also be, as I mention from the paleo climate data, there is evidence that there were much drier periods a few hundred
years ago, prior to human settlement. There have also been wet periods, so we are not always sure whether this is
natural — which it could be — or whether this is already the ``canary'' that is warning us of what is to come. In many
respects, it may be both.
Other witnesses will talk about adaptation; however, it certainly seems that plans for the future should incorporate
the ability to deal with problems, more frequent drought and more frequent, intense precipitation. How to achieve that
is beyond my expertise.
It is not a very satisfying answer, but I believe that goes as far as the science can go today.
Senator Fairbairn: Thank you.
Senator Gustafson: On that point, in the mid-1980s, I chaired the task force on drought for Western Canada. We
went through the West with John Wise, the then-minister. At Bengough, Saskatchewan, there was not one leaf left on a
caragana tree; the highways were slick with grasshoppers. We went to Medicine Hat; the same thing was there.
There was irrigation foliage in the area of Lethbridge, but that drought was just as severe, only it was in the southern
part of the province and across the southern part of Alberta as opposed to the north. That occurred in a period of a
little over 10 years.
Senator Tkachuk: I am intrigued by climatology. I cancel golf games because of what the weatherman said would
happen in two days, and, of course, it has turned out to be a beautiful day. To me, trying to explain the weather is like
trying to explain God. I find it complicated. Mind you, I am not a scientist. I try and keep up with what is going on.
You did mention a temperature change of 1.4 degrees. There is a lot of disagreement on what causes temperature
change, whether it is a natural cycle or whether it is fossil fuels. In the last 2,000 years there have been times of warmth
and times of coolness, have there not?
Mr. Hengeveld: In the last 10,000 years there have been.
Senator Tkachuk: Let us just do 2,000 years.
Mr. Hengeveld: We have fairly good information for the northern hemisphere for the past 1,000 years. Beyond that,
we start getting into cruder information that becomes a 10,000-year window. When one goes back 2,000 years, they
would be getting into the same range. The peak of the current interglacial was 5,000 or 6,000 years ago, and that was
about one degree warmer than today.
We also have evidence every 1,500 years of a little ice age. Although it is theoretical, it seems to be solar-driven; there
is a change in the solar intensity, but it is all within the one-degree range. The medieval warm period is something that
people talk of often; however, it appears to be a circum-North Atlantic phenomenon, because we do not see the effects
throughout the entire hemisphere. Therefore, the warm period we saw in England, in Iceland when the Vikings came
out west, Greenland and North America, centred on the North Atlantic, was probably linked to a fluctuation in the
ocean currents. We now see that that was less warm than we saw in the last century. The last century was the warmest.
We do not have adequate records for the northern hemisphere as a whole to compare the current century with 2,000
years ago. The records only go back 1,000 years. That is partly because we rely heavily on tree rings. For the high
latitudes, we rely on ice cores for those records. For mid-latitudes, we rely on tree rings. For tropical regions, we rely
on ocean corals. The tree rings do not go back further than about a thousand years.
Senator Tkachuk: We hear the causes of the increases in temperature as being the two causes you named today —
deforestation and fossil fuel emissions. We hear it in the news all the time. Let us try to narrow that down. When we
talk about fossil fuels, are we talking about coal?
Mr. Hengeveld: Coal, oil and gas.
Senator Tkachuk: Coal, oil and gas, people driving their four-wheelers and trucks, and deforestation.
Of that 30 per cent increase that we are talking about, how much is attributable to deforestation and how much is
attributable, according to what the scientists would say, to the fossil fuel emissions?
Mr. Hengeveld: In terms of the rate of emissions of the last decade, the ratios change with time. Deforestation 100
years ago was far larger than fossil fuels — at that time, it was a significant problem in North America. However,
today most of the deforestation is happening in the tropics. The estimate is that this releases about 1.7 billion tonnes of
carbon in the form of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The fossil fuel emissions are now at about 6.5, so it is about four-to-one. Therefore, 20 per cent would come from
deforestation, and the other 80 per cent would come from fossil fuel emissions.
Senator Tkachuk: You say the deforestation is coming from the tropical climates. When we had deforestation in the
northern climates, would not the same thing have happened as is happening now in the tropical climates? Is that what
Mr. Hengeveld: Yes. We are talking about land use change, where you have taken the forests, removed the trees and
used it for agriculture or urban development.
The Chairman: This is mainly in the rain forests, is it?
Mr. Hengeveld: Right now the main changes are in the rain forests of the tropics where they are being converted for
agricultural use. If you are harvesting and replanting, it is part of a long-term, active cycle. That is not a problem.
In North America, 100, 200 years ago, we were contributing net emissions to the atmosphere in the same way they
are in the tropics now. That still occurs in Canada; we are losing 50,000 to 80,000 hectares per year from forest-type
classification to other classification — whether that is roads or agriculture or urban development. There is some
deforestation going on in Canada. Canada does emit some effects from that. Most of the deforestation emissions are
now from the tropics.
Senator Tkachuk: Is there a way to halt that from happening, or is it something that is going to go on until it is all
Mr. Hengeveld: There are obviously ways to halt that. Again, it is a complex topic and it gets into sovereignty issues.
There are major programs around the world to protect forests from deforestation, to protect the remaining forests that
are still there. That is being done for other reasons. There are international conventions on forests that are trying to
deal with it as well.
It is a tough challenge when you have poor peasants who need land to develop. In some cases, they blame
McDonald's for the deforestation of Brazil because they want the large plantations to produce the beef. There are
complex, international trade reasons. That is an issue in itself, and it is being worked on.
Senator Tkachuk: If the Kyoto accord is adopted and the world meets its targets, what effects will that have on
Mr. Hengeveld: It would delay the critical thresholds that we see ahead by about a decade. Therefore, by itself, the
Kyoto Protocol will not solve the problem. It will have only a minor delay.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has its ultimate objective of stabilizing concentrations at a
level that would avoid dangerous human interference. That is the end goal. What the global community tried to do
initially was develop a long-term strategy of which Kyoto is only the first step. One of my concerns with the debate
over Kyoto is that many people fail to recognize that this is a critical first step in a long process.
Senator Tkachuk: This is the kind of evidence we do not have. People talk about Kyoto as if it will be the solution to
the problem. It will solve environmental problems, cool the Earth, and solve all of this scary stuff that has come out
about global warming where our coast lines will be ravaged, New York will fall into the ocean and that kind of thing.
Are there not better ways? Is technology not the solution? If we say fossil fuels are the problem or coal is a problem,
surely we have to get people to stop using coal to produce energy and get them to use something else. Would not that
be a big help? How do we stop people from using it except by charging more money for it?
Mr. Hengeveld: Again, this gets outside of the issue of science and beyond my expertise. From the literature I've
read, there are geo-engineering solutions, but it may be a question of jumping from the pan into the fire.
For example, one solution might be to take CO2 from smokestacks, liquefy it and dump it into the deep ocean.
However, that alone may have a large ecological impact into the regions in which it is dumped because it changes the
acidity of the ocean. Furthermore, oceans circulate. What you put down there may come back; it may take a long time.
It is also very expensive. There are far cheaper options in terms of energy efficiency that we would explore first.
Down the road, we may have to consider some of those geo-engineering options. Another suggested option is
sprinkling fine dust particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect more sunlight. Again, it is a question of doing a
geophysical experiment with the whole planet to try to solve another problem. You may have, without knowing it,
created another problem. Furthermore, it would require a tremendous number of aircraft to go up and do this on a
continuous basis because gravity takes it back out. The aircraft alone would emit a lot of CO2.
The international community, in terms of trying to find solutions to this, is focusing first on reducing the energy use
per economic unit of production and making ourselves more efficient. There are also many other benefits of doing that.
The second focus is to gradually move from fossil fuels to renewable energies, whether that will be biomass, wind,
solar, or thermal power.
Senator Tkachuk: Would that include nuclear power?
Mr. Hengeveld: It is one of the options. There is a debate around that in its own right.
Senator Tkachuk: We mine it in Saskatchewan, although we are afraid to use it. It is a conundrum of ours.
Mr. Hengeveld: This is a challenge for the global community in terms of meeting the most effective way of reducing
the emissions. The portfolio for each country is different. What works for Canada may not work for the U.S. or
Australia. That is why the international community has left it up to the individual countries to decide how to do it.
The Chairman: In relation to Senator Tkachuk's question, you answered that it was an 80/20 split, with the 20 per
cent being deforestation and the 80 per cent from fossil fuels. Which way has that formula been going? Was it 70/30
before? Which way do you see that going in terms of the two contributing to the climate change?
Mr. Hengeveld: A hundred years ago, the emissions from deforestation were greater than those from fossil fuels. It
crossed over eventually, perhaps around mid-century. The deforestation emissions are fairly constant. With the
political pressure to reduce that, I would see that decreasing, partly because we are running out of forests as well.
We would expect that to be at somewhere in the range of today's level, perhaps decreasing but not increasing,
whereas the fossil fuel emissions are rapidly increasing with time. Eventually, the deforestation component will be
Senator Day: Could I have a clarification on that? Could you explain deforestation emissions?
Mr. Hengeveld: When we cut trees and burn them, and do not replace them through regrowth, or when we simply go
in there and slash and burn as often happens, then the carbon that is stored in those trees are released into the
atmosphere's carbon dioxide and are not taken out again through photosynthesis. Whereas, if we harvest trees and
replant them, then the new trees take the carbon back up again through photosynthesis. The difference is that
sustainable forest use is an active cycle, whereas land-use change, where you convert from forests that have a lot of
stored carbon, liquidates that storage and puts it into the air, but does not take it out again down the road.
Senator Day: For my own clarification, when you talk about the 20 per cent emissions, does that include for the lack
of trees to do the reverse cycle through photosynthesis, or is this figure more the emissions through slashing and
burning and the release of the carbon that was in these trees?
Mr. Hengeveld: Well, it is the latter. It is the release of the carbon in the trees. We would argue that if you are
replanting it, then we could forgive you that, because over the next 100 years it is going to be taken out. As long as you
do that on a rotational basis, the average carbon content in your forest should stay the same. In fact, we have the
option of trying to use methods to increase the carbon content of a forest so it becomes a net sink. However, if we cut
the trees and pave over that land, or if we use it only for agriculture or grazing, then we are not returning the carbon
back into that landscape.
Senator Day: Is the problem that we have fewer trees and are therefore not getting the oxygen and carbon dioxide
cycle through photosynthesis, or is the problem the harvesting of the trees and the releasing of the carbon that was in
the sink? Which is the problem?
Mr. Hengeveld: It is really both. The bottom line is that we have fewer trees.
Senator Day: Yes. That is the photosynthesis issue.
Mr. Hengeveld: Right.
Senator Day: Thank you. That is what I had always thought but then when you said releasing emissions, I began to
think otherwise. I wanted to clarify that.
Mr. Hengeveld: If we think of it as a bank account, the carbon in the forest is like an amount of money in your bank
account. If we emptied that account and a year later put it back in, on average we are still fine. That is what we are
doing when we harvest and replant.
However, if we empty it and do not replace it, then we are doing what we do through deforestation; we have not
Senator Hubley: I would like to discuss the coastal regions in Canada. I come from the Atlantic Provinces. I am not
sure, but the weather patterns seem to be more intense. I will use Prince Edward Island as the example, but I am sure
all coastlines experience erosion. We have had storm surges, although I do not know if they have just recently been
identified as that. They might have been ongoing and it was not something for which we had a concern. Nevertheless,
we are seeing erosion of our farmland. The weather has a direct effect on our land in that way.
The storms that we get up the Atlantic coast often come from the south. I wonder if you can tell me whether we can
expect more and more severe storms. Will they come further north, and will they have that kind of an effect on our
coastlines? That is my first question.
Mr. Hengeveld: The problem with storm surges on the East Coast of Canada is due to three factors.
The eastern part of Canada is still sinking, due to tectonic actions from the melting of the icecap 5,000 years ago. It
is a very slow process. Land in the Hudson's Bay region is rising and, like a cantilever, the land on the coast is sinking.
There is a geological sinking of the land in the area, which is slow but steady.
In addition to that, we have had a global increase in sea levels. Both of these factors act to cause a rise in the sea level
relative to the land in PEI and also in the eastern U.S.
The third factor is the question of the storms. In the future, we expect the sea level to rise. There is a lot of
uncertainty, because we are trying to estimate how the ice caps in the poles behave, but it could be anywhere from
about 9 centimetres to 88 centimetres over the next century. It is a broad range but, in the middle, somewhere around
45 centimetres would be added to what we already have and to future subsiding of the land. That in itself is already a
There is some suggestion that the intensity of storms may increase. There was a study done recently on the East
Coast to see how that would change the frequency of storm surges in Prince Edward Island. I believe that it found that
the 1-in-100-year storm surge could occur in about every 7 to 10 years by the end of the century. What we can
anticipate is that the combination of land sinking, of sea levels rising and the possible risk of more intense storms could
cause more storm surges.
With hurricanes, it is more complex. The science community does not have a conclusive answer as to how hurricanes
may change. There is evidence that the Atlantic hurricanes have become more intense in the last 10 years relative to the
mid-century, but there is also a suggestion that they were more intense in the early part of the century. It could be part
of a long-term natural cycle, so it is inconclusive at this point.
Senator LeBreton: On the issues of storm surges and seemingly increasing intensity of hurricanes, is that directly
related to the deforestation problem in the tropics? Is that causing more heat to be concentrated on the oceans and
therefore creating the storms in the centre of the ocean that come in along the Eastern Seaboard?
Mr. Hengeveld: I think the short answer is no. Deforestation can cause local climate effects. For example, the
Brazilian deforestation can change the hydrology and the climate in the region of Brazil. There could be some global
implications — every little change adds up to global implications — but it is not a major global impact at this point.
The key is when you change from forest cover to grasslands or farming, you have changed the reflective property of the
Earth's surface, but you have also changed the hydrological cycle significantly. This does add up to a local or regional
effect, but to my knowledge there is no linkage to ocean circulation at this point.
Senator LeBreton: Would it not increase the temperature in those areas where the storms develop?
Mr. Hengeveld: Well, most of the storms develop over the tropical ocean, quite often off the coast of Africa. That is
where a lot of the cyclogenesis begins. It then moves across the ocean, so it is largely ocean temperatures that become
the key factor, rather than land temperatures. In fact, when you go over land, hurricanes usually decline.
It is complex. Fast-moving hurricanes have a greater potential to develop into intense ones than slow ones, because
hurricanes also mix up the ocean water underneath. When cooler water comes up, that tends to cool down the
hurricane so it moves more rapidly. It does not have time to have the ocean waters mix. If it is moving slowly, it tends
to have what we call a ``negative feedback'' that cools it down.
Senator Hubley: Are we looking at a season change of summer/spring/spring? Has our winter become shorter and
more intense? Do we still have the same amount of snow coming down every year, within reason? How have our
Mr. Hengeveld: Certainly in the last decade, and that is what is freshest in most of our memories, our winters have
become much milder through most of Canada than they were in preceding decades. In fact, young people I talk to do
not seem to realize that we are getting warmer because they do not remember the cold years.
Our winters have become shorter mainly because of earlier springs, not because of later falls. Particularly in Eastern
Canada, the fall has actually been somewhat cooler in the last 50 years. The main changes have been in winter and
In terms of higher precipitation, I do not believe that there is an obvious trend as yet. However, most models suggest
that our winters will become wetter. During the cold period, that means snow. We could therefore have shorter winters,
but more intense precipitation during that time. The total amount of snow and the intensity of winter storms may not
One Canadian study suggests that the intense winter storms will increase. Again, I do not think there is a global
consensus on that yet.
Senator Hubley: Thank you.
The Chairman: It might be rain rather than snow in the winter?
Mr. Hengeveld: It could be that, or freezing rain.
Senator Chalifoux: I find this very interesting. I have a couple of questions relating to the Arctic. I have heard from
people up there that, because of the warming trend and the melting of the permafrost, that the elders are now hearing
sounds that they have never heard in their lives such as frogs and crickets. I come from northern Alberta, and we have
a very serious problem there regarding the Arctic, boreal forests, clear-cutting and the fuel situation. Our farmers and
our ranchers up there are really in a dilemma as to what to do.
We are all talking about value added, changing the crop situation and that sort of thing. Where does all of that fit
in? Because of the rapid changing, how can the agricultural industry change to adapt to the changing of the weather?
Mr. Hengeveld: I believe future witnesses will spend more time on this.
The number one rule is learning to live with extremes, which helps us today as well as with future changes. However,
in the northern climates, the situation may be somewhat different than further south. First of all, the longer daylight
hours are a real potential advantage. Warmer climates and longer seasons may suggest a double advantage when you
have the long daylight as well as the warmer temperatures. There are also indications that the northern parts of Canada
will probably not have the water shortages that the regions further south will have.
It is a complex issue and is uncertain, but the situation in the northern parts of the provinces may not be as serious in
terms of some of the conflicts as others. Extreme weather is still always an issue. I believe learning to change the culture
that we have and grew up with may be a key part. I know that traditional culture has a real challenge with this.
Senator Chalifoux: Yes.
Mr. Hengeveld: I was on a tour of the Arctic this summer, and the Inuit were very concerned because their culture is
at risk here.
Senator Chalifoux: I have a second question.
Could you explain a little bit about the devastating effect that acid rain has on the agricultural industry for me? I
apologize. I know the effect it has, but I do not know what causes and where it fits in with the climate change.
Mr. Hengeveld: The primary cause of acid rain is sulphur and nitrogen emission from industrial activities further
south that are transported by the winds. They interact with precipitation to make the precipitation more acidic.
In North America, the sulphur emissions — this is mainly an Eastern North America problem — have been
successfully reduced substantially, but the nitrogen emissions have not, therefore, there an ongoing problem with that.
Needless to say, that problem needs more attention.
On the agricultural side, I believe the effects are probably less significant than they are in the nature ecosystems,
particularly in terms of forests and wetlands. One of the problems that we still experience today is that we are not
seeing the recovery in the lakes in certain regions that we would have expected to see given the reduced emissions. That
suggests that we have a lot to learn on how lakes respond.
Senator Day: Reading at page 8 of the materials you gave us, under the heading `` Global surface temperatures are
rising,'' the third bullet states:
Results indicate, while the trend has been noisy (particularly at the annual to decadal time scale), there appears to
have been an overall warming during the past century of 0.6 degrees Celsius.
There ``appears to have been...'' That is not a very strong statement. We know that the Bush Administration in the
United States is not going along with Kyoto Protocol at this stage. Is there valid scientific opinion that is contrary to
what you have expressed here today, or is the reason the Americans are not going along is that there is just not enough
data to do proper modelling? Will we, therefore, need a lot more time? Obviously we are doing some things wrong and
we will try to correct those points. The socio-economic impact of making these decisions regarding the Kyoto Protocol
and trying to sell it politically is just not worth it when we do not have the scientific evidence to promote it.
I would just like an analysis on that from you, please.
Mr. Hengeveld: ``It would appear'' reflects ``scientific caution'' in terms of the language we use. The IPPC uses the
terms ``likely'' and ``very likely'' to try to put the range of confidence into a language we can understand. Normally they
will use the terms ``95 per cent confidence'' and ``90 per cent confidence,'' and that tends to blow over people's heads.
I believe the confidence level in the fact that the warming has been significant and man-made is at about the 90 per
cent level. We acknowledge we may have overlooked some facts; however, the consensus is that what we are seeing is
real and it is human-induced. The key factor is that the nature forcings we have seen in the last 50 years should have
pushed us in the opposite direction.
John Christy does analysis of satellite data. Satellite data that looks at the lower 5 kilometres of the atmosphere has
been available since 1979. He initially said that in the last 21 years the atmosphere has cooled. Then others pointed out
that he had forgotten to allow for the fact that satellites drop in altitude with time. When he took that information into
account, he noticed a warming but it was less than at the surface.
This caused much controversy where some of the contrarians were arguing that the satellites, which were the best
data source in the world, show it is cooling and now they are saying it is showing less warming. We need to remember
that satellite data is also one single record developed by stitching results together from eight different satellites, each
one covering a past record. Therefore, while I respect Christy's efforts in trying to remove all the errors in that, there is
room for error.
The same is true at the surface. However, there we have 8,000 stations, therefore, some of the errors in one station
would be offset by others. Averaging helps. There is room for error in both data sets.
The U.S. National Academy of Science brought scientists from the surface measurement school and the atmosphere
measurement school together with the aim to work this out. They concluded that the difference is real, that it cannot be
explained by the errors in the two data sources, but that part of the reason is the shortness of the record.
When we take 40 years of balloon data, which also measures the atmosphere above us, we find that the first 20 years
of the balloon data shows a more rapid warming of the surface and the second 20-year period shows a moderate
warming similar to what the satellite shows. However, when we look at the 40-year record, the surface and the balloon
data is almost the same. Therefore, that suggests that some of the controversy is simply due to the fact that the 20-year
record from satellite data is too short to remove the natural oscillations.
I am not sure whether I fully answered your question.
Senator Day: Earlier we talked about the fact that we can remember when we were younger — some of us going
back further than others — how much colder it was and how we had outdoor rinks that we cannot have now. That
kind of empirical data is not helpful to us; that is a short-term time frame.
Are not the Americans arguing that in order to do all this modelling that you have showed us some examples of and
trends, it is still too short even with all the information we have? Is that not the reason that they are arguing against the
implementation of the Kyoto Protocol?
Mr. Hengeveld: I do not think so. I think the American science community is very much in line with the IPCC. In
fact, a large portion of IPCC science consisted of American scientists. Therefore, I think we should distinguish between
American scientists versus the White House.
I think the shortness of the record is also a concern. Some feel even the 140-year record is too short. That is why they
have gone to the thousand-year record, bringing in the proxy data from tree rings and so on, to help put the 140-year
record into context. It would be great to push that back 10,000 years. What it suggests is that what we are seeing now
has not happened before in the last thousand years and, therefore, it is awfully hard to explain it on the basis of natural
Senator Wiebe: Is it safe to assume that over time, since the creation of this planet, that mother nature has provided
us with a very continuous, gradual but adaptable climate change, and that climate change has gone on ever since we
first began vis-à-vis the ice age?
Referring to your slide on page 13, what we are witnessing today is that human activities, over the last 50 or 150
years, have basically made that evolution in climate change much more rapid and much more extreme? Is that a safe
assumption to make?
Mr. Hengeveld: I believe that is the essence behind the scientific community's concern. Climate change has always
happened, but it always has happened within a fairly narrow range. Even if we go back several billion years in terms of
the existence of life on earth, we find the range is within a fairly narrow range of 10 degrees, even though the solar
intensity and atmospheric composition have changed tremendously. However, I do not think it is helpful to look too
far back in time because the processes are so much slower. The scale we are talking about is rather meaningless when
we talk about a 100-year time frame. If we look at the last 400,000 years, then the changes in composition of the
atmosphere are unprecedented in terms of what we have already seen and certainly will be in terms of the next century.
That suggests that we are beginning to change some of the essential life support properties of the atmosphere. The
question is this: Is that dangerous or not? The fact that we are having influences now is pretty well undisputed. Even
the contrarians will agree that we are now causing changes to the composition of the atmosphere. They even now
accept that this is causing climate change. They are now beginning to argue that that may not be bad. That is a separate
debate as well: When does something become dangerous and harmful and when does it not? I should probably stop
there because there are other questions.
Senator Fairbairn: You referred to different usages of energy. One, of course, is wind. In a short period of time —
and that is due to technology finally finding workable solutions — we have had a very aggressive development of wind
power in southwestern Alberta. Lord knows we have the wind, which I hope climate change will not take away. If we
could develop those kinds of transferences across the country, can that make a significant difference? Alberta takes a
big hit on the fossil fuel resources base that it has, but also it is a province that is taking a great leap forward in terms of
developing and utilizing the wind power of the area.
Mr. Hengeveld: The short answer is, yes. It cannot solve the problem by itself but it is a significant contribution. In
Denmark, about one-fifth of their electricity now comes from wind energy. I do not think we can hope to do that in
we have much potential.
When we look at the options for reducing global emissions, there are really four factors. One is population, and no
one wants to talk about that for valid reasons. Two is economic growth, and everyone wants to have a bigger economy.
Therefore those two options are off the table. That leaves energy efficiency, which has a lot of short-term gains. Ralph
Torrie estimates that we have technology on the shelf today that, if fully implemented, could reduce energy use in
Canada by 30 per cent or more. The final option is the type of energy. That is where solar, wind, biomass, and
wherever we can find it in a renewable format, will help provide many other benefits, many new jobs, and also help
reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Senator Fairbairn: We are certainly on the way on that in my part of country.
My second question follows on that of Senator Chalifoux and the North. Through the magic of television and other
visual methods of communication, we are seeing with our eyes, a change in our far northern climate. Often, this is
presented poignantly through documentaries. I saw one about a week ago on the polar bears up in northern Manitoba
and that kind of thing.
Could you tell us, in terms of the Arctic and the high Arctic, have the changes been swift enough over your extended
period of time to threatened the way of life and the maintenance of a viable population in those areas? So much has
been happening in that region on health issues and accessibility to food, that the Inuit people are finding that their lives
have changed dramatically and not for the best.
Could you comment on the evolution in that part of our hemisphere and on any ways in which we can counter any
of that to protect that way of life of the people whose history, for thousands of years, has been in that area and they
would want it to continue?
Mr. Hengeveld: The changes in the Arctic that we have seen so far are complex, as is this whole issue. We see a
significant warming in the western Arctic and a more modest warming in the eastern Arctic. In the far east of the
Canadian Arctic, there is little change; Greenland has actually cooled over the last 50 years.
On the other side of the polar hemisphere, we find Siberia has warmed tremendously and the North Atlantic and the
North Pacific have slightly cooled. It is complex. When we do the analysis we find that it is a combination of changes in
what we think is a natural phenomenon called the ``Arctic oscillation'' together with a residual change due to what we
think is global change on top of each other. While there is an average warming in the Arctic, that has been much
greater in the west than in the east, partly because of the natural changes added on top of what is happening already.
Most of the anecdotal evidence of changes in weather and climate is from the Western Arctic, particularly Sachs
Harbour and places like that, where children are hearing thunderstorms they have never heard before and are
frightened because they do not know what it is. There is a real threat to the traditional lifestyle, particularly when it
comes to hunting. Many people are finding ice breaking up sooner than normal. They are getting caught out on the ice
flows because they did not expect them to break up yet. Polar bears will migrate with the seals; however, the seals do
not have ice to be on, so we are starting to see changes in polar bear behaviour.
Over the long term, yes, this will certainly threaten traditional life styles. It is one of the reasons why the Nunavut
government is very concerned about climate change.
Senator Gustafson: As North Americans, we are probably the worst offenders. We consume a large portion of fossil
fuels and energy. Are we heading into a time of regulations?
Mr. Hengeveld: I think you should refer that question to the assistant deputy minister.
Senator Gustafson: My point is that we are a very selfish people when we look at the whole global picture. I will
admit to that.
Mr. Hengeveld: There are geopolitical reasons for high consumption and one is cold temperature. We need to heat
homes where other societies do not necessarily have to do so. We also have a dispersed population. There is also the
fact that we still do a lot of hauling of water, hewing of wood and providing resources to the rest of the world.
However, we are also wasteful.
Senator Gustafson: For example, in the field of agriculture, we are moving nearly all our product by truck. One
trainload would take 150 cars; they are a mile long. We are going in the wrong direction in many ways. While we are
focusing on Kyoto, we have not dealt with some of the things that are very simplistic.
Mr. Hengeveld: One of the reasons our emissions have continued to rise since 1992 is the transportation sector,
which has increased its emissions by 30 per cent because of a 30 per cent increase in transported goods. I live two
blocks from the 401. I see it.
Senator LeBreton: We will have to consider more incentives to people for solar and other alternative energies.
My question follows Senator Hubley's. It has to do with the levels in the Great Lakes and the economic impacts on
the communities that live along those shores — particularly the ones that use the lakes as a source of supply for their
water and more important, for shipping. When you think of ships replacing trucks, you would not think that would be
as hard on energy use.
The levels of the Great Lakes were a great concern last year. Is that a cyclical thing, or is there any anecdotal
evidence that this was just a cyclical thing and not a current situation that will worsen?
Mr. Hengeveld: There is evidence from lake level data over the last 100 years that what we are seeing now is not
unprecedented. In fact, the 1920s and 1930s were the lowest. The levels in the early 1960s were also very low. I think
those periods' levels are still lower than current levels, although I think a few of the lakes were beginning to approach
It is a reminder that natural variability is part of the problem and some of this may be natural. At the same time,
climate studies suggest that we should see lower average lake levels in the future, perhaps by a meter or so. The low
points under the natural variability will then be far lower than what we expect and the high points will not reach the
Senator LeBreton: That could have implications for hydropower and other long-term implications.
Mr. Hengeveld: Much of this is already unavoidable in many respects. What we can do through Kyoto and other
measures is reduce the rate and magnitude of the change, buying us time to adapt. Nevertheless, adaptation must be
part of the response, and it is an unavoidable part.
Senator Hubley: I think you have just explained that we have to make some changes if we are going to modify the
effects of climate change.
I would like to take a step beyond what Senator Tkachuk said. Is there any scientific way of controlling the weather?
We can learn how to deal with the weather, but are there any studies or experiments on trying to control the weather
Mr. Hengeveld: There have been. In the 1970s, when I started in meteorology, there were many experiments in rain-
making, particularly in the U.S. Farmers sued the experimenters claiming that they had made rain for the neighbours
but not for them. I think we are better off leaving weather to the good Lord.
The Chairman: Mr. Hengeveld, I wish to thank you very much. This has been a terrific beginning of a very
important study. You have given us wonderful scientific background information and data we can use as our base.
If I take anything away from what you said today, you have really told us as public policy-makers that we had better
start thinking about learning to live with extremes of heat, cold and dryness. As public policy-makers, we have to think
of things that farmers and people in the forestry industry can do to live with extremes, as you have so eloquently told
us. Thank you very much for coming.