“Unavoidable” climate change in Canada could make ice-hockey history

By RTCC Staff

Could outdoor skating be a thing of the past in Canada? (© Stemberovi/creative commons)

Climate change is “unavoidable” regardless of efforts to halt it, and its effects could hit the country’s most popular winter sport, according to new research.

Scientists from the Simon Fraser University warn that even if the world stopped producing greenhouse gas emissions immediately, Canada could expect warming of 2°C, making outdoor ice-hockey history.

The new report, published in the journal Nature, urges the public, governments and industries to wake up to the harsh reality of climate change and sea level rise.

“Let’s be honest, it’s totally unrealistic to believe that we can stop all emissions now,” said Professor Kirsten Zickfeld, from the University’s Geography department.

“Even with aggressive greenhouse mitigation; it will be a challenge to keep the projected global rise in temperature to under 2°C.”

According to the report, emissions have already warmed the world’s temperature by almost 1°C since the beginning of the industrial era.

Even with the elimination of all emissions, an additional short-term warming of 0.25°C and 0.5°C would be witnessed, says Zickfeld, rising to around 1.3°C higher than at the beginning of the industrial era.

She also warns this does not take into account global differences, with the northern hemisphere likely to see closer to a 2°C rise.

“One to 1.5 degrees of global warming may not seem like a great deal,” says Zickfeld. “But we need to realise that the warming may not be distributed equally over the globe, with mid- to high-latitude regions such as Canada, Alaska, north-eastern Europe, Russia and northern China being most strongly affected.”

“Our research shows that as a result of past emissions, a warming of at least 2°C will be unavoidable in these regions.”

The report predicts it could take around a century for temperatures to return to normal.

It also found sea level rise could be 25 cm by the year 2200 based on warming waters and could continue to rise for centuries after this date.

Another study, released in the Institute of Physics’ journal, Environmental Research Letters, has shown what this changing climate could mean for Canada’s most popular winter sport.

The new study found that milder winters and shorter ice seasons, threatening to leave lakes unfrozen, could render outdoor ice-hockey unplayable.

It found the ice season had shortened noticeably over the last 50 years, especially in southern British Columbia and Alberta – where temperatures are not staying low enough for long enough to allow ice to freeze over.

It predicts that by mid-century, it may no longer be possible to play ice hockey or skate on outdoor rinks without artificial intervention.

Evidence of this is already been witnessed, for example earlier this year, the world’s longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa closed due to warmer-than-usual seasonal temperatures.

Co-author of the study, Damon Matthews from Concordia University said: “There is not much akin to skating outdoors, and the creation of natural skating rinks depends on having enough cold winter days.”

“It is hard to imagine a Canada without outdoor hockey, but I really worry that this will be a casualty of our continuing to ignore the climate problem and obstruct international efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”

RTCC VIDEO: Watch Toby Davine from Canada’s Youth Climate Committee talk about her countries stance at the Durban conference and why acting on climate change is so important.

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