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Latest Report from UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Features Trent University Professor as Lead Author


Professor Chris Furgal to Present Impacts of Climate Change on Arctic Communities in Ottawa Press Conference Today

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, Ottawa

Trent University’s Professor Chris Furgal from the Departments of Environment and Resource Science and Indigenous Studies was involved as a lead author in the latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Brussels on Friday, April 6. The full Canadian briefing on this report organized by the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences is scheduled today at 10 a.m. at the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa.

Prof. Furgal was one of only two Canadians on the international research team who wrote a chapter presenting the latest effects of climate change on the world’s polar regions. Entitled Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, this summary report provides a detailed analysis of observed and projected impacts on natural and human systems in response to actual and expected climate change stimuli. The report further addresses key vulnerabilities as well as adaptation measures for main sectors and regions. The complete summary report is the second of three volumes comprising the IPCC’s fourth climate change assessment report and was written by more than 450 of the world’s leading scientists.

Prof. Furgal’s expertise was called upon to synthesize and assess current research into the impact of climate change on human communities in northern regions. “What we’ve learned is that climate change is already having a negative impact particularly on the health of smaller and remote indigenous communities,” he explained. “People in the north are already having to adapt to risks posed by more unpredictable weather, stresses on aspects of their food security related to changes in animal migrations and distribution, and infrastructure loss due to coastal erosion, and increased wave action as ice cover decreases over the oceans.”

In polar regions, Prof. Furgal and his international research colleagues concluded the following impacts are already underway:

  • In the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic), the main projected biophysical effects are reductions in thickness and extent of glaciers and ice sheets, and changes in natural ecosystems with detrimental effects on many organisms including migratory birds, mammals and higher predators. In the Arctic, additional impacts include reductions in the extent of sea ice and permafrost, increased coastal erosion, and an increase in the depth of permafrost seasonal thawing.
  • For Arctic human communities, impacts, particularly resulting from changing snow and ice conditions, are projected to be mixed. Detrimental impacts would include those on infrastructure and traditional indigenous ways of life.
  • Beneficial impacts would include reduced heating costs and more navigable northern sea routes.
  • In both polar regions, specific ecosystems and habitats are projected to be vulnerable, as climatic barriers to species’ invasions are lowered.
  • Already Arctic human communities are adapting to climate change, but both external and internal stressors challenge their adaptive capacities. Despite the resilience shown historically by Arctic indigenous communities, some traditional ways of life are being threatened and substantial investments are needed to adapt or re-locate physical structures and communities.

The summary report will be presented to the G8 summit of the world's richest nations in June, when the European Union is expected to renew appeals to the United States to join in international efforts to control emissions of fossil fuels.

The panel's next report, a summary of which will be released in Bangkok on May 4, will survey solutions such as pursuing alternative fuel sources and capturing and burying greenhouse gases underground. The report will model how fixes, whether technological, regulatory or voluntary, would work together.

Prof. Furgal joined Trent University as an assistant professor in September 2006. He is cross-appointed to the Departments of Environment and Resource Sciences and Indigenous Studies. He brings an interdisciplinary approach to his teaching enabling students to foster a respect for and ability to learn and apply many different types of knowledge in solving problems related to the fields of Indigenous environmental health. He was nominated by Environment Canada to participate in the IPCC climate change report based on his extensive research into contaminants, food security and climate change and the health of Aboriginal and Arctic communities.

Recognizing the problem of potential global climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.

For a complete summary of the report, please visit www.ipcc.ch.


To reach Prof. Furgal in Ottawa for interviews today, please contact:
Brittany Cadence, Communications Officer, (705) 748-1011, ext. 5371