From the balmy Arctic, to the open water of the St. Lawrence and snowless western fields, this winter has been the warmest and driest in Canadian record books.
Environment Canada scientists report that winter 2009/10 was 4 C above normal, making it the warmest since nationwide records were first kept in 1948. It was also the driest winter on the 63-year record, with precipitation 22 per cent below normal nationally, and down 60 per cent in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
"It's beyond shocking," David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, told Canwest News Tuesday. Records have been shattered from "coast to coast to coast."
When government funding for a foundation dedicated to climate research dries up at the end of the year, scientists say the aftershocks of its departure will be felt not only in Canada but by researchers around the globe.
The 2010 federal budget, unveiled this month, offered no new cash to the decade-old Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, a group that has been financing research on everything from melting glaciers to drought on the Prairies to the thawing permafrost. ...
Since its creation in 2000, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences has been a major source of financing and co-ordination for projects that gather and crunch data.
The foundation has bankrolled $110 million of research, but hasn't received any new funding since the Conservative government was elected in 2006.
Last winter, it made a formal request for $25 million annually over 10 years.
Its existing mandate runs until March 2012, but without a fresh cash injection the 12 research networks currently under its umbrella will be shuttered by the end of 2010.
Mr. Harper came to power four years ago fully intending to dismantle programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. The outgoing Liberals, he said, had set unrealistic targets and then failed to meet them. His government was not about to offer lip service to a crusade that Conservatives deemed overblown and out of step with the folks on Main Street.
A few months later, the folks on Main Street told the Prime Minister that he had them pegged all wrong.
Al Gore was on screen proclaiming his “inconvenient truth,” Canada was experiencing weird winter weather, and by January, 2007, the polls said that climate change had become the number one concern of Canadians, outdistancing such staples as the economy and health care.
So, with all the zeal of a conscript, Mr. Harper joined the fight against global warming. He replaced his environment minister and scrapped the first attempt at an environmental policy in favour of a plan to cut carbon emissions by 2020. The move was panned by environmentalists but seemed to please ordinary Canadians.
“Of course, this abdication of responsibility is only temporary. The Harper government isn't fighting with Liberals – it's fighting with chemistry and physics.”
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