Climate change website launched
Fri, July 20, 2007
But the government initiative was criticized by the NDP for not tackling greenhouse gases.
By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, SUN MEDIA QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF
TORONTO — Ontario risks a future with few or no polar bears, expanded threat of disease-carrying insects and other calamities as the province's climate changes, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay says.
The Ontario government launched an interactive website, a polar bear study and created a new Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation yesterday in response to the threat.
Ramsay said the impact of global warming is felt more strongly in the north end of the province where ice is melting earlier.
"Ontario's population of polar bears live as far south as any polar bear in the world, putting them on the front line of the changes to their habitat caused by global warming," Ramsay said.
Studies done by his ministry have documented a decline in the health of the province's polar bears, with evidence that females are struggling to maintain enough weight for a successful pregnancy.
Ramsay said the ministry is also concerned that the changing climate will provide a broader range for unwelcome creatures such as the Lyme disease-carrying tick that is currently found around Lake Erie but which could spread throughout Ontario.
The white-tail deer is heading farther north, bringing with it a brain worm infection that is fatal to moose. The fire-fighting season is now a week longer, Ramsay said.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said the measures proposed by the ministry will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of global warming.
"I find it quite extraordinary that the minister seems to understand what climate change will do to Ontario and the response of this government is another website," he said.
Tabuns said the Ontario Liberal government's climate change plan does not meet Kyoto Protocol targets, and its expert panel should have been launched a year ago.
More ambitious programs for public transit and energy conservation are also required, he said.
Asked why the Ontario Liberals pushed back their date to close coal-fired electricity plants — a significant source of greenhouse gases — Ramsay said their first responsibility is to keep the lights on.
"We're going to do it, and in a perfect world we'd like to do it sooner," he said.