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Originally published in the Toronto Star

27 May 2019

Ontario’s Far North, made up of the Hudson Bay and James Bay Lowlands, and the Canadian Shield, is one of the world’s largest and most pristine wildernesses. Nearly twice the size of the United Kingdom, the Far North covers 42 per cent of Ontario’s land mass, is home to the world’s second-largest peatland ecosystem and contains the Earth’s largest area of boreal forest free from extensive human development. 

The forest and the boggy peatlands take carbon dioxide out of the air; the peatlands alone are estimated to store more than 35 billion tonnes of carbon, as much as all the other ecosystems in the province combined. By storing carbon, peatlands help cool the Earth. It is estimated that about one-tenth of the cooling benefit from peatlands around the world comes from here.

But climate change is threatening traditional ways of life for the Indigenous communities in the Far North. And this globally significant carbon storehouse could be transformed into sources of increased carbon dioxide and methane, depending on the type of peatland, water levels and other factors.

Other projections are just as frightening. Temperatures will rise. Precipitation will change. Permafrost will continue to thaw.

report by Environment and Climate Change Canada released earlier this year cites one estimate that average winter temperatures could rise by as much as 5 degrees along the Hudson Bay coast by 2050. That is three times higher than the estimated 1.7-degree-average increase in temperature Canada has experienced between 1948 and 2016.

HEADER PHOTO: Jason Smallboy, Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation says his communities are feeling the effects of climate change.RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

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