Manage its natural resources in a good “family father”

Catherine Martellini

Special Collaboration

April 18, 2020

Gérer ses ressources naturelles en bon «père de famille»

Jacques Nadeau Archives The Duty
The construction of the hydroelectric generating station Romaine-4, on the North Shore of Quebec, which is expected to be in service in 2021

This text is part of the special Earth Day

A recent study from Concordia University shows that the climate warming will alter the hydroelectric potential in the country, enriching the East at the expense of the West. In addition to hydropower, the management of our natural resources, from forest to agriculture through the sea, is also called to transform with the climate change walk.

The environmental consequences of climate change are observed almost everywhere on the planet and accelerate. It attends in particular to the rapid decline and important glaciers of the mountainous region of the Himalayas, which is home to the largest area of glaciers in the world and provides water for China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.

Closer to home, the snow which covers the mountains and glaciers is the source of most of the rivers flow and the water supply of the southern Prairies.

“The moisture regimes are fundamental and the acceleration of climate change affects, in particular, stresses Emmanuel-Benoit Raufflet, professor in the Department of management at HEC Montréal. The plains of Alberta have historically of dry ecosystems, then they are already vulnerable. “

Water as a source of energy

This acceleration of the ice melt, combined with rain increased, could change the potential for hydroelectric production, reveals a study published last fall by researchers Amirali Amir Jabbari and Ali Nazemi, the engineering Department building, civil and environmental, Concordia University.

They have examined the historical data from 1977 to 2007 from hundreds of weather stations local to the country.

“We find that the rain is gradually increasing in Canada compared to the percentage of snow, underlines Ali Nazemi. Taking into account these data, we formulated the hypothesis that this trend was going to continue into the future, a conservative approach given that the pace of change is accelerating. “

The co-authors have been able to, in addition, determine the delay time between precipitation and the production of electricity. As well, the rain helps Quebec to generate more quickly the electricity in Ontario, which is more dependent on snowfall for its production.

Because of their wetter climate, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, will see their potential of production increase if the climate trends continue, within the next 30 years. It is Quebec who will benefit from the largest increase of this potential, which could grow by 15 % during the summer months and 7 to 8 % in the winter.

More dry, the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the northwest Territories and the Nuvavut will assist to a decrease of almost 10 % during some months of their production potential.

In addition to its hydroelectric potential, and disparities importantesqui will be created between the provinces in the country, the water in the broad sense will become a global issue.

“On the one hand, our bodies are composed of 80 % water, we all need that, reminds us of Emmanuel-Benoit Raufflet. And it is the basis of other renewable resources, such as agriculture and forestry. “

With its decline in some parts of the world, how many ecosystems will be depleted ? How many people will not be able to grow food and, therefore, will no longer have access to food ? How many migrants will be moving ?

The natural resources most affected

For Charles Séguin, a professor in the Department of economics at UQAM, changes in climate could have an impact on the natural resources, both in their supply and their demand.

On the supply side, there will be, for example, to a change in the speed of growth of the trees and in the productivity of the forest, including as a result of fires that are most important. “The federal government has also announced that he wanted to reach the carbon neutrality by 2050 through reforestation,” he says.

As are the forests, relatively young people who accumulate the carbon, it should be depending on him to go further and develop a management plan including the cutting and replanting, but also imagine produitsde the cutter with a longer shelf life. We could use the wood as a construction material,for example, rather than for the manufacture of toilet paper, which returns too rapidly to the atmosphere.

If, moreover, the québec mining industry generally focuses on the extraction of iron and gold, it could turn to other minerals whose demand could increase at the global scale, such as lithium for batteries, or graphite. Finally, climate change will also have an impact on the fishing and capture of wild species, which migrate according to the changes of the ecosystem. “Some regions may lose the species that they fished for the benefit of others, says he. It will therefore be necessary to adjust the quotas accordingly. “

A good management would look like what ?

In terms of hydroelectricity, the researcher Ali Nazemi is hoped that the results of his study, will push governments to better plan for the future by making decisions that could mitigate the effects of climate change or adapt to it.

“We know that the West is dependent on oil, the exploitation of which produces greenhouse gas emissions,” he stressed. In the perspective where it is desired that Canada is moving more towards the use and production of energy more green, we need to be aware that some areas of the country will not have the possibility of turning to the latter, as shown in our study. “

These surplus electricity Is need to be think beyond the provincial management. Should there be, for example, negotiate with the provinces of the West to provide for an equitable redistribution in the context, or must we export this electricity ? And to what extent ?

Beyond the management of hydropower, Emmanuel Benoit Raufflet believes that water should be the subject of a comprehensive management, citizen, open and sober. In particular, this requires public policies that take into consideration the two types of water : blue water, is one that we are peutboire and which is concentrated in the dams, the water green, which is found in the atmosphere and directly into plants and the tropical rainforests.

“Build a dam, it is fine, but it concentrates a lot of blue water to the detriment often of the green water : some ecosystems will be dried up, he argues. Be aware of that would be already not bad in the management of water. “

Even if Canada wanted to bring its contribution and export of fresh water abroad to help the world’s population, it is likely to give rise to several technical constraints and policies.

“Water is certainly a vital resource, but its value is very low. It costs pennies to the City of Montreal to produce one cubic metre of water, says Charles Séguin, but it is impossible to send it to countries that would most need it, the container cost too expensive to produce and to transport. “

In regards to other natural resources, the government will, according to him, ensure that the royalty system imposed on some of them to be well adapted to the fluctuations of the price. “There is much uncertainty about the impacts of climate change in the world,” he adds. We may not know exactly which resource will be requested and become abundant in other countries : it is necessary to provide a flexible benefit plan. “

Emmanuel Benoit Raufflet recalls that the management of natural resources cannot be reflected only with an economic approach. “A holistic approach provides a different perspective, a complementary and more just about the effects of climate change. “

The water in a few figures

• Water covers 70 % of the Earth’s surface, but 95 % of it is salt water and only 5 % is fresh water.

• Québec has 3 % of the global reserves of renewable fresh water.

• Quebec could see his potential
hydroelectric production, which is already monumental, to grow by 15 % during the summer months and 7 to 8 % in the winter.

• In 2015, the Canada was the second largest exporter of hydroelectricity in the world, with 10 % of the total world exports, half of which from
the province of Quebec.

Sources : Environment Canada, Concordia University, Canadian Hydropower Association


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