Could climate change make Canada a future superpower?

Posted Sep 25, 2010 by Chanah Rubenstein
In Laurence C. Smith’s new book “The World in 2050,” which focuses on the effects of climate change over the next 40 years, it is theorized that Canada could become a global superpower.
Canadian flag
Canadian flag
Mr. Smith believes that the warmer temperatures will bring out more natural resources such as water, oil and gas. This will lead to higher numbers in immigration and cause new infrastructure and development. At the same time, southern countries will be losing resources and population, lending way for northern rim countries to lead in the global markets.
Northern rim countries, like Canada, Russia, the northern U.S. and the Scandinavian countries, may prosper during the times of higher temperatures, but all other countries will be devastated. Mr. Smith is quick to point this out and note that there are many negative effects caused by climate change, some of which we’re already seeing. "The pine beetle is devastating B.C. timber and summer heat waves knocked out 30 per cent of Russia wheat crop, so it would be disingenuous of me to suggest all of this spells nothing but good news. But alongside the bad news there will be some beneficial changes,” he says.
Laurence C. Smith is a scientist and professor of geography and earth sciences at the University of California Los Angeles. He originally set out to discover the negative effects of climate change in the north and “humanize it a bit,” but discovered “there are two sides to every issue.” “I went there and found people suffering but I also found people flourishing, doing well,” he told
Mr. Smith said there may be a silver lining for some. He learned that northern residents really wanted to talk about land claims, education issues and new development and industry; the subjects that are more of an issue to them now, due to climate change.
Laurence C. Smith’s book “The World in 2050” predicts that China will surpass the U.S. as the strongest economy and that the Indian economy will trail just behind the Americans.
Of course he does state that the world will get hotter. By Mr. Smiths’ calculation, it will be warmer, on average by at least 15 degrees Celsius, but worse case scenario being 30 degrees Celsius. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted no more than a 6 degree Celsius increase by the year 2100.
Of course Canada won’t just benefit because of its location. According to Mr. Smith, Canada is well positioned politically and socially as well. Canada’s welcoming immigration laws that focus on the skilled worker could be its best attribute. Even though Canada’s population is aging, it’s expected to increase by 30 percent within the next 40 years.
On the opposite side of the coin, Russia will have a population crash because of the aging population and unwelcoming view of outsiders. "There's a spectrum and it all goes back to the exact same thing, how welcoming are you of global integration? And the countries that welcome outsiders grow, the ones that don't, do not," Mr. Smith said.
He also points out that the Inuit in Canada’s north has a median age of 23 (as opposed to 40 for the rest of Canada) and that the birth rate in Nunavut is 24 babies for every 1,000. "So it's a small population but it's one of the fastest growing," he concludes.
However, Laurence C. Smith’s overall message is one of warning. He hopes that the countries in the northern rim countries, such as Canada, don’t celebrate the idea of being a superpower, but that they work to stop the predicted loses and devastation that we’re all on track of experiencing.
"It's my fervent hope that this book makes people think harder about what we’re doing now so we can avert many of its predictions. We're talking about a tiny part of the globe. These handfuls of benefits occur in a small place, and they have to be framed against the background of a world depressed. It seems almost selfish to relish in those benefits that come at such a cost.” Mr. Smith said.