Discover more from The Planet
Another Canary Died in the Climate Coal mine: No Skating on the World's Largest Ice Rink.
Before I moved to Ottawa, I only knew a few facts about this city; it's the second coldest capital in the world, and you can skate on the world's largest ice rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway is a source of great pride for the city of Ottawa and its residents. It is the world's largest ice rink and symbolizes the city's rich history and winter traditions.
The skateway has been a popular attraction for generations of Ottawans and visitors, who flock to the canal to enjoy outdoor winter recreation. I loved to join the crowd and see the landmark parliament building from the ice. Skating on this ice is a cherished experience and a unique tradition that has become synonymous with the city.
But this winter, red signs warn visitors to stay off the ice. Never since it first opened in 1971 has there been a winter that the skateway remained closed. For many, Ottawa without this iconic winter tradition is unthinkable. But for those who take a closer look at the data, the signs were clear that change was already taking place. For instance, in the recent winter of 2015-2016, people were only allowed on the ice for 16 days.
In the past five decades, the latest-ever opening date was February 2. But unfortunately, it is now already nearly two weeks later, and the weather forecast doesn't indicate that we may still expect the minimum required freezing period of ten days with temperatures below minus ten degrees Celsius. So I have given up hope, although the experts are not yet ready to be so outspoken.
Is climate change to blame, or is this just weather? We will likely see many more winters with people enjoying the ice, but the trend is clear: it is getting warmer in Ottawa. Ted Raymond from CTV News Ottawa looked at decades of data from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). He noted that mean monthly temperatures in Ottawa in December and January are going up.
You can see the result of that trend in the opening dates of the skating rink in the past half-century. Although there is plenty of variety, this tweet shows that the green bars are getting shorter. But no green bar for this year seems an odd outlier, which gives hope to be on the ice again next winter.
I experience this record-breaking winter as another example that you can't escape climate change. It fits in a pattern of ever more extremes. Who would have thought I would ever write that it is too warm in Ottawa during winter? And you may remember my writing from Spain last summer, where I walked in nature to avoid thinking all the time about the climate and biodiversity crises. Instead, I found myself hiking during record-breaking heatwaves and using my covid masks to protect me from inhaling the smoke of the large forest fires. When I left Spain for the Dutch island, I found that many dune lakes that always had water had dried up for the first time.
Climate change is everywhere. It is an urgent global crisis that requires immediate action. It disrupts our natural environment and threatens the fabric of our society and cultural heritage. We have the know-how, the technology, and the financial means to mitigate its effects and create a better world for ourselves and future generations. We have a vision for a clean, sustainable future that values justice and equality. It's time to hold our leaders accountable and demand meaningful change. Your voice and vote matter, so let's come together and build a sustainable future that benefits all of us.
Today's dead canary in the climate coal mine lies in Ottawa; tomorrow, it may be found where you live or elsewhere on the planet, with deadly consequences for many people. Think of the kinds of disasters that make the loss of a winter tradition just a minor casualty of the climate crisis.
We have no time to lose.
If you got this far, please read this too:
I write this newsletter because I believe that together we can do better on this beautiful but fragile planet.
If you are a paying subscriber: thank you for your support!
If you are not, please consider supporting this initiative by taking a paid subscription.