Oceans and Glaciers

Global warming, accelerated by our high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is causing the recession of glaciers and the melting of permafrost, which will lead to higher sea levels and change major ocean currents (1). Irreversible changes will be made to our planet if climate change is left uncontrolled.


Glaciers and ice sheets are important to the planet in many ways. Glaciers in Canada exist in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, northern Labrador, and west of the Rocky Mountains. The Canada’s Changing Climate Report acknowledges their importance in offering fresh water for humans to use during snow and ice melt periods, impacting offshore and shipping systems, aiding transportation and extraction of resources in the north, and allowing for winter activities to be enjoyed (1). Under a medium emissions scenario, it is projected that glaciers across the mountains of western Canada will lose 74% to 96% of their volume by the late 21st century (1). Second, a major factor in the greenhouse effect is the ability of the Earth’s surface to reflect the sun’s radiation back into space rather than absorbing it– snow and ice are key factors in reflecting these rays (2). If surface ice melts, less of Earth’s surface will be reflective and more heat will be absorbed into the surface of the planet; warming the Earth further (3).

Third, glaciers are important as they store immense amounts of water. Water stored in glaciers and sea ice does not contribute to sea levels, but as temperatures rise, melting ice will release huge amounts of previously stored water into the oceans – something that will have major impacts on Canada and the rest of the world (1,4). Changes in sea levels are of major concern to people all over the world, due to the drastic effects it may have on the lives of millions of people. Estimates suggest that sea levels could rise by as much as five metres this century due to climate change, an amount which would put the majority of coastal cities underwater, including Vancouver, Tuktoyaktuk, and St. John’s, by 2100 (5). In addition to the drowning of many places, in other coastal cities, such as Halifax, devastating flooding will become more common (5). Warming will also cause severe flooding to occur in non-coastal cities more often. Recent flooding emergencies in Ottawa and Quebec are proof that the effects of climate change can already be seen in Canada (6). The Executive Summary of Canada’s Changing Climate Report 2019 discusses the issue of rising sea levels clearly: “Coastal flooding is expected to increase in many areas of Canada due to local sea-level rise” while “changes in local sea level are a combination of global sea-level rise and local land subsidence” or the lowering of the land from lack of underground support (7). Coastal cities are also vulnerable to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic and Atlantic Canada due to an increase in large storms and waves (7). A sudden addition of cold water to the ocean has the potential to interrupt vital ocean currents (8,9). The movement of a crucial circulation loop in the North Atlantic has slowed almost 15% in the past 50 years, and a 2019 study in the Journal of Climate shows that melting Arctic ice sheets are partially to blame for this phenomenon (8,9).


As well as melting sea ice and glaciers, global warming is capable of thawing permafrost soils (10). This can be disastrous to both people living in permafrost areas, and the natural environment surrounding them. A lot of the human infrastructure built in Arctic regions relies on permafrost to keep the ground stable; and, as it thaws, northern communities experience creeping disruption to daily life, including damage to building foundations, destabilization of roads, and increased risk of landslides (11). Further, there is potential for large amounts of methane to be released into the atmosphere as the permafrost thaws. As the ground heats up, large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane previously frozen in the soil are freed and released into the atmosphere, further contributing to warming - a detrimental positive feedback cycle (10). This risk is made worse by the large amount of northern forest fires.

The melting of glaciers and sea ice, thawing of permafrost, and the warming of the climate will worsen the warming effect through both absorption of energy by the earth and increased GHG emissions. This will force significant lifestyle changes for those in coastal or permafrost regions and damage necessary natural ocean circulation loops. As a northern country, Canada must be constantly aware of these effects and be prepared to create solutions.

Who We Are

Shake Up The Establishment is a youth-led, registered (#1190975-4) national non-partisan non-profit organization that operates within the geographical confines of what is currently known as "Canada", but what is referred to by its First Peoples, as Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have inhabited Turtle Island for over 10,000 years, and were the sole inhabitants less than 500 years ago. We acknowledge that our address resides on Treaty 3 land, and is the traditional territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. Turtle Island is still home to many Indigenous peoples and we at SUTE are thankful to be able to live, learn and work on this territory, whilst continuing to create meaningful change for the climate justice movement. We are aware that our actions as an organization and the work we put out have an impact on our land, and on all that inhabit it. We are humbled to be able to follow the lead of centuries long Indigenous-led efforts towards the protection and stewardship of this land and the people that inhabit it. We are committed to continually evaluating & decolonizing our practices, and we do our best to incorporate the lived experiences of the land defenders and protectors within our work. We also want to honour the voices of Black, and non-Black people of colour within our work, and continually recognize their resiliency in the face of years of systemic oppression as imposed by the Canadian state.


Our enterprise is inclusive of all folx who call the geographical confines of what is currently known as Canada, home, and we celebrate the horizontal learning that comes from our diverse identities. As an organization, we will try our utmost best to ensure that only individuals with lived experiences are speaking on behalf of their communities, while still recognizing that Black, Indigenous and communities of colour as well as the LGBTQ2S+ community, are not a monolith. We firmly believe in accountability, and commit to being as transparent as possible in our activism space; to research our topics well, support and centre community care, and minimize any harm, no matter the intent. We have strict policies and procedures to uphold these tenets, and update these on a yearly (or as-needed) basis.

106-325 Winterberry Drive, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8J 0B6

© 2020 Shake Up The Establishment

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