Climate change is causing the world’s average temperatures to rise — and Canada is warming at double the global rate, a new report revealed.
The report, "Canada in a Changing Climate," is the first in a series to come from Environment and Climate Change Canada that will highlight the impacts of climate change within the country.
Canada’s annual average temperature over land has increased by an estimated 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1948, with higher increases in the North, the Prairies, and northern British Columbia, the report noted. In northern Canada, the increase was 2.3 degrees Celsius.
In comparison, the average global temperatures have increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius in the same timespan.
There are two key reasons behind this according to Dr. Chris Derksen, research scientist, climate research division, at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
First, land areas are warming faster than ocean areas, and given Canada’s size, it’s expected that it would be greatly impacted, Derksen told Global Citizen.
The second reason, he explained, is related to the fact that Canada is a northern country with a lot of snow and ice.
Canada’s #ChangingClimate Report provides strong scientific support for taking action on #ClimateChange, including climate adaptation and mitigation in our country. Read the report: https://t.co/bDOnSXU0gXpic.twitter.com/r7o8HwDlpw— Environment Canada (@environmentca) April 2, 2019
“Sea ice over the ocean and snow over land reflect a lot of energy from the sun back into space, and as the climate has warmed, the duration of the year for which we have snow and ice at the surface has decreased,” he said.
“So that means for a longer time of the year, you’re absorbing more energy into open water or the land surface that’s not covered by snow. That, in turn, contributes to more warming … Warming reduces snow and ice, which contributes to more warming.”
In other words, it’s a constant cycle of global warming.
The increased temperatures are a result of burning fossil fuels, according to the report.
It highlights a number of intense consequences that are likely to arise if the issue is not addressed: intense heat waves, rainstorms, droughts, floods, wildfire risks, and shortages of fresh water.
“The warming that we’ve experienced to this point — which is driven by … human activity and increased CO2 in the atmosphere — that’s pretty much locked in,” Derksen said, noting that the country can expect to face issues similar to those of recent years.
The report suggests that Canada and the world must reduce carbon emissions to near zero early on in the second half of the century, and significantly reduce emissions of other greenhouse gasses in order to minimize impacts of climate change.
Should global emissions be greatly reduced, in what the report calls its low-emission scenario, average Canadian temperatures will only increase by about 2 degrees Celsius, which would be in line with targets set in the Paris agreement. This would help prevent the harsh events currently being predicted if the world continues on with business as usual.
While this report focused on Canada, its findings are part of a much more global issue relating to climate change. Extreme weather changes caused by climate change impact food security, influence poverty and can ultimately lead to premature deaths.
“It’s a problem that is being driven at the global scale and so a solution for it will also have to be found for it at the global scale,” Derksen said.
If the world fails to act, increases of 7 to 9 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Celsius in the Arctic) are predicted, according to the Guardian, which would result in the predicted devastating events.
It's too late to reverse course — but Derksen says that it’s not too late to get this under control.
“The future is still open as to which of these pathways we go down,” he said.