Throughout history, people and societies have coped with and adjusted to changes in climate and extremes with varying degrees of success. Annual and seasonal mean temperatures across Canada have increased, with the most significant warming occurring in winter. Between 1948 and 2016, the best estimate of the mean annual temperature increase is 1.7ºC for Canada as a whole and 2.3ºC for northern Canada. Precipitation has increased in many parts of Canada, and there has been a shift toward less snowfall and more rainfall.
Driven by human influence, Canada’s warming climate has been observed to be almost double the magnitude of global warming. By 2050, Canada’s temperatures are predicted to rise over three degrees in some major cities. Even during winter and spring, the warming persists and has led to a rise in sea levels, Arctic ice melting, extreme climate conditions, and drastic precipitation changes.
Let’s have a closer look at the impacts Canada suffers due to climate change.
Arctic Ice Melting
The Arctic region is undeniably a fragile and vital ecosystem and has been seriously impacted by global warming. Currently, it is warming at a drastic rate—the melting ice is disrupting average ocean circulation leading to climate and weather changes. The Inuits are on the verge of losing their homeland and livelihood as the ice melts. At the same time, those in island regions are experiencing flooding and are seeing their houses go underwater.
Living species in the Arctic – notably Polar Bears, are also affected. Surviving becomes more and more difficult as the ice melts, and just like that, their natural habitat for thousands of years is beginning to prove uninhabitable.
Extreme Weather Conditions
Canada had always been a cool place with agreeable weather until a few decades ago when climate change began to set in prominently. With the change in climate comes a shift in the distribution of weather patterns. Canada has become warmer and wetter, and the inconsistent weather conditions often become unbearable. For example, the western region has recorded more devastating wildfires and home burning in recent times. In the year 2021, more than 13,000 square miles of Canadian wilderness has been burned resulting in “ravaged towns, lost timberlands, unhealthy air, and lost habitat in North America’s most important breeding ground for migratory birds” by Doyle McManus, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
Other extremes experienced include floods, hurricanes, wildfires and droughts.
The Link Between Climate Change and Wildfires
Climate change is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires worldwide. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns have resulted in longer fire seasons and more prolonged periods of drought, making forests and grasslands more vulnerable to ignition and more challenging to control once they start burning.
Additionally, as the climate warms, insect infestations and diseases that weaken trees are becoming more common. These weakened trees are more susceptible to fire and can provide fuel for more intense and destructive wildfires. Furthermore, climate change is causing changes in wind patterns, which can exacerbate the spread of wildfires.
The Link Between Climate Change and Hurricanes
Climate change is also leading to more frequent and intense hurricanes. Warmer oceans provide more energy for hurricanes to form and intensify. Additionally, rising sea levels increase the risk of storm surges, which can cause severe flooding in coastal areas.
Furthermore, climate change is causing changes in wind patterns, which can affect the path and intensity of hurricanes. For example, as the polar regions warm, the jet stream may slow down, leading to more persistent weather patterns that can cause hurricanes to stall over one area, leading to more prolonged periods of flooding.
The Link Between Climate Change and Droughts
Climate change is causing more frequent and severe droughts, particularly in regions that are already prone to aridity. Rising temperatures increase evaporation rates, leading to drier soils and reduced water availability for plants and animals.
Additionally, changes in precipitation patterns are leading to more prolonged periods of drought.
The Link Between Climate Change and Floods
Climate change is causing more frequent and severe floods, particularly in low-lying areas and regions with poor drainage systems. Warmer temperatures lead to more intense rainfall events, which can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flash flooding. Additionally, as sea levels rise, coastal areas become more vulnerable to flooding. Storm surges from hurricanes and other severe weather events can cause flooding in areas that were previously considered safe. Furthermore, changes in precipitation patterns are leading to more prolonged periods of rain, which can cause river flooding.
Wow, this sounds scary, right? Unfortunately, the mentioned consequences are just a fraction of how climate change affects Canada as a whole, mostly also applicable on a global scale. However, you would agree with me that the world is far from egalitarian, Canada included. This uneven distribution of wealth, resources, opportunities, rewards and even punishment is greatly influenced by race, ethnicity, economic status, and gender. Could these apparent but abiding factors significantly increase the vulnerability or susceptibility of the affected persons to the negative impacts of climate change in Canada? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
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