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 and droughts, which lead to the loss of homes and farmlands. An article from Global News states that floods in Canada have become the most frequent and expensive natural disaster that is only expected to get worse. In November 2021, the province of British Columbia suffered disastrous floods that caused $7 billion in damage, and this is just the beginning.
Rise in Sea Level
Canada is a maritime nation. Eight of its ten provinces and all three territories border ocean waters. That puts the western Arctic, Canada’s southeastern Atlantic Coast, and major cities like Vancouver and Halifax right on the front lines of sea-level rise. This sea-level rise may lead to flooding across the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Beaufort Sea coasts. The rise in sea level will promote saltwater intrusion into inland areas and provide opportunity for ground and surface water contamination.
Effect on Maple Syrup
Canada is a major producer of maple syrup, primarily between the months of February and April. The sap is drawn from sugar maple trees and then converted to syrup. Climate change, however, has affected the industry adversely. The tapping week of the maple trees is now due a week earlier than usual.A research body predicted that, by 2100, maple syrup season may begin one month earlier than it did between the years 1950 and 2017.
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.
Join us tomorrow to discuss how climate change impacts Black, indigenous and other racialized communities in Canada.
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