SCAN’s 14-Day Campaign | Day 3 – Effects of Climate Change in Canada

Throughout history, people and societies have adjusted to and coped with changes in climate and extremes with varying degrees of success. Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence. Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming. Annual and seasonal mean temperatures across Canada have increased, with the most significant warming occurring in winter. Between 1948 and 2016, 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.

If you reside in the far north or west, you can very well attest to the higher rate of warming in those regions. Even during winter and spring, the warming persists and has led to a rise in sea levels, Arctic ice melting, extreme heat and weather 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. It’s 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.

Polar bears and other living species in the Arctic are also affected. Surviving becomes more difficult as all 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 action comes a shift in the distribution of weather patterns. Canada has become warmer and wetter, and the spiking weather conditions can be mostly unbearable. For example, the western region has recorded more devastating wildfires and home burning in recent times. With the rising heat, the situation doesn’t seem to get better.

Other extremes experienced include floods and droughts, which lead to the loss of homes and farmlands. Sometime in July 2018, the southern part of the Canadian province of Québec endured one such period of sweltering heat. It took the lives of up to 54 people, most of them between the ages of 50 and 85.

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 B Beaufort Sea coasts. Allowing saltwater intrusion into some inland areas, potentially contaminating ground and surface freshwaters.

Effect on Maple Syrup

Canada is a major producer of maple syrup, and its season happens between February and April. The sap is drawn from sugar maple trees and converted to syrup. Climate change, however, has dramatically affected the industry adversely. The tapping week of the maple trees is now due a week earlier than usual. A recent study shows that, by 2100, maple syrup season may begin one month earlier than between 1950 and 2017. 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, these 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 inclusive. Some people are simply more equal than others. 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.

SCAN’s 14-Day Campaign | Day 3 – Effects of Climate Change in Canada

Obie Agusiegbe
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