Global Warming: Reality or Myth

Friday, November 23, 2012

Call it what you will – global warming, global change or climate change – the shift in our planet’s weather patterns is a topic of heated debate and concern across nations. While some deny the existence of global change, scientific research consistently confirms the reality of quantifiable climate changes that are affecting every form of life on Earth.

Statistics Canada has shared information confirming the presence of climate change in our country and around the world, and shedding light on its causes. Among the data:

In 2006, temperatures around the world rose for the 30th consecutive year (most current data available). In fact, Environment Canada forecasts rising temperatures across Canada and all of North America throughout the 21st century. This increasing warmth is melting glaciers and polar icecaps, thus raising sea levels and increasing the risks of coastal flooding.

The levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that contribute to global warming by holding heat close to the earth instead of allowing it to escape into the atmosphere. Although we need for some of the heat to stay close to the earth, excessive levels of GHGs hold too much heat, causing temperatures to rise. Carbon dioxide is the most well-known GHG; others include water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons. Emissions of these GHGs are the result of many activities, including those in the following categories:

  • Energy production and consumption.

  • Industrial processes.

  • Solvent use.

  • Agriculture.

  • Waste.

  • Land-use and forestry activities.

Mounting evidence points to a strong human influence on climate change. Many respected scientific entities – the British Royal Society, the American National Academies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among others – support the theory that climate change is in large part caused by human activities. In fact, the IPCC (created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988) released its fourth assessment report in 2007. In it, the IPCC stated that “warming of the climate’s system is unequivocal” and that human activity since 1750 has likely played an integral role in overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

While climate changes will vary regionally, in general, Canada is expected to experience the following long-term trends as a result of global warming: warmer winters, more frequent summer heat waves, changes in precipitation and wind patterns, and an increasing number of severe storms. In arctic regions, permafrost will melt and glaciers will retreat more quickly. Additionally, regional droughts may cause water shortages; rising sea levels and heavy precipitation may increase instances of flood damage; and warmer temperatures will encourage the development of more frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Environment Canada is engaged in ongoing research to identify and forecast the effects of climate change across the country. The Canadian Forest Service is taking proactive steps as well, embarking upon research designed to help clarify and quantify the impacts of climate change on Canada’s forests and identify efforts to mitigate the negative effects of climate change while helping our forests adapt. And the Government of Canada has taken the stance of being in a “fight against climate change,” committing itself to developing policies and programs, conducting scientific research and working with provinces, territories, other government departments and international partners to combat the negative effects of global change.

Sources: Environment Canada, Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada