Over the past 70 years, Canada’s average land temperature has increased by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just the average too. Temperatures are up even more in the northern sweep of the country. In comparison, the rest of the world’s surface area has warmed by roughly 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 140 years.
This, according to a report released this week by Canada’s Environment and Climate Change department. The report states unequivocally that burning fossil fuels is contributing heavily to the warming through carbon emissions.
“While both human activities and natural variations in the climate have contributed to the observed warming in Canada, the human factor is dominant. It is likely that more than half of the observed warming in Canada is due to the influence of human activities,” the report states.
“Effectively irreversible,” the report says about the warming Canada—and the rest of the world—will experience in the coming future. For Canada, the effects of the warming will be familiar to those following climate change in the U.S. A gradual increase in rainfall, as opposed to snowfall at higher latitudes, with hotter, drier weather in southern climes.
The report tries to estimate weather pattern and climate changes based on multiple emissions scenarios, from best to worst case, but significant changes are projected to occur even under the most optimistic outcomes. Up to 96 percent of Canada’s glaciers are forecast to be gone by the end of the century, even if emissions are halted soon. Permafrost thawing in the Canadian Arctic is all but assured, with impacts on the carbon cycle varying depending on how hot it gets.
There will be less snowpack available to fill reservoirs in the summer, with more and more precipitation falling as rain even in the winter months. What snow does fall will melt earlier too, not gradually throughout the spring and summer.
More and larger wildfires are forecast. A drastic reduction in sea ice too, with most summer sea ice projected to be gone by mid-century. Marine ecosystems are also in danger as Canada’s coastlines have seen oceans becoming more acidic, warmer, and less oxygenated, a bad combination for the health of sea life.
Why is Canada experiencing more warming than most of the world? Difficult to say, but it’s possibly because so much of Canada is locked up in ice, and as the ice melts—including snow, glaciers, and sea ice—less of the sun’s energy is reflected back away from the surface. That warming isn’t only occuring within Canada’s borders either. Alaska recently recorded temperatures 40 degrees above normal.
The Canadian government is moving to impose a nationwide carbon tax to help meet the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accords, and will issue rebates to individual citizens to offset any incerases in prices they see as a result. This plan, as well as the shuttering of coal-fired power plants, is a rapid effort to ensure changes due to warming stay within the optimistic scenarios.
Top photo: Carly Tobias