Canada is warming faster than we thought. What can we do about it?

While global temperatures have increased 0.8 C since 1948, Canada has seen an increase of 1.7 C — more than double the global average. And in the Arctic, the warming is happening at a much faster rate of 2.3 C, the Changing Climate report says.

A large stack from the Sault Paper Mill. Photo: Billy Wilson/Flickr
Photo: Billy Wilson/Flickr

new report leaked one day early from Environment and Climate Change Canada shows that Canada is experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with Northern Canada heating up at almost three times the global average.

The changing climate report was prepared in a similar way to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, as a synthesis of hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. It included details on a familiar catalogue of the impacts we can expect, not limited to increases in precipitation (particularly in winter), “extreme fire weather” and water supply shortages in summer, threatened freshwater systems, marine ecosystem collapse and a heightened risk of coastal flooding. As the Toronto Star noted, the report concluded that “even if countries around the world stick to their commitments under the 2016 Paris Agreement, Canada is still likely to experience a range of consequences like rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers and Arctic ice cover, increased risk of summertime water shortages and more frequent droughts, floods and wildfires.”

In some ways, this information is new — the degree and scope to which this land has and will be impacted has never been collated with this much certainty before. The idea that Canada will be impacted more than average by climate change may alert some people who have bought into the selfish and false talking point that we will not be terribly adversely impacted by this crisis, that it could even be a good thing for us. It may jolt others out of complacency. But for people who are already grappling with the full scale of the climate crisis, there’s been more than enough scientific evidence and Indigenous knowledge shared to indicate that this is an emergency. As the Northwest Territories Chapter of the Council of Canadians wrote, “We’ve seen the changes; now we have the data. But still there are people crying ‘fake news.’ Those of us wanting a livable planet need to step up the push for a Green New Deal for Canada and the NWT.”

We wrote about our takeaways from the special IPCC report on 1.5 C late last year for people interested it fighting for climate justice, and thought we would reiterate some of them in the wake of this Canada-specific report.

The most important thing to remember it’s still within our reach to avoid most of the future impacts the report describes. We have the solutions. We have many roadmaps for a fair transition on the necessary timeline, but to get there we will need to multiply the people power pushing for them. MORE