Canada is warming on average at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, a new scientific report indicates. The federal government climate report also warns that changes are already evident in many parts of the country and are projected to intensify. Canada’s Arctic has seen the deepest impact and will continue to warm at more than double the global rate. The report suggests that many of the effects already seen are likely irreversible. Canada’s annual average temperature has increased by an estimated 1.7C (3F) since 1948, when nationwide temperatures were first recorded. The largest temperature increases have been seen in the North, the Prairies, and in northern British Columbia. Annual average temperature in northern Canada increased by approximately 2.3C. “While both human activities and natural variations in the climate have contributed to the observed warming in Canada, the human factor is dominant,” the report states. “It is likely that more than half of the observed warming in Canada is due to the influence of human activities.” The effects of global warming on Canada’s environment include more extreme weather. Hotter temperatures could mean more heat waves and a higher risk of wildfires and droughts in some parts of the country.
Oceans are expected to become more acidic and less oxygenated, which could harm marine life. Parts of Canada’s Arctic Ocean are projected to have extensive ice-free periods during summer within a few decades. A rise in sea levels could also increase the risk of coastal flooding and more intense rainfall could cause problems with flooding in urban centers. Canada’s rapid warming is due to a number of factors, including a loss of snow and sea ice, which is increasing the absorption of solar radiation and causing larger surface warming than in other regions, according to the report. Despite the bleak projections, the report notes that the amount of warming could be limited if global action is taken by drastically reducing “carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and [reducing] emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially”. Canada is one of nearly 200 countries that have signed on to the Paris Agreement – a single global agreement on tackling climate change that seeks to keep temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial times and “endeavor to limit” them even more, to 1.5C. The Canadian government says it will meet the Paris target of cutting emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 despite the fact that a number of official reports indicate the country is unlikely to meet its reduction targets without significant effort.