When we hear so many news reports or articles for Climate Change/Global Warming, we often wonder, “What actually is Climate Change/Global Warming?”, “Are they the same?”, “How is this related to Weather?”, “How do we explain this to our kids?”. This blog will give you a brief overview of these terminologies in simple layman’s language. However, for those of you who would like to have more insight, references will be provided at the end of this blog to further enhance your knowledge.
Climate means looking at the big picture of temperature, wind, snowfall, rainfall, etc. over a larger region and longer time than weather. Weather is short term change in climate which means it is for a limited period of time and for a certain location or region. For example, Ontario is supposed to have a continental climate, where the northern part has long, cold winters and short summers while the southern part enjoys the warm effect of the Great Lakes. Now if you look at the actual weather for a given period of time, the weather could be different, e.g. Summer 2017 saw southern Ontario with cloudy skies, frequent storms and cool temperatures.
What is climate change and global warming => climate change is a long-term change in climate either of the Earth as a whole or a region or city which could include overall warming/cooling and changes besides temperature whereas global warming is long-term increase in the average temperature of the Earth.
Is the climate really changing? To understand this let us look briefly at the word ICE AGE. What is ICE AGE? It is a period of long-term reduction in the Earth’s temperature which results in the presence or expansion of ice sheets and glaciers on the Earth (spread out over the continents and polar regions). Within the Ice Age, we have the “glacial period” and “interglacial period”. Glacial Period mean individual pulses of cold climate within a long-term ice age and interglacial period refers to the intermittent warm periods. The presence of ice sheets in Greenland, Arctic, Antarctic and mountainous regions evidences the occurrence of the last Ice Age. As per NASA, there were seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat in the last 650,000 years with the last ice age ending about 7,000 years ago. This means we are at present in the “InterGlacial Period” where the temperature is increasing steadily often referred to as “Global Warming”.
Impact of climate change? There are various visible impacts such as
- Warm oceans leading to melting glaciers which in turn lead to rising sea level and coastal flooding;
- Unusual weather patterns, including rainfall and/or snowfall and heatwaves;
- Increase in catastrophic events such tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, storms, earthquakes, etc.
- Extinction of wildlife species and greater stress from diseases and invasive species
What is are the causes?
Natural events and human elements, are contributing factors to global warming. Natural events include changes to Earth’s orbit, volcanic activities, ocean changes, amount of energy emitted by the sun, etc which is not within human control. Many scientific theories attribute the majority of the warming since mid – 1900s to human activities, such as burning of coal, oil and gas which emits heat-trapping gases, e.g. carbon dioxide into the air which is called a greenhouse gas.
Should we care about climate change or global warming?
Of course we should be worried and care about these events because what impacts the Earth, impacts us in the long-run which includes our future generations and all that exists on earth, including plants and animals. Our Earth travels 583 million miles around the Sun every year (365.25 days yearly) with all its life support system (air, water and food) and magnetic field protecting us from killer radiation and solar wind emitted from the sun. In short, our Earth is like a spaceship and therefore, just like any inhabitants of a spaceship, we have to monitor all the vital functions and keep our spaceship (i.e. Earth) in good shape.
Are there any global efforts to reduce global warming?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was adopted on May 9, 1992. Within the framework of the UNFCCC, the United Nations Climate Change Conferences (UNCCC) are held on a yearly basis. There are around 43 countries, including the European Union, meeting annually to monitor and discuss about global warming and how to combat it. The 2016 convention was held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco and the next convention (i.e. 23rd convention) is scheduled on November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany and will be presided by the Government of Fiji.
Thus we can see that many countries have come together in order to take steps to limit or reduce greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which includes using energy more efficiently and increasing the use of clean energy that puts less and/or no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, e.g. harnessing solar/wind/water energy, etc.
What is Canada’s role in this?
Canada has adopted a series of steps to fight against greenhouse emission and is now a world leader in this fight. Some of these steps are
- Carbon Pricing: 97% of Canadians live in a province/territory which has committed to pricing carbon pollution. The pricing will be based on GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emission and the rights to revenue collected as well as the decision on how to use this revenue will remain with the originating province/territory.
- Building: 17% of Canada’s GHG comes from building which includes emission generated by electricity. GHG can be reduced by using Energy Star certified appliances such as washer, dryer, etc.
- Transportation: Canada is investing in building infrastructure for alternative transportation fuels e.g charging station for electric cars as well as improve and expand public transport system. More utilisation of public transportation means less cars on the road emitting GHG and less traffic.
- Innovation: Government of Canada announced $21.9 billion over 11 years for green infrastructure this fall. This includes targeted investment which support GHG reduction.
What is our role? We all have a role to play and you can contribute by:
- Using less energy, e.g. using Energy Star certified appliances, LED lights, turn off appliances when not used.
- Saving water, e.g. turning off water when brushing your teeth.
- Planting more trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen.
- Using public transportation whenever possible
- Selecting eco-friendly vehicle
- Educating yourself and your family about Earth and the effects of our action on its climate. The more we know, the more we will be able to help solve problems related to climate change.
Points to ponder:
As inhabitants of Mother Earth, we must ensure that we leave a good legacy for the future generations and all of its species (living and nonliving). In the end, it’s up to us to take care of Mother Earth who has given us everything that we need to live. But in return, we have taken her for granted by not giving her the respect she deserves and at the same time, treating her very unfairly, e.g. cutting down trees, burning fuel, reclaiming sea land etc). In doing so, we need to ask three things:
- How am I contributing to global warming?
- Are we doing enough as individuals and as a nation to fight global warming?
- Is the action taken by (government/industries/etc) to reduce global warming that is available on the internet genuine or is this all talk and no action?
What do you think?
List of references: