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Climate Change

Climate change occurs when long-term weather patterns begin to shift. These periods of change have occurred throughout the Earth’s history over extended periods of time. However, since the Industrial Revolution the world has been warming at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, the current period of climate change is often referred to as “global warming.” Human activities that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are largely responsible for this increased rate of change. The implications of this global increase in temperature are potentially disastrous and include extreme weather events, rising sea levels and loss of habitat for plants, animals and humans. In Canada, efforts to mitigate climate change include phasing-out coal-fired power plants in Ontario and instituting a carbon tax in British Columbia.

(This is the full-length entry about climate change. For a plain-language summary, please see Climate Change (Plain-Language Summary).)

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Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone XL was a proposed 1,947 km long pipeline project that would have carried crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska. It was owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation. The pipeline was named XL for “export limited.” First proposed in July 2008, it was the prospective fourth phase of TC Energy’s existing Keystone Pipeline system. In Canada, Keystone XL had the support of both the federal and Alberta governments. However, the project faced significant opposition and legal challenges on environmental grounds. In January 2021, United States president Joe Biden cancelled its permit on his first day in office. On 9 June 2021, TC Energy and the Alberta government announced the termination of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Not for Saps: Tree Planting in Alberta

Over a century’s worth of shifting environmental policy means that today, maintaining Canada’s forests is as important as cutting them down. Tree planting is an essential part of this maintenance, and each year thousands of young Canadians trek through rough conditions and remote areas to replant thousands of trees.

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Environmental Movement in Canada

The environmental movement seeks to protect the natural world and promote sustainable living. It had its beginnings in the conservation efforts of the early 1900s. During this time, conservationists aimed to slow the rapid depletion of Canadian resources in favour of more regulated management. Many scholars divide the evolution of the environmental movement into “waves.” These waves are periods in time easily characterized by certain themes. While the number of waves and their characterization may differ from scholar to scholar, they’re often defined as follows: The first wave focused on conservation; the second, pollution; the third, the professionalization of environmental groups; and the fourth, climate change.

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Forestry

Forestry is the science and practice of caring for forests. Both the meaning and practice of forestry in Canada have evolved over time.

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Endangered Plants in Canada

A species is endangered if there are threats to its survival. Plants are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change and the loss of natural habitat to cities, agriculture and industry. In Canada, these activities threaten entire natural ecosystems, such as older forests and Prairie grasslands. As of 2021, 250 plant species are at risk in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In addition, four are extirpated and one is extinct. The committee’s definition of a wildlife species includes taxonomic categories as well as geographically distinct populations. For example, the bent spike-rush (Eleocharis geniculate) is included on the list of at risk plant species twice, as there are two different populations, one in British Columbia and one in Ontario, facing different threats to their survival. (See also Endangered Animals in Canada.)

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Pesticide

Substances used to control pests include insecticides (for control of insects), fungicides (for disease-causing fungi), herbicides (for weeds), rodenticides (for rodents), avicides (for birds), piscicides (for fish) and nematicides (for nematodes).

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Air Pollution

Air pollutants are substances that, when present in the atmosphere in sufficient quantities, may adversely affect people, animals, vegetation or inanimate materials.

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Endangered Animals in Canada

Many animals in Canada face the risk of extinction. Animals are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change, the loss of forest and grassland to cities and agriculture, hunting, fishing, and the pollution of lakes and rivers. As of 2021, 554 animal species are at risk in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In addition, 18 are extirpated and 18 extinct. The committee’s definition of a wildlife species includes taxonomic categories as well as geographically distinct populations. For example, the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is included in the list of at risk animal species six times, as there are six different populations facing different threats to their survival. (See also Endangered Plants in Canada.)

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations (UN) as development that “meets the needs of the present” while ensuring the future sustainability of the planet, its people and its resources. Meeting these needs often requires balancing three key features of sustainable development: environmental protection, economic growth and social inclusion. The goals of sustainable development are interconnected. The most successful sustainable development projects will include environmental, economic and social considerations in their final plan. These considerations must include the free, prior and informed consent of any Indigenous groups impacted by a sustainable development project.

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Permafrost

Permafrost is ground remaining at or below 0°C continuously for at least two years. About 50 per cent of Canada is underlain by permafrost, mainly in the Arctic Archipelago, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

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Water

Worldwide, over two-thirds of precipitation falling on land surfaces is evaporated and transpired back into the atmosphere. In Canada less than 40% is evaporated and transpired; the remainder, called the water yield, enters into streamflow.

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Forest

Main Forest TypesWorldwide there are 3 main forest types related directly to climatic zones: equatorial- and tropical-region forests, temperate-zone forests, and forests associated with colder climates.

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National Parks of Canada

Canada’s national parks are protected areas established under federal legislation to preserve Canada’s natural heritage. They are administered by Parks Canada, a government agency that evolved from the world’s first national parks service, the Dominion Parks Branch, established in 1911. The National Parks System Plan, developed in 1970, divided Canada into 39 natural regions and set the goal of representing each region with at least one national park. Canada now has 48 national parks and national park reserves in 30 of these regions. In total, the parks cover more than 340,000 km2, which is over 3 per cent of Canada’s landmass. They protect important land and marine habitats, geographical features and sites of cultural significance. National parks also benefit local economies and the tourism industry in Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about National Parks of Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see National Parks of Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)