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Climate Change (Plain-Language Summary)

Climate change happens when weather patterns change. This has happened a lot in the past and will continue to happen. It is a normal phenomenon. For example, the last cold period peaked approximately 18,000 years ago. This era is known as the Ice Age. After that, Earth’s climate began to warm again. Since the Industrial Revolution climate change has been happening very quickly. This period is known as “global warming.” There is one big difference between this period and the other periods of climate change that came before. The difference is that human beings have caused global warming.

(This article is a plain-language summary of Climate Change. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Climate Change.)

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Earth Has Warmest June Ever Recorded

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been monitoring the weather and recording temperatures since 1880, announced that the global temperature in June 2019 averaged 15.9˚C, beating out June 2016 as the hottest on record. Regional temperature records for June were also set in Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and South America. “Earth is running a fever that won't break thanks to climate change,” reported North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello. “This won’t be the last record warm summer month that we will see.”

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Scientists Say Canada’s Warming Is Twice the Global Rate and Is “Effectively Irreversible”

A report issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada that was based on the work of more than 40 scientists concluded that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Canada’s average temperature is 1.7°C higher than it was 70 years ago, while average temperature during winter is 3.3°C higher, and average temperature in the Arctic is 2.3°C higher. The report stated that the effects of climate change are “effectively irreversible” and will last for “centuries.”

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Arctic Ocean Will Be Ice-Free in 50 Years, Study Warns

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers at the University of California concluded that if global carbon emissions maintain their current pace, the Arctic Ocean will be almost entirely ice-free at least part of every year by sometime between 2044 and 2067. Currently, Arctic ice covers about 4.5 million km2 at its lowest amount each September — a sharp reduction from the historic level of around 6 million km2. The study predicts that 50 years from now, ice will only cover about 1 million km2 of the Arctic Ocean, mostly close to land, leaving the open ocean virtually ice-free. (See also: Climate Change; Endangered Arctic Animals.)

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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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Inuit Group Releases Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released a 48-page plan for adapting to a changing climate in the Arctic, which is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the planet. “Inuit have decided we are going to seek a partnership with the Government of Canada and start to adapt any way we can through coordinated action,” said Natan Obed, the head of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The plan calls for improvements to infrastructure threatened by thawing permafrost, increased spending on transportation, improvements to telecommunications and the incorporation of traditional Inuit knowledge in building codes and practices.

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Geography of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is divided by two of Canada’s seven physiographic regions. These two regions are the Interior Plains and the Canadian Shield. The Canadian Shield is characterized by rugged rock exposures and many lakes. It also includes a sandy region south of Lake Athabasca. South of the Canadian Shield is the area commonly called the “grain belt.” It is characterized by level or gently rolling plains and fertile soils. Saskatchewan is known as one of the world’s great wheat producers.

On the western boundary and across the southwest corner is another plains region of generally higher altitudes. Its rolling and hilly terrain is distinct from that of the grain belt. The extreme southwest the province shares the Cypress Hills with Alberta. The Cypress Hills are the highest point of land in Canada between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador.

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Polar Vortex

The polar vortex is a wind pattern surrounding the Earth’s poles. Both the North and South pole have polar vortices spinning around them. In both cases, the rotation is generally cyclonic — counter-clockwise around the North Pole and clockwise around the South Pole. While polar vortices exist year-round, they are strongest during each pole’s winter. Canadians tend to experience the effects of the North Pole’s polar vortex toward the end of winter. At this time, the vortex begins to weaken, and cold, polar air travels further south. Polar vortices are atmospheric phenomena which occur on other planets too, such as Mars, Venus and Saturn.

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Steven Guilbeault

Steven Guilbeault, PC, MP, ecologist, author, columnist and lecturer (born 9 June 1970 in La Tuque, Quebec). In 2009, French magazine Le Monde recognized Guilbeault as one of the world’s 50 leading figures in the field of sustainable development. The Cercle des Phénix de l’environnement du Québec also recognized Guilbeault the same year. Guilbeault earned recognition through his work with Greenpeace and as a co-founder of Équiterre. He also served as a columnist for various media outlets, including Métro, Radio-Canada, La Presse and Corporate Knight magazine. During the 2019 federal election, Guilbeault was elected the Liberal Member of Parliament for Montreal’s Laurier─Sainte-Marie riding. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Guilbeault to his Cabinet as minister of Canadian heritage.

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Breakwater

A breakwater is a structure built along a shore or offshore, approximately parallel to a shoreline. Some breakwaters float at the water’s surface, while bottom-resting models may emerge from the surface or lie entirely underwater. Breakwaters are different from dikes because they allow some water flow and do not seal off one portion of a water body from another.

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Floods in Canada

Floods are primarily caused by naturally occurring changes in the height of rivers, lakes and oceans. According to Public Safety Canada, floods are the most common natural hazard in the country and among the costliest. Historic floods have occurred across Canada, with many of the worst happening on major river systems that pass through populated areas. Scientists predict that flooding linked to the impacts of climate change will increase as the 21st century progresses, particularly in coastal areas of the country.

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Alert

Alert, Nunavut, is a Canadian military base stationed at the north end of Ellesmere Island. Located 817 km from the north pole, Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world. About 55 people live at Alert. These people are members of the Canadian Armed Forces, employees of the Department of National Defence and Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as contract workers.

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Growth in Canada’s Clean Energy Sector Outpacing Rest of Economy, Study Finds

A study conducted by Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University, found that the clean energy sector represented about 3 per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, it grew at a rate of around 5 per cent annually, compared to 3.6 per cent growth in the overall economy. The number of jobs in the sector increased by 2.2 per cent per year from 2010 to 2017, compared to 1.4 per cent for total jobs in Canada.

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Invasive Species in Canada: Animals

Invasive species are any species that have, primarily with human help, become established in a new ecosystem. While it’s impossible to say exactly how many invasive species are living in Canada, in 2002 researchers estimated that at least 1,442 invasive species — including fish, plants, insects and invertebrates — now live in the country’s farmlands, forests and waterways. The complex environmental impacts of so many invasive species is unknown and, maybe, unknowable. Typically, non-natives are feared for their ability to reproduce much faster than native species and outcompete natives for food, habitat and other resources. Economically, invasive species are estimated to cost Canadians billions of dollars each year in lost revenue from natural resources and impacts on ecosystem services.

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The Background: Summer Wildfires in Canada

Wildfires occur every summer. However, the scale and frequency of wildfires is increasing due to climate change. In 2020, for example, California experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with smoke from that region billowing north to British Columbia and other provinces. In 2018, wildfires in British Columbia burned 1,354,284 hectares — more area than ever before. Here is the background on wildfires, from a Canadian perspective.

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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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Human Settlement in Canada

A human settlement is a place where people live. Settlement patterns describe the ways in which villages, towns, cities and First Nation reserves are distributed, as well as the factors that influence this arrangement. Throughout Canadian history, climate, natural resources, transportation methods and government policy have affected human settlement in the country. Today, the majority of Canadians live in cities in the southern portion of the country. (See also Human Geography and Canada.)