Canada is Warming at Twice the Global Average, Demonstrates Urgent Need for Adaptation and Deep Decarbonization

April 3, 2019

Canada’s climate is warming at nearly twice the global average rate and Northern Canada is warming even faster, according to the federal government’s sobering national assessment on the impacts of climate change in Canada. Canada’s Changing Climate Report is yet another warning to governments and businesses that we must urgently adapt to the changing climate to preserve our shared future and rapidly decarbonize our economy to avoid extreme and catastrophic temperature rise.

Canada has already experienced an increase in precipitation, weather-related fires, thinning glaciers, melting permafrost, shrinking glaciers, and water scarcity, according to the April 2, 2019 report. The effects of climate change will increase as global temperature continues to rise, say the report’s authors.

The report falls on the heels of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization report on the State of the Global Climate in 2018 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C in December 2018. These reports reveal an accelerating problem and a dire future if we do not increase our action to both reduce our carbon pollution and adapt to a changing climate.

“Businesses need to account for and disclose their climate risks and opportunities and develop strategies to both mitigate and adapt,” says Mantle CEO Laura Zizzo. “If they don’t act, an aggressive public or extreme climate may force their hand.”

Canada’s Environment Commissioner criticizes current and previous governments

Canada is not on track to meet its climate targets and this “disturbing” truth is a result of failures by successive Liberal and Conservative federal governments, said Canada’s outgoing federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand.

Gelfand said Canada should rid itself of “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies and she challenged Finance Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to follow through on this 2015 Liberal campaign promise.

A changing Canadian landscape

Touching on several troubling indicators of Canada’s warming climate, Canada’s Changing Climate Report concludes:

  • The country’s average temperature over land has increased by 1.7 C since 1948 (the first-year national data was available).
  • The annual average temperatures over Northern Canada have increased 2.3 C during the same period.
  • Three of the past five years in Canada have been the warmest on record.
  • Warming is happening even faster in winter with a 3.3 C increase between December and February.
  • Canada’s warming is well above the global average temperature increase of 0.8 C.
  • If left unchecked, temperatures in Canada could increase by upwards of 6 to 7 C by 2100.

A collaborative report based on climate data

The report incorporates research by federal government scientists from the departments of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Natural Resources Canada, as well as support from university experts across the country. The report was released as part of Canada’s federal climate policy rollout under commitments from the 2016 Paris Agreement. It is the first report to be released as part of Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, which is the national assessment for how Canada’s climate is changing.

The report is based on data about the physical changes resulting from climate change, such as temperature changes, changes in rainfall and snowfall, changes in climate extremes, changes in snow and ice, changes in freshwater availability, ocean changes, and sea level change.

Canada’s future is in our hands

The global climate crisis is rooted in human behaviour, and Canada’s future will be based on current choices, concludes the report. While the report’s authors agree that additional warming is unavoidable and that Canada will experience further and more extreme climatic events, how the country responds to these extreme events will ultimately depend on our current ability to rapidly decarbonize and respond to the changing climate.

More information can be found on the website for Canada’s Changing Climate Report: