Frequently Asked Questions
If the planet is warming, why do we still have record setting cold temperatures and dangerous snow/ice storms?
The average global temperature has been increasing over recent years. This does not mean that every day will be warmer, but rather that the combined temperature over a set period of time is greater. With warmer temperatures, evaporation increases, creating changes in precipitation, humidity and wind patterns which may result in a greater occurrence of extreme weather events, i.e. snowstorms.
Canada is a relatively cold country, shouldn’t we be welcoming warmer temperatures?
While the thought of warmer winters might be appealing for many of us, the reality is that species of all types (including humans) may have difficulty coping with a significantly altered climate. See Natural Resources Canada for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Resources.
I heard that there is a significant change in climate every few hundred years and the warming is only temporary. Is this true?
While there may have been periodical changes in climate, we must remember that human activities are now emitting record numbers of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Human activities are having a significant impact on the global environment and it is imperative that we take action to reduce the negative impacts.
I’ve heard that there is not enough evidence to prove that certain human activities are contributing to climate change. Is this true?
When examining an issue like climate change, it is always useful to be aware of who the stakeholders are. When a stakeholder takes a position like the one mentioned, several questions should come to mind. First, how is this stakeholder involved in this issue? Second, will greenhouse gas reduction policies affect this stakeholder in a positive or negative way? Third, would making such a statement help to serve a vested interest in this issue? Finally, even if there were insufficient evidence, does that mean human activities do not need to be altered and business should go on as usual?
To directly answer the question, the Climate Change Plan for Canada states, “The international scientific community has concluded that the rapid increase in the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere can be expected to increase the Earth’s surface temperature, change our climate, alter our environment and endanger our health”.
If that is not enough, examining the climate change issue has shone a spotlight on numerous changes that our society needs to make in order to enable a healthy, sustainable existence. Examining the climate change issue has pointed to the need to:
- reduce our consumption of fossil fuels
- develop more sustainable energy sources
- develop more sustainable transportation options
- reduce pollution in order to reduce the burden on our health care system
Addressing these will not only help to prevent climate change, but will also help to ensure a better quality of life for ourselves and future generations.
What Can Be Done About Climate Change?
It was already determined that human activities that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases seem to be contributing to an increase in global temperature. Since this is the case, the logical solution would be to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. How can this be done? There are essentially two ways to approach this.
The technical approach relies on finding technologies that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted. Examples of this might include the creation of more fuel-efficient automobiles, or using alternative, clean energy sources to complement existing ones.
The behavioural approach relies on finding alternatives for, or stopping entirely, those human activities that emit greenhouse gases. Examples of behavioural changes might be to walk, cycle or take public transit when possible instead of driving, or turn down the thermostat at night or during times when it is not necessary to keep the house heated.
A quotation by David Pepper and Phil O’Keefe reads, “All the technical knowledge in the world does not necessarily lead societies to change environmentally damaging behaviour”. These two approaches used in combination will, at the very least, reduce the negative impact of human activities on the environment, health and society. At best, they will slow, or even stop, the warming of the planet.
What Can I Do About Climate Change?
In order to accomplish these goals it is necessary for every one of us to take action. A lot of people making even small changes in behaviour can make a significant difference. “One Tonne Challenge” details several ways that an individual can make a positive difference for the environment.