Climate change is a global, long-term shift in average weather conditions. The range of conditions expected in many regions will change over the coming decades. These changes are expected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events and conditions. These include extreme heat and cold, drought, flooding, extreme precipitation, high winds, tornadoes, hail, lightning, thunderstorms, blizzards, ice storms and wildfires.
Climate Change in Canada
Each of the last three decades has been warmer globally than any decade on record.
- From 1948 to 2016, the global average temperature increased by approximately 0.8°C.
- In Canada, the average temperature increased by 1.7°C during the same time period, about double the global average. Future warming in Canada is expected to be about double the global average.
- Temperature increases are not uniform across Canada. Northern Canada has warmed by 2.3°C, about three times the global average.
- Annual precipitation has increased in Canada, with larger increases observed in northern regions, consistent with a warming climate.
Explore Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action to learn about how and why Canada’s climate is changing, the impacts of these changes on our communities, environment and economy and how we’re adapting across the country.
The Greenhouse Effect and Causes of Climate Change
The greenhouse effect is a natural process. As the earth radiates heat into the atmosphere, naturally occurring greenhouse gases absorb the heat and radiate a portion of it back to the earth’s surface. This makes surface temperatures higher than they would otherwise be. Human activities have increased greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, making the atmosphere more effective at trapping heat, resulting in overall warming of the earth.
Carbon dioxide is one of the key greenhouse gases and is primarily released through burning fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil and natural gas) and from industrial and development activities such as power generation and transportation. Two other important greenhouse gasses are methane and nitrous oxide which are released through activities such as agriculture and waste management.
Climate change in Canada is part of a global-scale phenomenon that is affecting all regions of the world. Emissions of carbon dioxide anywhere contribute to climate change everywhere. Further emissions of greenhouse gases will cause additional global warming of the earth’s atmosphere.
Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change
Did You Know?
New development projects undergoing federal impact assessment review must be consistent with Canada’s climate commitments, as stated in the Government of Canada’s 2020 Strategic Assessment of Climate Change. Among other things, the Strategic Assessment describes the greenhouse gas and climate change information that project proponents need to submit at each phase of the impact assessment process and calls for the provision of a credible plan to achieve net- zero emissions by 2050.
To address climate change, two key approaches are needed: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to measures to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, or to enhance processes that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Adaptation refers to measures that prepare for current and future impacts of a changing climate in ways that strive to minimize harm and enhance beneficial opportunities. Examples of adaptations are restoring wetlands to reduce flooding and improving infrastructure to withstand the increasing severity of storms.
Climate Change: Greenhouse gas emissions and extreme events
The map below provides access to data produced by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Canada that are available through the Open Science and Data Platform.
The “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Facilities” dataset reports total emissions from large facilities in Canada for the year 2020 in terms of the equivalent amount of kilotonnes of carbon dioxide. This information is gathered through mandatory reporting and contributes to the development, implementation and evaluation of climate change and energy policies and strategies in Canada. To view this data, check the box in the “Layers” legend for that dataset. Canada’s official greenhouse gas (GHG) estimates are reported in the National GHG Inventory Report, which include the emissions from large facilities as well as estimates of many other sources.
The “Heat Wave” dataset illustrates the consecutive number of days between April 1 – October 31 (213 day period) where the maximum daily temperature was greater than 25 or 30 degrees Celsius. To view an animation showing heat wave locations and intensities between 2012 and 2022, use the “Slider” interactive tool.