What are Climate Change and Climate Change Adaptation?

What is Climate Change?

Climate is the average weather pattern over many years; it is not the weather. Climate dictates what parts of the planet tend to be warmer, colder, wetter, drier, and how often we see extreme weather events such a hurricanes. The earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years, but since the 1970s scientists have reported increases in greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) in the atmosphere due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, large scale agriculture, deforestation, etc. The graph below shows that for hundreds of thousands of years carbon dioxide (CO2) has never been above 300 parts per million, until recently.

Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Atmosphere

Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Atmosphere

Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and cause the overall temperature to rise (as described in the diagram below). The earth’s climate is in a careful balance so even a small overall rise in the average global temperature will affect the climate. Rising temperatures also melt glaciers, icebergs, permanent ice fields and permafrost, which will lead to rising sea levels.

The Greenhouse Effect

The Greenhouse Effect

What is Climate Change Adaptation?

We can adapt to climate changes by adjusting how we live and the choices we make. Making these adjustments will help decrease the negative effects of the changing climate, and allow us to take advantage of any new and favourable opportunities.

Examples of adaptation measures can include:

  • Choosing not to build houses in flood plains
  •  Having a storm emergency kit and evacuation plan
  • Relocating houses from at-risk areas over time
  •  Maintaining natural buffers to floods (wetlands, stream vegetation)
  • Adjusting storm water and sewage infrastructure either by moving them, or by increasing their capacity
  • Reducing run-off and the burden on storm water infrastructure by increasing permeable pavements, and increasing tree and vegetation covers
  • Growing new foods better suited to a hotter climate

 

Is it too Late to do Anything about Climate Change?

No! We can use ‘mitigation’ which refers to the things done to lower greenhouse gases in the air, to slow down the rising temperatures around the world.

Here are some ways to cut your carbon use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Install solar panels for hot water
  • Get rid of oil heating and install a heat pump
  • Drive a small fuel efficient car, or better yet, buy a hybrid or electric car
  • Join a ride share or car share program, carpool, take the bus, ride your bike or walk more often
  • Eat local food, eat less meat
  • Choose organic foods
  • Choose energy efficient appliances
  • Insulate your home so you use less heat
  • Compost, recycle, reduce, re-use