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What is Climate Change?

The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 by nearly 160 nations, including Canada. Canada’s goal is to reduce its emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, which would be a 20-25% reduction from our current levels.

The One Tonne Challenge

On average, each Canadian generates just over five tonnes of greenhouse gases per year by driving vehicles, heating and cooling homes, washing and drying clothes and using other appliances. The Government of Canada has challenged every Canadian to cut personal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by one tonne. This may sound like a lot, but there are many ways that we can reduce GHGs. The federal government has promised to help in areas of vehicle fuel efficiency, public transit, energy audits and financial incentives. As concerned individuals we can reduce our energy consumption at home and work, drive fuel efficient cars when we are unable to walk, bike or take public transit, and buy energy efficient appliances. To meet the Kyoto targets, however, we will have to take up the challenge at a community level and encourage everyone to get involved!

Greenhouse Gases

The earth’s atmosphere is made up of many gases that trap the sun’s heat like a greenhouse. Without these greenhouse gases (GHGs), it would be too cold on Earth for life to exist. But the build-up of these gases over the past 2 centuries is believed to be causing global warming and climate change. Three greenhouse gases are of most concern because they are closely related to human activities:

  • Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere during the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas). It is the main contributor to climate change.
  • Methane is produced when vegetation is burned, digested or decomposed in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic decomposition).
  • Nitrous oxide is released when chemical fertilizers and manure are used in agriculture.

Global Climate Change

There is widespread consensus within the scientific community that, due to increased GHGs in our atmosphere, we are facing increases in the earth’s average surface temperature from 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. We have already felt some effects of global warming, but in the future we will likely experience food and freshwater shortages, poorer air quality, heat waves, disease, insect infestations, rising sea levels and accelerated loss of wildlife.

Climate Change Resources

Climate Change Web Sites

  • EcoPerth Partnering with local businesses, groups and individuals, ecoPerth is about making projects happen – projects that are environmentally sustainable and economically efficient.
  • David Suzuki Foundation, “Climate Change: Impacts and Solutions”
    • When Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol last December, it opened the door to a cleaner future of innovative energy technologies. But to get there, Canada must now back its words with action. Solutions include phasing out coal plants, expanding renewable energy sources and public transit, and creating new efficiency standards for vehicles and buildings. Find out what you can do to help make a difference!
  • Government of Canada “Taking Action on Climate Change”
    • Information and resources about climate change, including the “One-Tonne Challenge” program.

Related Sites

Dec 14, 2017
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