Over the four billion year history of the earth, there have been many periods with higher or lower average temperatures. However, currently, average temperatures are on the rise. Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Global warming is primarily caused by human activities that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up at an alarming rate. Although climate change is affecting every part of the country differently, all Canadian ecosystems are being affected. This is an important issue that must be solved as soon as possible.
Image Credit: Sebastiaan Stam
Up in the northern territories, permafrost is thawing: lands usually covered with snow have decreased, and year-round sea ice has melted This has caused the many animals that lived in these areas to die as their habitats have been melted or be forced to move into different areas, competing for survival with the animals that already lived in their new habitats. Furthermore, many animals are dying. Permafrost melt has not only substantially altered ecosystems and landscapes, it has also threatened the long-standing traditions and ways of life of residents up north.
As sea ice continues to melt, average sea levels have risen approximately 20 cm over the 20th century, and the rate of increase is unfortunately still growing. In addition, rising ocean temperatures have already caused massive coral bleaching, resulting in the collapse of the ecosystems that sustain numerous fish. Coral bleaching occurs when colourful algae that live in corals die from stress placed on the corals. The algae live symbiotically with coral polyps, providing them with nutrients and oxygen. Therefore, the corals die when the algae die off and are not replaced.
The Canadian provinces are also experiencing more severe weather events such as droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, and more frequent and intense extreme storms. Forest fires are occurring more and more frequently and intensely in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Animals such as birds, deer, and bears are unable to escape these harsh fires and are dying, affecting the food chain. In addition, climate change is altering nature's cues that tell living things when to migrate, flower, nest, or mate through seasonal changes such as temperature, daylight and precipitation. Forest fires and harsh weather conditions are also destroying animal habitats. High temperatures and droughts are killing trees and damaging the places where animals raise their young. For example, droughts are eliminating wetlands which are essential breeding habitats for ducks, geese, and other migratory species. Rising sea levels could eliminate mangrove forests, leaving many fish, shellfish, and other wildlife without a place to breed, feed, or raise offspring.
Clearly, climate change in Canada is a serious issue that must be solved immediately. Spread awareness and do your part to save Canada’s vast ecosystems. The increasing numbers of severe storms, rising sea levels, melting permafrost, and year-round sea ice are destroying the country’s beautiful natural world: the ecosystems that house many animals and allow us to live. As Greta Thunberg states, “Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long.”