Sections

The sections of Climate Change in Context are described below:

Introduction
Explains some major concepts related to our understanding of climate change. We need to understand the relationship between human activity and natural systems. This section explains our current understanding of how Earth’s climate works and how different factors affect Earth’s climate. The Earth’s living and non-living components, and our human society within these components, are not simply parts, but rather inter-related systems.

The Past
Draws a picture of the Earth’s dramatic changes over its long history. It describes natural changes in climate from millions of years ago until historical times (when people started to write things down). It puts this climate change in context and allows us to understand and relate the changes which are being reported now to the evidence of similar changes which have occurred in the past. e.g. ocean circulation.

The Present
Explains more recent climate trends. It gives examples of how our society’s production and use of energy manufacturing things, moving vehicles, producing fertilizers, growing food is changing the air around us. There is information to help you explore the connection between burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and climate change. This section gives you the scientific evidence for climate change and the current impacts both globally and here in Ontario. e.g. The relationship between rising global temperatures, more violent weather and increased concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG)

The Future
First part outlines the possibilities or “scenarios” of what scientists believe might happen if different kinds of actions are taken by governments, businesses and whole populations to reduce or decide not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It describes the expected impacts of climate change on various aspects of the planet and specifically Ontario E.g. impacts on ecosystems and on human health.

The second part of The Future describes possible ways governments and sectors, such as transportation and energy supply, can adapt to coming climate change and begin to reduce the emissions that cause it. Climate Change in Context will help Ontarians meet the Canadian Kyoto One-Tonne Challenge* of greenhouse gas emissions!

Successes
Tells the stories of some of the many, many people from citizens’ groups, regional organizations, schools and universities, governments and businesses, youth groups and cities who are working for the kind of future they want. Their success stories inspire, and lead the way the way for others to take action on climate change.

What You Can Do
Is about how you can make a difference- and why you should. Wherever you are in whatever context – at home, at school, in your community, on the way to where you’re going, in the store this new knowledge will empower you to act to make choices that reduce your personal carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate change is a big challenge. But by learning about it and working together, we can move towards safer, greener ways of doing things in this new century. A healthy and sustainable future for us all!

Together we can do it!

PS *November 2004 marks an extremely important step in progress of the international agreement called the Kyoto Accord. Nations of the world will now begin to work together to meet the challenges of climate change. Canada has signed the Accord and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% from 1990 levels by 2010. Check out the One-Tonne Challenge!!

Questions About Climate Change

The “Whys” of climate change

Asking the right questions is the first step to uncovering the knowledge we wish to gain. Here are some key questions we invite you to ask as you use this Climate Change in Context program:

  • Why is our climate changing?
  • Why is it important for us, as Ontarians and as global citizens, to be informed about it?
  • Why should we become aware of actions we can take to slow down climate change?
  • Why is it helpful to understand climate change and ways of dealing with it in context?
  • What are Canada and other world nations doing about climate change?

Our Role in Climate Change: The Challenge of Choice

  • In its 1995 report the IPCC said for the first time that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
  • In the second report in 2001, the statement from over 2,000 IPCC scientists was stronger: “It is likely that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases have contributed substantially to the observed global warming over the last 50 years.”

We know from scientific evidence that the earth’s temperature has changed many times over its four-billion year history. Scientists have gathered the proof of this change from many different sources. They include geological studies, the observation of planetary orbits and solar activity, ice cores, historical studies of pollen distribution, and tree rings. So if is climate change is “natural,” why is it a subject of so much interest, and even concern, today? And do we have a responsibility to do something about the current change?

The answer is that, although climate change is not new, a large percentage of world scientists believe that today’s shift in global temperature and climate patterns is unique. The scientists who worked the international Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared for the first time in 1995 that there is evidence of human influence on our climate. Our burning of fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas is changing the composition of the atmosphere, making it retain more of the sun’s heat. This is making the earth warmer, altering weather patterns, and contributing to a rising number of more violent weather events. With rising temperatures, the polar ice caps are melting, changing the temperature, currents and water levels of the world’s oceans.

A major concern is the rate of change. In the past hundred years the average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 + 0.2ºC, with the rate of change increasing in the last decades of the 20th century. The 9 hottest years of recorded temperatures all occurred since 1990, with 2003 the third hottest year on record.

In the 21st century, we are all faced with the choice of what to do about climate change. It will take voluntary cooperation at every level in every sphere of empowerment to slow the releases of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and find innovative ways to live well while reducing our carbon outputs. It matters what everyone does from children who walk to school, to presidents of the world’s nations, to large corporations, oil companies and energy producers.

e.g. Did you know about this? Toronto is at least one degree warmer than rural Ontario?

Urban Heat Island Effect
Urban Island Effect
Source: http://www.adaptation.nrcan.gc.ca (modified from Oke.1976)

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