Parks Canada and Climate Change

Canada’s continually changing climate is having a great impact on all our national parks. The Parks Canada Agency is studying climate change and identifying issues so that they can address the challenges that are occurring at the moment. These measures include adapting park management to accommodate inevitable changes and reducing energy consumption in the Agency’s operations.

Here is a little information on why the climate is changing:

Our Earth’s climate changes both through natural processes, and a result of our society’s greenhouse gas emissions. These green house gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, have an affect on our atmosphere resulting in the Earth getting warmer much faster than before.

There has been an increase in global temperature over the last hundred years that is directly linked to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide from the use of human sources. The effects of climate change are evident on a local to a global scale. Sea levels are rising, polar ice is melting, and weather is becoming less predictable.

Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere may double this century. The global average temperature may increase by as much as 50°C. The rate of temperature change increases as one approaches polar regions. As a northern country, Canada is particularly vulnerable to these. The result of this temperature change will not only be a more moderate climate, but there will be significant disruption of ecosystems that have adapted to the existing climate.

According to Parks Canada, Over the next hundred years, these are the average temperature increases expected in Canada’s national parks.

  • 2.2 -4.8°C for the parks in the Atlantic region
  • 4.6-7.5°C in the Great Lakes region
  • 4.4-10.5°C in the Prairies
  • 4.3-7.8°C in the Western region
  • 3.7-7.7°C for Pacific parks
  • 5.6-11.5°C in the Arctic region

Climate change is also affecting the physical environment of our parks. Snow and ice conditions are changing, many glaciers in mountain parks are retreating or disappearing, while only a few are advancing. The rise of sea level and the erosion of the shorelines are affecting many of our coastal parks. Our national parks are essential parts of larger ecosystems and these parks were established to recognize this. They were intended to represent and preserve the range of natural features the landscape Canada has.

What is Parks Canada doing about it?

Despite the information that is available now, current climate change models have limited ability to accurately predict future ecological conditions in our national parks. Parks Canada is, therefore, working to fill the information gaps and trying to work with all the parks in Canada to become a cohesive unit. This includes developing climate change scenarios for each geographic region of the country and every national park. The Agency has also included climate change indicators in monitoring the ecological unity of the park system.

What is our role?

The consumption of fossil fuels and resulting emissions, anywhere on earth, contributes to the global build up of green house gases. One person in Canada produces about five tonnes of green house gases a year and our everyday activities account for about one quarter of Canada’s total emissions. So, its in your hands to make a difference. It’s your decision whether to drive a car or take public transport. To turn off your lights when you leave the house. Most importantly, it is in your hands to pass a healthy Earth down to our future generations. We have to start changing our habits and people must be accurately educated about the issues at hand in order for change to happen.

H.

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