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What is the difference between weather and climate?

Climate is a length of time in which temperatures are observed, with climate being the average weather over a longer period of time (i.e., annual or multi-year). Weather is what happens outside every day. Both weather and climate include measurements of temperature and precipitation (i.e., rain, snow), but because climate is measured over a longer period of time – patterns or trends can be seen.

A change in the Earth’s climate could have a major impact on the environment. Ecosystem processes (like plants and trees flowering in spring) and technologies that we are surrounded by (like the electricity grid) are designed to work in certain predictable conditions. When those conditions change or become more unpredictable, ecosystem processes and technologies may begin to break down.

What is climate change?

Climate change is any significant change in climate, including temperature, precipitation or wind patterns, lasting for an extended period of decades or longer.

What are greenhouse gases (GHGs)?

Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Some of the most significant GHGs include but are not limited to, water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3).

How does the “greenhouse effect” affect our climate?

The climate is influenced by the Sun’s energy radiating onto the Earth. Energy from the Sun is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere which creates heat. Some of this heat is reflected back into space, but most of this heat is trapped in the atmosphere by other gases. Trapping of this heat energy is called the greenhouse effect.

Which human activities have the greatest GHG emissions?

Earth has experienced a natural fluctuation in GHGs overtime. But, human activity has contributed to higher concentrations of GHGs which is causing an increase in temperature, and in turn, an acceleration of climate change. In Ontario, greenhouse gas emissions come from many sources. Emissions mainly come from burning fossil fuels for transportation, from industry, and from the energy needed for commercial and residential buildings. Other emissions also come from the agricultural sector, waste disposal, and electrical generation.

What is the difference between climate change and global warming?

Climate change refers to a long-term shift in weather conditions, including temperature, precipitation, winds, and other indicators. This may vary from region to region. For example, temperature increases will vary from one region to another, and precipitation may increase in some regions but decrease in other regions. Global warming refers specifically to an increase in the global average surface temperature. Global warming is an indicator of climate change.

How does climate change impact weather?

Climate change affects air pressure, which is the source of all weather. Changes in air pressure create wind, change the temperature of air columns and affect uptake of water from oceans. All of these increase the potency of weather events, making winds stronger and driving more intense storms.

How does climate change affect human health?

Climate change will intensify air pollution like smog and cause greater outbreaks of asthma and heart disease. As it disrupts ecosystems, water-borne illnesses will become more frequent. More extreme storms can cause injuries and illnesses, as well as community-wide emergencies, and warming temperatures will attract more insects that carry vector borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease.

Can climate change be stopped?

Carbon dioxide is the main cause of human-induced climate change. It is a very long-lived gas which means levels of carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere with ongoing human emissions. Stopping climate change, that is, stabilizing global average temperature, can only be brought about by reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide from human fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes to near-zero levels. Climate models have shown that to have a good (greater than 2/3) chance of limiting global warming to 2 °C, this ‘zeroing’ of human emissions needs to be accomplished sometime in the second half of the century. This indicates how difficult the challenge is. (Environment Canada, 2017)

What can you do to be a part of the solution?

Canada is working with other countries around the world to find climate-change solutions. However, everyone—big and small—can be part of the solution. Sort your garbage. Actively participate in the green-bin program - or compost at home. Use less electricity. Encourage your family to make sustainable and energy-efficient purchases. Plant your own food garden. These are just a few ways you can make a real difference!

What is Canada’s climate change plan?

The Government of Canada supports an aggressive approach to climate change that achieves real environmental and economic benefits for all Canadians. For more information visit Canada’s Action on Climate Change.

What is Ontario’s climate change plan?

A five-year plan, part of Ontario's long-term fight against climate change. The current Climate Change Action Plan will be followed by a revised plan in 2020. Ontario’s plan to fight climate change includes new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, a conservation plan, phasing out the use of coal and inefficient light bulbs, phasing in more renewable energy sources and providing tax breaks, rebates, programs and incentives for energy audits, efficient products and support for municipalities going green.

What is Sustainable Severn Sound’s Local Climate Change Action Plan?

This project is a community-wide initiative of Sustainable Severn Sound designed to engage residents, other stakeholders, experts, and municipalities in identifying ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this, we are preparing a GHG inventory, adhering to best practices recommended by FCM and ICLEI. Following the completion of this inventory, a GHG target will be set, and actions to help meet that target will be prioritized in our Local Climate Change Action Plan.

What are some common terms associated with climate change planning?

Most of the terms described below are that of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and taken directly from their on-line glossary.

Adaptation is an adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment. Adaptation to climate change refers to adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and public adaptation, and autonomous and planned adaptation.

Anthropogenic are the results from or produced by human beings.

An extreme weather event is an event that is rare within its statistical reference distribution at a particular place. Definitions of “rare” vary, but an extreme weather event would normally be as rare as or rarer than the 10th or 90th percentile. By definition, the characteristics of what is called extreme weather may vary from place to place. An extreme climate event is an average of a number of weather events over a certain period of time, an average which is itself extreme (e.g., rainfall over a season).

Mitigation is an anthropogenic (human) intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

Resiliency is the ability to return to the original form, or the ability to recover from an adverse event.

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.