Climate Change 101

What causes climate change?

Climate change occurs when the earth’s natural system for maintaining temperature and weather is disrupted. This system is called the Greenhouse Effect, and when it is working normally it keeps the earth at the right temperature and weather patterns for humans to live. Unfortunately we are now experiencing a human-caused “Enhanced” Greenhouse Effect which occurs when an excess of greenhouse gases are released into the earth’s atmosphere from human activity. These gases act like a blanket trapping more and more heat near the earth’s surface. This added heat changes patterns of weather and leads to changing climates around the world. 

What causes climate change

Where do greenhouse gases come from?

Greenhouse gases are primarily made up of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases (f-gases). 

Greenhouse gases

 

Weather vs. Climate

Though sometimes used interchangeably, weather and climate mean different things. Weather can change moment to moment, while climate represents long-term trends such as average rainfall and temperatures. 
 

Weather vs climate

 

Why is climate change a problem?

While a few degrees warmer in the winter might sound nice in Canada, the effects of climate change are not that simple. The earth’s overall temperature is rising but this impacts local weather and climates in different ways, often causing more extreme hot and cold weather events around the world.

Climate Change

1.5 Degree Limit

The warmer our climate gets, the worse the Human-Enhanced Greenhouse Effect becomes. This is what has climate scientists concerned. The global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has involved thousands of scientists from around the world to study this issue very carefully. The scientists have sounded an alarm and told the world that we must keep our global climate to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming*, or else the changing climate could be unstoppable. This is why, along with the rest of the world, the Township must act now to stop climate change.

*above pre-industrial levels (1850–1900).

Climate Change in the Township of Langley

Using scientific climate modelling, the Township of Langley worked with local climate scientists to help us understand what we can expect in the future so we can better plan ahead.  As the climate changes in Langley, we can expect our day-to-day weather to become more extreme, resulting in more intense storms with heavy rain and wind in the fall and winter. In the summer, we can expect more drought conditions, and much hotter temperatures. 

Climate Change

Mitigation and Adaptation

Tackling climate change involves two key approaches: 

Mitigation

Limit climate change from progressing any further by reducing or eliminating our greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane). This involves moving away from fossil fuels, such as gasoline and natural gas, and towards lower carbon hydro electricity and other renewable energy sources like solar power.

Adaptation

Reduce the impact of climate change by preparing for the expected effects. For example, if we know that drought conditions will be more common, we can plan ahead by planting drought-tolerant trees and shrubs in our parks and boulevards. This will reduce water use and limit the number of tree replacements needed.