arcadis loading logo

Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is defined as a long-term change in Earth’s average weather patterns or overall climate, including Earth’s average temperature and precipitation. While changes in solar radiation, volcanic activity, Earth’s orbit and other natural drivers have influenced Earth’s climate throughout history, natural forces alone cannot explain the recent dramatic increases in global temperatures over the last century.

Most climate scientists agree human activities that release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and human-made halocarbons, are the primary drivers of recent climate change, which is supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.

Climate change can lead to the increased frequency or strength of extreme weather and climate events or both.

Causes

Human-induced or anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are amplifying the “natural greenhouse effect”, as human activities have increased the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at an alarming rate, trapping extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and ultimately leading to unprecedented increases in global temperatures (i.e. the enhanced greenhouse effect).

The primary cause of increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, for energy production. To a lesser extent, other human activities such as deforestation, land use changes, industrial processes, and improper waste management also contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.

Evidence and Facts

The magnitude of annual extreme weather and climate events has been gradually increasing on a global scale since the 1980s.

Warmer climates are likely to result in extreme precipitation, heat waves, coastal flooding, and other extreme events that will intensify and become more frequent. Studies have demonstrated that generally climate change will continue to cause wet regions to get wetter and dry regions to get drier, but it is happening at a slower rate than previously expected.

Heat waves in particular can exacerbate the risk of droughts and followed by intense rainfalls, stressing water resources and increasing the frequency of wildfires. The intensity, frequency and duration of many hurricane systems have also increased, though it is not certain if this is entirely due to anthropogenic causes.

The enhanced greenhouse effect and associated climate change have resulted in increases in global average surface temperatures over land and oceans since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

This rise in average global temperature has been, and will not be, uniform or smooth and will continue as long as humans continue to emit greenhouse gases.

Warmer temperatures have accelerated the melting of glaciers and ice sheets and consequently have increased global sea levels by 8 inches since 1880. Global sea level rise is also likely to increase storm surges, producing more destructive hurricanes and other severe storms. By 2100, climate change is expected to cause an additional sea level rise by 1 to 4 feet. Further, in the longer term, many coastal communities may become overwhelmed and may be compelled to invest in shoreline protection or relocate more inland.

The drastic increases in global temperatures have forced many plants and animals to migrate to higher elevations or away from the equator. Some animals, however, may have difficulty moving or adapting to new habitats, which may increase existing risks of extinction of more vulnerable species and accelerate the loss of biodiversity. Other natural systems at risk due to climate change include rivers and ice sheets, marine ecosystems, grasslands, and boreal and tropical forests.

Climate change can affect human health directly through heat-related illnesses and mortality and through mortality or injuries due to floods and storms, as well as indirectly through the increasing geographic ranges of vector-borne diseases (e.g. dengue fever and malaria), water-borne pathogens, water and air quality, and food availability and quality.

Rising temperatures also can increase smog levels, which can worsen air quality and cause adverse health issues for the young, elderly, or those with respiratory health conditions.

More importantly, climate change is expected to increase threats to human health particularly in lower income populations and within tropical and subtropical countries.

Action Plan - Canada

To support the commitments under the Paris Agreement, Canada’s Prime Minister and eleven provincial and territorial premiers adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to take ambitious action to mitigate climate change, adapt and build resilience to the changing climate, and drive clean economic growth.

A landmark achievement, the Pan-Canadian Framework is the first climate change plan in Canada’s history to include joint and individual commitments by federal, provincial and territorial governments and to have been developed with input from Indigenous Peoples. The Pan-Canadian Framework outlines over fifty concrete measures to reduce carbon pollution, help us adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, foster clean technology solutions, and create good jobs that contribute to a stronger economy, positioning Canada on the path to meet its Paris Agreement greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Also, federal, provincial and territorial governments are committed to report annually to Canada’s First Ministers and the general public as a way to take stock of their collective progress in implementing the Framework and to enhance climate action over time. The first annual progress report released on December 9, 2017, highlights key federal, provincial and territorial accomplishments over the past year and it finds that significant progress was made on all four pillars of the Framework: pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to reduce emissions; adaptation and climate resilience; and clean technology, innovation and jobs.

Action Plan - Chile

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for "proposing policies and formulating plans, programs and action plans on climate change", according to article 70.h. of the Environmental Bases Law 19,300.

Chile's commitment in its NDC is to decrease our greenhouse gases emissions, so that by 2030, the country's emissions will be between 30% and 45% less, expressed in GHG emissions per unit of GDP, with respect to 2007.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change 2017-2022 was developed to take the first steps towards that green, low carbon growth that promotes clean and renewable technologies. It is an instrument of public policy that integrates and guides the actions to be taken with respect to climate change and that is part of the Government’s commitments. This plan is aimed at the effective implementation of measures that have been identified to adapt to climate change, to reduce the vulnerability of the country, while contributing to the fulfilment of Chile’s international commitments to the UN Framework Convention. United on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In this way, we continue to generate capacities in terms of climate change at the level of the national government, subnational governments, the private sector, academia, citizen organizations and the community in general.

The new Plan (PANCC II) was developed in a scenario of greater knowledge and concrete advances obtained through the PANCC 2008-2012 (PANCC I), as well as a greater political commitment at both the national and international levels. Its preparation was carried out with the collaboration of 13 ministries and other services with competence in the area of climate change – under the coordination of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of the Environment – and began its design stage in 2014. The document includes the lessons learned from the implementation of PANCC I and the management of climate change in recent years, the progress made to date and the future challenges facing the country, as well as initiatives in development, institutional aspects, financing, synergies and visions of the different sectors in this regard.