Climate Change in Manitoba
Projections show climate change will affect the way we live, work and play in Manitoba. From rising temperatures, warmer winter weather and more frequent extreme floods and droughts, the changing environment will greatly affect our day-to-day lives.
What is Climate Change?
Climate is not the same as weather. Weather is short term - hour-by-hour, day-by-day, season-by-season. Climate refers to long term patterns of weather and the atmosphere. Climate is what you expect, such as cold winters. Weather is what you get, such as a blizzard.
Climate change refers to any changes in climate over time, whether as a result of natural phenomena or human activity. While natural changes tend to occur over thousands of years, increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are making changes in climate in less than one hundred years.
These gases are created when we burn fossil fuels to run our vehicles, to heat or cool buildings and conduct a variety of other human activities.
When climate change occurs this suddenly, it can have a significant impact on people, economies and the environment. Only by slowing the rate of climate change can we hope to adapt.
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
Greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the atmosphere while preventing most of the infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and, without this phenomenon, our planet would be too cold to support life.
The greenhouse effect is when more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are added to the atmosphere. This traps in more of the sun’s heat, causing global average surface temperatures to rise. In turn, this leads to changes in climate and weather patterns.
What is Global Warming?
Global warming refers to an increase in the surface temperature of the earth. In the distant past, global warming occurred as the result of natural influences. Today, however, the term is most often used to describe the warming the earth is experiencing as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are of particular concern because they are closely associated with the burning of fossil fuels, land use changes and agricultural activities.
How will climate change affect Manitoba?
Manitoba’s central location in North America and our northerly latitude mean we will face earlier and more severe changes to our climate than many other parts of the world. Already, temperatures in Northern Canada are 2-3 degrees Celsius higher than what they would normally be.
Climate change predictions suggest we will see warmer and wetter winters and longer, warmer and drier summers. Precipitation is likely to vary more from year to year. Extreme weather, such as heat waves, droughts, floods and intense storms, will likely become more common.
These changes will affect both our economy and local environment. Flood and drought risks will be higher for farming communities. Warmer winters will degrade ice roads making it harder to transport supplies to northern communities. Extreme weather events causing home and commercial business damage could raise insurance costs and government spending on disaster relief.
What is Manitoba’s Carbon Footprint?
Manitoba is Canada's sixth-highest greenhouse gas emitter. We account for 3 per cent of Canada’s emissions. Our largest emissions are in the transportation and agriculture sectors, two important economic contributors. Here's what our carbon footprint looks like.
Manitoba's Carbon Emissions (Kt of CO2 eq) 2014
Manitoba's total GHG emissions in 2014: 21,400 Kt of CO2 eq
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (National Inventory Report)
We may not be large emitters but, despite past government statements, Manitoba's emissions have been growing, not getting smaller. Our emissions are forecast to grow by two million tonnes reaching over 23 million tonnes in the next decade and a half.
Source: Canada's 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emmissions Reference Case
While contributions from the energy sector have been fairly stable over the long term, agricultural emissions have increased since 1990, primarily because of expansion in Manitoba's hog and cattle industries. More cars and trucks on the road mean higher carbon emissions from transportation.
Manitoba's clean, hydroelectric power system is a real advantage for our province. Our emissions would be double the current amount if our energy system was powered by fossil fuels. Energy efficiency and conservation in homes and buildings is also helping to keep emissions low and saving money too.
Our carbon footprint is different from the rest of Canada's. We have clean electricity, yes, but we also have the highest proportion of agriculture emissions in the country, at 30 per cent, compared to only eight per cent for Canada as a whole. Our transportation emissions portion is among the highest in the country.
That's why we need a Made-in-Manitoba solution to reducing carbon emissions that works for both the environment and the economy.
The Manitoba government is committed to doing its part to reduce carbon emissions and helping to tackle climate change. Each of us can contribute to this goal.
Prospering Through Climate Change
Addressing climate change will lead to new opportunities in clean technology and business services. We have a small but growing environmental industry sector in the province that holds the promise of new jobs.
Our universities can play a leading role in climate research, especially concerning agriculture and sustainable farming practices.
Already, new investment is coming to Manitoba because of our clean, green energy advantage. A new pea processing plant - the world's largest - is coming to the Portage la Prairie area, in part because of the ability to access clean hydro electricity.
The world is moving towards a low-carbon economy. We are well positioned to take advantage of this. We can prosper through climate change by being smart, focused and resilient in our investments and attitude.
Taking action now will save money for Manitoba and benefit future generations, and will create new opportunities for jobs and growth.
For more information on climate change in Manitoba, please visit: www.gov.mb.ca/sd/climate.