Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Continued warming from the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere is expected to have substantial impacts on the environment, human health and the economy.

Environmental impacts

  • Overall average annual temperatures are expected to increase.
  • Global warming will decrease snow, sea ice and glacier coverage, resulting in rising sea levels and increased coastal flooding. Rising temperatures will also thaw permafrost in the Arctic.
  • Storms and heat waves are likely to increase in frequency and severity.
  • Many wild species will have difficulty adapting to a warmer climate and will likely experience greater stress from diseases and invasive species.

Human health impacts 

  • People living in Canada’s northern communities, and vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly, are expected to be the most affected by the changes.
  • Increased temperatures and more frequent and severe extreme weather events could lead to increased risks of death from dehydration and heat stroke, and injuries from intense local weather changes.
  • There may be an increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems and certain types of cancers, as temperatures rise and exacerbate air pollution.  
  • The risk of water-, food-, vector- and rodent-borne diseases may increase.

Economic impacts

  • Agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation could be affected by changing weather patterns.
  • Human health impacts are expected to place additional economic stress on health and social support systems.
  • Damage to infrastructure (e.g., roads and bridges) from extreme weather events is expected to increase.

How can we help?

We can reduce our GHG emissions at home and in our everyday activities. We can make a difference by changing our behaviour and making lifestyle decisions that reduce emissions.

For more information on how individual Canadians can contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions, consult the Canada’s Action on Climate Change website and Environment Canada’s Take Action for the Environment website.

Sources: Environment Canada (2011) Climate Trends and Variations Bulletin– Annual 2010. / Natural Resources Canada (2008) From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007. / Health Canada (2008) Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity. /  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability.

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