Frequently Asked Questions

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Weather refers to short-term, localized conditions in the atmosphere. For example, is it snowing, sunny, cold, foggy or windy? Weather takes place over hours to days. Climate, on the other hand, is a term that refers to long term averages and patterns of weather over decades or longer. One way to think about it is, “climate is what you can expect, and weather is what you get”. For example, on average the winter climate in Squamish is generally rainy and cool. But, occasionally, a high pressure weather system may arrive in the winter, bringing a short-term period of sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Climate change refers to shifts in long-term weather patterns (aka climate) over a longer period of time, at least 30 years. Global warming is one of the many consequences of climate change, whereby the Earth’s average temperature is warming due to greenhouse gases, trapping too much heat in the atmosphere. The warming of the planet leads to a variety of other issues, such as more extreme precipitation, sea level rise, droughts, and wildfires. Climate change and global warming are often used interchangeably, and often mean the same thing.

The difference between climate change adaptation and mitigation is that climate change adaptation refers to actions that help us adjust to climate changes that are already happening or expected to happen, whereas climate change mitigation refers to actions that help to minimize further changes in the climate. We need to do both in order to adapt to climate change that is already happening due to emissions in the atmosphere, and mitigate to prevent further climate change and subsequent consequences. For example, some actions, such as water conservation can help to adapt and mitigate at the same time.

An overwhelming majority do. Through dozens of credible studies, the international community has established that over 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening, and that recent trends are very likely due to human activities. Virtually all credible scientific institutions have issued statements about climate change/global warming. See some of them here.

We now have documented evidence from all over the world that climate change is taking place. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s foremost authority on climate science and was founded to provide policymakers with accurate and updated science on how climate change is impacting the planet. The IPCC receives input from thousands of scientists and reviews hundreds of peer-reviewed studies to extract the best scientific evidence available. The latest IPCC assessment - which involved more than 1,000 contributors and received over 100,000 review comments - tells us that climate change is here and it is very much a real threat.

Scientists extract and compile weather measurements from stations, balloons, ocean buoys, ships, satellites, and radar. Older climate information (aka paleoclimate data) can be gathered from many sources, including analyzing air bubbles in ice cores, measuring tree rings and studying fossil records.

No. Although global warming is taking place, some geographic areas can still experience cooler temperatures and snow over periods of seasons to years. British Columbia is largely affected by the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which is a cycle of climate variability related to the Pacific Ocean that leads to periods that are warmer and dryer and those that are cooler and wetter. Although short-term weather events may bring snow, the long-term climate patterns still reveal an overall warming trend on the planet.

No. It is true that climate is always changing, but human activities are leading to changes that are happening extremely fast. When climate changes quickly, there is not time for life to adjust to them and impacts can be severe. The following image shows greenhouse gas levels over the last 10,00 years. You can see how quickly levels have increased in the last 150 years and how this is not normal.

Go here to see current CO2 concentrations: The Keeling Durve, UC San Diego

Yes. Although the percentage of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is small in comparison to other gases, CO2 has a huge impact on the climate because it traps heat. If carbon dioxide levels fluctuate in either direction, the climate changes.

Deforestation, burning fossil fuels, industrial farming, and organic waste in landfills are some of the big culprits because they release carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Absolutely. Every little action we take to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as individuals counts. As a local and global community we are tasked with reducing our emissions by at least 45% in the next 10 years and we need everyone to do their part. Don’t forget, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.