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Climate Change

Climate change occurs when long-term weather patterns begin to shift. These periods of change have occurred throughout the Earth’s history over extended periods of time. However, since the Industrial Revolution the world has been warming at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, the current period of climate change is often referred to as “global warming.” Human activities that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are largely responsible for this increased rate of change. The implications of this global increase in temperature are potentially disastrous and include extreme weather events, rising sea levels and loss of habitat for plants, animals and humans. In Canada, efforts to mitigate climate change include phasing-out coal-fired power plants in Ontario and instituting a carbon tax in British Columbia.

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Carbon Pricing in Canada

Carbon pricing plans impose a cost on the combustion of fossil fuels by industries and consumers — either directly through a tax, or indirectly through a cap-and-trade system. In a market economy like Canada’s, prices help regulate the supply and demand of goods and services. By influencing the price of a commodity like gasoline, through carbon pricing, governments aim to discourage its use and thereby reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that result from its consumption.

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a national climate-change policy that included a system of carbon pricing across Canada. As of June 2019, eight provinces and territories have carbon pricing plans that meet the requirements of the national policy. In the remaining provinces — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick — Ottawa imposed or intends to impose its own carbon tax. The tax has vocal opponents on the political right, including some premiers and party leaders.