The reality of climate change can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's a real and tangible, says a Senior Climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
David Phillips says as people began to become aware of the dangers of climate change the science at that point focused on temperature, hence why it was known as global warming. As science continued to evolve, we now understand it encompasses precipitation, water levels, sea ice, and temperature, that's why climate change is a more accurate description.
With the recent polar vortex lowering temperatures throughout Southern Manitoba, people have been questioning if climate change even exists.
Phillips says looking out the window doesn't tell the full story.
"You realize that it doesn't mean every day is going to be warmer in fact what is a signal of climate change is the flip-flopping, the wildness. Yes, we will have fewer colder extremes in the future and more hot temperatures, but it doesn't mean we will have no cold temperatures."
Weather is the day to day changes says Phillips, while climate change is the statistics of weather. When looking at the weather over a long period and their averages, that's looking at the climate.
Looking at the Pembina Valley and Southern Manitoba, Phillips says we are experiencing gradual changes, the most dramatic examples of these changes are the severity of storms. Phillips says Tornados aren't forming in January, and Sandstorms aren't taking place in Steinbach, that would break all physical principles; however, when you look at the statistics for precipitation, temperature, wind speed, pressure patterns, and storm tracks have changed since previous generations.
Phillips says Canada has various records that show how these elements have changed, over the last 70 years, if you did a trend of that analysis, it would show winter temperatures in Southern Manitoba have increased on average by 3.6 degrees, spring by 2.3, and summer and fall by around a degree.
One of the greatest dangers with these changes says Phillips is its unpredictability.
"It looks like the trend is upwards, then you go to a period that tends to be less so, and then it goes back up. You have to judge this over an extended period than just one year or two years when you look at your analysis over 10,20,30 years you see a general trend."
When looking at the prairies, Phillips says there are more severe summer weather events, tornados, stronger winds, more torrential rains, and when looking at the data you can see a trend where temperatures rise these weather events become more frequent.
Phillips states if we ignore the data and the ever-changing climate, we do so at our peril.
"We have to do less with the fossil fuels that we have. I think fossil fuels will still be the fuel of the future; they're not renewable particularly in agriculture, but I think what we have to do more with less, we have to be more energy efficient, we have to think about sustainability."
Phillips adds we have to adapt for several reasons fossils fuels are finite, governments are going to mandate a reduction in their carbon footprint, and consumers are going to demand products that are sustainable. Climate is going to cause more pests and disease, and we have to change along with the climate.
Phillips believes in the human condition; people are adaptable changing to make the most out of situations. The planet's population continues to grow, but we keep increasing farm yields with less land, by adjusting to the changing climate and making meaningful changes for sustainability, Phillips says the future can still be optimistic.