B.C. Climate News Oct. 3 to Oct. 9

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Here’s your weekly update with what you need to know about the global and ecological crises and the steps B.C. is taking for the week of Oct. 3 to Oct. 9, 2022.

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This week in climate news:

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• Court hears B.C. breaking its own law on climate-change reporting
• Drought continues in Southern B.C.
• Fiona demonstrated wild hurricane future, and need to adapt to climate change
• Horgan heads to California for climate deal with West Coast governors

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned for a decade that wildfires, drought, severe weather, such as B.C.’s deadly heat dome last June, and flooding would become more frequent and more intense because of the climate crisis.

Last August, it issued a “code red” for humanity and earlier this year the panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said the window to stop global warming from exceeding 1.5 C was closing. Last month, it released a report with solutions for how to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, mainly by transitioning away from fossil fuels.

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There is a scientific consensus on climate change (NASA reports that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human activity is the cause.)  Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming.

Check back here every Saturday for a roundup of the latest climate and environmental stories. You can also get up to date B.C.-focussed news delivered to your inbox by 7 a.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

A glance at B.C.’s carbon numbers:

  • B.C.’s gross greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 (latest available data) were 64.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). This is a decrease of 0.9 MtCO2e (one per cent) from 65.5 MtCO2e in 2007, the baseline year for emissions reduction targets.
  • B.C.’s net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 were 63.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e.) This is a net decrease of 2.0 MtCO2e, or three per cent, since 2007.
  • B.C.’s net emissions in 2019: 67.2 MtCO2e, an increase of 1.5 MtCO2e, or two per cent, since 2007.
  • B.C.’s 2030 target: 40 per cent reduction in net emissions below 2007 levels.
  • B.C.’s 2040 target: 60 per cent reduction.
  • B.C.’s 2050 target: 80 per cent reduction.
  • Canada’s 2030 emissions target: Between 40 and 45 per cent reduction.
  • Canada’s 2050 emissions target: Net-zero.

(source: B.C. and Canadian governments)

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The red lines and symbols represent the monthly mean values, centred on the middle of each month. The black lines and symbols represent the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle. Source: NOAA
The red lines and symbols represent the monthly mean values, centred on the middle of each month. The black lines and symbols represent the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle. Source: NOAA

Climate change quick facts:

  • The Earth is now about 1.1 C warmer than it was in the 1800s.
  • Globally, 2021 was the fifth warmest year on record.
  • Human activities have raised atmospheric concentrations of COby nearly 49 per cent above pre-industrial levels starting in 1850.
  • The world is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target to keep global temperature from exceeding 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, the upper limit to avoid the worst fallout from climate change.
  • 2015-2019 were the five warmest years on record while 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record.
  • On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, the temperature could increase by as much as 4.4 C by the end of the century.
  • In April, 2022 greenhouse gas concentrations reached record new highs and show no sign of slowing.
  • Emissions must drop 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to keep temperatures from exceeding 1.5 C and 2.7 per cent per year to stay below 2 C.
  • 97% of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human beings are the cause.

(Source: United Nations IPCCWorld Meteorological Organization,UNEP, Nasa, climatedata.ca)

Source: NASA
Source: NASA

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Arrival of a new Arctic’: Study predicts Arctic rainy days will double by 2100

While the Arctic is better known for blankets of snow than rain clouds, new research suggests the number of rainy days in the region will roughly double by the end of this century.

The study, published in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future, used climate modelling to predict changes in precipitation under a high level of greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to 2100. It found that not only will there be more rainfall in the Arctic by 2100, it will occur earlier in the spring and expand further toward the center of the Arctic Ocean and inland Greenland.

Lead author Tingfeng Dou, a climate scientist at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said this will mean “the arrival of a new Arctic.”

“In the past, rainfall was primarily limited to the edges of the Greenland ice sheet,” he said in a press release.

The study’s authors, researchers from China and the Netherlands, said more frequent and intense rainfall in the Arctic is expected to increase permafrost melt, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as reduce snow cover, and speed up sea-ice loss.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

B.C. breaking its own law on climate-change reporting, Sierra Club tells court

An environmental group is in court accusing the B.C. government of failing to report if its climate plans will achieve key greenhouse-gas emissions targets, as required by a provincial law.

Harry Wruck, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club B.C., told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that climate change accountability legislation from 2019 requires the government to publish annual reports that outline progress toward emissions targets for 2025, 2040 and 2050. Wruck said annual reports are the only mechanism for transparency and accountability, if they include details on how close or far the government is to meeting its targets.

“We’re asking the court to interpret the legislation and resolve a dispute between the two parties,” he said.

Wruck referred to a decision by the High Court of Justice in London, which in July forced the government in the U.K. to outline how its policies would achieve emissions targets. In 2020, Ireland’s Supreme Court ordered the government to rewrite its climate-change plan in keeping with its legal obligation.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Metro Vancouver’s ‘driest September’ has extended wildfire season

Record-setting lack of rainfall over the past month in B.C. means no end in sight for this year’s wildfire season, officials said Tuesday, as drought conditions have been a boon for farmers and restaurant patio owners.

Abbotsford International Airport recorded 0.9 millimetres of precipitation last month, “the driest September on record,” according to Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECC).

She said the Abbotsford weather station typically records about 75 millimetres of precipitation in September. ECC records for the Abbotsford station started in 1945.

The weather station at Vancouver International Airport recorded seven millimetres of rain in September, its seventh driest September since 1896 and five millimetres less rain than fell in Las Vegas during the same time period.

The hot, dry conditions have extended the wildfire season across the province, according to Brianna Hill, an information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Read the full story here.

—Nathan Griffiths

Low water levels caused by drought preventing B.C. salmon from spawning

The images are shocking. Carcasses of thousands of wild salmon line a creek on B.C.’s Central Coast where this year’s hot and dry weather has created deadly conditions for many spawning fish.

The pink and chum salmon died before even getting the chance to spawn, William Housty, conservation manager for the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, said Tuesday.

Die-offs have happened in past years but not in such numbers, he said.

Housty has no doubt about what caused the mass die-off: “I would say that it is 100 per cent climate change because we have never seen this magnitude of pre-spawn mortality.”

Read the full story here.

—Carla Wilson, The Victoria Times Colonist

B.C. signs new climate agreement with California, Oregon and Washington

SAN FRANCISCO — British Columbia Premier John Horgan has signed a new climate pact with the governors of Washington, Oregon and California that includes investments in cross-border climate infrastructure like electric vehicle charging stations.

The statement of co-operation also aims to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and to protect communities from climate disasters including droughts, wildfires and heat waves.
The four jurisdictions have differing climate agendas but share the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 80 per cent by 2050.

Horgan, who travelled to San Francisco for the signing, highlighted the need for innovative solutions and continually shifting targets.

He says all four jurisdictions are experiencing the same “profound” issues, including devastating wildfires like the one in June 2021 that destroyed the village of Lytton, B.C.

Horgan told a news conference that climate change is a global crisis, but western North America is uniquely positioned to respond because the four jurisdictions share similar goals and are willing to collaborate to meet them.

Read the full story here.

 — The Canadian Press

Scientists have developed a technique to restore B.C. kelp forests for future generations

For Liam Coleman, scuba diving in B.C. waters is like taking a weightless walk in the woods.

“It’s a really beautiful, quite special experience to go diving into kelp forests. It’s like you were walking weightless in space, but it has a forest around you,” said Coleman.

After getting past the cold water, Coleman sees schools of fish swimming through the forests, golden sunlight reflecting through the water past the rows of kelp, and once in a while, a seal or sea lion comes by to surprise him.

The most magical part is life blooms where the kelp forests live, said Coleman.

The kelp, which can grow 20 to 30 metres tall from the ocean floor, provides food and shelter for thousands of marine species while absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Climate Changed: Fiona demonstrated wild hurricane future, and need to adapt

As she stood near the remnants of flattened homes in Port aux Basques, N.L., Denise Anderson said the thought of continuing to live next to the ocean is hard after a deadly storm foreshadowed the violence of weather to come.

“I grew up in this area, I wanted to come back to this area, but now I’m not so sure I want to,” she said two days after post-tropical storm Fiona damaged the home where she has lived for three years, destroyed her neighbours’ houses and swept one local woman out to sea.

Across the East Coast, similar emotions about the way climate change is altering life can be heard, as residents rebuild their homes and cope with weeks without power, and political leaders are asked how they’ll prepare the coastlines and power grids to meet the next gale.

About 200 kilometres to the south across the Cabot Strait, in Reserve Mines, N.S., Reggie Boutilier pointed out a missing portion of his roof and wondered when the next storm would come. “It’s only early in the hurricane season, and I’m thinking we’re off to a bad start,” he said the day after Fiona hit.

The scientific predictions on what’s to come aren’t reassuring.

Canada’s Changing Climate, a federal summary of climate science released in 2019, said fossil fuel emissions are likely increasing the intensity of tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic and head north to the Canadian coast

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Climate change made summer drought 20 times more likely

Drought that stretched across three continents this summer — drying out large parts of Europe, the United States and China — was made 20 times more likely by climate change, according to a new study.

Drought dried up major rivers, destroyed crops, sparked wildfire, threatened aquatic species and led to water restrictions in Europe. It struck places already plagued by drying in the U.S., like the West, but also places where drought is more rare, like the Northeast. China also just had its driest summer in 60 years, leaving its famous Yangtze river half its normal width.

Researchers from World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists from around the world who study the link between extreme weather and climate change, say this type of drought would only happen once every 400 years across the Northern Hemisphere if not for human-caused climate change. Now they expect these conditions to repeat every 20 years, given how much the climate has warmed.

Ecological disasters like the widespread drought and then massive flooding in Pakistan, are the “fingerprints of climate change,” Maarten van Aalst, a climate scientist at Columbia University and study co-author, said.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Climate Migration: Floods displace villagers in Indonesia

All the crops had died and the farmed fish had escaped their ponds. The only road to the village was flooded and the water just kept getting higher, says Asiyah, 38, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

She knew that she had to leave her home on Java’s northern coast, just as many fellow villagers had done months earlier. So about two years ago, after agonizing over the decision for months, she told her husband it was time to go and started to pack.

Java, home to some 145 million people and the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is the most populated island in the world. Scientists say parts of the island will be entirely lost to the sea in the coming years.

Much has been written about the sinking capital, which is being moved partially due to destructive flooding. Other parts of the country with persistent flooding have received less attention.

Some 300 miles (500 kilometres) from Jakarta, entire villages along the Java Sea are submerged in murky brown water. Experts say rising seas and stronger tides as a result of climate change are some of the causes. Gradual sinking of the land and development are also to blame.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Europe must show ‘far greater ambition’ on climate -UN

Europe should show “far greater ambition” on climate change because its overall greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, and so countries must embrace recycling, tighten air quality and spend more on the environment, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.

Cuts in emissions mostly in western European countries have been offset by rises elsewhere in the region, a United Nations assessment of strategies among 54 European nations found.

Air quality still falls short of international guidelines, and taxes collected in the name of environmental protection were not being used for their stated purpose, the report presented to European environment ministers meeting in Cyprus said.

“The findings of this assessment .. must be a wake-up call for the region,” said Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, known as the UNECE.

Read the full story here.


Missing snow puts famed New Zealand ski areas on precipice

New Zealand’s TÅ«roa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders.

The ski area was forced to close for the season this week, three weeks earlier than planned.

Rain repeatedly washed away the snow, and the ski area’s 50 snowmaking machines proved no match against balmy temperatures. Climate change appears to be a significant factor, after New Zealand experienced its warmest winter on record — for the third year in a row.

The disastrous snow season comes after the previous two seasons were severely disrupted by COVID-19, leaving TÅ«roa and its sister ski area Whakapapa on the brink of bankruptcy.

The two ski areas, which are among New Zealand’s largest, are owned by the same company and located on opposite sides of Mount Ruapehu. Should they be forced to close permanently, it would leave North Island, where more than three-quarters of the nation’s 5 million people live, without any major ski areas.

Even in New Zealand’s cooler South Island, climate change is raising questions about the future of skiing and snowboarding. The sports have long been important for attracting foreign tourist dollars to New Zealand and form part of the nation’s identity as an outdoor adventure destination.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press


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