This week, B.C. continues to grapple with severe drought, while millions in other parts of the world cope with catastrophic flooding caused by storms and rapidly changing weather patterns. And, a new study has found that climate change at least tripled the likelihood of soaring temperatures this summer for half of the planet, as the world marked its hottest three months on record.
Here’s all the latest news concerning the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and the steps leaders are taking to address these issues.
In climate news this week:
• This summer was globally the hottest on record
• B.C. still parched, with no rain in the forecast for many parts of the province
• Death toll from flooding in central Greece has increased to 10, with four missing
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned for decades that wildfires and severe weather, such as B.C.’s deadly heat dome and catastrophic flooding in 2021, would become more frequent and more intense because of the climate emergency.
The panel has issued a “code red” for humanity and last year it said the window to stop global warming from exceeding 1.5 C was closing. In April 2022, it released a report with solutions for how to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, mainly by transitioning away from fossil fuels.
Research shows that the warmer, drier conditions are leading to increased drought, which exacerbates the wildfire situation. Whether the cause is human or lightning, many of the planet’s tinder-dry forests are igniting earlier in the season because of global heating.
Check back here every Saturday for a roundup of the latest climate and environmental stories. You can also get up to date B.C.-focused news delivered to your inbox by 7 a.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.
Climate change quick facts:
- The Earth is now about 1.2 C warmer than it was in the 1800s.
- Globally, 2022 was the fifth hottest year on record, while 2016 was the hottest.
- Human activities have raised atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by 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.
- 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 per ent of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human beings are the cause.
LATEST CLIMATE NEWS
Earth has sweltered through its hottest Northern Hemisphere summer ever measured, with a record warm August capping a season of brutal and deadly temperatures, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Last month was not only the hottest August scientists ever recorded by far with modern equipment, it was also the second hottest month measured, behind only July 2023, WMO and the European climate service Copernicus announced Wednesday.
August was about 1.5 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial averages. That is the threshold that the world is trying not to pass, though scientists are more concerned about rises in temperatures over decades, not merely a blip over a month’s time.
The world’s oceans — more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface — were the hottest ever recorded, nearly 21 C, and have set high temperature marks for three consecutive months, the WMO and Copernicus said.
—The Associated Press
Human-caused climate change tripled the likelihood of soaring temperatures this summer for half of the planet, finds a new study, as the world marked its hottest three months on record.
The report, from U.S.-based research group Climate Central Thursday, found 48 per cent of the world’s population, including those in western Canada, experienced at least 30 days from June to August with temperatures reaching levels that were three times more likely with carbon pollution from human activity—mainly burning fossil fuels.
To calculate this, scientists used the group’s new Climate Shift Index to analyze temperatures in 202 countries and territories around the world.
The index uses a peer-reviewed method to map the influence of human-caused climate change on temperatures across the globe by assigning levels from 1 to 5.
The study found there were 24 days in B.C. and 16 days in Yukon this summer that were at an index level 3 or higher, which indicates that climate change made those temperatures at least three times more likely.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that the worst of B.C.’s “relentless” wildfire season might be over but are keeping an eye on “unprecedented” drought levels that could wreak havoc on B.C.’s ecosystem, ranchers, farmers and other industries.
About 80 per cent of the province is at drought Levels 4 or 5, the two most severe classifications.
This season’s drought “is unlike any kind of drought conditions the province has ever faced and… truly is a sleeping giant of a natural disaster that we are challenged with right now,” said Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma during a news briefing on Wednesday.
“The impacts will be verytent, very real.”
The District of Tofino, which has been on Stage 3 conservation measures since July, recently urged residents, businesses and visitors to further curb water use to prevent escalating to Stage 4 restrictions, which would impact businesses and potentially trigger a local state of emergency.
Tofino Coun. Kat Thomas awoke to light rain on Wednesday morning — a good sign for her parched community.
More is expected to fall on Sunday, but nobody’s letting their guards down in Tofino, which is already under strict Stage 3 water restrictions and facing a potential state of emergency that could force some businesses and resorts to close.
“Our reservoirs are at their lowest levels of 2023 right now,” Thomas said.
She said municipal crews are diverting water to the reservoirs that need it most and the town is relying on the community to continue conservation measures.
Tofino is calling the prolonged drought “historic” due to low flows in Meares Island creeks that supply the town with water by submarine pipeline. Typically, the resort community receives 424 millimetres of rain from May to September, but this year, less than 100 mm has fallen.
—The Victoria Times Colonist
The death toll from severe flooding in central Greece rose to 10 people Friday, while another four remained missing, the country’s civil protection minister said. Rescue crews in helicopters and boats ferried hundreds of people from inundated villages to safety.
Flooding triggered by rainstorms also hit neighbouring Bulgaria and Turkey, killing a total of 22 people in all three countries since the rains began Tuesday.
In Greece, the rainstorms turned streams into raging torrents that burst dams, washed away roads and bridges and hurled cars into the sea, and many of the flooded areas were left without power or drinking water. Authorities have said some regions received twice the average annual rainfall for Athens in the space of just 12 hours.
Although the rainstorms had stopped by Friday, floodwater continued to rise after the Pineios River burst its banks near the city of Larissa, one of Greece’s largest cities with a population of around 150,000, triggering evacuation orders for several areas.
—The Associated Press
Families perched atop houses pleading for help to escape the deadly flooding after a cyclone hammered southern Brazil, with the region’s governor calling it “an absolutely out of the ordinary event.”
The world’s latest extreme weather disaster killed at least 31 people and left at least 1,600 homeless, authorities said Wednesday. The scope of the damage was enormous: Rio Grande do Sol Gov. Eduardo Leite said it was his state’s highest death toll from a climate event, with “entire cities that were completely compromised.”
The toll included at least 15 bodies in a single house.
Flooding also wracked Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria on Tuesday, fed by fierce rainstorms and killing at least seven people. The toll included at least two in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, where streets and homes were flooded in two neighbourhoods.
For more on what is happening related to extreme weather, climate and the environment right now read the Associated Press story here.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged the Group of 20 top economic powers, which are responsible for more than 80 per cent of the emissions that cause global warming, to use their weekend summit to send a strong message on climate change.
Guterres said all licensing or funding for new fossil fuel projects should be stopped and that the G20 must keep the “1.5-degree goal alive,” referring to the 2015 Paris climate agreement that set 1.5 C as a global guardrail in atmospheric warming, with countries pledging to try to prevent that much long-term warming if possible.
Earlier this year, the U.N. weather agency had said that there’s a two-out-of-three chance that the world will temporarily hit a key warming limit within the next five years.
July 2023 was Earth’s hottest month on record by a wide margin.
Climate ministers of the G20 nations ended their last meeting for the year in July without resolving major disagreements on climate policies.
—The Associated Press
In the burned-over hills between Ashcroft and Cache Creek, the Secwepemcúl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society is getting a glimpse of what the future holds for B.C. forests after a record 2023 wildfire season.
The Society, which represents eight Secwépemc First Nations, was formed in 2017 to advocate Indigenous principles in recovering from the 1,900-square-kilometre Elephant Hill fire of that year. Its researchers are already learning important lessons.
“It depends on the severity of the fire,” said society CEO Angela Kane. “In some area’s nothing has come back because (the forest) is burnt so bad.”
“What our technicians, my people out on the land are telling me is that it burned so hot and deep into the ground that some of those seed banks are gone.”
In places where the fire was less intense, however, deciduous trees like aspen and cottonwood are regenerating naturally along with shrubs and plants that were culturally important to the Secwépemc, demonstrating the importance of those species in re-establishing healthy forests.
If you’re concerned about the impact of climate change but not sure what, if anything, you can do in your own life to build a climate-friendly future, a pilot project from UBC might offer some relief.
UBC’s sustainability scholars program, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, has been researching better ways to communicate how climate change is affecting the city and steps the city — and its residents — can take to reduce its impact and limit further emissions.
“A lot of folks are concerned about climate change and extreme weather but don’t know what to do,” said Taylor Legere, the UBC master’s student who developed a series of localized information graphics as part of the project.
A poll in June for the City of Vancouver found 94 per cent of residents were concerned about climate change, but fewer than four in 10 were aware of city programs to limit the impacts of climate change and limit further emissions.
The City of Vancouver will vote Tuesday on another measure to encourage businesses to install more electric vehicle chargers in the continuing fight to mitigate climate change.
In a report to city council, staff recommend amending a bylaw to allow gas stations with EV charging business licences to sell electricity off site at other gas stations or commercial parking areas to encourage more use of EVs.
City council updated its laws last year to allow companies to install EV chargers at gasoline stations and large commercial parking lots in Vancouver.
However, the city says drivers have faced challenges finding EV chargers at some gas stations. So staff members are recommending changing the law to allow gas stations to install and operate EV chargers at other locations.
This will mean more businesses will qualify for the lower business licence fee and encourage more EV chargers to be installed, the report says.
Coco Gauff’s U.S. Open semifinal victory over Karolina Muchova was delayed by 50 minutes because of a disruption by four environmental activists in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands Thursday night. One protester glued his bare feet to the concrete floor.
Gauff was leading 1-0 in the second set when play was halted. She would go on to win 6-4, 7-5.
“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going,” said Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida. “But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”
—The Associated Press
Metro Vancouver has set its climate sights on large commercial buildings as it tries to get a better control of greenhouse gas emissions.
Large commercial buildings make up just two per cent of building stock in the region but account for 35 per cent of their GHG emissions.
And those emissions are on the rise, up 10 per cent, to 2.4 million tonnes, last year from a stable 2.3 million tonnes from 2019 through 2021, according to Metro Vancouver reporting.
That trend makes it “clear that stronger action is needed to achieve the climate targets that the Metro Vancouver board has adopted and, in fact, all levels of government have adopted,” said Erik Blair, a senior planner with Metro’s air quality and climate action services group.
B.C. Ferries says it’s planning to order four new electric-powered Island class vessels under an accelerated schedule.
But it’s also facing financial uncertainties while it awaits a decision on passenger-fare increases during the next four years.
The decision on fares is expected Sept. 30. New rates would go into effect April 1, 2024.
It’s anticipated that the annual average maximum level for ferry-fare increases will be about three per cent, thanks to a $500-million injection announced by the province in February.
The public is invited to have its say on ferry fares by Sept. 10 by contacting the B.C. Ferry Commission, which sets the price cap for fares and decides on capital spending approvals.
—The Victoria Times Colonist
Metro Vancouver lost the equivalent of six Stanley Park’s worth of natural habitat in the past decade, according to a report sent to the authority’s regional planning committee.
From 2009 to 2020, the region lost 250 square kilometres of forests, fields, wetlands and other ecosystems, mainly from logging, agriculture and development.
“The speed and scale of the loss observed is concerning,” Laurie Bates-Frymel, a senior planner at Metro, wrote in the report, adding there was an “urgent need to take collective action” to address the loss of natural habitat.
Metro hopes to increase protected natural lands from 40 to 50 per cent of the regional land base by 2050. The natural habitat lost since 2009 represents roughly 1 1/2 per cent of the region’s land.
Trudeau not ‘living up’ to a climate-change promise, says U.K. think-tank in fossil-fuel subsidy report card
Close to the anniversary of a major United Nations climate-change agreement in Paris last December, the year-old Liberal government seems poised to go back on one of its climate-related election promises, says a report from a U.K.-based think-tank.
After recommitting himself to ending fossil-fuel subsidization at the G20 leaders’ summit in China two months ago, though offering no timeline, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t appear to be “living up” to his promises, the report from InfluenceMap says.
Canada “has proved reluctant to remove subsidies already in place,” it continues, even introducing a new subsidy to support the Pacific NorthWest liquid natural gas pipeline approved in mid-October.
That gives Canada a score of C- on the report card, which assessed G7 countries and the EU — worse than France (B-), but better than the U.K. (D), the U.S. (D+), Germany (D+), Japan (D-), and Italy (E).
—Marie-Danielle Smith, National Post
A glance at 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. does not include emissions from wildfire smoke in its calculations.
- 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 greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 were 670 million tonnes, up from 659 million tonnes in 2020.
- Canada’s 2030 emissions target: Between 40 and 45 per cent reduction.
- Canada’s 2050 emissions target: Net-zero.
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