Weekly roundup of climate change news to June 2, 2024

Here’s the weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of May 27 to June 2, 2024.

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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:

• As Canada warms, infectious disease risks spread north
• Alberta’s drought shaping up to be ‘worse than we saw in the 1920s, 1930s’
• Heat kills at least 14 in India as temperatures near 50 C
• B.C. adds $20 million for 28,000 free AC units to help cool hotter summers

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Human activities like burning fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This causes heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, increasing the planet’s surface temperature.

The panel, which is made up of scientists from around the world, 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. It has issued a “code red” for humanity and warns the window to limit warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial times is closing.

But it’s not too late to avoid the worst-case scenarios. According to NASA climate scientists, if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the rise in global temperatures would begin to flatten within a few years. Temperatures would then plateau but remain well-elevated for many centuries.

Check back every Saturday for more climate and environmental news or sign up for our Climate Connected newsletter HERE.

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Climate change quick facts:

• The Earth is now about 1.2 C warmer than it was in the 1800s.
• 2023 was hottest on record globally, beating the last record in 2016.
• 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 including sea level rise, and more intense drought, heat waves and wildfires.
• 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 cent of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human beings are the cause.

(Source: United Nations IPCCWorld Meteorological OrganizationUNEPNASA,

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Co2 graph
Source: NASA

Latest News

As Canada warms, infectious disease risks spread north

It was 15 years ago that Ontario student Justin Wood started feeling sick.

A keen soccer player, snowboarder and mountain biker, Wood said he didn’t know the cause but he had to “back off from playing sports and back off from academics.”

It got worse. “I got really, really sick, and I couldn’t really do anything, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t really function or sort of be part of society. And it took me probably about four or five years to get any sort of diagnosis.”

When it came, the diagnosis was a rare one: Lyme disease. At the time, the tick-borne illness was only responsible for a few hundred infections a year in Canada, according to government statistics.

But cases of Lyme disease have now increased more than 1,000 per cent in a decade as the warming climate pushes the boundaries of a range of pathogens and risk factors northward.

Populations of exotic mosquito species that could potentially carry illnesses such as dengue and yellow fever have become established in parts of Ontario, researchers say. Scientists also worry that climate change will increase the risks of microbial disease associated with food contamination and warm weather.

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Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

A scorching heat wave kills at least 14 in India 

A blistering heat wave has killed at least 14 people, including 10 election officials, in eastern India with temperatures soaring up to 49.9 C in parts of the country this week, officials said Friday.

The weeklong heat wave has forced schools to close at several places and raised the risk of heatstroke for outdoor labourers.

A statement by the Bihar state government said 14 people have died in the state, including five in Bhojpur and three in Rohtas districts, with day temperatures rising to 44 C.

The heat wave came as hundreds of millions of Indians have been voting in a 6-week long general election, increasing health risks as they waited in long lines to cast their ballots. The seventh and final round of voting will be held on Saturday.

A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April — that struck parts of Asia — was made at least 45 times more likely in some parts of the continent by climate change.

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Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent. The study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 C hotter in the region because of global warming.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Alberta’s drought shaping up to be ‘worse than we saw in the 1920s, 1930s’

Lentils only like water twice, explained southern Alberta farmer Lynn Jacobson. “When you plant them and when you boil them.” The earthy pulse may not be massively popular but they’re an attractive crop for farmers facing a drought.

“But they all take a certain amount of water and if you don’t have any water, no matter what your plan is, you’re really going to suffer,” said Jacobson.

For months, Albertans have been worrying about what the unusually dry winter with low levels of snowfall and a summer forecast of light rain. Would it mean dying lawns and wilted flowers? An agriculture disaster? A bad wildfire season?

The past few years have been dry, but it’s been almost 25 years since Alberta has been this dry. Some counties have announced states of agricultural emergency.

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During the last major drought, in 2001–2002, net farm income was zero. It cost the Canadian economy $5.3 billion and 41,000 people lost their jobs across the country.

Read the full story here.

—Tyler Dawson

air conditioners
A sign warning of the inevitable heat in the window of an apartment on Dundas Street in Vancouver. Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

B.C. adds $20 million for 28,000 free AC units to help cool hotter summers

As the B.C. government issued a warning Friday for the public to prepare for higher than normal temperatures starting in June, it announced an additional $20 million to provide thousands more free air conditioning units to those in financial need and people vulnerable to heat.

Providing air conditioning to those most vulnerable to heat was one of the recommendations from a B.C. coroner’s review of the 2021 heat dome that killed 619 people.

The additional funding adds to a $10-million program announced last year after Postmedia News revealed neighbouring Washington state and Oregon had distributed thousands of air conditioners since the heat wave, with a target of 23,000 by the end of 2023, while B.C. had done nothing.

The B.C. Hydro-managed program has so far provided 6,000 free AC units, and the extra funding is expected to deliver a total of about 28,000 AC units.

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The original $10 million in funding was meant to last three years, but B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the popularity of the program required new investment.

Read the full story here.

—Gordon Hoekstra

Ad Standards Canada has ruled that a series of ads by the Canada Action Coalition promoting LNG is misleading and amounts to “greenwashing.” Photo by CAPE /sun

B.C. LNG ads by advocacy group amount to ‘greenwashing’: Ad Standards

A series of ads touting the environmental benefits of liquefied natural gas was misleading and amounted to greenwashing, says a leaked decision by Canada’s advertising regulatory body.

The ads — which claimed “B.C. LNG will reduce global emissions” and ran in newspapers and on billboard and transit ads — were paid for by the Canada Action Coalition, an advocacy group that supports Canada’s oil and gas industry.

“These ads are textbook cases of greenwashing, right down to the colour of the ads,” said Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family doctor and president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, which is campaigning to ban fossil fuel advertising.

The group said it received a leaked copy of the Ad Standards Council decision from a complainant and made it public on Tuesday.

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“The decision is significant because it shows the Ad Standards Council is stepping up and doing what government isn’t doing, which is regulating misleading fossil fuel advertising that drives demands for fossil fuels.”

Canada Action spokesman Cody Battershill said the organization is appealing the decision.

Read the full story here.

—Cheryl Chan

B.C. EV sales rose at start of 2024 — but so have inventories

Sales of electric vehicles continue to rise in B.C., statistics show, but so have inventories of new cars on dealers’ lots.

Growing inventories suggest that the rebound in auto manufacturing is catching up with consumer demand following the pandemic-sparked shortages of computer chips and parts that strangled the supply of new vehicles starting in 2020.

The market publication AutoTrader counted 4,824 new EVs available for sale on B.C. car lots in the week of May 13, compared with just 801 EVs on the corresponding date a year ago, according to Baris Akyurek, AutoTrader’s vice-president of insight and intelligence.

That is only a single-week snapshot, but Akyurek said it is “not really surprising because as we all know, we have all these mandates (to increase EV availability) and timelines to hit.”

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Car dealers, however, are beginning to wonder whether the market for EVs is becoming saturated, with some 80 new models to choose from and more skeptical buyers arriving on car lots.

Read the full story here.

—Derrick Penner

Study says converting B.C. restaurants to electricity from natural gas would cost a fortune

To convert a restaurant from natural gas to electricity for cooking and patio heating would cost an average B.C. restaurant $800,000, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The study was commissioned over worries that some municipalities might consider banning natural gas in newly constructed buildings ahead of a zero-carbon provincial mandate that takes effect in 2030.

Phasing out natural gas in B.C. does not apply to existing buildings, but the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association and the B.C. Coalition of Affordable Dependable Energy are worried the municipal moves are a foot in the door toward just that.

“It’s a huge fear, everything is going electric,” said Kelly Gordon, owner of burger-bar chain Romers and a member of the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame.

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“For any potential business initiatives coming down the road, everybody’s going to say should we reinvest in the (required) capital now with these potential risks ahead of us going down the road? That’s a big ask for the industry. At what point does the straw break the camel’s back?”

The study, carried out by consulting firm Pacific Solutions Contracting, was based on a 3,500-square-foot restaurant. The cost of converting it from natural gas to electricity included $450,000 for renovations and new equipment, plus $340,000 for ongoing costs such as insurance, taxes, internet, loss of business for about a month, and food wastage.

Read the full story here.

—Gordon McIntyre

Nature Conservancy of Canada buys B.C. grasslands for new conservation area

The Nature Conservancy of Canada says a new conservation area north of Cranbrook will protect important bird habitat and preserve grasslands in the province’s southeast.

The conservancy says money from the federal government and private donors went to buying up 2.7 square kilometres of land in the Skookumchuk Prairie in the province’s southeast corner.

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Richard Klafki, a B.C. program director with the Nature Conservancy, says the land, which also includes wetlands and forests, is a key biodiversity area, and came up for sale when the former owner, a local rancher, decided to downsize.

Klafki says the former owner offered up the lands knowing their “unique ecological characteristics,” and sites like it are becoming rarer in the valleys of the Rocky Mountain Trench.

He says the grasslands include nesting grounds of the long-billed curlew, and are also relied upon by elk and deer in the winter.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says protecting areas such as the Skookumchuk Prairie helps reverse the loss of biodiversity and helps recovery of at-risk species such as the American badger.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Mexico monkey
A veterinarian feeds a young howler monkey rescued amid extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tobasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Dozens of howler monkeys were found dead in the Gulf coast state while others were rescued by residents who rushed them to a local veterinarian. Photo by Luis Sanchez /AP

The number of heat-related howler monkeys deaths in Mexico has risen to 157, with a few recovering

The number of heat-related howler monkeys deaths in Mexico has risen to 157, the government said, with a tragically small number of the primates treated or recovering.

A heat dome — an area of strong high pressure centred over the southern Gulf of Mexico and northern Central America — has blocked clouds from forming and caused extensive sunshine and hot temperatures all across Mexico.

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Last week, environmentalists had reported that 138 of the midsize primates, known for their roaring vocal calls, had been found dead in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco since May 16. Almost two-thirds of the country are expected to see highs of 45 C on Monday.

Late Sunday the Environment Department reported that number had risen to 157, and that research was continuing into the causes of the deaths. But a wildlife biologist on the scene said it appeared to be heat stroke.

The department said deaths were occurring in both Tabasco and the neighbouring state of Chiapas, and that 13 monkeys were under treatment and seven had been treated and released back into their habitat.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Guides and Links

B.C. Flood: Read all our coverage on the Fraser Valley and beyond

Frequently asked questions about climate change: NASA

What is climate change? A really simple guide from the BBC

Climate change made B.C. heat wave 150 times more likely, study concludes

B.C.’s heat wave: Intense weather event is linked to climate crisis, say scientists

Expert: climate change expected to bring longer wildfire seasons and more area burned

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COVID-19 may have halted massive protests, but youth are taking their fight for the future to the courts

Climate displacement a growing concern in B.C. as extreme weather forces residents out of their homes

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