Weekly roundup of climate change news to June 9, 2024

Here’s the weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of June 3 to June 9, 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:

• UBC study calls for restoring Sumas Lake after devastating 2021 floods
• Ottawa creates $530-million fund to help cities adapt to climate change
• Climate scientist Claudia Sheinbaum becomes Mexico’s first woman president
• Ottawa rejects $1.7 billion in B.C. flood projects, shows more funding needed, say experts

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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, climatedata.ca)

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Co2 graph
Source: NASA

Latest News

2021 flood
Flooded farmland is seen in an aerial view from a Canadian Forces reconnaissance flight in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

UBC study calls for restoring Sumas Lake after devastating 2021 floods

Sumas Lake, which was drained in 1924 and converted into farmland in the Fraser Valley, should be restored to its natural state to prevent catastrophic flooding, says a study from the University of B.C.

The study, published Monday in Frontiers in Conservation Science, is a collaboration between UBC scientists and members of the Semá:th First Nation to look at ways to deal with severe flooding on the Sumas Prairie, which is expected to become worse because of climate change.

It’s controversial because it would require displacement of multi-generational farm families, from the fertile Sumas Prairie.

However, for the Semá:th, or Sumas, First Nation, the draining of the lake was a harmful decision as it destroyed their way of life — fishing, hunting for waterfowl and collecting plants for medicine around the lake.

UBC researchers did an economic analysis of “managed retreat,” which they describe as the purposeful relocation of people and infrastructure to safer areas. They estimated buying out properties on the lake bed would cost around $1 billion, less than half the estimated $2.4 billion to repair dikes and install a new pump station.

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Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Ottawa creates $530-million fund to help cities adapt to climate change

Canadian cities and towns facing an uphill battle to stave off the effects of climate change will share more than half a billion dollars from a new federal adaptation fund, but the money is barely a blip in the bills Canadian municipalities are facing for floods, fires and other severe weather.

A 2020 analysis done for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada said local governments need $5.3 billion a year to adapt to climate change.

On Monday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced Ottawa will provide $530 million over the next eight years for the new Local Leadership for Climate Adaptation program.

Under the initiative, local governments can apply for up to $1 million to help cover adaptation project costs and up to $70,000 for risk assessments and feasibility studies.

“In a world of floods, vicious storms, wildfires and other climate impacts, making our communities more livable means planning ahead and building more resiliency into key local infrastructures,” Guilbeault said.

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The program was announced in November 2022, but only got its funding in the most recent federal budget in April.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Klowa Art Cafe
Handout photo of the Klowa Art Cafe after the 2021 wildfire in Lytton. Photo by Meghan Fandrich /sun

B.C. wildfire, flood survivors want climate change action

Lytton resident Meghan Fandrich’s young daughter wasn’t home when fire tore through their community three years ago during a deadly climate-fuelled heat dome.

But Fandrich says her daughter Helen’s still afraid of fire, and doesn’t want candles on her birthday cake when she turns eight this year.

The mother and daughter pair have come through years of trauma. It has been difficult coping with the fear and uncertainty that summers and winters now bring to Lytton, but that same fear has also propelled Fandrich to take action.

The B.C. resident spoke to Postmedia this week from Ottawa, where she was preparing to attend a parliamentary committee meeting to call for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

But taking action hasn’t entirely erased the moments of post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, when she watched the news last summer and saw other B.C. residents go through the same horror of trying to escape with their lives and losing their properties in West Kelowna.

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Every time they look out the window they see the charred remnants of their community. There are daily reminders they can’t do normal activities such as go to an ice cream shop for a treat or play sports at a local community centre.

“The town I grew up in, where I was raising my daughter, was suddenly gone,” said Fandrich in an interview Wednesday from Ottawa, where she has joined several other climate-disaster survivors to share their experiences with the federal government.

For the last three years, they have been living in a burned-out town, which means they have to drive at least an hour to get groceries. They used to have a playground at the elementary school, and a vibrant community centre where residents would gather. Not anymore.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Wildfire plan wants half of Canadians to act in response to climate change by 2025

Canadian federal, provincial and territorial forest ministers have signed on to a national strategy that they say aims to raise awareness of wildfire risks across the country.

B.C. Forestry Minister Bruce Ralston, chair of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, says the wildland fire prevention and mitigation strategy is a “call to action” to raise awareness, strengthen First Nations partnerships and expand investment in fire prevention.

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The plan aims to contribute to a national goal that by next year 60 per cent of Canadians in areas of high fire risk are aware of those dangers, and half of Canadians will have taken concrete actions to better respond to climate change.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the targets mean Canadians will be able to hold their governments accountable for progress made over the coming years.

The strategy says by 2025 all jurisdictions will “establish dedicated prevention and mitigation governance structures” and have targeted wildfire training across industries and communities.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

New Mexico president
Presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum of ”Sigamos Haciendo Historia” arrives to give a speech after the first results released by the election authorities show that she leads the polls by wide margin after the presidential election at Hilton Hotel on June 3, 2024 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Hector Vivas /Getty Images

Mexico elects climate scientist Claudia Sheinbaum as first female president

Mexico’s projected presidential winner Claudia Sheinbaum will become the first female president in the country’s 200-year history.

Sheinbaum, the favored successor of outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, vowed to continue on the direction set by the populist leftist leader. But the cool-tempered scientist offers a sharp contrast in style — and a break with Mexico’s male-dominated political culture.

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“I promise that I am not going to let you down,” Sheinbaum said, greeting supports in Mexico City’s colonial-era main plaza, the Zocalo.

The National Electoral Institute’s president said Sheinbaum had between 58.3. per cent and 60.7 per cent of the vote, while opposition candidate Xochitl Galvez had between 26.6 per cent and 28.6 per cent and Jorge Alvarez Maynez had between 9.9 per cent and 10.8 per cent of the vote. Sheinbaum’s Morena party was also projected to hold its majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The climate scientist and former Mexico City mayor said that her two competitors had called her and conceded her victory.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Trudeau pitches strong ties to Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico’s first woman president

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is welcoming the election of Mexico’s next president, Claudia Sheinbaum, and pitching closer ties between the two countries as they ponder the future of North American relations.

Mexicans elected Sheinbaum as their first female president Sunday, and in October she will replace Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

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The election comes three months after the Liberals reimposed a visa requirement for Mexican visitors over concerns that the 2016 lifting of the requirement led to a rise in ineligible refugee claims and human smuggling into the U.S.

The two countries will be part of the 2026 review of the trade deal that replaced NAFTA, as both U.S. President Joe Biden and his likely election opponent Donald Trump propose policies that would clamp down on trade.

Trudeau says he wants to work with Sheinbaum on climate change, international security, gender equality and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

—The Canadian Press

Water in a blueberry field
Water pools around Abbotsford farmer Jaswant Dhillon’s blueberry plants in January 2024. The blueberries were replanted after the 2021 flood. Photo by Jaswant Dhillon /sun

Ottawa rejects $1.7 billion in B.C. flood projects, shows more funding needed: experts

Canada needs to boost funding for climate resiliency and do a better job of helping communities with their project applications, say experts after Ottawa rejected $1.7 billion in flood protection for Abbotsford, Merritt and Princeton.

The three communities were among the hardest hit during the deadly floods that hit British Columbia in November 2021, displacing thousands of people and causing billions in damage. In B.C.’s. most-costly natural disaster, five people died, homes were destroyed, and roads and bridges were washed away.

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“We’re not using risk data, where the risk is concentrated, to prioritize resources of the federal government to the areas that need it most,” said Jason Thistlethwaite, a University of Waterloo professor who studies how to reduce the economic effects of extreme weather and climate-change adaptation.

“It’s clear that these three communities do not have the resources they need to be able to effectively climate proof their communities from their biggest risk.”

Thistlethwaite said Canada’s disaster mitigation programs are “chronically” underfunded.

He noted that a national level flood risk assessment reveals the homes in the top one per cent of flood risk contribute to about 40 per cent of the damage, just 95,000 homes that could be targeted as a first priority.

Thistlethwaite said he was surprised the three B.C. communities didn’t quality for funding under the federal government’s disaster mitigation and adaptation fund.

Read the full story here.

—Gordon Hoekstra

UN official highlights how better preparation has shrunk disaster deaths despite worsening climate

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As climate change makes disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts more intense, more frequent and striking more places, fewer people are dying from those catastrophes globally because of better warning, planning and resilience, a top United Nations official said.

The world hasn’t really noticed how the type of storms that once killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people now only claim handfuls of lives, new United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Kamal Kishore, who heads the UN’s office for disaster risk reduction told The Associated Press. But he said much more needs to be done to keep these disasters from pushing people into abject poverty.

“Fewer people are dying of disasters and if you look at that as a proportion of total population, it’s even fewer,” Kishore said in his first interview since taking office in mid-May. “We often take for granted the progress that we’ve made.”

“Twenty years ago there was no tsunami early warning system except for one small part of the world. Now the whole world is covered by a tsunami warning system” after the 2004 tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, Kishore said.

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People are getting better warnings about tropical cyclones — also called hurricanes and typhoons — so now the chances of dying in a tropical cyclone in a place like the Philippines are about one-third of what they were 20 years ago, Kishore said.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Climate solution: Massachusetts town experiments with community heating and cooling

Jennifer and Eric Mauchan live in a Cape Cod-style house in Framingham, Massachusetts that they’ve been cooling with five air conditioners. In the summer, the electric bill for the 2,600-square-foot home can be $200.

In the winter, heating with natural gas is often more than $300 a month, even with the temperature set at 18 C.

“My mom, when she was alive, wouldn’t come to our house in the wintertime,” because it was too cold, Eric Mauchan said.

But beginning Tuesday, their neighbourhood will be part of a pilot climate solution that connects 37 homes and businesses with a highly-efficient, underground heating and cooling system. Even taking into account that several of the buildings will be switching from natural gas to electricity, people are expected to see their electric bills drop by 20% on average. It’s a model some experts say can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere.

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“As soon as they told me about it, I bought in 100%,” said Jennifer Mauchan, who works in finance, remembering her first meeting with representatives from Eversource, the gas and electric utility that installed the system. “From a financial perspective, I thought that it was a very viable option for us.”

She cited lower greenhouse gases that cause climate change as an important factor in the decision.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs urge banks to snub TC Energy bonds

An Indigenous group that opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline is urging banks and investors against financing a proposed second phase of the project.

Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation of B.C. have written an open letter to Canada’s biggest banks and investors, urging them to make a public commitment not to buy any new bonds issued by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp., the company behind Coastal GasLink.

“We are aware that (Coastal GasLink) is pursuing Phase 2 of the project alongside LNG Canada, seeking to build additional compressor stations as part of a plan to increase capacity of the pipeline,” states the letter sent to 12 major banks and 49 institutional investors and pension funds.

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“Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs oppose and do not give consent to build these compressor stations and will pursue avenues to challenge these permits and construction.”

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was designed to transport natural gas from Western Canada to the Shell-led LNG Canada export facility currently nearing completion in Kitimat, B.C., was completed last fall.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian 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

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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