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Weekly roundup of climate change news to March 24, 2024

Here’s your weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of March 18 to March 24, 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:

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• B.C. to provide $80 million to help farmers cope with drought
• Winter comes to a close as Canada’s warmest on record
• B.C. funds studies aimed at net-zero airports, sustainable fuel options
• Researchers at UBC link forest bathing with improved cognitive function

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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 here each Saturday for more climate and environmental news or sign up for our new Climate Connected newsletter HERE.


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.
  • 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)

Co2 graph
Source: NASA

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Latest News

B.C. to provide $80 million to help farmers cope with drought

Rancher Werner Stump said spring is usually a “season of optimism” for farmers in B.C., but worries linger after unprecedented drought last year and with another dry season looming.

“I’d say that there is the normal spring enthusiasm, but in the back of our minds, we’re still concerned about how this year is going to play out with respect to water,” Stump, who is also vice-president of the B.C. Cattleman’s Association, told a news conference Monday.

He said that is why farmers in B.C. are grateful to learn the provincial government is investing $80 million to help them manage, collect and store water for crops and livestock.

“Without water for agriculture, the Agriculture Land Reserve is practically meaningless,” he said, referring to the zones in B.C. designated and protected specifically for agricultural use.

He said production at his ranch in the Shuswap region was impacted substantially by the drought last year.

Premier David Eby made the funding announcement Monday while inside a bell pepper greenhouse in Delta, saying this summer’s drought may be even worse than last year as snow levels remain remarkably low.

He said climate change-related events, particularly drought, make it tough for farmers to secure enough water for animals, feed and crops, which makes grocery prices soar.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Beach
File photo of a person on Third Beach in winter. Photo: Jason Payne/PNG. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

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‘The lost season’: Winter comes to a close as Canada’s warmest on record

The warmest winter on record could have far-reaching effects on everything from wildfire season to erosion, climatologists say, while offering a preview of what the season could resemble in the not-so-distant future unless steps are taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Winter comes to a close on Tuesday night — early Wednesday on Canada’s East Coast — with the arrival of the spring equinox. But climatologist David Phillips says it’s almost as if this winter in Canada never happened.

“I called it the lost season,” said Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canada shattered temperature records this winter, and it wasn’t close, Phillips said, referring to national data going back to 1948.

While winter’s end is typically marked by the equinox, climatologists look at what’s known as meteorological winter, the three-month period from December to February. Over that period, Canada was 5.2 C warmer than average, said Phillips. That’s 1.1 degrees warmer than the previous record set in 2009-2010.

There were bouts of extreme winter weather across Canada, from a January deep freeze on the Prairies to a massive snowfall in the Maritimes in February. But the warmer-than-normal and unusual weather was widely felt across the country.

This winter, Phillips said, “was put on hold — and not on ice.”

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

B.C. funds studies aimed at net-zero airports, sustainable fuel options

A new study will collect carbon emissions data from B.C.’s regional airports with the goal of getting all airports in the province to net-zero by 2030.

The study is part of the $875,000 announced by the government for research aimed at making the airline industry more environmentally sustainable after the province signed a memorandum of understanding with Vancouver’s airport.

A second study will look at accelerating the development of sustainable low-carbon aviation fuels, something Premier David Eby says is necessary for the future of air travel.

Tamara Vrooman, president of Vancouver International Airport, says one option uses tallow byproduct from meat processing, and the potential for using wood waste is also something they’ll be looking into.

Vrooman says the airport is “well on its way” to becoming net-zero by 2030, which would make it the first Canadian airport to do so.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Electric
A report last year said Canada will need to have around 200,000 publicly accessible electric vehicle chargers by 2030. Photo by T. Narayan/Bloomberg files

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B.C. to add 500 public electric vehicle charging stations to fill gaps in network

Drivers of electric vehicles in B.C. can expect another 500 public charging stations to come online, adding to more than 5,000 available across the province.

A statement from the Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Ministry says it’s providing $30 million from this year’s budget to expand B.C.’s “electric highway.”

Energy Minister Josie Osborne says officials know that EV drivers want to have confidence that they will be able to readily charge their vehicles throughout the province.

The ministry says the public charging program is prioritizing applications for projects that fill geographic gaps in the existing charging network, aiming to ensure every community in B.C. has access to a fast-charging station.

It says the program will also prioritize projects in areas that are highly accessible to the public, such as community centres, libraries and highway rest stops.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Canada spent $1.4M sending delegation to COP28 conference in Dubai: documents

Participating in a UN climate change conference last year cost Canada nearly $1.4 million, according to newly released documents.

The 28th United Nations climate change conference, also known as COP28, took place in Dubai from Nov. 30 until Dec. 12.

Canada’s delegation consisted of 633 attendees, according to answers contained within an order paper question submitted by Conservative MP Andrew Scheer.

They included federal and provincial politicians, Indigenous and environmental groups, and executives from both government agencies and private corporations.

The numbers contained in the documents are not final, as invoices and claims are still being processed.

Read the full story here.

—Bryan Passifiume

Sparks fly as non-confidence motion fails to bring down Liberal government over federal carbon tax

There were references to an online trend and a children’s fable in the House of Commons during the Conservatives’ attempt to force a federal election over the carbon tax on Thursday, but very little talk of the country’s environmental policies.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre triggered the debate when he introduced a “motion of non-confidence” in hopes of making the minority Liberal government fall to protest their planned increase on the price on pollution by $15 to $80 per tonne on April 1.

The motion was ultimately rejected late Thursday afternoon, given the supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, which forces New Democrats to vote with the governing party for all matters of confidence. The Bloc Québécois also voted against the motion.

“This year, groceries are going to cost $700 more than they did last year for the average family. And in the middle of all of this, what does the NDP, and this prime minister choose? To raise taxes on food and fuel, on heat and homes,” said Poilievre during the debate earlier in the day.

“We cannot in good conscience stand by while this prime minister imposes more misery and suffering on the Canadian people,” he added.

NDP MP Charlie Angus mocked Poilievre’s threat of bringing down the government over the carbon tax and noted that it was not the first time that the Conservative leader had made a promise to slow down the work of the Commons without exactly following through.

Read the full story here.

—Catherine Lévesque

No end in sight to ‘ticking time bombs’ of pollution in Vancouver’s False Creek, mariners say

More and more people looking to beat Vancouver’s high cost of living have been purchasing boats to live on in False Creek.

But Zaida Schneider, the director of a non-profit that works to restore the inlet’s marine environment, has become concerned with the number of vessels that have sunk or run aground, which he is calling “ticking time bombs of pollution.”

Postmedia News cruised the channel with Schneider on a recent afternoon. Within minutes, after taking off east from Granville Island’s public docks, a fully submerged sailboat was visible. Only its mast was peeking out of the inlet’s waters.

“It happens all the time,” Schneider said from behind the wheel of the tug boat that he’s lived on of for five years at Heather Civic Marina.

“I told the Coast Guard about this boat last week, it was obvious that no one was aboard and it was at risk of sinking — a boat breaking down like that will fill up with rain water and when it sinks, liberates engine oil and other fish-killing toxins like antifreeze.”

Read the full story here.

—Sarah Grochowski

Vaughn Palmer: B.C. premier goes after Poilievre on carbon tax, affordability

Premier David Eby was on the defensive Monday, responding to the latest blast from federal Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre over the pending 23 per cent increase in the made-in-B. C. carbon tax.

Poilievre wrote Eby last week urging him not to proceed with the next increase in the provincial carbon tax, scheduled for April 1. He also asked the B.C. premier to join seven other Canadian premiers and call on Ottawa to stop the next hike in the federal parallel carbon tax, which takes effect the same day.

Eby fired back, stung by the federal leader’s intrusion into the provincial arena on the politically sensitive matter of a tax increase.

“I don’t live in the Pierre Poilievre campaign office and baloney factory,” fumed Eby, whose own campaign for provincial office is underway.

Poilievre soon responded in kind to the premier’s personal attack.

“Under NDP Premier Eby and Justin Trudeau, many British Columbians are forced to eat baloney because they can’t afford anything else,” the federal Opposition leader told Rob Shaw of CHEK TV.

Read Vaughn Palmer’s full column here.

wildfires
File photo of the Donnie Creek wildfire. Photo by Noah Berger /AP

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Busy spring wildfire season may be in store for B.C. as drought persists

B.C. needs a drenching of rain to alleviate the tinder dry conditions that have forecasters worried about the potential for another difficult wildfire season.

Cliff Chapman, director of operations for the BC Wildfire Service, said parts of the province need between 40 and 60 millimetres of rain over two weeks to return the parched ground to what he would consider a “neutral state.”

Chapman said at a public briefing on Monday that droughts across parts of the province continue and the snowpack is just 66 per cent of normal.

“It’s not so much about being concerned for us, it’s about being prepared,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”

Forests Minister Bruce Ralston said the province is securing more equipment and aircraft, and is planning to use new technologies to help fight expected wildfires.

“The season will ultimately be shaped by how much rain B.C. receives this spring and into June. It’s clear that it’s likely to be a challenging wildfire season this year as we continue to see the impacts of climate change,” he said.

The province is also launching a predictive software program across the province to give decision-makers more information and faster.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

forest
File photo of a forest of Western red cedar and western hemlock tower over western sword ferns and spiny wood ferns near Bridal Veil Falls located near the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Chilliwack, B.C. Photo by Ric Ernst /Vancouver Sun

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Forest bathing can ease stress, boost cognitive function: UBC scientist

Whether it’s the cost of living or the climate emergency that’s stressing you out, there’s a nature-based therapy for that.

During the pandemic, health officials urged people to get out into parks and woodland areas as a way of coping with anxiety, sometimes referring to the practice of forest bathing.

Although it has become trendy, the term is traced to the 1980s in Japan and a therapeutic exercise called shinrin-yoku, which aims to heighten the senses through connecting with nature.

Now researchers at UBC’s faculty of forestry are studying the science behind the health benefits of taking a break in the forest.

Guangyu Wang, a professor at UBC forestry’s department of forest resources management, says during the pandemic they surveyed hundreds of students before and after taking them for forest therapy.

He said the therapy included taking a walk through Pacific Spirit Park, meditation, and having a tea ceremony in the park.

They also brought mats and performed yoga on occasion, and conducted experiments with meditation. Students were encouraged to note the sounds and smells around them in the park, and how that made them feel.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Washington’s cherry blossoms hit near-record early peak

Exceptionally warm March weather propelled Washington’s cherry blossoms to their second-earliest peak bloom in more than a century of records Sunday, reflecting the growing influence of human-caused climate change on the famed trees.

“PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! Did we say PEAK BLOOM?!,” the National Park Service wrote on X at 4 p.m. Sunday. “The blossoms are opening & putting on a splendid spring spectacle.”

Sunday’s peak bloom at the Tidal Basin, about two weeks earlier than normal, tied with 2000 as the second earliest on record; only the March 15, 1990, bloom came sooner in observations that date back to 1921. This year’s peak bloom was so early, it preceded the official start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 14, and was also ahead of the earliest projections.

Peak bloom, the last phase of a six-stage bud development cycle, occurs when 70 per cent of the cherry trees are flowering. The buds sped through this cycle in just 15 days, faster than any other year in at least the past two decades.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post


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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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