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Weekly roundup of climate change news to Oct. 29, 2023

Here’s your weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of Oct. 23 to Oct. 29, 2023.

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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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• A Calgary researcher says the sea ice in Antarctica is the lowest it has been since 1986
• Squamish council voted to support a proposed class action lawsuit against fossil fuel companies
• By 2035, all new vehicles sold in B.C. must be electric. Is it achievable?
• Trudeau pulls carbon tax from home heating oil

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Since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, mainly because of burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, which produces heat-trapping gases. 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 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.
  • 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.

(Source: United Nations IPCCWorld Meteorological OrganizationUNEPNasa, climatedata.ca)

This diagram shows how high GHG emissions are globally
Source: NASA

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Latest News

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

By 2035, all new vehicles sold in B.C. must be electric. Is it achievable?

The B.C. government’s goal of having all new light-duty vehicles sold be electric by 2035 could be tough to achieve without expanded charging infrastructure and more incentives to make EVs affordable, observers say.

While the province introduced a rebate program to offset the cost of installing EV chargers in homes, workplaces and multi-unit residential buildings, Werner Antweiler, an associate professor at the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business, said people still face uncertainty about whether they’ll be able to charge-up in their strata or rental building.

“Many people rely only on street parking and don’t have dedicated parking spots or garages where they can actually install a charger,” said Antweiler, who has closely studied EV adoption trends worldwide. “So the charging issue is one of the more significant challenges that I see here in B.C. that is holding back uptake.”

The fix for that, Antweiler said, is more incentives for landlords to retrofit rental buildings with charging infrastructure and political will from municipal governments to install more overnight, slow-charging and fast-charging stations in public parking spots.

Read the full story here.

—Katie DeRosa

‘Dramatic decline’: Calgary researcher says sea ice in Antarctica lowest since 1986

A Calgary researcher, who has spent the last eight months in Antarctica studying sea ice, says he has seen first-hand how big an effect climate change has had in the region.

Vishnu Nandan, a post-doctoral associate with the University of Calgary, along with Robbie Mallett, from the University of Manitoba, have been studying ways to improve how radar satellites measure the thickness of Antarctic sea ice and snow.

The research is part of a British-based project called DEFIANT — Drivers and Effects of Fluctuations in sea Ice in the ANTarctic — which aims to deploy a state-of-the-art ground-based radar system that mimics the satellites in space.

“We actually came knowing we wouldn’t have a lot of sea ice, because it’s been really warm,” Nandan said in a phone interview from Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island, nearly 1,900 kilometres south of the Falkland Islands.

“We came in where we had the lowest sea ice on record over the past many decades, so we didn’t have sea ice much and we had really thin ice in the winter.”

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Squamish council votes to support class action lawsuit against fossil fuel companies

The District of Squamish voted 5-2 this week to support a proposed class action lawsuit spearheaded by a B.C.-based law firm, joining two other local governments.

The district voted Tuesday to set aside funds — $1 per resident or about $25,000 — in the 2025 budget for this suit.

Last year, Vancouver, under then-Mayor Kennedy Stewart, also voted 6-5 to support West Coast Environmental Law’s Sue Big Oil campaign and had planned to participate in the legal action that will ask the world’s major oil companies to pay municipalities to help cover climate-change-related costs like seawall repairs and protections from extreme heat.

But that was later overturned by current Mayor Ken Sim and his predominantly ABC city council.

“Given that Vancouver already spends $50 million per year on climate-related damages, this, in our view, was a short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible decision,” Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, told Postmedia News on Wednesday.

Squamish joins the Townships of Gibsons and View Royal in joining the proposed class action suit. Gage said many other jurisdictions, including the Islands Trust trustees and Powell River and Highland councils, are considering the proposal.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Trudeau
File photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons. Photo by Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

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Trudeau pulls carbon tax from home heating oil as poll numbers plunge in Atlantic Canada

Facing bad political headwinds in Atlantic Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to reduce the financial impact of his carbon tax Thursday, temporarily removing the tax from home heating oil and boosting rebates for rural residents.

Trudeau made the announcement Thursday afternoon with the members of his Atlantic caucus standing behind him. Home heating oil will be exempt from the carbon tax for the next three years across the country, currently rural residents get a 10 per cent boost to the carbon tax rebate payments and that will climb to 20 per cent starting next year.

Trudeau said the changes were about adapting the program recognizing people in Atlantic Canada in particular were struggling.

“The highest proportion of people with home heating oil across the country are in Atlantic Canada and that’s why this hit them particularly hard as the provincial pricing systems were replaced by the federal pricing system,” he said.

In most of the country, heating oil is rarely used, but in Atlantic Canada it is used in 40 per cent of homes.

Read the full story here.

—National Post

Vaughn Palmer: Federal flip-flop on carbon tax stuns B.C. NDP

There was no missing the angry disappointment this week when the B.C. New Democrats responded to the federal government’s surprise tweak of the country’s carbon tax.

“We just learned of this federal announcement,” said the news release that went out late Thursday afternoon from Energy Minister Josie Osborne and Environment Minister George Heyman.

Ottawa’s failure to provide the province with advance notice was “unfortunate” the two ministers said. “We expect better partnership from the federal government.”

Their indignation was warranted.

The province, which pioneered the country’s first carbon tax, has been one of the strongest supporters of the belated federal venture into carbon taxation.

For their pains, the New Democrats learned only after the fact Thursday that the federal government was granting a three-year holiday from carbon taxation on home heating oil.

The relief would apply only to provinces where the federal fuel charge applies: Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.

B.C. was excluded because the province has its own carbon tax regime, predating the federal version.

Read the full editorial here.

—Vaughn Palmer

UBC researchers say microbes could help find minerals needed for green-energy transition

Researchers at the University of B.C. have discovered a way to search for precious mineral deposits in soil using the DNA of microbes.

And they say this method — believed to be the first use of modern DNA sequencing to search for minerals — could eventually be used to source materials needed to build electric vehicles.

A study published this week in Nature Communications Earth and Environment shows how markers in the microbes’ DNA helped researchers find kimberlite in the surface soil in Northwest Territories and other parts of Northern Canada. Kimberlite is a type of rock that can contain diamond ores. It can also capture and store atmospheric carbon.

One of the study’s co-authors, Bianca Iulianella Phillips, a doctoral candidate at UBC’s department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences, said their technique is a way to “see through soil” at the rocks, precious metals and minerals below. And to do that, they look for markers in the DNA of soil microbes.

“What we were able to do is link specific signatures of microbes to the minerals that are buried underneath the soil so that we’re able to identify the mineral deposits,” said Iulianella Phillips.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

B.C. introduces crowd-sourcing mechanism to protect old-growth forests, more habitat

The B.C. government is moving to protect more old-growth forests and critical habitat with a type of crowd-sourced funding.

Premier David Eby says the government will work with the independent B.C. Parks Foundation and First Nations to introduce the funding tool that backs efforts to protect valuable ecosystems.

Eby says the province will contribute $150 million to a conservation funding mechanism that will be matched by a B.C. Parks Foundation commitment.

The government says the $150 million provided by the province will leverage further donations in a crowd-sourcing approach, encouraging other organizations and people to contribute to ecosystem protection.

Environmental groups, including the Wilderness Committee and Ancient Forest Alliance, say the fund has the power to create new protected areas by working with First Nations, government and private donors.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

‘Elegant’ low-carbon energy projects planned by northern B.C. First Nation: David Eby

A northern B.C. First Nation has signed an agreement with the province to work together on what Premier David Eby calls an “elegant” proposal for a clean energy hub on band territory north of Prince George.

McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Harley Chingee says signing a memorandum of understanding for the Tse’khene energy transition hub gives him certainty to move forward “in a good way” on the project that relies on existing pipelines in the region, including Coastal GasLink.

The pact, also signed with the B.C. Energy Regulator, formerly the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, sets up a framework to create low-carbon energy through several Indigenous owned and operated projects, starting with a hydrogen production facility.

A second project would develop a so-called straddle plant capable of skimming high-value liquids such as ethylene from natural gas in the four pipelines already running across McLeod Lake traditional lands.

Collectively, the projects are worth about $7 billion and could create as many as 2,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent, full-time jobs.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Drought reveals cracks in Canada-U.S. Columbia River Treaty as B.C. lake dries up

Victoria Youmans says she hasn’t seen Arrow Lakes Reservoir looking so low in more than 20 years.

The resident of Nakusp on the shores of the reservoir in British Columbia’s southern Interior says she’s seen thousands of dead fish on the shore, and the receding waterline means boat access has been cut to waterfront properties. Instead of lapping waters, some homes now face an expanse of sucking quicksand.

Drought is part of reason. But so too is the Columbia River Treaty with the United States that obligates B.C. to direct water from the reservoir across the border at American behest.

The grim scenes described by Youmans illustrate the stakes in ongoing talks between Canadian and U.S. negotiators to modernize the 62-year-old treaty, as the increased risk of extreme weather weighs on both sides. Part of the treaty that gives the United States direct control over a portion of the water in Arrow Lakes Reservoir and two other B.C. dams is set to expire in September 2024.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

mindful architecture
Genevieve Noel (left) and husband T. McGinnis Cocivera near their home in North Vancouver , BC Wednesday, October 25, 2023. The pair founded the firm Mindful Architecture which designs buildings that intertwine with nature. Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

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North Vancouver architecture team designs Indigenous-inspired buildings that blend with nature

An architectural firm in North Vancouver wants to transform the way houses are built so they interweave with nature and can withstand the challenges of climate change.

Some of the firm’s designs, like the “Earth Sheltered Solar Pit House,” use a concrete-like material that sequesters carbon, and a vegetated roof system that resists fire, which could replace wood-frame houses where wildfire has destroyed homes.

Architect T. Maginnis Cocivera and designer Geneviève Noël, who founded Mindful Architecture in 2017, will be speaking at Metro Vancouver’s annual Zero Waste Conference, which runs Nov. 1 to Nov. 2 in Vancouver.

Noël, who has mixed French and Indigenous heritage, has a passion for revitalizing biodiversity and Indigenous culture. Looking through the lens of permaculture, Noël finds form through the path of the sun or the flow of water and aims to showcase the sophistication of traditional Indigenous tectonics.

Cocivera, an award-winning architect, has worked in many cities around the world, and contributed to projects with Busby Perkins + Will in Vancouver, notably Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 and the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability at UBC.

They said the concepts for their 3D printed pit house or their pre-fabricated fire-resistant solar plank houses could be a solution for the housing crisis. Although they are still working on cost estimates, and testing, Cocivera said using 3D printers and cement-like products have already been proved to work in other cities around the world to provide low-cost housing.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

B.C. and Washington State agree to address Nooksack River flooding, set no timeline or obligations

A recent agreement signed by B.C. and Washington State to come up with projects to address flooding from the Nooksack River does not lay out a timeline or funding obligations.

While local government officials on both sides of the border welcomed the agreement, they stressed it is imperative to get on with solutions to complex problems, set priorities, and put up some money.

In 2021, Nooksack River flooding contributed to billions in damages in the Fraser Valley. In the 1990s, a cross-border task force was created to find solutions after a similar flood, but no actions were taken.

A new seven-page agreement makes it clear nothing in it is legally binding and does not create any funding expectation or obligation for any of the parties.

Dylan Kruger, chairman of Metro Vancouver’s flood resiliency task force, stressed high-level government collaboration in the new cross-border initiative is needed to get results because that is who holds decision-making authority and funding.

Read the full story here.

—Gordon Hoekstra

 


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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.

GUIDES AND LINKS

It’s official: El Niño has started. Here’s what that means for B.C.

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

Frequently asked questions about climate change: NASA

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


Do you know someone who is doing something positive in the fight against climate change? Please email [email protected] with story ideas and tips.


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