B.C. Climate News: How to reach 30×30 | Foundation buys key riverfront

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A new year approaches, and with it comes new policies aimed at tackling the inextricably linked climate and ecological crises. Here is your weekly roundup of all the latest news concerning climate change, biodiversity loss, and the steps leaders are taking to address these issues.

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• BC Parks Foundation buys up key riverfront along Fraser River
• Canadian polar bears near ‘bear capital’ dying at fast rate as ice melts
• How can BC achieve conserving 30 per cent of land and water by 2030?

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned for a decade that wildfires, drought, severe weather, such as BC’s deadly heat dome and catastrophic flooding in 2021, would become more frequent and more intense because of the climate crisis.

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.

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There is a scientific consensus on climate change (NASA reports that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human activity is the cause.) Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming.

Check back here every Saturday for a roundup of the latest climate and environmental stories. You can also get up to date BC-focused news delivered to your inbox by 7 am by subscribing to our newsletter here.

A glance at BC’s carbon numbers:

  • BC’s gross greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 (latest available data) were 64.6 million tons 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.
  • BC’s net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 were 63.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e.) This is a net decrease of 2.0 MtCO2e, or three per cent, since 2007.
  • BC’s net emissions in 2019: 67.2 MtCO2e, an increase of 1.5 MtCO2e, or two per cent, since 2007.
  • BC’s 2030 target: 40 per cent reduction in net emissions below 2007 levels.
  • BC’s 2040 target: 60 per cent reduction.
  • BC’s 2050 target: 80 per cent reduction.
  • Canada’s 2030 emissions target: Between 40 and 45 per cent reduction.
  • Canada’s 2050 emissions target: Net-zero.

(source: BC and Canadian governments)

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Source: NASA
Source: NASA

Climate change quick facts:

  • The Earth is now about 1.1 C warmer than it was in the 1800s.
  • Globally, 2021 was the fifth warmest year on record.
  • 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.
  • 2015-2019 were the five warmest years on record while 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record.
  • 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% of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human beings are the cause.

(Source: United Nations IPCC, World Meteorological Organization, UNEP, NASA, climatedata.ca)

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BC Parks Foundation buys up key riverfront along Fraser River

The BC Parks Foundation has bought key riverfront property along the Fraser River between Mission and Hope to protect it and restore it to its natural state.

The parcel purchased isn’t especially large, measuring 35 hectares or about an eighth of a square mile. But it is a part of “the heart of the Fraser River” — an 80-kilometre stretch of river from Mission to Hope that sustains BC’s largest salmon spawning run.

Every second year, that part of the Fraser sees millions of pink salmon spawning in the river’s main stem, many in close proximity to the property.

“This is one of the most productive stretches of river on the planet,” said Parks Foundation CEO Andy Day in an announcement of the purchase.

“It supports close to 30 species of fish and our finest sturgeon habitat, as well as being an essential rearing habitat and migration corridor for millions and millions of salmon.”

Read the full story here.

—Joseph Ruttle

File photo of a young male polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area in 2020.
File photo of a young male polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area in 2020. Photo by STRINGER /REUTERS

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Canadian polar bears near ‘bear capital’ dying at fast rate

Polar bears in Canada’s Western Hudson Bay—on the southern edge of the Arctic—are continuing to die in high numbers, a new government survey of the land carnivore has found. Females and bear cubs are having an especially hard time.

Researchers surveyed Western Hudson Bay — home to Churchill, the town called ‘the Polar Bear Capital of the World,’ — by air in 2021 and estimated there were 618 bears, compared to the 842 in 2016, when they were last surveyed.

“The actual decline is a lot larger than I would have expected,” said Andrew Derocher, a biology professor at the University of Alberta who has studied Hudson Bay polar bears for nearly four decades. Derocher was not involved in the study.

Since the 1980s, the number of bears in the region has fallen by nearly 50%, the authors found. The ice essential to their survival is disappearing.

Polar bears rely on arctic sea ice—frozen ocean water—that shrinks in the summer with warmer temperatures and forms again in the long winter. They use it to hunt, perching near holes in the thick ice to spot seals, their favorite food, coming up for air. But as the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world because of climate change, sea ice is cracking earlier in the year and taking longer to freeze in the fall.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Old growth forest in the Lower Seymour Conservation area in North Vancouver.
Old growth forest in the Lower Seymour Conservation area in North Vancouver. Photo by Arlen Redekop /png

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Biodiversity: How will BC protect 30% of the province by 2030?

Mudflats near Chesterman Beach and along the Browning Passage near Tofino might seem unassumingly ordinary, but they are rich in their diversity of invertebrates, eel grasses and algae, and worth preserving as BC tries to protect 30 per cent of the province by 2030.

They are among 175 sites identified by the environmental group Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada as areas of high biodiversity or “key biodiversity areas” in BC that it highlighted at the conclusion of the United Nations conference on biodiversity, COP 15, in Montreal.

They have a “disproportionate importance for nature,” said Ian Adams, BC coordinator for Wildlife Conservation’s key biodiversity areas project.

Canada signed on to COP 15’s landmark agreement to conserve 30 per cent of the planet to protect biodiversity, so the WCS Canada list isn’t so much a guide as an additional resource for BC’s minister of water, land and resource stewardship, Nathan Cullen, who leads the charge in this province.

Cullen wasn’t available for an interview, but his staff, in an unattributed statement, called the analyzes of the WCS and other non-governmental groups “important to help guide the selection of conservation opportunities that complement the knowledge, interests and needs of First Nations and local communities.”

Premier David Eby put the “30 by 30” objective, as it is called in shorthand, into Cullen’s mandate. He is to work with the federal government, Indigenous Peoples and communities on protecting key areas, which will include Indigenous protected areas.

Read the full story here.

—Derrick Penner

Paradox between warming climate and intense snowstorms, say scientists

There is a complex, counterintuitive relationship between rising global temperatures and the likelihood of increasingly intense snowstorms across Canada.

Winters are becoming on average milder and warmer than they used to be, but there has also been a noted rise across the country in extreme weather events, such as intense snowstorms, said John Clague, a professor of geosciences at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby , BC

People might think it illogical that parts of the country are seeing more snowstorms as the climate warms, he said. “What climate modelers are finding is that climate change involves more frequent extremes.”

“That means during summer, you can have extreme high temperatures, kind of life-threatening high temperatures, such as they’ve experienced in India and Pakistan in recent years. And you also can have, during winter, these extreme cold conditions.”

One of the reasons for the extremes involves the jet stream — defined by Environment Canada as “a narrow band of strong winds about 10 kilometers above the Earth, marking the dividing line between warm and cold air masses.”

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

US gets 1 bid for oil and gas lease in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

The US government on Friday said it received one bid for the right to drill offshore for oil and gas in Alaska’s Cook Inlet near habitat for bears, salmon, humpback whales and endangered beluga whales.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC submitted the sole bid — $63,983 for an area covering 2,304 hectares or 5,693 acres.

The company is a unit of Hilcorp, which is the largest privately held oil and gas exploration and production company in the United States. It already has leases to drill for oil and gas in onshore areas of Cook Inlet, which stretches from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska.

Environmentalists criticized the sale, saying oil and gas leases undermine efforts to address climate change. They also expressed concern that an oil spill could harm wildlife, subsistence gathering and commercial and sport fishing.

Read the full story here.


BC timber industry in throes of change, as premier warns of ‘exhausted forests’

BC’s forest sector has “never been under greater stress,” Premier David Eby says.

There is an “inescapable recognition that change is needed to ensure our forest industry is sustainable,” he writes in his mandate letter for the new forests minister, Bruce Ralston.

Eby’s letter to the minister of water, land and resource stewardship, Nathan Cullen, says “short-term thinking” in land management has led to “exhausted forests.”

The new premier’s pointed language to his ministers highlights how the forests sector is in the throes of change, as the province embarks on plans to “modernize” how forests are managed in a time of ecological concerns, fluctuating lumber prices and dwindling supply of trees for harvesting.

Read the full story here.

—‚The Canadian Press


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