In Part 1 of the series, Fire & Flood: Facing Two Extremes, our four-month investigation reveals that BC has fallen dangerously short of what’s required to protect our cities and towns from extreme weather events like we saw in 2021. Subscribers exclusive: Read the entire 7-part series today.
Evacuations from fires and floods hit 46,000 people.
The devastation, driven in part by climate change, say experts, is expected to worsen with drier, hotter summers, more frequent floods and rising oceans.
The province has made some efforts to prepare for the expected increased frequency of floods and wildfires, producing numerous reports that date back nearly two decades, working recently on a “new” flood strategy and promising change and more funding following the latest catastrophic events.
But government efforts have fallen dangerously short of what is needed to properly protect communities.
Read part 1 here.
—Gordon Hoekstra, Glenda Luymes
Fire & Flood, Facing Two Extremes: Not keeping up is catching up with BC
The rivers are rising again in Princeton.
As the spring sun warms BC’s mountain slopes, both the Tulameen and Similkameen are starting to swell with snowmelt that could threaten “patched together” flood defenses in the Interior town where the two rivers meet.
“We’re scared shitless,” says Mayor Spencer Coyne. “I don’t know how else to put it.”
It’s been five months since the Tulameen blasted through dikes during a series of severe rainstorms, flooding much of downtown Princeton. Since then, the river has been the color of weak tea, signaling that upper river sediment is still being deposited on the river bottom, possibly raising it almost a meter under one of the town’s main bridges.
“We’re not exactly sure what that will mean for us,” the mayor says, looking down at the smooth water during a tour of town in late March, “but it can’t be good.”
Read Part 2 here.
—Glenda Luymes and Gordon Hoekstra
Greenhouse gas case doesn’t belong in court, BC government argues
The BC government says a lawsuit over its greenhouse gas emission targets should be thrown out.
It argues that issues raised in the lawsuit, filed by Ecojustice last month on behalf of Sierra Club BC, amount to a difference of opinion and are not matters that belong in the courts.
The government was formally responding to the lawsuit, which alleges the Environment Ministry’s plan failed to adequately address how the government intends to reach emission targets.
The government contends that Sierra Club’s complaint is that plans are just not to “Sierra Club’s liking,” particularly with respect to the oil and gas sector targets. It argues that’s not a reasonable basis for a legal action.
The Climate Change Accountability Act requires the government to publish annual reports on how it plans to make progress toward its climate targets. BC’s targets are for provincewide emissions to be at least 40 per cent less than 2007 levels by 2030, at least 60 per cent less by 2040, and 80 per cent less by 2050.
The Sierra Club alleges the 2021 accountability report falls woefully short by failing to include a plan for the 2025, 2040 and 2050 climate targets. It says it also leaves out the government’s plan to cut carbon pollution from the oil and gas sector, mainly from the province’s natural gas industry.
Read the full story here.
Heat wave that hit BC last summer among most extreme since 1960s, study shows
The record-breaking heat wave that scorched western North America last June was among the most extreme ever recorded globally, new modeling and analysis by researchers at universities in the United Kingdom show.
The study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances found just five other heat waves since the 1960s were more extreme, based on how far they surpassed average summertime heat over the previous 10 years.
The paper shows that extremes are getting hotter as temperatures rise with climate change, said Vikki Thompson, senior research associate at the School of Geographical Sciences and Cabot Institute for the Environment at the University of Bristol.
The study projects that by around 2080, heat waves like the one last summer could have a one-in-six chance of happening every year in western North America as the effects of human-caused climate change worsen.
The projections are different depending on whether global climate change is contained, Thompson said.
Read the full story here.
—The Canadian Press
Expanded BC emergency alert system will warn about floods and wildfires
BC will start using the national emergency warning system to warn the public about floods and wildfires. However the alerts will not extend to extreme heat despite the nearly 600 deaths linked to last summer’s heat dome.
The expanded alert system follows criticism of BC’s failure to use the system to warn the public about last summer’s heat dome and the flooding due to the atmospheric river in November that forced thousands from their homes.
“One of the important things to realize about the Alert Ready system is it’s a tool, it is not a silver bullet,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth Tuesday as he announced the expanded alert system. “It is very much intended to warn of an imminent threat.”
The system was already prepared to alert people to tsunami warnings and Amber Alerts but it now has the capability to warn about flood dangers. The system will be expanded to warn people about imminent threats of wildfire threats by early June, Farnworth said.
Read the full story here.
The world’s richest nations must implement their promises to keep alive a global goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, US climate envoy John Kerry told Reuters on Saturday.
Kerry said progress was vital as Egypt prepares to host the next round of UN climate talks, known as COP27, in November in Sharm el-Sheikh.
For the meeting to be a success, the 20 richest nations accounting for 65% of global gross domestic product (GDP) must stay committed to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as they did at last year’s UN summit in Glasgow, he said.
“That is critical,” Kerry said in an interview. “Those 20 countries account for 80% of all (greenhouse gas) emissions. If those countries move, we solve the problem.”
Some progress is being made but not enough, and changes also need to happen more quickly, he said.
“There’s a lot happening, many people pursuing new technologies or many people investing,” he said, speaking a day after meeting Norwegian officials.
Food prices around the world have soared to record levels this year as the Russia-Ukraine war slashes key exports of wheat and fertilizer from those countries, at the same time as droughts, floods and heat fueled by climate change claim more harvests.
Wheat prices hit a 14-year peak in March, and maize prices reached the highest ever recorded, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) said in a report released on Friday.
That has made basic staples more expensive – or harder to find for families in many countries, especially the poorest.
Climate change, widespread poverty and conflicts are now combining to create “endemic and widespread” risks to global food security – which means higher food prices may be the new normal, unless action is taken to curb the threats, IPES noted.
It suggests not only cutting emissions swiftly to limit climate change but also tackling commodity speculation, giving debt relief, cutting reliance on chemical fertilizers, reshaping trade and shoring up national grain reserves.
India’s scorching summer heat adds new risks this year to an energy-sapping challenge that tribal woman Munni Adhivasi has surmounted every day for two decades, by trudging for thousands to carry home water.
Munni, who said she feared dying in the heat, teared up as she railed against the government’s failure to provide drinking water to more than 200 tribal families in her hamlet of Hinauti in northern Uttar Pradesh.
“All I can think is how many trips I will have to make to bring water needed for drinking and cooking for four children and three goats,” added Munni, who carries home on her head all 30 liters (8 gallons) her family and livestock need each day.
But this year’s summer, torrid even by Indian standards, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in many areas early in the season, adds risks of dehydration and heat stroke to her woes.
“This drill to collect water is the worst form of punishment inflicted upon us,” said Munni, who did not know her exact age, but appeared to be in her 30s.
She was among a group of women and children from four villages in the area who draw water from their usual source, a reservoir beside a quarry where many of their husbands find daily employment.
The heat wave has killed more than a dozen people nationwide since late March.
Heavy rain and flooding has killed 22 people, destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged crops in Afghanistan, which is already facing a humanitarian crisis, a disaster management official said on Thursday.
The Taliban government, struggling to cope with the disaster that has affected more than a third of its provinces, will approach international relief organizations for help, officials said.
“Due to flooding and storms in 12 provinces, 22 people have died and 40 injured,” said Hassibullah Shekhani, head of communications and information at Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.
The rain and flooding was particularly severe in the western provinces of Badghis and Faryab and the northern province of Baghlan.
Afghanistan has been suffering from drought in recent years, made worse by climate change, with low crop yields raising fears of serious food shortages.
Read the full story here.