Weekly roundup of climate change news to Feb. 4, 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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• ‘Historic’ drought forcing hydro-rich B.C., Manitoba to import electricity
• UBC study says need to stop clearcutting is ‘urgent’ to protect B.C. forests, reduce flooding risk
• Canadian film and TV producers form new climate change coalition in B.C.
• UN climate chief’s blunt message: Fewer loopholes, way more cash to really halt climate change

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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. 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

Severe drought in Western Canada is putting pressure on hydroelectricity generation, forcing two hydro-rich provinces to import power from other jurisdictions due to low reservoir levels. Photo by JOHN WOODS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

‘Historic’ drought forcing hydro-rich B.C., Manitoba to import electricity

Two hydro-rich provinces are being forced to import power from other jurisdictions due to severe drought in Western Canada.

Both B.C. and Manitoba, where the vast majority of power is hydroelectric, are experiencing low reservoir levels that have negatively affected electricity production this fall and winter.

There’s no risk in either province of the lights going out any time soon. But scientists say climate change is making drought both more common and more severe, which means more pressure on hydroelectric producers in the years to come.

In B.C., large chunks of the province are suffering through drought conditions the federal government has classified as “extreme.”

B.C. Hydro spokesman Kyle Donaldson used the word “historic” to describe the dry conditions, adding the Crown corporation’s large reservoirs in both the north and southeast parts of the province are lower than they have been in many years.

While B.C. Hydro has been working to conserve water by drawing on reservoirs in less affected regions of the province, it has also been importing more power from Alberta and a number of Western U.S. states.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Canadian film and TV producers form new climate change coalition in B.C.

Dozens of Canadian independent film and TV producers have formed a climate change coalition in B.C. to share ideas and promote more sustainability in the industry.

So far, 40 companies have signed on with Producing for the Planet, a first-of-its-kind coalition in Canada to promote climate action accountability. It launched Friday at the Canadian Media Producers Association conference in Ottawa.

“These are all Canadian companies, and independent producers. So this is not Netflix. This is a coalition of homegrown producers,” said Marsha Newbery, founder and executive producer of Producing for the Planet.

It’s a passion project for Newbery, who is also an award-winning producer and vice-president of sustainability and business affairs at Thunderbird Entertainment. She founded Producing the Planet last year and her goal is to make the Canadian media industry a leading force for positive environmental change.

“A production takes a small army. There’s a lot of crew to drive around, there’s power to run the set. I would say that travel and transport as a broad category is very high on the list of areas we as an industry need to do much better at. And some of that is going to depend on the infrastructure,” she said.

Starting in 2025, the coalition will prepare annual public reports on what the companies accomplished in four commitment areas: on screen, on emissions, on waste, and on collective action, such as what they have shared with or learned from other producers.

Read the full story here

—Tiffany Crawford

John Podesta will take over for John Kerry as top international adviser on climate change

White House senior adviser John Podesta will add international climate policy to his job responsibilities, replacing special climate envoy John Kerry as the top U.S. official on international climate issues, the White House said Wednesday.

Kerry announced in mid-January that he would step down from the climate job to work on President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. Podesta will take over Kerry’s responsibilities, hough not his title, when he departs, likely this spring, the White House said.

Podesta was a behind-the-scenes veteran on climate in past Democratic administrations. He was brought back to the White House last year to put into place an ambitious U.S. climate program revived with the $375 billion approved in the 2022 climate law. He also led the administration’s climate task force.

Kerry’s job was created by the Biden administration specifically to fight climate change on the global stage. Kerry has been in the position since Biden took office in 2021.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

The need to stop clearcutting is ‘urgent’ to protect B.C. forests, reduce flooding risk: UBC study

B.C. must protect its forests to manage flood risk, and shift to more sustainable forestry practices, say researchers at UBC’s Faculty of Forestry

That means government needs to end the practice of clearcutting, according to a recent study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The need to stop this practice is “urgent,” said Younes Alila, a hydrologist and professor in the Faculty of Forestry, because of the mounting problems caused by human-caused climate change such as drought, flooding and wildfires.

“When you replant with monoculture it grows very dense, and it’s not diverse forest. It’s not fire resistant. It actually spreads fire quicker than you think. The trees grow very slow. And now with drought these trees are going to have more difficulty growing,” he said Tuesday.

“The practice of clearcutting is increasing the severity and the frequency of wildfire. It’s all linked.”

Alila and his graduate student Henry Pham analyzed decades of hydrology studies, which “severely and consistently underestimated” the impact of forest cover on flood risk.

This led to forest management policies and practices that were either unsound or poorly informed by outdated science, said Alila.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

15 Fairy Creek protesters face civil suit from logging company

Fifteen people who participated in protests against logging of old-growth trees at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew are being sued by Teal Cedar, which alleges they conspired to harm the logging company.

Along with the 15 people, the suit names one company, Atleo River Air Service, and the Rainforest Flying Squad, which it describes as an “unincorporated association of persons.”

The suit says the defendants obstructed or delayed Teal Cedar and its contractors from road construction and forestry work, and that they created safety hazards in making blockades in the Fairy Creek area.

It alleges they organized blockades, recruited people to participate and fundraised to keep blockades going. The suit says those named in the lawsuit have caused Teal Cedar a loss of profit and goodwill and damaged the company’s reputation.

Teal Cedar did not respond to a request for comment.

About 1,000 arrests were made during 2021 protests against the logging of old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek area, where Teal Cedar owns Tree Farm Licence 46, granting the company the right to harvest within the area.

Read the full story here

—The Victoria Times Colonist

UN chair on the rights of Indigenous people to speak at UBC conference

Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is hosting a conference at UBC on Feb 8. and Feb. 9.

UBC public affairs says the conference will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous academic, practitioners, advocates and other experts to discuss Indigenous people’s right to traditional economies, sustainable development and food security in an age of climate change.

The panels will discuss the main challenges Indigenous people face having access and control of their traditional lands, territories and resources. Other topics will include Indigenous food systems, fisheries and coastal cultures, climate change, livelihoods and food sovereignty and human rights, Indigenous law and social development for sustainable livelihoods, UBC said.

These discussions will also feed into a report on the topic that will be presented to 60th session of the Human Rights Council in 2025.

The sessions on Feb 8 and 9th will be open to the general public.

—Tiffany Crawford

UN climate chief’s blunt message: Fewer loopholes, way more cash to really halt climate change

To keep Earth from overheating too much, the nations of the world need to put fewer loopholes in climate agreements and far more money _ trillions of dollars a year — into financial help for poor nations, the United Nations climate chief said Friday.

In an unusual and blunt lecture at a university in Baku, Azerbaijan, the host city of upcoming international climate negotiations later this year, United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell called gains made in the past not nearly enough. Without the proper amount of cash, he said those could “quickly fizzle away into more empty promises.”

Much of it comes down to money: $2.4 trillion a year, Stiell said. That’s how much a United Nations High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance estimated that developing nations — not including China — need to invest in renewable energy instead of dirtier fossil fuels, as well as to adapt to and recover from climate change harms such as floods, storms, droughts and heat waves.

Richer nations have promised less than 5% of that amount in climate financial help to poor nations — and they often haven’t even delivered that much.

“It’s already blazingly obvious that finance is the make-or-break factor in the world’s climate fight,” Stiell said. “We need torrents — not trickles — of climate finance.”

United Nations climate officials emphasized the next two years are crucial for curbing climate change, with 2024 negotiations in Baku followed by a critical meeting in Brazil in 2025, when countries are required to come up with new and stronger pledges to cut emissions of all heat-trapping gases. To do that, officials said money is the great enabler of action.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Whale ‘so close we could have scratched its belly:’ Rowers complete 5,000-kilometre race across Atlantic

The clarity that comes from staring up at the inky, star-studded sky at midnight while rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is something Lauren Shea will never forget.

A halcyon moment during a gruelling trek at sea, where waves were as high as a battleship is long.

The 28-year-old graduate student at UBC was one of four women who completed the World’s Toughest Row, a non-stop 5,000-kilometre rowing race to Antigua from the Canary Islands, in their eight-metre rowboat called Emma.

The Salty Science Crew, which includes two B.C. members, made landfall last Saturday night after rowing for 38 days and 18 hours — much faster than the six to eight weeks they anticipated the journey would take.

It was a rush to reach land, said Shea in an interview this week from Antigua where they are recovering. As they climbed ashore their legs wobbled from not being accustomed to solid ground. They were swarmed by family members and friends, who squeezed them hard with shrieks of joy.

Adding to the exuberance was the thrill of realizing they had just won first place in the women’s division.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Greta Thunberg joins hundreds marching in England to protest airport’s expansion for private planes

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined a march in southern England last weekend to protest the use of private jets and the expansion of an airport.

Hundreds of local residents and activists holding banners and placards that read “Ban Private Jets” marched to Farnborough Airport, which mostly serves private aircraft. Some beat drums while others lit pink smoke flares.

The airport, located in Hampshire County about 64 kilometres southwest of London, applied last year to increase its maximum number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 a year.

Groups working to fight climate change, including the organizer of Saturday’s protest, Extinction Rebellion, say private jets are much more polluting than commercial passenger airliners. Flights to and from Farnborough Airport carried an average of 2 1/2 passengers per flight in 2022, the group said.

“It is clear that private jets are incompatible with ensuring present and future living conditions on this planet,” Thunberg said in a video that Extinction Rebellion posted on social media.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

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