Weekly roundup of climate change news to July 7, 2024 – Vancouver Sun

Weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of July 1 to July 7, 2024.
You can save this article by registering for free here. Or sign-in if you have an account.
Here’s all the latest news concerning the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and the steps leaders are taking to address these issues.

• B.C. expands heat-pump rebates to encourage more people to switch
• Environmental group says B.C.’s oil and gas industry used record amounts of water during drought
• Parts of B.C. to hit over 40 C, while millions swelter in extreme heat wave in California
• Google falling short of emissions targets because of AI
Subscribe now to read the latest news in your city and across Canada.
Subscribe now to read the latest news in your city and across Canada.
Create an account or sign in to continue with your reading experience.

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

• 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 including sea level rise, and more intense drought, heat waves and wildfires.
• 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 OrganizationUNEPNASAclimatedata.ca)
Start your day with a roundup of B.C.-focused news and opinion.
By signing up you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc.
A welcome email is on its way. If you don’t see it, please check your junk folder.
The next issue of Sunrise will soon be in your inbox.
We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again

More B.C. residents will be eligible for heat pump rebates as the province encourages more people to switch in the battle against climate change.

The government announced Wednesday it’s taking applications for the expanded heat-pump program, which increases the eligibility for rebates.

For example, a family of four with two adults and two children making $185,620 or less on their combined pre-tax annual income is eligible for a rebate of as much as $10,500 when they switch to a heat pump, according to the government.

Previously, the income threshold for a family of four was $114,647.

In May, the federal and provincial governments announced a quarter of a billion dollars to pay for 16,000 heat pumps for B.C. single-family homeowners.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

A majority of B.C. residents support the province’s 30 X 30 conservation targets, suggests a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Leger for Organizing for Change, a coalition of 12 B.C. environmental groups, found 85 per cent of those polled support protecting 30 per cent of land and water by 2030.

Eight per cent are opposed to the 30 X 30 plan, while seven per cent said they don’t know, and less than one per cent said they preferred not to answer.

Protected areas now cover about 15.8 per cent of the land base in B.C., which means the province would need to nearly double protected areas to meet its 2030 target. The 30 X 30 targets were promised by both the federal and provincial governments following the UN conference on biodiversity, COP 15, in Montreal in 2022.

This target aims to protect 30 per cent of all land and water by 2030 in a bid to protect Earth’s biodiversity and mitigate climate change.

The top areas that people support conservation in are habitats with species at risk such as old-growth forest (88 per cent); areas of natural beauty and intact watersheds (86 per cent); places where wildlife move between habitats (84 per cent); outdoor recreation areas (81 per cent); and culturally significant land to Indigenous people (67 per cent.)

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Oil and gas companies in B.C. took a record six billion litres of freshwater primarily for their fracking operations last year, according to an environmental group.

This represents an increase of more than 800 million litres just as drought was intensifying across northeastern B.C., says Sven Biggs, a spokesperson for Stand.earth, who has been tracking B.C.’s oil and gas water usage annually.

B.C.’s energy ministry and the B.C. Energy Regulator say that amount of water use by the industry accounts for only approximately 0.004 per cent of annual run-off in northeast B.C.

Oil and gas companies were notified in January about potential water use suspensions given the drought. In November, all four water basins in B.C.’s northeast were at drought level 5, the highest level. B.C.’s regulator says several water use suspensions were issued during the spring of 2023, which can be found HERE.

However Biggs argues more needs to be done to reduce the industry’s water usage. He adds that climate impacts caused by the burning of fossil fuels are making drought seasons worse in B.C., yet the industry’s water use has grown by 16 per cent.

“As of 2023, the fossil fuels sector has consumed over six billion litres of fresh water — enough to supply every B.C. household for a week. This is why we are calling on the provincial government to reduce the amount of water that fracking companies use by making some common-sense changes to the way they regulate the fossil fuel industry,” said Biggs in a statement.

“This starts with charging fracking companies a price for water high enough to encourage the conservation of freshwater, and requiring them to treat the toxic waste water they produce.”

The B.C. government says operations are able to continue during times of drought because of water-storage practices companies use during high run-off periods, and efforts to reuse flow back water.

—Tiffany Crawford

A heat wave has settled over much of British Columbia with Environment and Climate Change Canada issuing warnings in more than two dozen regions about soaring temperatures that could reach into the 40s and continue next week.

The weather agency late Friday expanded the warnings to encompass 26 regions, including a broad swath of the southern Interior, such as Lytton, where the daytime high is forecast to hit 41 C by Tuesday.

In other parts of the province, the hottest temperatures are expected to arrive on Sunday.

Areas under the expanded heat warnings now include most of the province’s bottom third.

Environment and Climate Change Canada had already issued heat warnings for eastern Vancouver Island, where daytime highs are expected to hit the low 30s.

Another warning covers the Kitimat and Terrace regions, where highs near 30 C were expected Saturday until Tuesday night.

A joint statement from B.C.’s ministries of Health and Emergency Management, as well as the provincial health officer, said Environment Canada was expected to expand warnings as the heat spread from west to east.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Firefighters made progress Friday against a California wildfire that triggered extensive evacuation orders, but damage assessments raised the number of destroyed structures to 25, and forecasters said heat and fire risk were expanding on the West Coast.

Containment of the Thompson Fire near the Butte County city of Oroville rose overnight to 46 per cent from 29 per cent, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire was measured at just under 15.5 square kilometres after only slight growth overnight.

Most evacuation orders covering about 17,000 people were lifted Thursday.

Firefighters “did a really good job yesterday” enforcing containment lines, and wind hasn’t been a factor, said Cal Fire Capt. Alejandro Cholico, a fire spokesperson.

A new blaze dubbed the French Fire erupted Thursday evening and triggered evacuations in the small Gold Rush town of Mariposa in the Sierra Nevada foothills along a highway leading to Yosemite National Park.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Records tumbled across the West as a slow-moving heat wave of potentially historic proportions tightened its grip from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona on Friday, sending many residents in search of a cool haven from the dangerously high temperatures.

The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. were also sweltering, with oppressive heat and humidity expected to last through Saturday or beyond.

One of the hottest places on Earth, California’s Death Valley, shattered the previous record high for the date by 5 degrees — with the mercury climbing to 52.8 C. The old mark of 50 C last was tied in 2013.

There was also a record high for the date of 47.7 C in Phoenix, where highs of 46.1 C or hotter were forecast through Wednesday.

In Needles, California, where the National Weather Service has records dating to 1888, the high of 50 C edged the old mark of 49.4 C set in 2007. It was 51.1 C in Palm Springs.

The worst was yet to come across much of the West, with triple-digit temperatures likely — between 8 C and 16 C higher than average into next week, the National Weather Service said.

“The duration of this heat is also concerning as scorching above average temperatures are forecast to linger into next week,” the weather service in Phoenix said.

“This type of heat is dangerous to all without adequate cooling or hydration,” the service said Friday night in Las Vegas, which saw a high of 45 C. “Numerous climate sites face high probabilities of breaking daily as well as all-time temperature records.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Around 134 million people in the U.S. are under alerts as an “extremely dangerous and record-breaking” heat wave broils much of the country, according to the National Weather Service.

Regions that may see temperatures above 32 C or much higher into the triple digits well above 37 C include nearly all of the West Coast, the southern Plains, most of the lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley and parts of Florida, said Bob Oravec, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

The Pacific Northwest will see the Mercury rising later in the weekend. Arizona will continue to sizzle as firefighters battle a wildfire near Phoenix, where some contend with burns from blazing hot asphalt, concrete or other surfaces. And more humid regions will see a muggy weekend.

“If it’s both humid and hot, you can’t really rely on sweat to cool you down to a safe level,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the University of California, Los Angeles.

It’s a dangerous weather pattern hitting as fires burn in Northern California, and just in time for a holiday weekend. When people are celebrating, “it’s very easy to get sidetracked,” staying out for longer and forgetting to stay hydrated, said Chris Stachelski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “And then all of a sudden you’re putting yourself more at risk.”

Human-caused climate change is making heat waves longer and more intense.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Emergency protections for endangered southern resident killer whales are urgently needed because of increased oil tanker traffic from the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline, says a coalition of conservation groups.

Six environmental organizations are formally petitioning Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier, urging them to recommend that cabinet issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to save the remaining 74 whales, said Margot Venton, nature program director of Ecojustice, a legal charity working for the environmental groups.

An order is the best tool at Ottawa’s disposal to urgently tackle the rising underwater noise, toxic water pollution, threat of vessel strikes and risks to critical habitat and food sources that shipping traffic poses to the whales, which are already on the cusp of extinction, said Venton.

Southern residents, dependent on dwindling chinook salmon for food, are expected to face a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through their critical habitat in the Salish Sea when the expanded TMX pipeline reaches peak capacity this summer.

Read the full story here.

—Rochelle Baker

Three years ago, Google set an ambitious plan to address climate change by going “net zero,” meaning it would release no more climate-changing gases into the air than it removes, by 2030.

But a report from the company Tuesday shows it is nowhere near meeting that goal.

Rather than declining, its emissions grew 13 per cent in 2023 over the year before. Compared to its baseline year of 2019, emissions have soared 48 per cent.

Google cited artificial intelligence and the demand it puts on data centres, which require massive amounts of electricity, for last year’s growth.

Making that electricity by burning coal or natural gas emits greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and methane, which warm the planet, bringing more extreme weather.

The company has one of the most significant climate commitments in industry and has been seen as a leader.

Lisa Sachs, director of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, said Google should be doing more to partner with cleaner companies and invest in the electrical grid.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

In the chilly waters of Vancouver Island’s Barkley Sound, gardeners are at work on the sea floor.

They are scientists from the University of Victoria who are trying to regrow kelp forests, a crucial part of the marine habitat, which face threats from heat waves, climate change and voracious sea urchins.

Julia Baum, a University of Victoria professor of ocean ecology and global change has been studying data going back decades on B.C.’s majestic underwater forests, which provide food and resources for fish and other coastal organisms.

She said a “very prolonged marine heat wave between 2014 and 2016” had a major impact on the northeast Pacific.

“And what we found was that in a number of places, kelp forests disappeared,” said Baum.

Bull kelp and giant kelp are the two main canopy-forming kelp species found in marine nearshore habitats off Canada’s west coast.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.

You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.

365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4
© 2024 Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.
This website uses cookies to personalize your content (including ads), and allows us to analyze our traffic. Read more about cookies here. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
You can manage saved articles in your account.
and save up to 100 articles!
You can manage your saved articles in your account and clicking the X located at the bottom right of the article.