Nature and Global Warming
Global warming is rapidly changing our planet and our province. Polar sea ice is melting faster than predicted, droughts are withering crops and the frequency of super storms is increasing.
In its fifth and most alarming report to date, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued dire warnings about the serious effects of climate change and the necessity for immediate action.
The IPCC almost doubled its estimate of expected sea level rise to up to almost 1 metre by the end of the century, which would put Vancouver and other coastal communities at risk.
In British Columbia, large tracts of forest have been destroyed by a Mountain pine beetle outbreak caused by warmer winters. As residents in southeastern B.C. and Calgary clean up after the 2013 flood, the largest in 100 years, it appears that numbers of extreme weather events continue to increase, consistent with climate change projections.
Meanwhile, carbon emissions are acidifying the oceans, threatening marine life at large and B.C.’s shellfish aquaculture industry.
Thousands of species in our province are at risk of additional stress because of global warming. At-risk species, such as the Vancouver marmot, will face extinction as coastal rainforest species replace heather alpine meadows. Populations of key species like salmon and caribou will be affected by warmer temperatures, causing ecosystems to unravel. If we continue along the intensifying fossil fuel path, several degrees more warming are predicted for our province by the end of this century (3 - 5 ° C).
The scope of the challenge is hard to grasp and it is even greater today because we have delayed real action for a long time. But it is not too late to stop the worst impacts of global warming, if we act immediately. Alternatives to fossil fuels exist, and their development would create more jobs.
To give ourselves a fighting chance to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, we must heed the warnings of scientists, the International Energy Agency and the World Bank, and immediately stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, tanker terminals, fracking wells and liquid natural gas facilities. At the same time, we must develop a plan to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
Take action. Ask Premier Clark and the B.C. government to reject all new tar sands pipelines and tankers in British Columbia.
In addition to phasing out fossil fuels, we also need to protect and restore nature to avoid crossing a truly dangerous climate threshold.
Given the urgency of global warming, we can no longer afford to misuse and neglect some of the best carbon sinks on the planet – B.C.’s temperate rainforest and seagrass beds. By ending destructive land use practices and increasing conservation, BC’s rich marine and terrestrial ecosystems can make a significant contribution as carbon sinks, instead of releasing carbon.
Expanded conservation is also critical if species and ecosystems are to have a chance to adapt to the changing climate. Biologists refer to the current biodiversity crisis as the sixth mass extinction event (the last one occurred 65 million years ago). Only species with space to migrate, e.g. toward the cooler polar regions or to higher altitudes, will have a chance to adapt.
Watch this short video from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to find out how the provincial Natural Gas Strategy (including fracking) makes it impossible for us to meet our legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The good news is that, because of our extraordinary natural landscapes and abundant natural resources, British Columbia has greater opportunities to reduce emissions in the short term than other parts of the world. By moving quickly to a low-carbon economy and by conserving rainforests and seagrass beds that store carbon safely, we can not only reduce emissions but also reduce carbon in the atmosphere.