Climate change in British Columbia is a vital issue to talk about, just as it is on a global scale.
There is no doubt that anthropogenic activities (human activities) have increased climate change in the last few centuries. Nations around the world are already experiencing its consequences and destructive effects on our planet.
Despite Canada’s commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, they still have a long way to go. From air and water pollution to deforestation to the major environmental issue that causes climate change, here we are going to extensively discuss the issue of climate change in British Columbia.
Climate change is natural; we have had many cyclical ice ages and thawing periods. However, there is no denying that we humans are increasing climate change faster than we can adapt to it.
Table of Contents
How is B.C Contributing to Climate Change
B.C. contributes to climate change primarily through human activities. People burn fossil fuels and convert land from forests to agriculture.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, people have burned more and more fossil fuels and changed vast areas of land from forests to farmland.
Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It is called a greenhouse gas because it produces a “greenhouse effect”. The greenhouse effect makes the earth warmer, just as a greenhouse is warmer than its surroundings.
Hence, carbon dioxide is the main cause of human-induced climate change. It stays in the atmosphere for a very long time.
Other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, stay in the atmosphere for a long time. Other substances only produce short-term effects. However, not all substances produce warming. Some, like certain aerosols, can produce cooling
10 Things the Province is Doing to Combat Climate Change
Canada as a nation is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. In July 2021, Canada enhanced the Paris Agreement plans with a new goal of reducing emissions by 40–45% below 2005 levels by 2030.
However, B.C. has been working within its capacity to bring up several climate change mitigation policies that have over time been implemented in the region, such as clean technology and investment, cleaner industries, policy enactment, etc.
Below is further discussion on some measures put in place by B. C to combat climate change.
- Enactment of Policies and Regulations
- Through Climate Preparedness and Adaptation
- Treaties and Protocols
- Introduction of Clean Technology
- Investment in Clean Technology
- International cooperation
- Cleaner Industries
- Use of Heat and Energy Saving Pumps
- Local Government Collaborations
- Buildings and Communities
1. Enactment of Policies and Regulations
Experiencing many of the effects of climate change first-hand, Canada has enacted numerous policies aimed at combating emissions to guide all regions including B.C.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was introduced in 1999 to combat specific air pollutants and has had many amendments and additions since its introduction.
Such as the Wildfire Act, where everyone in British Columbia has a role to play in reducing the risk of wildfires. The Wildfire Act explains the government’s duties. It sets the rules for using fire and managing wildfires in British Columbia.
The Wildfire Regulation explains how we put our wildfire-related laws into place. Also, the Forestry Act is seen as one component of a provincial commitment to protect and sustain the environment while ensuring a sustainable economy.
2. Through Climate Preparedness and Adaptation
Preparing for climate change is a vital tool that strengthens the ability to respond to extreme events like wildfires, flooding, and heatwaves, as well as more gradual changes like water shortages and sea level rise.
BC’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy helps to protect ecosystems, lower long-term costs, and keep people and communities safe.
B.C.’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy outlines a broad range of actions for 2022–2025 to address climate impacts and build resilience across B.C.
Actions suggested for the strategy are supported by more than $500 million in investments and took into account feedback from public engagement on the draft Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy and other factors such as the 2019 Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment and the extreme weather events of 2021.
Actions in the strategy are grouped into four key pathways and build on the work already underway across governments, First Nations, businesses, academia, and non-profits.
British Columbia has been working to ensure our communities, economy, and infrastructure are ready for climate change while safeguarding the ecosystems that support us all.
3. Treaties and Protocols
Canada, as a nation, has also reached numerous environmental agreements with the international community. Canada was the first developed nation to ratify the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
By this treaty, Canada’s governments have moved to safeguard almost 10 percent of Canada’s landmass and 3 million hectares of ocean.
Canada has also signed several waste management treaties, including the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals.
Canada is also involved in major international environmental organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
4. Introduction of Clean Technology
While the clean technology sector in British Columbia has been expanding every year, the sector has not been expanding as fast as it has in other countries, resulting in the nation falling behind in the global marketplace.
Canada is only ranked 16th among the top 25 exporters, with China, Germany, and the US taking the top three export spots. The federal government has invested $1.8 billion in clean technology, but some of that money will not be available until 2019.
According to a 2015 report from the research firm Analytica Advisors, Canada’s share of the international market for clean technology goods dropped by 41 cents between 2005 and 2013. In 2015, the industry had $13.27 billion in revenues but retained earnings have declined every year for the last five years.
One of the ways we can drastically reduce our effects on climate change is to use renewable energy, like wind and solar power, instead of fossil fuels. Although transitioning to a fossil-fuel-less society can be difficult, if we are to sustain the Earth for future generations, we must act now, before it’s too late.
5. Investment in Clean Technology
British Columbia is home to some of the most innovative clean tech companies in the world. By linking up innovators and adopters, this sector will be well-positioned to grow while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling some of the toughest climate-related challenges we face.
On February 1st, 2023, a Member of Parliament for Steveston-Richmond East, Parm Bains on behalf of the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan), announced $5.2 million in funding through PacifiCan, together with $2.3 million from the Province of BC, for Foresight Canada.
This funding will be used by Foresight to establish the BC Net Zero Innovation Network (BCNZIN), bringing together innovators, businesses, and stakeholders to promote the development of competitive cleantech solutions and move them to market. Foresight’s initial focus will be on solutions for B.C.’s forestry, mining, and water sectors.
Not only will this network accelerate the development and adoption of clean technologies, but it will also open up new markets and attract world-class talent to the province.
The expectation from this project is the motivation for growth in B.C.’s cleantech sector, creating about 240 new jobs and attracting $280 million in investment. In addition to strong economic benefits, the project has a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 125 kilotonnes.
Nationwide, the government of Canada has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. In B.C., PacifiCan is investing in the development and adoption of clean technology solutions to help meet this goal.
6. International Cooperation
Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Liberal government that later [clarification needed] signed the accord took little action towards meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas emission targets.
Although Canada committed itself to a 6% reduction below the 1990 levels for 2008–2012 as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the country did not implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Immediately after the 2006 federal election, the new minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada could not and would not meet Canada’s commitments.
The House of Commons passed several opposition-sponsored bills calling for government plans for the implementation of emission reduction measures.
Canadian and North American environmental groups feel that the region lacks credibility in environmental policy and regularly criticize Canada in international venues.
7. Cleaner Industries
Through CleanBC, the government is working with industry and others across the province to reduce pollution, improve efficiency, and adopt new technologies. They are also supporting new opportunities for clean, low-carbon growth that are globally competitive and build on BC’s clean energy and clean tech advantages.
The global market for clean energy, technologies, products, and services is valued in the trillions of dollars, and B.C.’s clean industries have a head start on meeting demand.
By 2030, B.C. has committed to reducing province-wide emissions to 40 percent below levels recorded in 2007. As part of the plan to achieve this, B.C. has set targets to reduce emissions in the oil and gas and industrial sectors. Hence, B.C. has set a roadmap on how to achieve this feat.
Here are some ways the industry could look different in 2030 based on the Roadmap to 2030:
- New large industrial facilities are required to develop plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
- Methane emissions from oil and gas will be reduced by 75 percent by 2030, and nearly all industrial methane emissions will be eliminated by 2035.
- 300 million trees were planted to grow BC’s carbon sinks.
8. Use of Energy Saving Heat Pumps
100% of the people in Hartley Bay, a Gitga’at community on the north coast, now have energy-efficient heat pumps in their homes, keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter, all while lowering their heating bills and shrinking the community’s carbon footprint.
Heat pumps also provide air filtration, reducing risks from wildfire smoke during the summer months.
The switch to heat pumps was supported by the CleanBC Indigenous Community Heat Pump Incentive, which helps make clean choices for residential and community buildings affordable and accessible.
9. Local Government Collaborations
Local governments play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate through their management of buildings, transportation, water, waste, and land use.
For more than a decade, local governments in British Columbia have shown climate leadership by signing the Climate Action Charter, fulfilling Charter commitments like tracking, reporting, and reducing emissions, and implementing climate action in their jurisdictions.
10. Buildings and Communities
Through CleanBC, the province is raising the standards for new construction, encouraging energy-saving improvements in existing homes, schools, and workplaces, and supporting communities in reducing greenhouse gases and preparing for the effects of climate change.
As part of B.C.’s 2030 commitment to reduce province-wide emissions by 40% from 2007 levels, B.C. has set a target to reduce emissions in buildings and communities by more than half by 2030. The CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 maps out the most promising routes to reach these targets and sets the course to fulfill our net-zero commitment by 2050.
Here are some ways our buildings and infrastructure could look different in 2030 based on the Roadmap to 2030:
- All new buildings in B.C. will be zero-carbon, so no new climate pollution will be added to the atmosphere from new buildings after this point.
- All new space and hot water equipment will be at least 100% efficient, significantly reducing emissions compared to current combustion technology
10 Ways Climate Change is Affecting British Columbia
Listed and discussed below are the 10 Major ways climate change is affecting British Columbia.
- Extreme Weather Events
- Rise in Sea Level
- Impact on Ecosystem
- Temperature and Weather Changes
- Intense Heat and Wildfires
- Landslides and Flooding
- High Rain Intensity
- Health Impact
- Loss of Human Life
- Arctic Depletion
1. Extreme Weather Events
Extreme weather events are of greatest concern in British Columbia which includes heavy rain and snowfalls, heat waves, and drought.
They are linked to flooding and landslides, water shortages, forest fires, and reduced air quality, which all lead to damage to farmlands, properties and infrastructure, business disruptions, etc.
2. Rise in Sea Level
In many parts of the region, coastal flooding is expected to increase due to global sea-level rise and local land subsidence or uplift.
Canada’s sea level is increasing between 1 and 4.5 mm per year. The areas that are going to have the biggest strike is always the Western Region, where we have the B.C
3. Impact on Ecosystem
The 2011 annual report of Environment Canada shows that there is evidence that some regional areas within the western Canadian boreal forest have increased by 2 °C since 1948.
This shows that the rate of the changing climate is leading to drier conditions in the boreal forest, which leads to a whole host of subsequent issues.
As a result of the rapidly changing climate, trees are migrating to higher latitudes and altitudes (northward), but some species may not be migrating fast enough to follow their climatic habitat.
Moreover, trees within the southern limit of their range may begin to show declines in growth. Drier conditions are also leading to a shift from conifers to aspen in more fire- and drought-prone areas.
4. Temperature and Weather Changes
Annual average temperatures in Canada have increased by 1.7 °C since 1948. These weather changes have not been uniform across the seasons.
Indeed, average winter temperatures have risen by 3.3 °C over the same period, while average summer temperatures only rose by 1.5 °C. The trends were not uniform across regions, either.
British Columbia, the Prairie provinces, and Northern Canada experienced winter warming the most. Meanwhile, some areas of southeast Canada experienced an average warming of less than 1 °C during the same period.
Temperature-related changes include longer growing seasons, more heatwaves and fewer cold spells, thawing permafrost, earlier river ice breakup, earlier spring runoff, and earlier budding of trees.
Meteorological changes include an increase in precipitation and more snowfall in the northwest Arctic.
5. Intense Heat and Wildfires
For a decade now, B.C. has been faced with several environmental problems, such as flooding, melting ice, wildfires, intense heat, etc. The region has been going from one disaster to the next, with no time to recuperate. They are been optimistic that the government will make the right choices for a better future.
Despite the federal government’s commitment to exceed its 2030 climate targets, British Columbians say it’s not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis.
6. Landslides and Flooding
The west coast of Canada is accustomed to wet winters, especially during La Nina events like the one we are experiencing. The highest rainfall was seen along the border between the US and Canada.
The Canadian province of British Columbia received 150 to 200 mm of rain, with some places receiving more than a month’s rain in two days. Canadian officials called the resulting deluge a “once-in-a-year” event, which means that a flood of this size has a 0.2% (1 in 500) chance of occurring in any given year.
Many Canadians have been affected by landslides and flooding in British Columbia. Lives have been lost, thousands have been displaced, properties and businesses have been lost and there have been so many devastating occurrences.
In one of the flooding events in B.C., Canada’s third-largest city and largest port, Vancouver, was completely cut off after it lost its rail and road links to landslides and destruction caused by the water.
7. High Rain Intensity
The signal of climate change is the intensity of the rainfall. It follows from basic physics that a warmer planet means heavier rainfall.
Research also shows that the winter storm track will move north, bringing more intense rains to British Columbia.
According to a Vancouver Sun report, scientists have been warning for at least three decades that British Columbia is facing a threat from climate change.
8. Health Impact
The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that incidences[spelling] of Lyme disease increased from 144 cases in 2009 to 2,025 cases in 2017.
Dr. Duncan Webster, an infectious disease consultant at Saint John Regional Hospital, links this increase in disease incidence to the increase in the population of black-legged ticks. The tick population has increased due largely to shorter winters and warmer temperatures associated with climate change.
9. Loss of Human Life
At least 569 people died between June and August as a result of the heat, and with more than 1,600 fires, the wildfire season this year was the third worst on record for the province, torching nearly 8,700 square kilometers of land. It consumed the village of Lytton, where at least two died as well.
10. Arctic Depletion
The annual mean temperature over Northern Canada increased by 2.3 °C (likely range 1.7 °C–3.0 °C), which is approximately three times the global mean warming rate.
The strongest rates of warming were observed in the northernmost regions of Yukon and the Northwest Territories, where annual mean temperature increases of about 3.5 °C were observed between 1948 and 2016.
Climate change melts ice and increases the mobility of the ice. In May and June 2017, dense ice up to 8 meters (25 ft) thick was in the waters off the northern coast of Newfoundland, trapping fishing boats and ferries.
What the future holds for British Columbia as Climate Change Worsens
The latest report of the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reaffirms that the science behind human-caused climate change has already been seen and we still expect more in the future if climate change resilience is not adopted or a possible mitigation method is not adopted.
Climate change occurs on a global scale but its effects are felt regionally, as can be seen by British Columbia’s climatic trends. BC’s Provincial Climate Data Set shows that between 1900 and 2012, the number of frost days per year has reduced by 24 days, while winter temperatures have risen by 2.1 C and summers by 1.1 C.
However, researchers at the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) are projecting comparable changes for BC over the next 100 years, using the same climate simulations as the IPCC.
“Even under a moderate GHG emissions scenario, by the year 2100, this province is likely to be recording additional warming of 2.9 oC during the winter months and a 2.4 oC increase in the summer, with more winter warming in the north-east than elsewhere.”
Furthermore, the hydrology patterns will also be affected, with winters likely to see a 10% increase in precipitation and summers possibly getting wetter up north and drier in the south.
This will change the way river systems operate, with the warmer conditions reducing both the snow-pack and the resulting melt-off in spring and summer, impacting water supply and quality.
Climate change impacts and the costs of extreme events in British Columbia are increasingly evident but responses and adaptation measures remain reactive. Steps are being taken by the government and individuals to combat it as well as address the resultant effects of this global environmental problem.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.