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Report foresees drastic climate change for B.C.
June 22, 2009 Sam Cooper, Vancouver Province
VANCOUVER — Smoke blankets the province as mega-fires devour withered pine forests. Dust bowls scour the Okanagan, increasingly resembling the Sahara. When rain relieves parched land, it comes in hurricane-driven torrents. Hills slide down on homes and water wells are poisoned. Plagues and pestilence march north, carried by rodents, insects, birds and humans. Disease thrives while flood levels rise.
Welcome to B.C. in 2050 — when the strong will survive but the most vulnerable could die.
The above scenario may sound like apocalyptic, but evidence suggests blights of biblical proportions may be coming, due to climate change, according to a new government-commissioned research paper, Climate Change and Health in British Columbia.
Developing a “made in B.C.” health-care response to avert deaths in the most vulnerable aboriginal and rural populations will be the focus at a Simon Fraser University-sponsored dialogue on Friday, moderated by public-health specialist Tim Takaro, one of the paper’s authors.
Takaro points to the New Orleans flood of 2005 as the “poster child” for botched emergency response and a textbook case of the poorest citizens suffering the most. Similar disasters could ravage reserves and remote areas in B.C. because personal-health levels, access to care and emergency preparedness there are so comparatively poor, Takaro says. “We have to improve the resiliency of the most vulnerable,” he says.
Climate-change disaster already threatens 103 aboriginal communities in the middle of a massive swath of trees killed by mountain-pine beetles, which have run amok recently in warmer winters.
Simon Fraser University forest-fire expert Ken Lertzman says his computer models show that, as summers become hotter and drier, devastating blazes such as the Kelowna fire of 2003 could occur 10 times a century, compared to two or three times in the past century. He warns that summer 2009 is already off to a fiery 2003-like start.
One of Takaro’s co-authors, SFU groundwater specialist Diana Allen, says she’s most concerned that the predicted warmer, wetter and wilder weather will spread infectious disease and pollute drinking water. Another paper co-author, Kate Bassil, is studying the effects of heat waves on seniors in Chilliwack, Hope and Abbotsford.
Climate-change science suggests that, by 2050, heat stroke will replace freezing as the biggest extreme-weather killer in B.C., with the elderly and urban poor most endangered. Bassil says outreach to isolated seniors must be improved to guard against the kind of heat-wave deaths seen in European and U.S. cities.
The Climate Change and Health paper also warns that increased air pollution will pose a health threat among the elderly and young. John Yap, minister of state for climate change action, told The Province his government’s primary response to climate change “is meeting aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.” “We believe climate-change impact is far-reaching,” he says.
Droughts and deluges in decades ahead
June 22, 2009 Sam Cooper, The Province
Climate change in B.C. means the province is getting steadily hotter and wetter. Scientists havedocumented significant warming in recent decades and climate-change specialists are now modelling alarming environmental changes in the coming decades.
Rising heat will see an increase in extreme storms across the province. Summer droughts and heat waves are on the rise, with long-range predictions of up to 20 per cent less rain in some areas, such as the Okanagan.
It's predicted that, while winters and springs will get wetter and warmer, rain-and-snow days will be fewer and farther between. Intense deluges and dumps will become the norm.
A 2007 study, Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate, expects the following weather changes in B.C.:
2020s: +1C; three-to-five-per-cent precipitation increase.
2050s: +2 to 2.5C; five-to eight-per-cent precipitation increase.
2080: +3.8 to 4C; eight-to-13-per-cent precipitation increase.
These changes will be gradual but will have profound effects by 2050, scientists say.
In 2050, Prince Rupert will have a climate like present-day Vancouver, they predict, and the average annual temperature in the Lower Mainland will be 13.1C, up from 10.1 in 2007.
A 2008 study, Climate Change and Health in British Columbia by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, found that, between 1999 and 2002, extreme climate-related natural disasters cost B.C. an average of $10 million per year.
This figure rose to $86 million per year between 2003 and 2005. Natural-disaster costs are predicted to rise further in the coming decades.
Report: Climate change may increase spread of diseases in B.C.
In a paper entitled Climate Change and Health in British Columbia, five researchers with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions hypothesize what the B.C. of 2050 will look like.
According to data on how climate change has affected similar regions, B.C. will play host to a motley collection of environmental problems, including rising sea levels, massive flooding, retreating glaciers, forest fires, landslides, and increased air pollution.
The authors of the report, dated November 2008 and commissioned by the B.C. government, predict that many of these changes will have devastating consequences for British Columbians’ health—to say nothing of animal populations. Landslides will contaminate water supplies with sediment deposits. Higher temperatures and more precipitation will result in the introduction and expansion of diseases normally characteristic of warmer climates, such as malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile, and—hot on the heels of an expected influx of rodents—Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.
At particular risk will be the elderly, the young, and those living in remote areas of the province. Given that this applies to approximately 30 percent of the population, the researchers concluded in a press release issued today (June 22) that “rural B.C. is a climate-change time bomb waiting to go off”.
On the plus side, select areas of the province will benefit from warmer temperatures in the form of longer growing seasons for a larger range of crops. According to projections of a “moderate climate-change scenario”, 2020 will see “cereals, cabbage, and potatoes, in the central interior, and corn and tomatoes along the Fraser River valley”. By 2050, “these latter crops may be growable in the Peace River region”. Of course, new fungal pathogens will be drawn in by the warmer, wetter climates, too.
According to the report, climate-related natural disasters from 1999 and 2002 cost the province approximately $10 million each year. Between 2003 and 2005, that number rose to $86 million. Still, research on climate change in B.C. is limited. In the press release, the authors noted that the World Health Organization and governments often neglect regional approaches to climate change, in favour of “analyzing the effects of climate change in the developing world”.
White House report warns of climate change effects
(CNN) -- Man-made climate change threatens to stress water resources, challenge crops and livestock, raise sea levels and adversely affect human health, according to a report released by the Obama administration on Tuesday.
The nearly 200-page document on global climate change -- released by the White House science adviser and mandated by Congress -- does not include new research, but encompasses several recent studies on the effects of global warming over the last half century.
Among the report's key findings are an "unequivocal and primarily human-induced" rise in the Earth's temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years, and a projection of more rapidly changing temperatures over the next several decades. "It's not just a problem for the future," said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We're beginning to see the impact on our daily lives."
The continuing temperature rise is likely to spur a series of negative consequences for the Earth's energy supply, water, transportation, ecosystems and health, the study said.
"[The report] tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable," said John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser.
Among the study's specific predictions: Longer and more intense heat waves; increased heavy downpours likely to cause widespread complications such as flooding and waterborne diseases; reduced summer runoff, creating greater competition for water, especially in the West; rising ocean water temperatures that will threaten coral reefs; an increase in wildfires and insect infestations; and more frequent coastal flooding caused by rising seas.
The report is the first in almost a decade to break down impacts of climate change on regions and economic sectors of the United States. For example, warming trends in coming decades are expected to reduce the lobster catch in the waters of the Northeast, increase the intensity of hurricanes in the Southeast and accelerate drought in the Southwest, it said.
Authors of the comprehensive report said they hope it can serve as a valuable tool for policymakers and other Americans, such as farmers making crop decisions or local governments passing zoning restrictions in coastal areas.
The report comes as Congress debates a White House-backed climate change bill that seeks to reduce the United State's greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a so-called "cap and trade" program.
The bill cleared a key House committee vote in May and could be considered by the entire chamber within the next two weeks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday. The bill's future remains unclear in the Senate, where leaders are holding off advancing their own version of the legislation until it clears the lower chamber.
Comment: The report also noted that temperatures in Alaska could rise a whopping 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 50 years. There's no doubt that human activity is responsible for the spike in global warming, especially so in the last 30 years. We must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if there is to be a future for all of us, wildlife, wildlands, humans, and all species who inhabit Earth. The one and only solution is to reduce human population. Nothing short of this will provide a solution. It’s time for us to face the facts.
Nobel Laureate, Dr. Henry W. Kendall: “If we don’t halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity – and will leave a ravaged world.