Here’s your weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of Feb. 26 to March 3, 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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• Firefighters race to corral Texas wildfires before a weekend of hot, windy weather
• Drought withered B.C. Hydro’s revenues by $1 billion by end of its third quarter
• Expect an early, intense wildfire battle in B.C. as drought lingers

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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 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 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,

Co2 graph
Source: NASA

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Latest News

Firefighters face difficult weather conditions as they battle the largest wildfire in Texas history

Firefighters battling the largest wildfire in Texas history face increasingly difficult weather conditions on Saturday.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire that began Monday has killed at least two people, left a charred landscape of scorched prairie, dead cattle and destroyed as many as 500 structures, including burned-out homes, in the Texas Panhandle.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the entire Panhandle from late Saturday morning through midnight Sunday after rain and snow on Thursday allowed firefighters to contain a portion of the fire.

Signs warning travellers of the critical fire danger are in place along Interstate 40 leading into Amarillo.

Winds gusts of up to 72 kilometres per hour are expected Saturday with humidity below 10 per cent and a high temperature of 24 C.

The fire, which has merged with another fire and crossed the state line into western Oklahoma, has burned more than 4,400 square kilometres and was 15 per cent contained, the Texas A&M Forest Service said Friday.

Read the full story here

—The Associated Press

Drought withered B.C. Hydro’s revenues by $1 billion by end of its third quarter

B.C. Hydro’s drought-withered financial results show the utility took in $1 billion less revenue over the first nine months of its fiscal year than for the same period a year ago.

Water flows into key reservoirs “were significantly below average” and were lower than the same period a year earlier, Hydro said in its latest quarterly report released late Wednesday.

Revenue was $5.4 billion for the nine-month period ending Dec. 31, compared with $6.5 billion for the same period of Hydro’s previous fiscal year, which was due mostly to an $828 million drop in electricity exports because of the drought.

The results would have left B.C. Hydro with a $178 million loss, according to the results, but the utility made a $522 million transfer from regulatory accounts that it uses to smooth out potential rate shocks from short-term events, and posted profit of $344 million.

Read the full story here.

—Derrick Penner

Residents watch the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, on August 17, 2023, from Kelowna. Photo by DARREN HULL /AFP via Getty Images

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Expect an early, intense wildfire battle in B.C. as drought lingers

A drought that has lingered across much of B.C. since the fall of 2022 could be a harbinger of a “grim” wildfire season, warn forecasters.

Victoria-based Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan says there is no indication that spring weather will be wet enough to temper what he describes as “unbelievably low levels” of precipitation and snowpack over the past 18 months in most areas of B.C.

“We’re still not catching up for the lack (of precipitation) that we’ve had so consistently since August of 2022.”

The dry conditions are particularly bad in the Prince George Fire Centre in B.C.’s northeast corner, where two new fires have ignited in the past month.

There are still 93 listed fires from last season across the province, the vast majority of which are in the Prince George region and have been burning or smouldering since the summer.

However, other fires ignited as recently as late October in the Cariboo Fire Centre, and two in the Prince George area sparked as recently as the end of January and this past Friday.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph Ruttle

sea urchins eat kelp
Urchins munch down kelp off the B.C. coast. Photo by Jenn Burt

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Study finds rays of hope for kelp and climate in Salish Sea

It’s not all doom and gloom for the rich underwater kelp forests in the southern Salish Sea, which as struggling in increasingly warm ocean water.

Some pockets of bull kelp, which is vital for sea life off southern Vancouver Island and B.C.’s Gulf Islands, are proving to be resilient to rising sea temperatures and marine heat waves, a new University of Victoria study has found.

Global warming and extreme ocean temperature events like “The Blob” — a massive, prolonged marine heat wave that had cascading affects on the marine ecosystem between 2014 and 2019 — have caused kelp to wither across the West Coast.

But it wasn’t clear what local effects climate stress was having on bull kelp growing along different kinds of shorelines in the region, according to lead researcher Alejandra Mora-Soto of UVic’s Spectral Lab.

Diving into satellite imagery to analyze kelp cover and data on environmental conditions in the region from 2005 to 2022 — and even further back to 1972 at a site on Ella Beach — Mora-Soto determined kelp had the ability to bounce back in certain areas after being stressed by heat.

Read the full story here.

—Rochelle Baker

Alberta sets aside $2 billion set aside for potential disasters amid flood, drought and wildfire threats

Mounting drought concerns and the threat of more wildfires and other climate-related disasters continue to weigh heavily on Alberta’s finances, which is reflected in the Alberta budget tabled Thursday.

The budget includes a $2-billion contingency for disaster relief programs and allocates hundreds of millions toward wildfire response programs and water management.

The province plans to spend $151 million over the next three years on the Wildfire Management Program, including more than $55 million in the 2024-25 fiscal year. The money will be used to improve the wildfire response readiness and night operations, support volunteer and community wildfire response programs, provide additional air tanker support and provide additional resources to fight wildfires.

The budget also allocates $55 million for new firefighting equipment and facilities.

The province spent $2.9 billion on disaster and emergency assistance in 2022-23, due largely to an unprecedented wildfire season and indemnity payments and income support for the agriculture sector.

Read the full story here.

—The Calgary Herald

In Quebec’s strawberry fields, a tiny insect may forecast big climate impacts: study

A bug encroaching on Quebec’s strawberry fields could help forecast climate change’s impact on agriculture, a new study suggests, the latest to consider what the authors called the “colossal task” of sustainable farming on a warming planet.

Researchers out of Laval University say migratory leafhoppers _ small cicada-like insects that benefit from temperature increases _ appear to be arriving earlier in the season and dominating fields around Quebec City. They suggest the leafhopper’s migratory patterns, expanded territory and potential to carry plant diseases help make the insect an ideal model species for scientists to study how climate change is affecting agriculture.

“What we thought was a local study could have a significant impact on the way we trace the implications of climate change on agriculture and how we will manage the imminent biological invasions already happening in places such as Canada,” read the study published Friday in the journal Cell Reports Sustainability.

The research adds to the science about how climate-driven pest invasions could threaten food security and exacerbate agriculture’s environmental impact due to increased pesticide use, the study said.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Climate change, cost and competition for water drive settlement over tribal rights to Colorado River

A Native American tribe with one of the largest outstanding claims to water in the Colorado River basin is closing in on a settlement with more than a dozen parties, putting it on a path to piping water to tens of thousands of tribal members in Arizona who still live without it.

Negotiating terms outlined late Wednesday include water rights not only for the Navajo Nation but the neighbouring Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes in the northeastern corner of the state. The water would come from a mix of sources: the Colorado River that serves seven western states, the Little Colorado River, and aquifers and washes on tribal lands.

The agreement is decades in the making and would allow the tribes to avoid further litigation and court proceedings, which have been costly. Navajo officials said they expect to finalize the terms in the coming days.

From there, it must be approved by the tribe’s governing bodies, the state of Arizona, the other parties and by Congress.

“We have the right Congress, we have the right president, and it’s very hopeful,” Navajo President Buu Nygren told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Because next year might be a whole different ballgame. It’s going to be very uncertain.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

EU poised to OK major plan to meet climate goals and better protect nature despite farmer protests

The European Union is on the brink of approving a major plan to fight climate change and better protect nature in the 27-nation bloc after protests from farmers and opposition from the biggest party in parliament led it to be diluted.

The plan is a key part of the EU’s European Green Deal that seeks to establish the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on all climate issues.

The Nature Restoration plan has had a rough ride through the EU’s complicated approval process, and a watered-down version will proceed to a final vote by the EU member states, where it is expected to survive.

“Today’s vote to get the Nature Restoration Law over the finish line offers fresh hope for Europe’s ability to combat the worst effects of climate change and biodiversity loss for decades to come,” said Noor Yafai of the global environmental group The Nature Conservancy.

Under the plan, member states would have to meet restoration targets for specific habitats and species, with the aim of covering at least 20 per cent of the region’s land and sea areas by 2030. But quarrels over exemptions and flexibility clauses allowing member states to skirt the rules plagued negotiations.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

climate protest
File photo of climate activists in Dubai. Photo by Sean Gallup /Getty Images

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Climate measures risk sparking social unrest, German agency warns

The European Union is at risk of widespread backlash against its climate agenda unless politicians do more to blunt the effects of rising carbon prices on low-income households, according to the head of Germany’s Environment Agency.

In some countries, farmers have taken to the streets to protest against climate policies that they say will threaten their existence. Polls also show that right-wing parties opposed to climate action are gaining traction among voters already dealing with soaring costs of living.

“The climate policy discussion will collapse under the pressure of these kind of social dynamics” unless officials take action, agency President Dirk Messner said in an interview.

Carbon prices — added to energy and industrial goods — will be the EU’s key tool for phasing out fossil fuels. Consumer groups are concerned about the trickle-down effect when heating and road transport fees are folded into the bloc’s new Emissions Trading System in 2027.

Germany’s Environment Agency, known as the UBA, has proposed using the proceeds from the pricing system to pay a so-called climate dividend to vulnerable consumers to ease the impact of the transition.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg News

Lobster catch dips to lowest level since 2009 as fishers grapple with climate change, whale rules

America’s lobster fishing business dipped in catch while grappling with challenges including a changing ocean environment and new rules designed to protect rare whales.

The lobster industry, based mostly in Maine, has had an unprecedented decade in terms of the volume and value of the lobsters brought to the docks. But members of the industry have also said they face existential threats from proposed rules intended to protect the North Atlantic right whale and climate change that is influencing where lobsters can be trapped.

Maine fishermen’s catch in 2023 fell more than 5 per cent from the year that preceded it, and the total of 93.7 million pounds of lobsters caught was the lowest figure since 2009, according to data released Friday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The figure tracks with the up-and-down year lobster fishermen experienced, said Dave Cousens a fishermen based out of Criehaven island and a former president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

The price of bait and fuel eased somewhat, but the volume of catch didn’t seem to match other recent years, Cousens said. The Maine lobster haul has fallen from a high of 132.6 million pounds in 2016, though the 2023 year’s figure was still much more than fishermen produced in most of the 2000s. The 2023 haul was also the second year in a row the total catch declined.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

BBC investigation reveals company burning wood from Canada’s old growth forests

A power company in England that has received more than $10 billion CDN in UK green subsidies has kept burning wood from some of Canada’s old growth forests, according to a BBC investigation.

Papers obtained by BBC Panorama show Drax, a converted coal plant which burns wood pellets, took timber from rare forests in Canada it had claimed were “no-go areas,” according to the report.

The report quotes Drax as saying its wood pellets are “sustainable and legally harvested.”

In 2022, BBC Panorama revealed the company had obtained logging licences in B.C. and filmed logs being taken from what the programme said was primary forest to a pellet plant owned by Drax.

BBC Panorama obtained documents from B.C.’s Ministry of Forests that show the company took more than 40,000 tonnes of wood from so-called “old-growth” forests in 2023, according to the BBC report.


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Guides and Links

B.C. Flood: Read all our coverage on the Fraser Valley and beyond

Frequently asked questions about climate change: NASA

What is climate change? A really simple guide from the BBC

Climate change made B.C. heat wave 150 times more likely, study concludes

B.C.’s heat wave: Intense weather event is linked to climate crisis, say scientists

Expert: climate change expected to bring longer wildfire seasons and more area burned

COVID-19 may have halted massive protests, but youth are taking their fight for the future to the courts

Climate displacement a growing concern in B.C. as extreme weather forces residents out of their homes

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