Home Canadian News Weekly roundup of climate change news to March 31, 2024

Weekly roundup of climate change news to March 31, 2024

Weekly roundup of climate change news to March 31, 2024

Here’s your weekly roundup of local and international climate change news for the week of March 25 to March 31, 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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• Study says since 1979 climate change has made heat waves last longer, spike hotter, hurt more people
• Environmental group alleges ‘greenwashing’ by FortisBC in advertising
• Alberta scientists band together to shift climate change focus to health impacts
• Canada’s coal exports up again in 2023 as government’s promised ban elusive

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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. However, according to the 

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, climatedata.ca)

Co2 graph
Source: NASA

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Latest News

Environmental group alleges ‘greenwashing’ by FortisBC in advertising

A B.C. environmental group is taking FortisBC to court, accusing it of greenwashing in advertising.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, alleges FortisBC Energy Inc. has promoted the use of natural gas as more cost-effective and as good or better for the environment than alternatives like electric heat pumps. It alleges neither of these claims is true.

The use of fossil fuels to power buildings is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, while electric heat pumps provide heating and cooling without burning fossil fuels, according to the case filed on behalf of Stand Environmental Society and two individuals — Lori Goldman and Eddie Dearden.

They allege the company continues to add thousands of new customers a year by falsely advertising gas as a climate-friendly source of home heating. It says a cost-analysis posted on the FortisBC website last year comparing the cost of natural gas and electric pumps includes rebates for gas but fails to include the rebates in the cost of the pumps.

None of the claims has been proven in court.

FortisBC said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it was aware of the claim but would not comment on the allegations.

The company said it takes “climate change very seriously and is taking action” to help B.C. meet its climate goals.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

Alberta scientists band together to shift climate change focus to health impacts

Bodies and minds are just as affected by climate change as sea ice and forests, says University of Alberta scientist Sherilee Harper.

“Climate change impacts everything we care about,” she said. “It’s not just an environmental issue.”

That’s why Harper, along with 30 or so colleagues from disciplines as wide-ranging as economics and epidemiology, have banded together into what she calls Canada’s first university hub to shift the view of climate change from an environmental problem to a threat to human health.

“The hub is about helping people see that every climate change decision is a health decision,” said Harper, a professor in the School of Public Health and a vice-chair on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading scientific body on the issue.

“Every climate change research project has health implications.”

Take bike lanes, for example.

City planners look at them as a way to decrease tailpipe emissions from cars. But riding a bike also improves health.

Read the full story here

—The Canadian Press

Canadian exports of thermal coal increased another seven per cent last year reaching the highest level in almost a decade. Gantry cranes are shown as a container ship is docked at port in Vancouver, on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Canada’s coal exports up again in 2023 as government’s promised ban elusive

Canadian exports of thermal coal increased another seven per cent last year, reaching the highest level in almost a decade.

The boom in exports of the kind of coal burned to make electricity comes as Canada leads a charge to end the use of coal as a source of power worldwide.

The Liberals also promised three years ago that all thermal coal exports will stop from Canada by 2030, but exports have risen almost 20 per cent since that promise was made.

Statistics published this month by the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert show 19.5 million tonnes of thermal coal were exported through their terminals last year.

That’s up from a little more than 18 million tonnes in 2022 and is almost twice the amount Canada exported in 2015 when the Liberals took power.

Fraser Thomson, a staff lawyer at Ecojustice, says he thinks some companies know their days of shipping thermal coal are numbered and are trying to get out as much as they can before they get cut off.

Coal is considered the dirtiest fuel for making electricity when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. It produces almost twice the amount of carbon dioxide when burned as natural gas to make the same amount of energy.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

Study says since 1979 climate change has made heat waves last longer, spike hotter, hurt more people

Climate change is making giant heat waves crawl slower across the globe and they are baking more people for a longer time with higher temperatures over larger areas, a new study finds.

Since 1979, global heat waves are moving 20 per cent more slowly—meaning more people stay hot longer — and they are happening 67 per cent more often, according to a study in Friday’s Science Advances. The study found the highest temperatures in the heat waves are warmer than 40 years ago and the area under a heat dome is larger.

Studies have shown heat waves worsening before, but this one is more comprehensive and concentrates heavily on not just temperature and area, but how long the high heat lasts and how it travels across continents, said study co-authors and climate scientists Wei Zhang of Utah State University and Gabriel Lau of Princeton University.

From 1979 to 1983, global heat waves would last eight days on average, but by 2016 to 2020 that was up to 12 days, the study said.

Eurasia was especially hit harder with longer lasting heat waves, the study said. Heat waves slowed down most in Africa, while North America and Australia saw the biggest increases in overall magnitude, which measures temperature and area, according to the study.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Othello Tunnel
The never ending Othello Tunnels in British Columbia in Canada. Getty. Photo by WillEye /Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Coquihalla Canyon Park, Othello Tunnels near Hope to partly reopen in July

Coquihalla Canyon Park and the Othello Tunnels — major tourist attractions near Hope that were damaged during the catastrophic 2021 flooding — will partly reopen in July, the B.C. government announced Wednesday.

The government said construction work will soon begin to repair infrastructure damaged by the severe weather, with restoration work set to happen in two phases.

The first phase will focus on restoring facilities and access from the park entrance and parking lot to the end of tunnel two, according to a government news release Wednesday. The trail will be resurfaced and elevated to prevent similar damage from flooding.

The rest of the park is projected to open in 2025.

In November 2021, heavy rain and severe flooding damaged more than 30 sites in the park and all five of the historic Othello Tunnels, which were built in 1914 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, according to the government. No longer used by the railway, they are part of the part of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail.

Scientists have said that as the planet warms up, many areas of the world will see more atmospheric rivers—like the November 2021 one that caused the catastrophic flooding— and that they will become more frequent and more intense over time.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Crawford

EPA sets strict emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses in bid to fight climate change

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday set strict emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks, buses and other large vehicles, an action that officials said will help clean up some of the nation’s largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The new rules, which take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades and provide $13 billion in net benefits in the form of fewer hospital visits, lost work days and deaths, the EPA said. The new standards will especially benefit an estimated 72 million people in the United States who live near freight routes used by trucks and other heavy vehicles and bear a disproportionate burden of dangerous air pollution, the agency said.

“Heavy-duty vehicles are essential for moving goods and services throughout our country, keeping our economy moving. They’re also significant contributors to pollution from the transportation sector _ emissions that are fueling climate change and creating poor air quality in too many American communities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

“Reducing emissions from our heavy-duty vehicles means cleaner air and less pollution. It means safer and more vibrant communities. It means lower fuel and maintenance costs for truck owners and operators. And it means healthier Americans,” Regan said.

The new rules for heavy trucks and buses come a week after the EPA announced new automobile emissions standards for passenger vehicles. Those rules relax initial tailpipe limits proposed last year but get close to the same strict standards set out by the EPA for model year 2032.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Climate change expected to drive shifts in urban birds, animals, bugs

The mix of urban birds, bugs and other critters that humans have grown familiar with is due for a big shift because of climate change, a new study says.

“The nature that people interact with isn’t what’s in Banff or some provincial park,” said Alessandro Filazzola, lead author of a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. “It’s in their backyard.

“Cities don’t move. If you’re staying still while the world is moving around you, what’s going to happen to all the wildlife that you’re familiar with?”

To answer that, Filazzola, from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban Environments, conducted a simulation combining eight different climate models with an enormous data set that detailed sightings of 2,019 different species from 60 cities around North America.

That combination allowed him and his colleagues to estimate how common each animal is in its current environment, how widely it’s distributed and how climate changes such as temperature and precipitation could affect its future.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

File photo of RCMP officers watching smoke billowing from a wildfire at a police checkpoint. Photo by B.C. RCMP

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Canada’s wildfires the major source of pollution within the U.S. last year: report

Canada’s air quality last year was worse than the United States for the first time since a firm started publishing its annual assessment in 2018.

The 2023 World Air Quality report from Swiss company IQAir says raging wildfires were a major influence on Canada’s drop in air quality that impacted even the U.S.

“We saw Canada really causing the major source of pollution within the United States, just through sheer wildfires” last year, Glory Dolphin Hammes, CEO of the North American division of IQAir, Bloomberg reports. And prevailing winds “distributed it through the United States, into a lot of cities within the Northeast, and the Midwest.”

The report found that on a list of 15 most polluted cities in both the U.S. and Canada, Canadian communities made up the 13 most polluted cities on the list, topped by Fort McMurray, Alta., and Peace River, Alta.

Data indicates Peace River’s pollution concentration, typically below the national average, shot up to levels in May worse than the annual average reported in India, the third-most polluted country in the world.

Read the full story here.

—The Canadian Press

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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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