Reports from the world’s climate scientists confirm that our greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate in ways that have never been experienced before. Although the effects are not profound now, they will continue to accelerate in the next few decades.
Often climate change seems like a far-off problem, and a low priority compared to everyday activities. But climate change will have profound impacts on B.C., affecting everything from water supply to disaster preparedness and local food production. Dealing with these issues now will increase the taxes we pay, the cost of insuring our homes, and the costs of doing business. But if we don’t, the combined costs will be even higher in the future.
In an urban area like B.C.’s Lower Mainland, more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are from vehicles and from heating and cooling buildings. Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase in the next two decades, primarily due to a combination of increasing population and economic activity.
What will the climate be like in the future? Although the Lower Mainland climate system is very complex, using sophisticated computer models, scientists have predicted changes for the region:
- Average annual temperatures will be 2 to 3 degrees warmer by 2050. This doesn’t mean that it will be more pleasant all the time. Residents will likely experience more extreme conditions, such as more days over 30˚C. This could increase the number of cases of heat-related illness and deaths and the frequency and severity of poor air quality events.
- Increased O2 has already caused some acidification of the ocean, which can impact shellfish in B.C. waters.
- A warmer regional climate will also allow invasive species of insects and plants to move further north. Pests such as the gypsy moth cause defoliation of fruit trees which would have a serious impact on agriculture in the region. A well-known example of a problem pest is the pine beetle, which has proliferated due to warmer winters and has already killed 40% of B.C.’s pine forests, with long-term economic impacts on B.C.’s forest industry.
- Sea level could rise by 0.4 to 1.3 metres over the next century.
- We will see 5 to 10% more rain annually – meaning wetter conditions, more frequent storms and more intense heavy rain events, along with a higher chance of damage due to localized flooding and strong winds.