Goodbye Vancouver, hello San Diego.
A major climate-change study predicts temperatures in Metro Vancouver will exceed those of present-day Southern California in the coming decades...
Frost and ice will become virtually a thing of the past, heating bills will drop, and farm crops will flourish virtually year-round in the Fraser Valley.
That’s the good news...
On the down side — and there is plenty of it — the region can expect: air-conditioning costs to soar; worsening smog and associated health problems; increased forest fires and water shortages; summer droughts followed by severe fall rain events; and an influx of invasive species threatening forests and agriculture.
A new 70-page study, Climate Projections for Metro Vancouver, predicts changes in temperature and precipitation that will affect everything from sewage pipes to ski hills in the 2050s — just 33 years distant — and 2080s. Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, based at the University of Victoria, assisted in the report.
The report’s author, Jeff Carmichael, division manager of utilities research and innovation for Metro Vancouver, said the findings are meant to help the region and its member municipalities plan for the future while doing their own part to reduce greenhouse gases.
It is common for municipalities now to have staff specifically devoted to climate-change issues.
“Let’s make sure that all of Metro Vancouver — everything we do — is aware of the most up-to-date information,” he said. “We’d better prepare and adapt for the climate that’s coming.”
Metro Vancouver plans to launch a more detailed study later this year into planning for stormwater pipes to ensure they can handle the more intense rain events to come. Municipalities on the rainy North Shore will have to address similar issues, while low-lying areas such as Richmond and Delta must consider factors such as the impact of rising ocean levels, storm surges and altered river flows.
Parks staff are also considering how climate change will affect plant and animal species under a warming scenario.
The report assumes a “business as usual” approach to global greenhouse gas emissions, and would have to be updated if governments adopt serious and swift measures to address the problem.
THE HEAT IS ON
Sun worshippers will revel under future climate change, but you’d be wise to invest in sun screen.
The Metro Vancouver study predicts that day-time high summer temperatures in the region will increase 3.7 C by the 2050s and 6 C by the 2080s. Indian summers are virtually guaranteed to linger into fall.
The bottom line is that “Vancouver would be warmer than present-day San Diego by the 2050s.”
The report notes that savings in heating costs due to rising temperatures will be offset by the need for air conditioning. Areas of lower elevation, where most buildings are located, will see more demand for air conditioning than present-day Kamloops by the 2050s.
The building industry will shoulder some of the responsibility for finding solutions.
Installing natural and/or passive shading and green roofs on current and future buildings could become more cost effective and help to “future-proof” buildings for climate change.
City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto, who is also chair of Metro Vancouver’s utilities committee, noted that the region is trying to be proactive — water restrictions could begin as early as May 1 in 2018, compared with the current May 15, which is consistent with predictions for climate change.
“We are taking this report seriously,” he said.
A regional study is also looking at the pros and cons of residential water metering. Longer-term solutions may include deepening of the intake at Coquitlam reservoir and raising the height of the Seymour dam to create more storage capacity for drier periods.
While warmer temperatures may negatively impact snow sports on the North Shore, they might actually enhance tourism in summer.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
Bigger and stronger umbrellas may be on the horizon as the region copes with more dramatic rainfall events.
Rainfall in autumn is expected to increase 11 per cent by 2050 and 20 per cent by 2080, posing a threat to pipe infrastructure and a potential risk to people.
Intense rain events may increase the risk of landslides in mountain areas, along with turbidity in drinking water reservoirs.
Based on current infrastructure, “we could expect periods of flooding, damage to property, and risks to human health,” the report finds. In addition to making new water pipes bigger, municipalities are installing “bioswales” in the urban landscape to absorb rainwater and reduce impact on drains and creeks.
Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall will also erode the winter snowpack, limiting water supplies available in summer.
Dave Campbell, head of B.C’s River Forecast Centre, agrees with that prediction, adding that while the coast typically receives bigger snowpacks than the Interior, its proximity to the ocean increases the chances of precipitation falling as rain.
“The temperatures are really near that transitional point,” he said. “It tends to be quite sensitive. A degree or two warming makes the difference between rain or snow, whereas in the Interior it may go from minus-5 to minus-2 and it’s still falling as snow.”
LONGER GROWING SEASON COUNTERED BY INCREASED PESTS
Our ability to purchase fresh local produce for much of the year will be a boon to consumers.
Farmers in the Fraser Valley will be able to grow crops virtually year-round under a warming climate. At lower elevations, 45 days will be added to the growing season by the 2050s and 56 days by the 2080s, the climate-change report for Metro Vancouver predicts.
Farmers may seize the opportunity to plant more valuable crops and can expect earlier harvests.
But those benefits will be countered by increased pests and plant diseases. And variations in temperature and precipitation may cause pollinators to emerge at the wrong time.
Brent Harris is a fifth-generation Delta farmer who grows mixed crops — potatoes, beans, peas, corn and grain. He likes the idea of a longer growing season “although we might all be under the ocean by then,” but he believes that farmers will have to adapt to more extreme weather events year-round.
Last year he planted his corn in late April — the earliest date ever, by 10 to 14 days — because of the warm weather and dry fields. On the other hand, the pond on his property was frozen for skating for a full month this winter — something that has never happened before. He also recalls 2010 when his potato crop was ruined by wet weather.
“We don’t want to get lulled into complacency, and start assuming you’ll be able to plant and harvest on certain days,” said Harris.
Ted van der Gulik, a former senior engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture who is president of Partnership for Water Sustainability in B.C., notes that the longer growing season and hotter weather will increase the need for irrigation.
There is potential for irrigated farming to increase from 15,000 hectares to 35,000 in Metro Vancouver, he said, but new infrastructure will have to be built.
The regional government currently supplies water to less than 470 hectares — most greenhouses on a metered system. That leaves farmers to use their own wells or surface water sources, including from the Fraser River pumped from ditches.
“Irrigation systems will have to become more efficient and also managed properly to make sure water taken and applied is beneficial and not wasted,” he said.
Reduced flows on the Fraser combined with rising ocean levels will allow salt to expand its reach upriver to Pattullo Bridge by 2050, he added.
“Water will have to be drawn between tide cycles and there is no guarantee that sufficient water will be available.”
It’s also important that rainwater is allowed to replenish aquifers during winter rains, he continued, noting that urban development works against that.
“The water runs off the roadways, rooftops and parking lots and enters the surface waterways and makes its way out to the ocean. This water is lost and cannot be used in summer months when we need the freshwater resources.”
INVADERS ON THE HORIZON
As the climate changes, some plants and animals will thrive and adapt, but others will perish.
Hotter summers with less rain will negatively impact both terrestrial and aquatic species. Salmon in the Fraser River system are already experiencing mortality trying to return to excessively warm streams to spawn.
Invasive species “may be better able to thrive in changing conditions and may out-compete native species,” says the report.
Invaders such as purple loosestrife, diffuse knapweed, hawkweed, cheatgrass, Scotch broom, Eurasian milfoil and Dalmatian toadflax are already well established in B.C. Others, such as red-eared slider turtles in Metro Vancouver and Argentine ants in Victoria, threaten to expand their range as the climate warms.
Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Plant Council of B.C., said that yellow starthistle is just one invasive plant lurking just south of the Canada-U. S. border in Montana. “It would have a huge impact to our native grasslands,” she warns. “It’s poisonous to horses, too.”
Another threat is the nutria, a beaver-like mammal introduced decades ago for the fur market in the Pacific Northwest and now well-established in neighbouring Washington state. It consumes one-quarter of its body weight daily and also causes damage through burrowing, including into dams and dikes.
Even without pests, climate change will affect local forests, reducing growth and increasing mortality.
Increased wildfires threaten to “dramatically affect the forest structure,” the report warns.
Plants may suffer from heat stress and sun scald, increasing demand for heat-tolerant plants.
It all adds up to big changes on the horizon for Metro Vancouver residents. There will be winners and losers, but everyone will be significantly impacted by the climate changes to come.
original story HERE
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