BC's Climate Action Consultation survey closes today at 4pm
(That was August 17, 2015. This post is as written for that time)
UPDATE: Due to strong demand the province has extended the climate consultation to September 14, 2015. Email comments to email@example.com
The survey provided is mostly check-box form which could be argued to provide an easy format for people to engage. On the other hand it can also box in the discussion to the choices provided. The meat of this survey is the final question, which is a text box where you can write in whatever you want to say.
Climate change is an overarching concern in terms of water in BC. While a great many human activities impact water in particular locations, climate impacts water quality and availability throughout the province.
The survey asks British Columbians to consider ways we might reduce carbon emissions, and it is vital that we do so. We must not forget though, that there are changes already 'baked in' to the climate system. Even if we reduced emissions drastically today, there are important actions that need to be taken to mitigate impacts that are already happening.
Mitigating climate impacts on wild salmon means transitioning salmon aquaculture to closed containment and land-based systems. The opposite of what the government is doing.
Rivers are low and hot this year, resulting in widespread fishing closures. Fraser sockeye returns are lower than expected and high pre-spawn mortality is likely due to the poor river conditions. Weather projections for next year, and long term outlooks for this century, suggest more of the same. As the Wild Salmon Center states “Salmon are the biological foundation of river ecosystems”. In addition to their critical ecological role, wild salmon account for thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic activity in BC.
Yet with salmon already threatened by climate stresses and despite the findings and recommendations of multiple inquiries and reports at both provincial and federal levels—the Leggatt Inguiry went so far as to recommend “Remove all net-cage salmon farms from the marine environment by January 1, 2005”--government persist in licensing new net-pen Atlantic salmon farms on the BC coast. Do we want wild salmon in BC or don't we?
Counting on storing carbon in forests is risky carbon accounting
BC forests have been a net emission source since 2003. Forest fires (1,646 in BC this year to date), insect attacks (eg Pine Beetle), and tree diseases are all more likely under warming conditions. The rate that climate conditions are moving north exceeds the rate at which tree species can migrate by an order of magnitude. (An interesting side-note: up to 80% of nitrogen in BC coastal forest trees is salmon-based)
Forests significantly influence water availability through transpiration and evapotranspiration, which in conifers can result in 'loss' of up to 80% of annual precipitation. Where an area becomes deforested by whatever combination of fire, disease, pest or logging, stream flows will be affected. If water licences are handed out on available water in or down stream of a deforested area without accounting for needs of reforestation we set ourselves up for failure. This is one way that the Water Sustainability Act can influence the success of BC climate policy, and is one example of why we need to see the Water Sustainability Act fully funded and fully implemented. We need a strong science base for planning that is holistic and that considers cumulative effects of the interconnected systems at play if we intend to use forests as carbon storage in BC.
Site C is short-sighted
Certainty of access to water is crucial for agricultural development and food security in the province. Climate models show that the Fraser Valley, source of 62% of the province’s gross farm receipts, will face more extended hot and dry periods in summer coupled with increased flood local and major risks in spring and fall.
The Site C dam has received provincial approval to be built at a public expense of nearly $9-billion. It will flood a vast area of the Peace River Valley that includes 78 First Nations heritage sites (including burial grounds) and is home to the only Class 1 soil north of Quesnel. This is an area former President of the BC Institute of Agrologists Wendy Holm estimates could feed a million people, being lost at a time when growing regions are moving northward. In addition will be loss of wetlands relied upon by migratory birds and habitat of grizzly bears, caribou and wolverines.
The project will result in an increase in BC greenhouse gas emissions of 150,000 tonnes per year as organic matter in the flooded area decays. Three and a half billion cubic meters of concrete will be used, a product with a massive carbon footprint of its own, plus the emissions of 10 years of heavy equipment in the construction.
In return we get ten years of tar-sands-style camp-based jobs and power generation to support the LNG gold rush in Northeast BC, an industry with a massive impact on water in that region of the province.
Large hydro dam projects like Site C are not a 21st century choice. That section of the Peace River would be better with the 1957 flood reserve removed and the valley left healthy to support active agriculture on the farmland alongside the Peace River. Put some of the $9-billion saved on dam construction into something like the old federal EcoEnergy program, aimed at producing the power British Columbians really need and on-going jobs in every community of the province through energy efficiency and renewable energy design, manufacture, distribution, installation and service.
These are just a few of many issues to consider when filling out the climate action survey. The survey is available up to 4pm today. A survey like this is a very shallow form of consultation on something so far-reaching and complex as climate change. If you are able to find time, perhaps over coffee, to take the survey today, the main point is to indicate to government that British Columbians are concerned and are looking to the government to take strong, responsible action on climate.
Find the survey and discussion paper here.
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Take the Survey: BC Climate Action Survey
Salmon: Ian Stephen, Yard Creek BC
Forest Fire: CBC "B.C.'s summer of fire, 10 years on"
Peace River Valley: Larry Peterson, Peace Valley Environment Association Facebook photo
Thanks for keeping the discussion, and the Province, on point Ian.